I have to admit that I almost ended up not writing this post, simply because I have around 10,000 words to write for all my assignments combine and about 7 days left to complete them all before I leave for Edinburgh, but I really wanted to write it because so many of you have requested it.
As you already know, I am currently spending the semester abroad in England, and I’m situated 20 minutes outside of London (by train). And being a complete die-hard Harry Potter fan, I just could not come to England and not visit the Harry Potter studios. So on November 27, I headed to Watford to visit The Making of Harry Potter at the Warner Bros studios. True Potterhead, I was wearing my Ravenclaw scarf (#RavenclawPride) that I bought at Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross for my birthday. As you can imagine, the excitement was real and my expectations were high.
How to get there
There are many ways to get to the Harry Potter studios, but if you’re a tourist, you’re probably going to want to take the train. The studios are actually a little bit outside of London, in Watford, which is like a 15-minutes train ride from London Euston. Make sure your train stops at Watford Junction. From there, there is a shuttle bus that will take you to the studios. You need to have booked your tickets in advance in order to have access to the shuttle bus, so make sure you bring your tickets or your booking confirmation with you! The return ticket is 2,50 pounds per person (yes, you have to pay even if you already have booked your tickets, which I think is a little bit stupid since the tickets are already expensive, but oh well), so I’d highly recommend making sure you bring some cash! I didn’t know that we had to pay and I almost freaked out when I realized that I only have a 20-pound note on me. Thankfully, they had enough change, but that could have gone wrong really quickly if they hadn’t.
The shuttle bus was jampacked, but I was still able to get a seat. Once you board the bus, a little introductory video starring Jason Isaac (Lucius Malfoy) plays to get you ready for your visit. If you weren’t hyped already, you will be after that!
The Making of Harry Potter – my experience
If you have booked your tickets online and did not pay to receive them in the mail, the first thing you’ll have to do is get your tickets at the ticket office. I would highly recommend booking in advance. I booked my ticket mid-October and was barely able to get one that fit my schedule!
Once you have your tickets you’ll have to head inside. But before you get access to the facility, you’ll have to go through a security check – I’m not sure why they have to check your bag and proceed to a body check when you’re allowed pretty much everything, but it’s fairly quick and easy so it didn’t bother me too much.
One thing that I did find to be a little excessive is the number of queues there are – and that’s just to get inside the exhibit! There’s one queue to get your ticket, one queue while waiting for the security check, and one queue in the entrance before entering the studios. I arrived half an hour before my appointed time (you have to respect the time written on your ticket! You can’t just show up at any time during the day.), and it took about 40 minutes before I could get into the studios. I don’t know if it was just a busy day or if it’s always like this…
The Making of Harry Potter – Hogwarts Under the Snow
Now, the fun begins! Once you’ve been through the queues, it’s time to explore the studios! At this point in my visit, I was ecstatic. You’ll start off by watching a first short video on how the books turned into a worldwide phenomenon. After that first video, you get into a second room, set up like a movie theater, and watch another short video on how the movies became a worldwide success. After all of this, you’ll be super hyped for the visit. Can’t they just show you in already?
But then, it’s show time. The access to the studios will be unveiled. You’ll be standing right at Hogwarts’ door (yes, it’s the door from the Deathly Hallows Part 2 movie!). And once the doors open, it’s purely magical.
Your visit will start off in the Great Hall. As a Potterhead, this was probably the room I was more excited to see. It was smaller than I imagined (it was probably bigger in the movies), but it looked exactly like in the movies. As you can imagine, I was absolutely freaking out. I was lucky enough to get tickets for Hogwarts Under the Snow, which means that not only was the Great Hall decked out for Christmas, but I also got to see the decors of the Yule Ball from the Goblet of Fire! It was the first time in 13 years that this decor was recreated, and I feel so grateful I got to see it with my own eyes (Goblet of Fire is one of my favorite HP movies!). The Great Hall is the only place where you only get a set amount of time (sadly), the rest of the visit is self-guided.
After you exit the Great Hall, it’s time to explore! The visit is a mix of decors like Dumbledore’s office, the Gryffindor common room, the Weasleys’ kitchen, Platform 9 3/4, and the Ministry of Magic, to only name a few, and more informative bits and pieces like costumes and wands. The first part of the visit, you’ll really feel like you’re in the movies. They even opened the Forbidden Forest this year, and it’s absolutely terrifying! You’ll see Buckbeak and Aragog – and they move!
The second half of your visit is more informative. You’ll get behind the scenes and see things like the making of creatures like Dobby, the goblins, werewolves, dragons, and so on, and the models of different locations, such as Hogwarts. I have to admit that the moment I stepped into the room displaying Hogwarts, all covered in snow, I got a little emotional. Music from the movies was playing in the background and a little ball of emotions formed in my chest. It was hard to take good pictures because the lighting was not optimal, but I swear it’s more magical in real life.
The visit ends in the gift shop, and I’d highly recommend spending some time (and money!) browsing the alleys. They have a TON of stuff from both the Harry Potter movies and Fantastic Beasts! There are candies, jewelry, clothes, books, wands, accessories… and the list goes on. I personally didn’t do too much damage because everything gets fairly expensive, but I did buy myself a Butterbeer half-way through the visit, a time-turner keychain (they didn’t have it as a necklace), a chocolate frog, a chocolate wand, a Deathly Hallows choker necklace, and some small gifts for my friends and family.
All and for all, I spent about 2 hours and a half visiting the studios, so I would recommend planning at least 2-3 hours for your visit. It all depends on how much time you spend taking pictures, watching informative videos and reading all the panels. I was alone so I could go at my own pace, but I still ran through it quite quickly because I didn’t want to spend like 6 hours there and miss my train back.
If you think visiting the studios will make the movies less magical, you are totally wrong! I headed in with very high expectations, and the exhibit exceeded every single one of them. If anything, I think I’m falling back in love with the Harry Potter universe. Visiting the studios made me want to rewatch the movies! (I think I’ll have to do a HP marathon during winter break… 😉 )
Have you visited The Making of Harry Potter at the Warner Bros studios? What did you think about it? If you’ve never been, is this something you’d like to experience? What are you most looking forward to?