On Tuesday afternoon, we boarded our train and were on our way out to the Harry Potter Studio Tour. After walking around for much of the day, our feet were tired and in need of a seat. The train however, was full of passengers either heading home or like us, out to the studio. Running late for our entrance time, we hastily boarded the first available train with a destination of Watford Junction. This happened to be a train with about twenty stops, making our journey a long one, but our excitement for what lay ahead could not be diminished.
Located just outside Central London, the studios can be accessed via a Harry Potter bus that picks you up from the Watford Junction train station (which is the end of the line). Alternately, you can also purchase a tour that includes transportation with a tour bus that picks you up in the city. After reading different reviews online, I decided we would save some money and forgo the tour bus route. By taking the train and subsequent bus, we were also assured a longer window to stay at the studio.
The bus itself was pretty much a standard coach that you will find throughout London. On board, we were supposed to have a video introduction to the studios, but while it played, it had no sound. The drive takes about 15-20 minutes from the station to the studio and was packed full of tourists and Potterphiles just like us.
At the front entrance, there are several full size chess pieces from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Seeing them gives you a good feeling about how this tour is going to go. And once inside, things just seemed to get better from there.
From the lobby, you can fuel up at Studio Cafe which serves a variety of items in the afternoon. Otherwise, your best bet for food is the Backlot where Butterbeer is officially served. When you purchase your tickets online, you can pre-purchase the Butterbeer, but it can also be bought the day of. We stood in line and were taken into the first of two staging rooms before embarking on the tour. An introduction was provided in the first room before heading into a theater for a video about the Harry Potter films. While waiting in the theater, you get your first glimpse of a large wooden door, instantly recognizable as the entrance to the Great Hall.
When the video finishes, you are led into the Great Hall which is lavishly decorated. It’s the only part of the tour where you are restricted on time, as they ask you to move along after about 10 minutes, so that the next group has the opportunity to experience the room.
After leaving the Great Hall, the tour really starts to kick into overdrive. Everything you can possibly imagine from the films is in the next rooms, what essentially feels like a giant warehouse. It’s easy to see how several hours can be spent on the tour, particularly if you really want to do everything available. You can even ride a broom if you so choose, though we opted against waiting in line for it, this was a popular stop. The tour itself is unguided, but there are no shortage of signs and summaries that provide some really excellent insight into what went into making these films. It truly is nothing short of amazing!
If you want to avoid lines at King’s Cross Station in London, the studio also has a Platform 9 3/4 that you can take pictures with. With more options and free flowing people, there was little to no wait while we were there.
Once you’ve made your way around the first part of the studio, you can stop at the Backlot Cafe for a cup of Butterbeer and a snack. We opted for the regular cups, and had cheese sandwiches as a snack. While you can buy souvenir cups for the Butterbeer, they are small and a bit unspectacular.
On the second half of the tour, you get to visit the Creature Shop, where every magical beast is displayed. It’s definitely cool to see how they bring these books to life.
Diagon Alley was our next stop and we wanted to stock up on supplies for the school year!
Before finishing our tour in the gift shop, we made one final stop at the amazing Hogwarts replica. The detail on the castle was fantastic and was a sight to see.
When I watched the last Harry Potter film, I remembered thinking how awesome it was that we are fortunate enough to live in a time where movies exist. That we have the ability to see a visual representation of the books we read and can bring to life what was once only available in our imaginations is something pretty spectacular. Visiting the Harry Potter Studio Tour really and truly exceeded my expectations and Julie’s as well. There is such a tremendous love for these books and films by the fan base that it never ceases to amaze me how far it has come. If you are a fan of the books and/or the films, you by all means need to make a trip out to the Studio Tour!