“You’re a wizard, Harry.”
And you feel the same gut-wrenching shock as Harry did when those giant gold doors open up into Harry Potter World.
When my sister planned to meet me in London I knew we needed to visit the Harry Potter Studio Tour. She is a passionate fan of the books and movies, and my kids were too young to watch the films at the time, so the stars aligned perfectly and I had the best excuse to visit with her.
It is located quite some distance from central London and getting there on your own can be quite tricky. We decided to save the hassle and just booked the Harry Potter bus from Baker Street.
Unfortunately for us it was hard to find and we were given wrong directions by locals twice, before a helpful policeman finally gave us the right directions. We had run around for 15 minutes hoping not to miss it when we finally stumbled onto it in Dorset Square.
You’d think with its double decker size and bright, colourful decorations it would be easier to find. But it was my fault for not reading the instructions on the bus ticket carefully enough, and the bus stop was a couple blocks from Baker Street tube station.
Luckily we scrambled on just in time and it took off. We couldn’t help feeling the excitement riding in the bus. As we got closer to our destination a brief video was shown with intense climactic music increasing the anticipation.
The Studio Tour
Helpful staff ushered us towards the free cloakroom. We browsed the gift shop while waiting for the tour doors to be open and it wasn’t a long wait before we were walking into an expansive room with several screens showing various Harry Potter posters from around the world.
A staff member enthusiastically welcomed us and then we watched a short clip on the films before being led to an actual cinema. Once that introductory movie was over the screen dramatically lifted to reveal dauntingly large gold doors.
I felt like one of the kids in the Willy Wonka factory waiting for Willy to come out and open the gates. The anticipation was electric.
When the giant doors swivelled open the effect was just as dramatic, and the group walked into the majestic Great Hall at Hogwarts. It was like walking into another world.
The Studio Tour gave us an introduction to the hall and time to look around before moving on to another room to view props, costumes and so much more Potterphernalia.
We could take our own sweet time visiting the exhibits which, without kids, was very leisurely. There was an opportunity to ride a broomstick and have your photo taken on the green screen as well.
After the first room we visited an outdoor studio lot with the covered bridge, the knight bus, Harry’s house and a café offering Butterbeer. Instead of using photographs, I filmed it for you!
What is Butterbeer?
On the other side of the studio lot were even more rooms devoted to cosmetics, hair and robotic art of Hagred, griffons and dragons. Every piece so fascinating. Oh and the pies au résistance?
The miniture replica of Hogwarts Castle.
Before I knew it over 2 hours had passed and my sister and I were Pottered out.
We made our way to the cafeteria for a quick snack before catching our return bus to London.
Tips, Tricks & Other Wizardry
A few things we learned during our visit.
Book It - When you book a ticket in advance you have to choose a timeslot for your tour. It’s not the sort of place that you can just rock up any time (unless you have Harry’s invisibility cloak).
Go Early – We arrived before the doors even opened for the first session. When we exited, the number of visitors swelled. School children were everywhere. Be committed to wake up early and get there for the first tour of the day.
Take the Harry Bus – The bus is expensive, no doubt, but getting out to Harry Potter World via public transport can be expensive and a hassle anyways. Take the stress out and just catch the bus. Ensure you arrive early and know where Dorset Square is.
Skip The Audio Guide – You can get an enhanced experience with the audio guide, but after talking with several of the staff we realised there was so much to do inside. We decided to skip it. I am extremely glad as there was so much to look at, read, and watch, I am not sure how I would have had time to listen as well. Unless you plan on being there for close to 4 hours, rather than 2, skip the audio guide and save the money.
Try To Keep It In Order – It’s easy to skip over things when you are walking around the outside and there are exhibits in the middle or on the other side and excitedly you want to hop from one to the other. Try to do things in order, we almost left a room and realised we had missed Hagrid’s house. That would have been tragic.
Bring snacks – As far as London pricing goes the cafeteria isn’t that expensive, but you’d still be better off bringing your own snacks. Of course, no one can leave without trying a Butterbeer at least once.
Buy 1 Butterbeer - We were going to get 2, but changed our mind and bought one to try first. We were so glad. Even between us, we couldn’t finish it.
Even though you are Harry Pottered out by the end, I can guarantee on the bus ride back to London you’ll be thinking one thing, “how long will it be until I get home so I can watch the whole Harry Potter series back-to-back, binge style.” So why not save yourself the time and bring one of the books for the ride.
Even someone who hasn’t watched the movies can still enjoy the whole experience. But when you can witness the magic behind the movies that you’ve loved, it conjures a whole new level of magic. You’ll be thoroughly Potter-fied for life.
Online price – Adult: £31, Child 5 – 15: £23.50, Under 4: free.
Family of 2 adults and 2 kids: £93 (AUD$167)