I’ve always been an avid reader and if you ask me what my favorite book of all time is, I’m not ashamed to say: Harry Potter. I fell in love with the books as a kid, and remained in love with them as an adult. I’ve seen every movie several times, read every book several times and I’ve listened to the audiobooks.
My sister and I used to dress up and play witches, I dreamed that I too would get a letter from Hogwarts and I still love to dream about that magical world. There is something so wonderful about the universe of Harry Potter, so many layers to the stories.
But the closest I ever got to becoming a witch was visiting the Harry Potter World at Universal Studios in Osaka, Japan. An amazing experience, which I highly recommend!
Until I went to London.
Because in London, or just outside London to be precise, lie the Warner Brothers Studios where most of the movies were filmed. The studios are huge and open to fans of the Harry Potter franchise to tour.
A dream come true for fans of the franchise and lovers of cinema.
Unfortunately, this comes with a matching price tag so it’s not a cheap activity in London. But in my experience it’s well worth the money, and with my tips you can tour the Harry Potter Studios in London on a budget!
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What you can do at the Harry Potter Studios in London
The Harry Potter Studio Tour makes for a great day trip from London. I suggest taking out half a day at least, because there is so much to see and do. The complex itself is enormous, and it took me well over three hours to make my way through it.
Here are some of the fun activities you can do at the Harry Potter Studios:
- Walk through parts of the movie sets
- Learn about how the movies were made
- See the movie magic that made the Harry Potter universe come to life
- Look at props and costumes from the movies
- Try out special effects and movie tricks like green screens (additional fee)
- Eat typical Harry Potter snacks like cauldron cakes and Butterbeer
- Shop for souvenirs
- Take pictures with iconic moments from the Harry Potter movies
It’s much more like an amusement park than a museum, and very interactive. You can walk through sets from the movies and marvel at detailed props and costumes. At times, you can really imagine yourself being in the Harry Potter universe.
The Studio Tour has changing themes, depending on the season, so the displays differ slightly throughout the years. While I was there in December 2019, the theme was “Hogwarts in the snow”. So we got treated to a decked out Main Hall with Yule ball and Christmas decorations.
It’s also incredibly interesting to learn about the making off the movies. All the work and love that went into bringing the books to the screen. And the special effects and CGI used to create that movie magic. It’s truly mind-blowing and educational, as well as entertaining. I didn’t expect to learn so much, and it makes the Harry Potter Studios a fun activity for those who aren’t big Potterheads.
Of course, there are plenty of photo ops and souvenir shops as well, where you can get your own Harry Potter Studios memento.
How to get to the Harry Potter Studios
The WB studios are located in Leavesden and it takes less than an hour to get there from downtown London, making it a perfect London day trip out of the city.
You’ll find ads for organized tours online and throughout the city. And sure, it is convenient, but expensive. And really not necessary. With a bit of planning, you can get there and back for much less. An added bonus is that you are not bound to the tour itinerary and come and go as you please.
Unfortunately, you can’t take the Hogwarts Express, but the connection with public transport to the Warner Brother Studios is easy. And a lot cheaper than the organized tours.
Take the regional train from London Euston to Watford Junction, which takes about 20 minutes. A one way tickets costs about 11 pounds. You can use your oyster card or a contactless credit card.
From Watford Junctions, there is a special shuttle bus that takes you straight to the Warner Brother Studios. It costs 3 pounds, which you can pay by cash or card. You can only take the bus if you have a valid ticket for the Studio Tour. And they show a fun intro video on the bus!
Overall, I found getting to the Harry Potter Studios really easy and convenient. Unless you’re with a big group, or public transport isn’t as accessible to you due to disabilities, I see no reason to spend the extra money.
Where to buy tickets for the Harry Potter Studios
If you want to visit the Warner Brother Studios, you have to book your ticket well in advance. Due to the popularity, you can’t just show up but need to reserve a time slot.
These time slots only determine your entry time. Once inside, you’re allowed to stay as long as you want. Make sure you get there at least 20 minutes before your starting time.
I booked my ticket for the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London: The Making Of Harry Potter (try to say that three times fast) over a month in advance on the website.
There are several price categories, depending on what you want included in your ticket. A regular ticket for adults costs 47 pounds. But you can also book a “Complete Studio Tour Package” for 57 pounds. This includes a digital guide and paperback souvenir guide book with your ticket.
I don’t think a guide (digital or otherwise) is necessary, because there is lots of information available in the form of signs and videos throughout the tour. Especially if you’re a fan of the franchise and familiar with the books and movies, it won’t add much to your experience. In my opinion, the tour is long enough as is without the added audio guide.
You can get an e-ticket and show it on your phone, or pick up a prebooked ticket at the ticket desk. If all online tickets are sold out for your desired date, unfortunately, an organized tour is your last option.
Saving money during your visit to the Harry Potter Studios London
In short, a visit to the spectacular Harry Potter Studios is not cheap, but doesn’t have to cost and arm and a leg. There are several ways you can save money and tour the Warner Bros. studios on a budget:
- Book your tickets in advance on the website.
- Take public transportation instead of an organized tour.
- Don’t give in to temptation and buy souvenirs (which is very hard to resist, trust me). But browsing, trying things on and taking pictures is free. All my Harry Potter merch is from Primark and you can find great Harry Potter themed items of Etsy as well.
- Forego the additional attractions and only make use of the free photo ops. If you’re solo like me, ask the friendly staff to take your picture (they’re very good at it).
- Bring your own food and drinks. There are no rules against this, and while it’s fun to try one or two of the iconic Harry Potter snacks, it’s not worth blowing your budget on. It is also a long tour, so I recommend at least bringing a bottle of water.
- There’s a free cloakroom and bag storage: use it. There is a small outside portion which is pretty chilly in the winter, but otherwise the studios are heated. So no need to drag your coat and a heavy bag around like I did.
Other Harry Potter activities in London
The Harry Potter Studio Tour isn’t the only magical experience you can have in London. The city is filled with fun activities for Potterheads:
- Go on a Harry Potter themed Walking Tour along famous sites from the movies.
- Or take yourself on a self-guided audio tour or a fun exploration game.
- Visit Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station and the Harry Potter souvenir shop.
As you can see, it doesn’t have to be crazy expensive to visit the Warner Bros Studios in London and dive into the world of Harry Potter. If you’re flexible and plan you visit well, you can do it all on a budget.
Have you been to the Harry Potter Studios in London? What did you think? Tell me all about it in the comments.
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