my harry potter studio tour experience (+ other HP locations in london!)

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I am so grateful to have spent my birthday this year at the Harry Potter Studio tour in London. I’ve been a huge Harry Potter fan for the majority of my life and have always dreamt of living in that universe, so this was definitely the next best thing. While I was in London, aside from the tour, I saw a couple of other Harry Potter related places too!

I think what struck me most about the studio tour, but really all of these places in general, was the incredible feeling thinking about JK Rowling. All of this (a billion dollar book and movie series, multiple amusement parks, a studio tour, and all of the other Potter related attractions) came from the mind of a single woman, a woman who created this character from a spark of inspiration on a train in Scotland in the midst of depression, single motherhood, recovering from domestic abuse, and living on welfare. It’s insane and it’s one of the most inspirational stories I’ve ever heard, so it was really emotional to experience her brainchild so up close.

First, before I get into all the details about the amazing studio tour, I wanted to share my experiences from another Harry Potter related location in London. Our first stop was to check out MinaLima Studios. I feel like this is a lesser known Harry Potter spot that I rarely ever see people talk about, but it’s so cool. Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima are the graphic designers for the Harry Potter universe and opened up this museum in their studio to show off all of their work.

Over several stories in the building, you’ll find so many examples of the things they made for the films, things you’d never even think of having to be created! You’ll find letters, magazines, posters, books, and more, all handmade for the movies.

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On the walk to MinaLima, we happened to pass the theater where they perform The Cursed Child! I still haven’t seen it yet. Have you?

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Harry Potter Studio Tour

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I’ll preface this by saying that I’m not going to (nor could I) give away everything you’ll see on the tour because there is just so much to see and a lot of it is better if you’re surprised.

Getting There //
The tour is right outside London in Leavesden, where the films were really shot for all those years. It’s a little bit of a trek to get there, but it’s super easy. We left from Euston Station in London and took the Overground train to Watford Junction for only £7.50 round trip, per person. We got on the express train and it took us about 20 minutes, although beware there are slower trains that take more like 45 minutes. When we arrived at Watford Junction, there were clearly marked shuttle buses to the tour for £2.50 round trip, per person. The shuttle bus is about a 15 minute drive through the suburbs to the studio.

Food & Drink //
When you arrive, you enter the beautiful lobby (complete with dragon) which has lots of seating and places to eat. We grabbed some food, which was shockingly affordable and really good. There’s grab and go options as well as hot food, Starbucks, and Butterbeer before you even go into the tour. Halfway through the tour, there’s the Back Lot Cafe with fewer but similar options.

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The Great Hall //
This is where the tour begins and it is absolutely amazing. Because it was my birthday, I was chosen to open the doors to the Great Hall before anyone else in the group. The kids you see in the photo were not in fact having birthdays, their mom just pushed them to the front and made them lie, but it’s fine 😂. Being the first person to see the Great Hall, empty of people and in all its glory was absolutely amazing and something I’ll never forget. I was so shook, my hands were literally shaking.

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The Sets //
There are so many sets on the tour, I wouldn’t even be able to cover them all and don’t want to because it’s more fun if it surprises you. A couple of my favorites were the Gryffindor Common Room, the Boys’ Dormitory, the Grand Staircase, The Burrow (one of my all time favorite HP locations), and the Potions Classroom (incredible detail). But honestly, there are so many other good ones!

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Platform 9 3/4 //
The perfect place for your headed to Hogwarts photo op! When you walk in, you feel as though you’ve stepped into King’s Cross on your way to school in the fall. There’s a train gift shop and you can actually board the real Hogwarts Express with cabins decorated to represent each film. There’s also a paid photo op where you sit in a train cabin with a green screen behind the window to make it look like you’re moving.

The train station marks the halfway point of the tour and leads into the Back Lot Cafe where we drank Butterbeer and had some snacks before going on to the back lot, one of my favorite parts of the entire tour.

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The Back Lot //
I couldn’t get enough of this portion of the tour! It’s crazy to see these sets in real life, outside, in the daylight and there are so many cool photo ops. On the back lot, you’ll find No. 4 Privet Drive, The Knight Bus, Hogwarts Bridge, The Potter House in Godric’s Hollow, the Ford Anglia, and Hagrid’s motorcycle. I can’t tell you how weird it was to stand in front of No. 4 Privet Drive and to be able to walk through. I even took a Polaroid in front of the Godric’s Hollow house which turned out really cool.

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Gringott’s Wizarding Bank //
This was by far one of my very favorite parts of the tour, if not the very best. It’s brand new, only having opened in early April 2019 to the public and I could not stop gasping. The scale and detail was absolutely breathtaking. We actually stopped for a little while here to talk to one of the staff members who was this adorable guy from Brazil who shared a bunch of set secrets with us and laughed about how Texans pronounce “Harry Potter”.

After the actual bank set, you go into a room where there’s this incredible scene with the dragon destroying the bank. It looks so real, I stayed to watch it over and over. Check out my Instagram story highlights because there’s a video in there.

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Gift Shops //
The gift shops were a little crowded and my feet were really feeling it at this point, so we didn’t stay super long but if you’re looking for any Potter related merchandise, this is the place to be. It’s all organized into distinct rooms like Quidditch, Honeyduke’s, and so on. My favorite spot was definitely Honeyduke’s with the cute mint, black, and white look, the candy, and cute mugs.

Final Thoughts //
This was the most amazing way to spend my birthday in London and I will always remember it. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, this is a must do, bucket list item you have to cross off if you get the chance. It was 100% worth the time, the money, and the foot pain to do this and yes, I cried. Some tips would be to wear the most comfortable shoes you own, allow at least 3-4 hours for the tour, and get ready to take lots of photos.

Definitely check out my Harry Potter instagram highlight for more photos and videos and feel free to reach out if you have any questions about the tour :)