This week we were invited to the opening of the new 2019 feature at Warner Bros. Studios in London – Gringotts Wizarding Bank – the studio’s biggest expansion to date!
Opening on 6th April 2019, it primarily celebrates the last two Harry Potter movies – the Deathly Hallows Part 1 & 2 where the bank and vaults are featured the most – as well as featuring lots of favourite props from The Philosopher’s Stone, such as vault 687.
I’ve now lost count as to how many times we’ve visited the studios, but it really doesn’t matter as there’s always something new to see. There’s also something incredibly special about revisiting where magic was literally made.
Refreshing the old with the new
Since our very first visit to the tour (pre-children!), there have been a huge number of changes over the years. When we first visited, the tour lasted no more than perhaps 1.5 to 2 hours max – which was still a wonderful experience – however according to tour guides, the studio now takes an impressive 3.5 hours minimum to explore.
Contributing to this has been the addition of new features such as Platform 9 3/4, The Forbidden Forest, and the opening of 4 Privet Drive, as well as seasonal exhibitions such as Christmas at Hogwarts and book anniversaries. But despite being busy with all this, the studio now boasts an impressive new foyer as well as a larger, and even bigger gift shop full of new gifts and trinkets.
I would be confident to say that you could easily spend the day here.
Arriving for our 5:30pm tour, we were welcomed into the aforementioned foyer – which currently houses a rather magnificent Ukrainian Ironbelly. This is also when T was given his ‘passport’ -another new feature for the tour where you’re invited to locate and collect various Harry Potter themed presses.
Whilst waiting for the tour to start, this also gave us the opportunity to take a look around another new addition to the studio – The Chocolate Frog Cafe – which is inspired by iconic wizarding confectionery. Housing all sorts of wonderful patisserie-style cakes and treats, as well as a chocolate fountain, this is now 1 of 4 places to grab a bite to eat throughout the tour.
As expected, the decoration throughout the cafe did not disappoint thanks to a gigantic marauders map surrounding the room, chocolate frog “card” mirrors, and lots of props from the studio itself; including the enchanted ceiling.
The space here is absolutely stunning thanks to it being incredibly open plan – something that the previous layout struggled with. Despite it being open plan, it just wasn’t big enough! There is A LOT of seating here as well as space for larger groups and parties. There’s also an outside area.
When we eventually made our way into the tour, this is where the next few changes were made apparent. In comparison to our last visit where attendees would queue into the prologue area via a winding queue system attached to the foyer, attendees now travel through a detailed “homage” to the films – away from the foyer – keeping you busy whilst waiting for the tour to begin. In addition to the original prologue, there is now almost a prologue to the prologue which builds you up even further.
I won’t spoil any surprises, so I’ll start from where the main tour kicks off. Starting from the Great Hall, you’re free to roam free at your own speed through dozens of sets and past thousands of props. There’s also a number of green screen opportunities (additional fees apply), interactive features, and chances for a themed photo or two. If you’d like to read about our previous visits you can do so here.
Of course you didn’t come here for a full review of the whole tour again, so I’ll jump over 1-2 hours worth of tour and skip straight to the new bit; Gringotts.
#EnterStranger but take heed…
— WB Tour London (@wbtourlondon) March 24, 2019
If you’ve visited the tour before, Gringotts is located after Creature Effects (the one with Warwick Davis chatting throughout) but before Diagon Alley (it took me a while to picture it and get my bearings!). You’re built up to the main feature via a number of display cabinets detailing the plans of Diagon Alley and how they did it, as well as an excellent exhibition on creating the “Gallery of Goblins”. The whole expansion is an impressive 16,500sqft in size.
Once you’re ready, you simply take a few steps and you’re taken straight into the grand banking hall, made up of marbled pillars, crystal chandeliers, and enough galleons and sickles to purchase a joke shop.
Thanks to dozens of intricate props, from ink wells to quills to ledgers, as well as tour guides ready to tell you absolutely everything about this room, we easily spent a good half an hour to forty minutes here. I just wanted to soak it all in. From the marbled floors and pillars to the life like goblins sat at a number of desks. It was simply breathtaking, and this room wasn’t even the finale to the Gringotts tour.
That came next…
Taking a breather from the incredible work that’s been created, we visited Bellatrix Lestrange’s vault as well as took a step back in time through to when Gringotts was first mentioned back in the Philosopher’s Stone.
It was after this that magic truly happened.
This incredible new feature, taken straight from the Deathly Hallows Part 2 “Bank Escape” scene (and can be seen in full over on our instagram), literally left me with (hot) chills. I probably sat and watched it a dozen more times before I was done. T wasn’t overly impressed at first as it is INCREDIBLY realistic, however when he remembered that the barriers in front were there to protect us, he enjoyed it for what it was; a massive, p*ssed off female dragon escaping after years of captivity.
What’s fantastic, apart from the obvious visual effects, is that there is more than one way that this scene plays out – making it even more enjoyable and captivating. By the end, I don’t know what was more enjoyable; the scene or the reactions from everyone watching it for the first time.
Once you’re ready to leave, the tour then continues through into Diagon Alley – taking you back onto the original tour and towards the *sobs* end. You’re then lead into the newly refurbished gift shop where I could easily spend a lottery win. The expansion of the gift shop now means that there are new “departments”, from sports and leisure to the dark arts. There’s also stationery and books, as well as collectables to buy.
I cannot stress enough how incredible the Warner Bros. Studio Tour is – even more so now. I still can’t fathom how they fit it all in. Even if you’re not a massive Potterhead or have only watched them the once at Christmas, the tour is an exciting journey into movie making and how much goes into it behind the scenes before filming even starts.
Thank you so much for having us, Warner Bros!
If you haven’t been, tickets must be pre-booked and can be located here.
If your specified date isn’t available, keep an eye out for cancellations as availability often changes!
We were invited to the studio tour and given complimentary tickets in exchange for an honest review, however all thoughts, opinions, and imagery are our own