The real reason we went to London
Just like our trip to Berlin had ulterior motives, our trip to London was really just a means to an end. Honestly, the only reason we scheduled the trip was to visit the Harry Potter Studio Tour, AKA Hogwarts.
A short train ride outside of London brings you to Watford, a city that for ten years, was the homebase of the Harry Potter films. It still houses the UK’s Warner Brothers Studio, a working film and TV studio that has shot films like Inception, Fantastic Beasts, Wonder Woman, and plenty of Bond films.
When the Harry Potter franchise finished filming in their lots at the studios, pretty much everything was put into storage: costumes, props, complete sets, you name it. Since 2012, the Harry Potter Studio Tour has been open to the public, with rotating exhibitions all about the Harry Potter film series.
The safest place in the world for something you want to hide
During our visit, Gringotts Wizarding Bank was the main attraction, and we got to see all the details that went into creating the perfect bank Goblin, the LeStrange vaults, and the dragon. We even saw a mysterious package left in Vault 713…🤔
The Studio Tour is an expansive journey through the wizarding world, with everything from Platform 9 3/4, to Malfoy Manor and the Forbidden Forest. With an audio guide and a Wizarding World passport, we were free to wander through the studios. There are plenty of interactive activities along the way, like green screen photos playing Quidditch or riding the Hogwarts Express. While we didn’t do any of those, we did stop for a Butterbeer. 🍻
It’s all in the details
My favorite thing about exploring the studios was getting up close to all of the props. They are intricately made, and the process of creation was explained in detail on the audio guide. There are so many winks and nudges to the book series throughout the films that don’t get mentioned at all. For example, some of the props in the Gryffindor Common Room included a copy of the famous wizarding book, The Adventures of Martin Miggs the Mad Muggle, and a portrait of Professor McGonagall as a young woman.
Each carriage on the Hogwarts Express was decorated for a specific movie, and you can visualise the scene as you walk through.
There was so much to do and see at the Harry Potter Studio Tour, I could have easily spent all day there (and we pretty much did). It was an immersive experience that made me feel like I was actually in Diagon Alley, robbing a bank, or relaxing in the common room. Moreover, I learned a lot. As someone who would definitely identify as being obsessed with Harry Potter and knowing too much about the books and movies, I learned new things through the audio guide experience.
While the tour shows tons of props and sets, it does a great job explaining the craft and engineering that went into creating the wizarding world. I got a crash course in mechanics in the magical creatures exhibit, and learned all about architectural planning and drafting while touring the Art Department.
Hogwarts, A History
I think by now, if you’re reading this, you know how much I love Harry Potter. I have read these books a dozen times (even in German!), and each time I read them, I find something new. I make a new connection, discover sneaky foreshadows and callbacks, and fully dive back into the Wizarding World. Seeing the sets and props from the movie just cemented my love for this series and made me realize how much of a phenomenon Harry Potter is. People were visiting and geeking out (just like I was) from all over the world.
Sure, the Harry Potter books are done, and the movies are almost 20 years old, but they still hold their value for millions of people. If J.K. Rowling isn’t remembered as one of the most renowned contemporary authors of our time, I will eat my witch hat.