When I was planning my eight month stint abroad, I had a list of non-negotiable places I had to visit. Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour at Leavesden (just outside of London) was one of these places. After all, I grew up with the series and wanted to reveal the magic behind the films, as it were.
If you're unaware, the studio tour takes you behind-the-scenes and showcases a huge array of beautiful sets, costumes and props from the Harry Potter films. It also reveals some closely guarded secrets, including facts about the special effects and animatronics that made these films so hugely popular all over the world. This was also where the majority of the series was filmed.
Now, before I jump into the tour: a few points. It's not exactly cheap at £33.00 for one adult ticket, so if you're travelling on a budget make sure you factor this in. Additionally, this is generally not something you can plan on the fly. Tickets are usually sold out a week or two in advance, and weekend tickets sometimes months in advance. As well as this, upon booking you'll need to pick the time of your visit. Obviously the earlier in the day is better, as you'll be able to spend as much time as you like at the studio. Essentially what I'm getting at here is that you'll want to secure your ticket as soon as you find out your travel times to get your pick of the date and time.
Interested? Click here to get your tickets!
"You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art of potionmaking...I don't expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses ... I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death"
Arriving at the studio was relatively simple. I caught the train to Watford Junction, with direct services arriving there from both London Euston (20 minute journey) and Birmingham New Street (1 hour journey). A shuttle bus (a double decker bus with Harry Potter all over it - you can't miss it!) runs from Watford Junction to the studio tour with a journey time of around 15 minutes. A return ticket on this bus will set you back £2. I'd recommend arriving at Watford Junction 45 minutes before the time stated on your ticket.
"Life at the Burrow was as different as possible from life on Privet Drive. The Dursleys liked everything neat and ordered; the Weasleys' house burst with the strange and unexpected. Harry got a shock the first time he looked in the mirror over the kitchen mantelpiece and it shouted, "Tuck your shirt in, scruffy!""
Waiting at the bus stop to head to the studio was an experience in itself - everyone heading out there is a Harry Potter fan, so you'll be in good company. However, I was unfortunate enough to encounter a local woman who walked past, and sneering at us, saying "trust in Jesus Christ, not Harry Potter." I felt like telling her that the Harry Potter books taught me more as a child about bravery, tolerance, friendship and being true to myself than the Bible ever did.
Other than that unpleasant experience, the tour was, of course, magical. Seeing the sets and costumes from the films was incredibly surreal, particularly as you could get quite close to them. You really get a sense of the level of detail that went into these films when you can take your time and view everything from multiple angles.
The enormous ice sculpture for the Yule Ball.
The Black's family tree, as seen in 'The Order of the Phoenix'.
Costume and accessories worn by Luna Lovegood.
The Trio in the common room, circa 'The Prisoner of Azkaban'.
Dolores Umbridge's office.
Of course, my most anticipated moment was trying Butterbeer. I must say, however, I was a bit disappointed. I know in the books it's described as pretty much the most delicious drink on Earth, but this was nothing like how I imagined it. For one, it was chilled, and I've read Harry Potter enough times to know that it's supposed to be warm. Disappointing beverages aside, it was probably the only aspect of the studio tour that disappointed me.
Details of Fleur Delacour's costume.
“Why are you worrying about YOU-KNOW-WHO, when you should be worrying about YOU-NO-POO? The constipation sensation that's gripping the nation!”
Walking down Diagon Alley was an amazing experience.
Now, I'm not going to go into to much more detail here, as there were a couple of surprises that are best left to see first hand. Suffice it to say I had a grin on my face from the moment I entered to the moment I left, and the experience itself has remained one of my travelling highlights. Now I just need to get to the Harry Potter theme park in Orlando...
“Whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.” ― J.K. Rowling