This summer my aunt, uncle, and cousins who live in New York came to visit us for a few days. While my brother and I took our cousins around London one day, we were also invited to join them on the Harry Potter Studio Tour out in Leavesden. And how could I say no? Despite the tour opening back in 2013, I still hadn’t been!
Because of Harry Potter’s popularity, tickets have to be booked in advance and even though you have tickets there’s still a fairly long queue before you enter the official start.
The organisers have made an effort though, because you still get to see interesting things while queuing. The Ford Anglia hung from the ceiling and we got to look into the very famous Cupboard Under the Stairs.
Beyond the queue, we were taken into a room where a talk was given, introducing the tour and letting us know how it was organised (two different buildings – J and K after J.K. Rowling – with a back lot for things that wouldn’t fit indoors). We were then taken through to a screening room to watch a short film in which Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson welcomed us. The screen lifted to reveal the doors to the Great Hall(!) and if it happens to be your birthday while you visit, you could be lucky enough to be asked to open the doors yourself.
With the doors open, we were allowed to begin exploring!
A delicious spread of food on the tables either side of the hall, the raised teachers’ table, a huge fireplace, and even the house points totaller. The only downside of trying to photograph this amazing set was the fact that I was constantly tripping over small children, leading to wonky shots.
Exiting the Great Hall to the left, you arrive in a massive room filled to the brim with props used on the movies, like this incredible ice sculpture used at the Yule Ball. It was maybe seen for about five seconds in total.
And the accompanying buffet chocolates that got even less screen time. In fact, everything I saw on this tour just made me think of the hours of sweat, blood, and tears people have put into these movies that are barely acknowledged in favour of the story. Like if this chocolate swan cake was an actual cake, it would be a extremely expensive and the centrepiece at a wedding!
Next came costumes and it’s crazy how you forget every piece of clothing in these films had to be custom made. Literally everything was hand crafted, right down to Luna’s little radish earrings.
Beyond the costumes and wigs, we came to the gates of Hogwarts, featuring the two winged pigs.
…Which led us to the Gryffindor sets.
No expense was spared with the designs of the dormitory and the common room! It’s all the little details that make them come to life. The personal effects on the shelves and the tiny patches on the seats to cover rips that previous students have made.
And you just never get time to notice them while watching Harry, Ron, and Hermione!
A quick photo in the Mirror of Erised (in which you can see the dragon skeleton from the second movie in the background) before continuing on, past the huge clock from the third movie…
Next up was Dumbledore’s office…
After admiring the spectacular staircase, of course.
It was only when I got to this set that I remembered Lupin taught Harry how to perform a patronus here, which begs a few continuity questions… but whatever. I was there for all the trinkets in glass cases and, above all, the pensieve and memory holder.
Continuing on, we arrived at the dungeons! Home of the potions classroom, this place was kitted out with cauldrons, potion vials, and massive jars of… things in liquid.
We actually arrived in time for a talk, where we were told the strange things in jars were actually little plastic animals that had been bought from the London Zoo gift shop, cut in half and swapped around. Butterfly wings on snakes, lion heads on whales and so on. The jars were then filled with tea to give it that grungy effect.
And the Burrow.
These sets were all around the edge of the huge warehouse. In the middle of the room were even more interesting things, like Professor Umbridge’s disgustingly pink office and kitten plates.
And then, getting darker, Nagini the snake!
And the original Riddle gravestone.
We had now finally finished this room and had probably been there for upwards of two hours. It was amazing how much time we had spent just looking at props!
The tour had not long ago opened the Hogwarts Express area, which was nice to compare to Universal Studios! They are nearly identical! There were also little luggage trolleys attached to the wall, so everyone could get their special ‘running through the wall’ picture.
Towards the back there were these adorable models from the first film.
And then opposite, the final outfits from the Epilogue scene.
Finally, we reached the back lot! Home of the larger pieces like the Knight Bus, Godric’s Hollow and the wizards’ chess pieces from the first movie. It was unfortunately raining cats and dogs so I couldn’t manage a decent photo (I’ll just have to go back, won’t I?)
We stopped for a butterbeer ice cream which was an… interesting taste. If you’ve ever had a crème caramel pudding, it had a very similar flavour. We also got an insane amount of ice cream! I went for a cup and it was filled to the top and then piled on top like a normal cone. It may have been rather pricy but you definitely get your money’s worth.
Moving into the K building, we got to the area I was most excited about. The creatures.
Hippogriffs, dragons, merpeople, cornish pixies, thestrals, werewolves, giants, dementors, selkies, giant spiders, mandrakes, and so much more!
I haven’t quite worked out why a 82% scale Dumbledore was needed, or why the measurement was so precise but hey ho…
Beyond the recorded presentation from Warwick Davis, we reached the official Diagon Alley.
Towards the end of the tour, we found were introduced to the production side of the movies. All the incredible scale models and blueprints for every single object and building used in the movies.
I particularly loved this model of the Durmstrang ship. To the right you can also see the carts from Gringotts.
And, well, not to lay into Universal Studios but towards the end, I had come to the conclusion that the Studio Tour is just so much better. I obviously had an amazing time exploring to-scale versions of Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade but there’s something about seeing the actual props and sets actually used in filming that makes it all that bit more special.
Like my jaw wasn’t already on the floor, we turned the final corner and came across this magnificent scale model of Hogwarts.
Used in all the aerial shots of Hogwarts, it now makes up the pièce de résistance of the entire tour (at least in my opinion). I could have spent all day watching it as the lights slowly changed from day to night. It was a beautiful way to end the tour.