What is it?
It’s a studio tour of sets, scenes and props from the Harry Potter movies, turned into a behind-the-scenes experience. Find it in Leavesden, Hertfordshire, 20 miles northwest of London.
Ages most suitable for
Best for: 5-7 year olds, 8-11 year olds, 12 years & over and Harry Potter fans of any age!
£££ – this is not a cheap family day out, although children under 4 go free, and family tickets will save you a few quid if you’re paying for four. What you need to know is that you have to book tickets online in advance and as there are limited places for each tour, it gets booked up quite far in advance. See more about this below.
What’s on offer
The Harry Potter studio tour is a fascinating insight into the world of film, and the Harry Potter movies in particular. It consists of two giant stage sets (like giant aircraft hangars) and a outdoor backlot.
It’s a visual feast of detailed sets (including the Great Hall), props, animatronic creatures and special effects used in the making of 8 Harry Potter films.
Seasonal events such as screenings of the Potter films, animal attractions, Hogwarts at Christmas, Quidditch and the Dark Arts exhibits are available at various times throughout the year. Consult the official website for full information about what’s on when.
Digital guides and souvenir guidebooks are available at an extra cost. There’s also a reasonably priced café (given the scale of the attraction) and a big cloakroom.
If your little one is a huge Potter fan, the entire experience is sure to be magical, regardless of whether or not he’s read the books.
There’s a clever start to the whole tour (we don’t want to spoil the effect by revealing all), and this leads into the Great Hall, which is incredibly impressive. From this point, you’re allowed as much time as you need to walk through the different sets at your own pace.
Some of our personal highlights: Dumbledore fans will love seeing his office, there’s a magical cobbled Diagon Alley, the triple-decker Knight bus in the backlot is fascinating, while the animatronics section give you some really spooky insights into some of the most scary characters – including a foetal Voldemort.
And don’t rush through the final reveal – the breathtaking finely detailed model of Hogwarts. Watch the videos that run alongside the model to see how lifelike it becomes when it’s used in the films.
If you’re happy to queue, the broomstick ride against a green is a real highlight. Alternatively you can sit in a Flying Ford Anglia. But do watch out for the pricey photo or DVD you’ll be encouraged to buy afterwards. This is one of the few places on the tour where you won’t be able to take your own photos.
The staff members are especially friendly and helpful, and once you’re in, there’s not much queuing involved.
Children are given Harry Potter passports when you queue at the very beginning of the visit. They look great, and encourage children to look out for stamp machines throughout the tour to complete their passport.
What to watch out for
– The most important thing to know is that you can’t just show up to this attraction. You will not be admitted. Tickets are NOT sold at the studio and you have to book a tour online. You will be asked to select a specific time and date. It’s a popular attraction and there is often a 3 week wait for the first available tickets – sometimes more during school holidays. This is not an attraction that you can just decide to go to – you’ll need to plan ahead.
– Beware the SatNav postcode provided by the studio as it may not get you to the right place. Use the directions tool on the official website to give you precise directions – it’s roughly 3 miles off the M25 and M1. The Harry Potter tour TripAdvisor page offers a lot of useful travel advice about how to get there.
– There’s a train service from Euston station to Watford Junction, where a shuttle bus runs every 10 minutes to the studio. Make sure you catch the express train from Euston – there’s also a slow stopper, which you don’t want to get on.
– Green screen photos or DVDs of the broomstick ride or flying Ford Anglia are relatively expensive (like the ride photos at theme parks).
– Exiting through the gift shop is a common issue – but this one is particularly expensive, more so than the usual attraction gift shop. You’ll find comments about this on many reviews. One of the biggest issues is that it’s very difficult to find a cheap souvenir – try £8 for a chocolate frog. Wands look fantastic but cost upwards of £20.
– The studio recommends that buggies are left in the cloakroom, as there is limited space in the studio. Children under 4 are likely to want to go round much more quickly than older children, so it could be a real issue if you have little ones in buggies.
– It’s quite a traditional tour exhibition, which means that there’s lots of looking and reading, and not so much interaction. Again younger children may tire easily and want to rush round the last sections.
– Once you’ve moved on from a section, it’s not easy to return so make sure to spend as much time as you need in each area. The first section is the largest – so don’t rush through.
– The only refreshments area are at the café in the outdoor lot. As is usual for an attraction café, the options are limited and it’s not cheap. Instead, you might want to bring a picnic lunch or at least some snacks to eat in this outdoor area.
– Finally, there’s a fair amount of walking so make sure you and the family are wearing comfortable shoes.
– We’d suggest you don’t need the digital guide (which comes at an extra cost per person). The exhibits are explained really well and the guides are friendly and keen to share their knowledge with you.
– The Butterbeer, which you can buy for an additional cost, is in the outdoors backlot. It’s an acquired taste – one that none of our children liked – so if you’re pestered to buy some, get a single cup to share around.
– The sets and props make brilliant photo opportunities so make sure your phone is fully charged or bring your best camera.
What the owners say
“Set adjacent to the working film studios where all eight Harry Potter films were made, the Studio Tour offers visitors the unique opportunity to explore two soundstages and a backlot filled with original sets, animatronic creatures and breathtaking special effects.”