“Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
I am first to admit that I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, they were books that got me back into reading and have always helped keep the idea of magic alive in my creativity. The movies, of course, quickly became some of my favourites, a comfort to watch and I always walk away feeling inspired.
I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’ve been to the Harry Potter Studios in London, not once but three times over the course of me living in the UK. My first visit, only a few weeks after moving was spent with friends (and employees of the tour) Nizaad and Amy. The tour was decorated for Christmas and I was totally in awe of the entire experience. The second time, this time with a group of friends, was a faster run through the tour but I still felt as impressed as the first time. The third visit, a last-minute surprise with my boyfriend right before I moved back to Canada was quieter and gave us time to explore each of the areas of the tour.
The tour, built inside the Leavesden Studios just outside London is truly the pinnacle for any Harry Potter fan. Everything from the costumes, to the sets, props and making of are original from the films and on display for you to enjoy.
The first moments of the tour run like any other, some quiet queuing next to Harry’s cupboard under the stairs before watching a short film on the magic of the films. Then, you are almost literally thrust into the Great Hall of Hogwarts, an expansive set (decorated with a full Christmas feast in the winter). This is the only part of the tour that is guided and timed, you have a few minutes to wander through the hall, looking at the costumes of professors before moving into the rest of the tour.
You’ll slowly make your way through individual sets, the dorms, offices and props from Hogwarts, all of them decorated and presented with perfect detail. I loved spending time in each room looking for the tiniest details, little glimpses of magic around every corner.
The studio tour has done an amazing job, not only recreating the sets but also adding magic to each one. In Professor Snape’s classroom you can watch potion cauldrons stir themselves, you can see Mrs.Weasley’s knitting needles furiously working away on a scarf, and see the giant pendulum swing back and forth. Dumbledore’s office is one of my favourite spots of the entire tour, a huge room filled with artifacts, books, and the smallest detail.
As you move through the exhibits, the tour moves through different themes, showing you the behind the scene magic of the flying scenes of Quidditch, the creepy collections of the Dark Arts and the Death Eaters, and Dolores Umbridge’s delightfully cat-filled office.Along the way are small cabinets filled with some of the most important props of the films, the golden snitch, the philosophers stone, and Goblet of Fire included.
A rather new addition to the studio tour is the addition of Platform 9 3/4 and the Hogwarts Express. Built to mimic Kings Cross station, you can walk through the carriages and see inside key moments of the films set in the train wrapping up with a chance to have your photo taken with a green screen view. Of course the train wouldn’t be complete without the trolley witches cart of goodies.
After a brief stop for a butterbeer or two you then move to an outdoor stage that contains the Knight Bus, 4 Privet Drive, The Shrieking Shack, Hogwarts Bridge, the Weasley’s Ford Anglia and several of the giant chess pieces from The Philosophers Stone.
The next stops on the tour include an intense look at the makeup and prosthetics of the films. Shelves of goblins, elves and other creatures line the walls along with rather unsettling wax figures of some of the key characters. In an interactive portion you can bring to live some of the props like the Monster Book of Monsters and Mandrakes.
As you continue on toward the final rooms, you’ll take a nice walk through Diagon Alley where the shop windows are full of owls, wands, and other magical treats. It’s an amazing sight to see although fairly crowded
. After leaving the cobbled street a gallery of concept art and paper dioramas await as you enter the final, and most impressive room of all. Hogwarts itself. A huge scale model the size of a small house sits in a room with changing light, in winter it is covered in a light dusting of snow and you can observe the castle from every angle as you make your way towards the exit.
The Making of Harry Potter is an experience that is worth visiting, even if you’re not a huge fan of the films. The level of artistry, detail, time and energy spent in the films is evident in each of the sets, props, and costumes. Not only is it impressive to see that sheer scale and number of items in the collection but it’s inspiring to see how one woman with a story created a world that continues to grow and entertain people of all ages and backgrounds.
*if you are looking to visit the Studio Tour, you do have to pre-book your tickets from the ticketing website prior to visiting, there is a shuttle that will pick you up from Watford station to the studios*