The uber-successful Harry Potter movies were filmed at Warner Brother’s Leavenworth Studios, just outside London. Once the final movie was complete, it was decided not to discard the sets. Instead, someone had the brilliant idea of opening an attraction for fans to visit. Good call!
The Leavenworth Studios is a very different experience from the Warner Bros. Hollywood tour. The tour is focused entirely on the Harry Potter franchise. While the studio is still used to produce other films, there is no tour of the studios. That being said, this is still well worth a visit!
The studio is about an hour north of London. If you live in the area, the easiest way to get there is to drive. However this attraction brings in visitors from around the world. Many stay in London and head to WB as a day trip. There are essentially two options. You can purchase a local tour which will include round trip bus transportation as well as admission. The other option is to take the train. If you choose to take the train, you will buy a ticket to Watford Junction and then there is a local shuttle bus from the train station to the studios. The studio’s website has a page with on instructions on how to get there.
One tip I will share from personal experience is that there are express and slow trains from London. There is not much signage to differentiate between them. Either ask someone for help or make sure you leave a couple hours before your tour time. As you can imagine, I ended up on the slow train!
Once you arrive, you join the queue. The wait to enter can take a while, but the lobby has some props and decorations for you to enjoy as you wait.
Once you enter, you will meet a host who will tell you a bit about what to expect and then open the doors to reveal the set of the Great Hall at Hogwarts, which is the beginning of the tour. As you enter the great hall, you will be free to walk around for about 10 minutes, at which time they clear the hall for the next group to enter.
After visiting the Great Hall, the tour is entirely self guided, giving you the chance to move at your own pace. You will see a large assortment of sets, props, visual effects, and costumes. Some of the sets include Dumbledore’s Office and Harry’s bedroom dorm.
There are occasionally some demonstrations going on. When I visited, there was a demo by the woman who created all the food for the movies, both real and fake. She was making “movie” cakes, and explained how the food she creates is only intended to be edible and look good on screen. The taste of the item is not her responsibility, so the actors are sometimes eating bland or even unpleasant tasting foods.
Continuing on the tour, you come to a large room with the Hogwarts Express Train on display. You can see the engine, as well as some of the train cars that you can sit in.
After exploring the main indoor area, you come to the cafe, where you can stop for some food and a drink. They also have the famous Butterbeer available. Past the cafe, you head outside to see some of the houses and vehicles used in the film. Not a large outdoor display but still cool to see.
Then you head into the second building you come to Diagon Alley. You can walk down the whole set and see all the buildings up close. There is a lot of detail, but unfortunately it’s very crowded so hard to take good photos.
The last part of the tour brings you to the model of Hogwarts, which was used for filming. The model is very large, and you will have the chance to walk all around it. The detail on the model is incredible.
I will be honest, I’m not a huge Harry Potter fan. I’ve seen the movies, once, and haven’t read the books. That being said, I thought the studio visit was fantastic. So if you are a big fan, I’m sure you will enjoy it even more than I did. I was fascinated by the sets, props, costumes, and all the info about the movies. It is really well worth a visit.
Unfortunately the rest of the WB studios is not open to visit, despite being a working studio with it’s own backlot. It would be amazing if they offered a tour to visit the studios, similar to the Hollywood tour. That being said, a visit is still well worth your time and money.