We are strong believers in the need for a little magic in this world to inspire imagination, creativity, and hope. Which is why we both absolutely love the Harry Potter movies. Not only is the storyline one that teaches so many important life lessons about friendship and doing what is right, but the cinematography also allows you to lose yourself in another world for a little while. So, of course, we made visiting Warner Brothers Studios London a priority on our grand European tour.
Once we found out they put on a special ‘Hogwarts in the Snow’ version in winter, we knew that was the right time for our visit. You would think we had our fill of Christmas activities after the festive December we enjoyed. But you’d be far off! It was such a treat to get one last taste of the most magical time of the year – at the most magical place we’ve ever been.
What the Tour Offers
If you’ve been to the Harry Potter-themed areas of Universal Studios in Orlando, FL, you may feel like this is just a European version of that. Not even close! Yes, they have the same items for sale in the gift shops and offer a chance to try Butterbeer. But what makes this extremely different is the opportunity to really see behind-the-scenes of this epic film empire. And while there are no rides, there are some hilariously fun opportunities to get into character during your visit to Warner Brothers Studio London.
We spent about five hours walking through the ACTUAL sets used in the movie, admiring the imaginative props, and learning so much about the passionate attention to detail that went into putting together the world of Harry Potter. We
Tips for a Great Visit
- This experience is probably better for adults or older kids.
- Photos are allowed, so bring your camera!
- Look into special tour options, seasonal events, and other ways to ‘enhance your experience’ found here. If you are going to go, may as well go all out, right?
- Plan for at least four hours. We stayed for
longer, but really took our time. And we certainly feel like we got more than our money’s worth!
- Don’t underestimate how long it will take you to get there from London. It is about an hour for the train and bus (make sure to take the Harry Potter bus right to the studio)!
- You probably don’t need to be right on time. We got in about 1.5 hours early and we heard people show up late with no issues. But call first to be sure.
- Take the posed photos even if you don’t intend to buy them. You have a few opportunities to buy photos and even a video of flying on a broom. The experiences are quite fun regardless, but there are also dozens of other unique photo opportunities with no need to pay extra
- Try the Butterbeer ice cream – it is way better than the drink!
SPOILER ALERT: Below, we will share lots of photos from our visit. If you are planning to take the tour, we suggest you skip the rest of this article and let it be a surprise for you! But, if you don’t plan to visit any time soon and are curious … enjoy a look into Hogwarts!
Our ‘Hogwarts in the Snow’ Tour
After an exciting bus ride full of giddy adults, we arrived and collected our tickets from the kiosks. Going middle of the day on a weekday during offseason really paid off with no kids and short lines. Score!
The long hallway to the start of the tour already got us excited with the book quotes along the wall. So many people stopped next to their favorites for a photo, us included.
Once through the ticket counter, we watched two short films in different rooms before finally giving the grand reveal of the doors to the great hall. With a push of the big doors, we were greeted with a (fake) feast, costume displays, and a very festive atmosphere.
While our time in that first room was limited, the other 90% of the tour was at our own pace. So, we loved getting to take everything in and stop to enjoy all the minute details that went into making Hogwarts a reality.
Giant Set & Prop Room
A few favorites in the first main area were the many costume displays, self-stirring cauldrons, Dumbledore’s office, and watching ourselves fly on a broom over iconic movie scenes.
We didn’t buy the ridiculous videos, but we couldn’t resist our wizard wanted poster that we posed for. Money well spent!
Forest, Train Station & ButterBeer Cafe
After spending more than two hours in this main prop and set area, we walked through the forest to meet Buckbeak and the giant spiders. What an amazing transition to the train station!
Yes, we even got to try going through the wall at platform 9 3/4 and walked through Hogwarts Express. I remember reading these books as a kid and never would have imagined they would turn into such an amazing film series, let alone that I could walk through the magical scenes described by the fantastic J.K. Rowling. All the feels, you guys!!! All of them!
At this point, we were almost three hours in and had really worked up an appetite. Luckily, the cafe actually had some decent and affordable meal options. And, of course, Butterbeer. Being the genius that he is, Buddy opted for the ice cream which was freaking delicious! Way better than what I remember the beer tasting like at Universal.
Outdoor Fun & Animatronix
It was hard not to rush to eat when the outside area was filled with dreamy lighting and snow! The sun had set since we first entered this land, and it was quite the magical scene beyond the doors
We laughed like kids as the snow stuck all over us on the short walk to the Knight Bus and Privet Drive. AHHH!!! What a blast!
In this area, we also got to see the giant chess pieces, pose in the sidecar motorcycle, and walk through the Hogwarts Bridge!
But wait … there’s more! Through the next door was an interesting look at how all of the monsters and creatures were made. We got to see Dobby, and baby Voldemort and dragons. The ingenuity that went behind creating these pieces was just insanely impressive!
And they are opening the Gringott’s Bank set later this year, too! The perfect excuse for a return trip.
The Grand Finale
As we wound our way through the streets of Diagon Alley, then past sketches and set photography, we knew the tour would soon be ending.
Then to our amazement and surprise, we entered a dark room with a massive model of Hogwarts in the middle. I cried. Yep. Not even ashamed. It was glorious. What a perfect way to end this amazing trip into another world!
But there was one more room left – the wand room. It was filled from floor to ceiling with wand boxes, each with the name of someone who worked on the movie. Hundreds of them. It was so powerful to think of how much love and passion and hard work went into doing justice for the amazing stories J. K. Rowling imagined. It was so refreshing to see how much they cherished the people that made it possible. The true Hogwarts heroes!
Emerging from that experience felt like returning from another planet. We had let ourselves get totally sucked in and it was wonderful.
We really didn’t even know how much this story meant to us until we visited this amazing place that put those creative words into film form. I couldn’t help but think of how much I grew up with Harry Potter. I read the first book when I was in elementary school and watched the last film the summer I got married. There are just so many memories related to that series…
All the countless times Buddy and I have spent cuddled up watching and rewatching them together. When I raced home as a kid to read the first book as quickly as I could. Going to watch all the movies with my friends and jumping at every semi-startling part. Wishing Hermoine and Harry would just kiss already for over a decade, then eventually appreciating that they never did. Sobbing when Dobby died (seriously J.K., why did you do that to us?). And the joy that filled me while listening to my nephew read The Order of the Phoenix to me on a recent trip to visit … character voices and all.
I promised myself as I stood in front of that huge, majestic replica of Hogwarts that I’d bring him here one day. Because joy and magic and all those warm mushy feelings should be shared far and wide. That’s one of the reasons I think people love Harry Potter so much, because it is something so good that can be so easily shared and passed on.
P.S. If time allows, be sure to check out the Tour for Muggles in London as well – such a great time!