Watford seems a somewhat unlikely place for wizards and witches to assemble, but this small town, just an hour’s journey north west of central London, is where the fans Gryffindor, Ron, Hermione and Harry flock to cast spells amongst the cauldrons, broomsticks and classrooms of a little known school called Hogwarts … and find out how their favourite school they never went to was filmed amongst various other sets as a part of the famous Harry Potter series.
The Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour is a Potter fans dream day out. Housing not only sets used in the films, but props, models, artwork and a few little secrets that made the special effects that much more believable, this tour is not to be missed if you want the scoop on how your favourite wizard based book series made it to the big screen.
The tour starts as soon as you enter the lobby. Hanging high above your head are a series of huge posters showing how some of the film cast developed with age over the shooting of the seven films. Once you have you ticket(s) in hand you’ll have to wait in a small queue which allows for you to receive a small health and safety talk. Once you are healthy and safe you move into a cinema room where Harry, Ron and Hermione (their real names are ** at this point) greet you and give you a very high level overview of what it was like working on the different films over the course of almost 10 years. Once the short screening has come to an end, a little bit of magic will take place right before your eyes and you’ll soon be moving into the Hogwarts Grand Hall.
Within the Hogwarts Grand Hall there is a chance for younger members of your group (usually numbering around 30) to earn Hogwarts passport stamps (passport collectible before tour entry), and also to spot a few golden snitches from the game Quidditch, which are floating around the hall and throughout the rest of the studios.
Once you have passed through the Great Hall, the studios open up and a number of other sets come into view, most of which you are able to explore, and with interesting facts, figures and videos to accompany. I personally was a fan of the directors section. Here I heard tales and explanations from each of the films directors, what angles they took, and how they tried to progress one film from the next.
Once you’ve spent the best part of an hour exploring the first section of the tour, its time to move outside and grab yourself a Butterbeer. Yep, it really does exist, but at £3 a cup maybe you’ll only have the one cups worth. Aside from quenching your thirst, the outside section contains a more than enough props to hold your interest, and they’re mostly on the large side …
Once you’re done refuelling and taking photos of all the set props outside, it’s time for a stroll up Diagon Alley, past Ollivanders wand shop and Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. Sadly you cannot enter either.
Once through Diagon Alley, you enter the design section of the tour. This was potentially the most interesting part of the tour for me. It allowed you to gain an insight into how storyboards, models, artwork and Animatronics were used to bring not only the set, but also some of the more obscure characters to life.
The best is definitely saved for last on the tour. Within the final room of the tour sits a huge model of Hogwarts, built with such detail that it was used for some scenes within the film whilst shot against a green screen. Dotted along with lengthy walkway which circles the model are a number of touch responsive screens which hone in on certain areas of the model and give you details as to when that part was used in the filming. Its really quite clever.
So there you have it, a brief overview of the Harry Potter Studios tour in Watford, England. If you’re a Potter fan get yourself down here no questions asked, you’ll love learning about how the movies were made and all the little secrets used to turn the books into those 7 fantastic movies. Even if you’re not a massive fan of Harry but still a big film buff this tour could still prove of great interest to you, especially the last, ‘design’ section.
Adult (Ages 16 years and above) – £28.00
Child (Ages 5 to 15 years) – £21.00
Under 4′s (Tickets are required for children aged 4 and under) – £Free
Family (either two adults with two children, or one adult with three children) – £83.00
For all other info check out the official website.