Harry Potter Studio Tour Review & Top Tips
Planning to visit the Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour in London? Our Harry Potter studios review has loads of top tips to help you make the very most of your visit.
Scroll down to find out:
- What to expect on your visit
- When is the best time to visit the Studio Tour
- The best Harry Potter studio food available, and what’s good!
- Top Tips for making the most of your day
Looking for something else?
- Check out our tips for visits to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando
- Read about how we were among the first people to visit the Harry Potter Studio Tour – we LOVED it!
We have actually visited the Studio Tour six times now. We love it that much! Every time you go there is something new to see. The exhibits are always changing, and new experiences being added.
In this post we are sharing EVERYTHING you need to know about visiting Harry Potter World in London!
What do you do at the Harry Potter Studios?
The Harry Potter Studio Tour is two huge sound stages, and a back lot. Each sound stage contains multiple sets from the original Harry Potter movies. There are also props, exhibits, costumes and special effects demonstrations.
You’ll also find lots of interactive experiences. Maybe you want to know how to use a wand? How to conjure up fire? How about riding a broomstick or driving an enchanted car? If you’re feeling brave, get the Hogwarts Express and face up to Dementors!
As you go through the tour, you can expect to see seasonal live demonstrations, and decor. There are also several cafes, and shops selling a huge range of souvenirs and photos. Lots of these demonstrations change throughout the year, so there’s always something new to see.
When is the best time to visit the Warner Bros Studio Tour?
If I could give you on tip about visiting the Harry Potter studios it would be – book EARLY.
You can only go to the Studio Tour if you have a ticket booked in advance, and at busy times of year like school holidays you will need to book several months ahead. If you can’t do this, you can often get last-minute tickets from London tour companies like Superbreaks. They will sell you a ticket plus transport to the Studio Tour as a package.
What’s the best time of day to visit the Harry Potter tour? Personally, I would say the morning.
There’s science behind this recommendation: the Studio Tour admits around 590 people each hour. Because people like to dawdle, not all of those people will leave in the three hours that Warner Bros expects you to spend on site. If we assume that each hour, the number of people in the tour will increase by about 100 people, there will be twice as many people on site at 4pm compared to 10am.
Visiting the tour at 10am means there will be 590 people on-site. And by 4pm the same day, there will be about 1,000 people. It’s considerably more crowded and hectic at 4pm. If you can visit in the morning, then you should do so.
What to wear at the Harry Potter Studio Tour
Most people dress casually to visit the tour, but kids especially like to add a bit of Potter Pizzazz to their outfit!
Letting kids wear their own Potter robes, t-shirts and so on to the tour adds to the day AND reduces the pressure to buy those things in the gift shop. That said, it gets very warm in the internal parts of the studio tour, so don’t be surprised if your kids shed layers.
Certainly you won’t need big jumpers or jackets inside the tour.
How Long is the Harry Potter Studio Tour?
Lots of people ask us how long the Harry Potter Studio tour takes.
In my experience, we would say to allow around four hours to visit the Harry Potter Studio Tour. This will give you time to see all the sets, try a few of the experiences, and get something to eat and drink. Depending on how big of a fan you are, you may want to schedule some extra time for browsing the gift shop! A lot of the items are exclusive to the Studio Tour and can’t be found anywhere else.
Depending on the age of your children, and your interest in all things Potter, I would suggest that if you don’t stop to eat or drink, you’ll need at least 2.5 hours to get around the tour.
There is such a lot to see, and so much attention to detail, that it would be a real shame to rush your visit.
What’s the Harry Potter Studio Tour like at Christmas?
The Harry Potter Tour is amazing whenever you go, but we reckon that the most special time to visit is Christmas. Hogwarts in the Snow has some wonderful special exhibits. We’ve found it’s a lovely way to make the time between Christmas and New Year feel REALLY special.
That said, the Harry Potter Studio Tour has regular seasonal promotions. We had a lot of fun visiting at Halloween, and also during the Back to School period.
What are Potter Passports?
When you arrive on site, pick up Potter Passports for your children from the guest services window to the right of the gift shop. They’re free, and include a treasure hunt for kids. You can get them at the visitor centre before you go into the tour.
Let them ‘stamp’ their passports at key points around the tour. It’s a little thing, but all three of the kids with us thought they were great fun, and they make for a great souvenir.
Where’s the best place to sit at the start of the Studio Tour?
When you go into the tour, you’ll be taken first into a dark room with screens on the side. If you can, head for the door on the far wall, left hand side and stand there. This ensures you’ll get the best seats in the house for the next stage of the experience.
Top Tip: Spot the Details!
The first set you see is The Great Hall. My favourite thing is spotting all the things that were never featured in the films but were made anyway.
The attention to detail in the Potter movies was amazing. Check out the carvings on the back of the giant fireplace, the house point counting machines behind the teachers’ table. You’ll also love the detailing on the pitchers and crockery on the refectory tables.
Top Tip: Ride a Broomstick
When touring the interior sets, don’t miss the opportunity to ride a broom in front of a green screen. Don’t be afraid to REALLY over-act. The photos are so much more fun if you adopt a terrified face, or an evil face (in Flea’s case) which can be super-imposed on to a cloudy sky with the Dark Mark leering in one corner.
Another quick tip: don’t wear a straight skirt, everyone waiting in line will be able to see straight up it when you sit on the broom.
If you prefer not to ride the broom there’s an option to go in the flying car or be pictured on a ‘wanted’ poster. A little later in the tour, there’s a really fun green screen experience on a train. This makes for the BEST photos on the tour. The train green screen is opposite the Hogwarts Express and is SO much more fun!
Top Tip: Ask Questions
Be sure to ask the guides at the Harry Potter Studio Tour lots of questions because they REALLY do know their stuff. We’ve found they love to share their geeky knowledge, from which buttons to press to make the flying car invisible, to which masks were worn by which death eaters. They are also usually happy to take photos with your own phone if you ask nicely.
Top Tip: Butterbeer tastes… Interesting
If your kids want to taste Butterbeer, I’d recommend bringing along a bottle of water, too. It’s an acquired taste (shall we say) and none of our three kids liked the taste of their Butterbeer! It’s quite sweet, a cross between butterscotch and caramel.
For my money, frozen Butterbeer ice cream is more palatable. If you buy the souvenir cups, wash them at the supplied water trough, because they’re really sticky! Oh, and the ice cream comes in a very cute souvenir bowl.
Top Tip: Save Plenty of Time for the Second Half
How long is the Harry Potter Studio Tour? The answer is – as long as you want it to be! I’d say to allow between two and four hours to tour the studios, and have time for something to drink.
Save plenty of time for the second half of the tour. This covers all the creatures and monsters of the films, and the castle itself. You also get the chance to walk up Diagon Alley. There is a lot to see and my prediction is that you’ll spend at least four hours on the tour.
There is a room holding a scaled-down model of the castle, which was used for all those sweeping exterior shots. While it’s fun to gaze at the model in awe, the touchscreen computer displays allow you to do so much more. Our kids learned so much about how the films were put together, and what goes into making certain shots and effects happen.
Top Tip: Budget for the Gift Shop
Prepare your kids for the Harry Potter Studio Tour gift shop. We set our kids a budget before we arrived on the day. This meant they knew what they could spend. That’s important when a Hogwarts school jumper costs almost £60 and a set of robes is £79! Even the wands are around £25 each.
Of course, the quality reflects the price and there are some truly wonderful souvenirs. But you could easily spend a fortune here. Some of the best budget buys are things like magnets and key-rings, and of course chocolate (but avoid the jars of fancy packaged Smarties at £9 a jar). There is also a really sweet new range of charm bracelets that children can add to over time.
Here’s Flea’s vlog of her Harry Potter Studio Tour birthday gift shop haul!
Food at the Harry Potter Studio Tour
Over the years, food at the Warner Bros Studio Tour has improved MASSIVELY. In the early days there was just one outside food stand, with a couple of tables if you were lucky enough to grab one. Now there is a huge choice of food and drink, and several different locations which means less time queueing and more time having fun!
The options are:
- The Chocolate Frog Cafe: Situated in the lobby, this sells drinks, sweets and hot chocolates and is a great spot to pick up a drink and a treat for the road after your visit. Expect to pay around £2 for a hot drink and £4 for an ice cream or hot chocolate.
- The Hub Cafe: Also at the entrance, this is a themed Starbucks outlet selling the usual range of food and drinks.
- The Food Hall: Situated just off the lobby, this is a great spot to grab breakfast or a full meal before or after your tour. Breakfast is served up until 11.30am with hot and cold choices, with prices from £6 to £10. After this you can choose from a wide variety of pies, pizzas, burgers and fish and chips. Expect to pay £10 to £15 for a main meal. There are a few vegetarian pies and soups, along with a vegan pizza and burger. This cafe also serves afternoon tea (£22 for 2) and a roast dinner for four people, at £28.
- Backlot Cafe: We often eat here because it’s situated midway through the Harry Potter Studio tour, and makes a great way to break your day. There’s a main counter serving lots of different food options, and a smaller counter where you can just get Butterbeer and Butterbeer Ice Cream.
- Kids Menu: The children’s menu at both the Food Hall and Backlot cafe are great, with main meals between £5 and £8. At the Food Hall, expect to see burger, pizza, sausages, fish & chips. At the backlot there’s also pizza and burgers, plus Mac and Cheese, hot dogs and a chicken wrap.
Don’t fancy spending on food? You can also bring your own picnic and eat it outside at one of the picnic areas at the Backlot cafe. We did this several times when Flea was younger, because she’s quite a picky eater. Also, the queues for food are long, and can be slow. So having your own sandwiches and just getting a Butterbeer from the shorter, faster queue is a great option.
How to Buy Photos at the Harry Potter Studio Tour
There are LOADS of places to have photos done around the Harry Potter Studio Tour.
The most popular is by the broomstick and flying car green screens. The queue here is always MASSIVE. Another great spot for photos is the train platform. There are places to have your photo taken running through the platform, and sitting on a carriage of the Hogwarts Express, as well as meeting the Dementors.
Here’s a top tip – if you do the broomstick experience, wait and have your photos printed around the corner by the train platform. The queue is a lot smaller here. This means you’ll waste less time standing in line. You can also just get a “download it later” photo. You’ll get a receipt with a bar code that takes you into an app where you can download photos and share them automatically on social media.
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