Last week we were invited to Leavesden Studios near Watford. The home of the Warner Bros. Studio Tour for Harry Potter.
I really didn’t matter that we’d been before, as every time we visit something new has been installed or they’re celebrating an anniversary or season. This time, the sets were themed for Halloween as well as the 15th Anniversary of The Philosophers Stone.
Leaving at 8:30am and arriving at 10:30am for our 11am slot (you have to book ahead) we went through a quick security check and then waited to begin our tour. You’re only in the queue for around 15 minutes before you’re let into a theatre. After which point you’re through to the Great Hall to begin your tour.
The recommended tour time is roughly three to four hours, however if you’re not interested in reading all the snippets then it can take around 90 mins to two hours. If you’re like me, or if you want to take part in the added extras, then it takes four to five hours (with lunch in the middle).
The tour is laid out perfectly. The first “half” is about the film(s) and the different sets. Everything from makeup and costume, to props and how they designed sets like Hagrid’s Hut, the Gryfindor Common Room or The Potions Room.
There’s so much to see and interact with that I’d say this is where the majority of your time is taken. Photos are encouraged, and staff are on hand to answer any questions you have.
Finishing the first half, you’re then lead through to the Backlot Cafe. This area splits the first half from the second half and details all the outside sets. Here you’ll see The Knight Bus and Privet Drive, amongst other things.
The cafe was well placed and when we smelt all the food, we actually became hungry ourselves.
There’s a wonderful choice of food available here, from luxury sandwiches and salads as a cold options, to gorgeous burgers and hot dogs as hot options.
Pricewise, I think it’s pretty reasonable for a place like this. Sharon had a luxury sausage sandwich, I had a salmon and cream cheese sandwich, and we both had a bottle of water each. We also saved room for their new menu item – Butterbeer Ice Cream!
In total with lunch and Butterbeer goodies (which includes the dish and challis they come in) it cost us £17, which is less than a service station and much tastier!
The second half of the tour, once you leave the backlot, is more about the special effects and how things work. This is the fascinating bit and I’m always left in awe after visiting this part. From animatronics to prosthetics, you get to find out how everything happened and how it worked. Lots of secrets are revealed!
Finishing with a gallery of concept art and models – detailing how they got to production, you end with a spectacular view. It gives me chills everytime.
Even if you’re not a Harry Potter fan, I’d highly recommend going. It’s not often you get to see how a film is created – let alone one that spanned over ten years with such incredible detail and work. It really is magnificent. This post hasn’t told you about half of what you see!
My favourite parts will always be The Potion Room and looking at all the props, but the newly introduced Platform 9 3/4 has definitely made the top of my list.
Planning ahead, it takes roughly two hours from Sussex to get here by car. It’s buggy friendly (although there is a cloakroom if you don’t need the buggy during the tour) and there are plenty of toilet stops and places to sit down and rest/feed. You’re not allowed to eat food whilst on the tour so it’s recommend you fuel up before you start.
There are also options to buy guide books and/or handheld devices to help you around the tour. We got one of these the first time we went and found they were a fantastic addition to the already informative boards – often detailing extra snippets about the film and sets that you can’t anywhere else. There are also options to take photos behind green screens or take part in your own movie!
I adore this place (if you didn’t already know) and always feel sad when I have to leave. It really does keep the Harry Potter magic alive, and with Fantastic Beasts coming out soon, there’s bound to be plenty of exciting features coming out soon!
We were given three tickets to visit the Warner Bros Studio Tour, however all thoughts and opinions are our own.