February 06, 2017

Harry Potter Studio Tour

My children grew up with the amazing exploits of the boy wizard, Harry Potter, and together we’ve watched all eight films (several times). With a new stage play in London’s West End and five planned Fantastic Beasts films, the magical world created by J.K. Rowling will continue to entertain us for many years to come. I couldn’t miss an opportunity to visit the studio in England where the movies were filmed: Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter.

Originally an aircraft factory twenty miles northwest of London, the Warner Bros. Studio in Leavesden opened its doors to Harry Potter fans in 2012 with original sets, props and costumes gleaned from more than ten years of filming. (Now the Fantastic Beasts franchise is being filmed there too.) You can visit the studio on your own or book a day tour out of London but in either case your timed-entry tickets must be purchased in advance.

The Warner Bros. Studio in Leavesden

Studio Lobby

Flying Ford Anglia from The Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter's First Bedroom, The Cupboard Under the Stairs

We booked a group tour through International Friends, the same company that took us to Highclere Castle and Downton Abbey filming locations. (You can read about this tour in the post A Very Downton Day.) The itinerary allowed four hours to tour the studio exhibits, eat lunch in the Backlot Café (including a frothy mug of Butterbeer) and browse the Studio Shop. Here are some highlights of my visit, from entering the Great Hall of Hogwarts Castle, to window shopping in Diagon Alley and boarding the Hogwarts Express on Platform 9-3/4.

Doors Open to the Great Hall of Hogwarts Castle

The Great Hall

Professor Dumbledore's Costume and the Owl Podium

The Magical Sorting Hat

Harry Potter's Bed in the Gryffindor Boys' Dormitory

The Gryffindor Common Room

The Lady & the Unicorn

The Griffin Stairwell

Professor Dumbledore's Office

The Potions Classroom

The Burrow, Home of the Weasley Family

Nagini the Snake at Malfoy Manor

Quidditch Equipment

Door to the Chamber of Secrets

Platform 9-3/4

The Hogwarts Express

Carriage Interior from The Half-Blood Prince

The Backlot and Hogwarts Bridge

The Knight Bus

Number 4, Privet Drive

The Dursley Living Room

Butterbeer - Like Ginger Ale and Butterscotch

Diagon Alley

Diagon Alley Storefronts

Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes

Window of Ollivanders Wand Shop

The Philosopher's Stone

Model of Hogwarts Castle

While buying souvenirs for my kids in the Studio Shop, I was tempted to choose a magic wand for myself.  I spent considerable time mulling over the 30 different designs but, as Mr. Ollivander once explained to Harry, “the wand chooses the wizard”. The model used by Hogwarts student, Luna Lovegood, chose me.

Luna Lovegood's Wand

After the studio tour we journeyed to nearby Oxford, the City of Dreaming Spires. Oxford is home to Britain’s oldest university with 38 independent colleges. The Sheldonian Theatre is the official ceremonial hall for graduations and was Sir Christopher Wren’s first major building project.

The Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford

The Emperor Heads

Radcliffe Camera is a reading room for the university’s Bodleian Library which receives a copy of every book printed in Britain – over 12 million items to date. The Bodleian’s Divinity School and Duke Humfrey’s Library were used for the Hogwarts infirmary and library in the Harry Potter films.

Radcliffe Camera

Entrance to the Bodleian Library

The Divinity School

Oxford has its own Bridge of Sighs connecting two sections of Hertford College. Don't you think it looks more like Venice’s Rialto Bridge?

Bridge of Sighs, Oxford

Bridge of Sighs, Venice

Rialto Bridge, Venice

Famous residents of Oxford include astronomer Edmund Halley who discovered the comet that bears his name; and Charles Dodgson who is better known as Lewis Carroll, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Dodgson was a lecturer at the college of Christ Church and the real Alice was the Dean’s daughter.

Edmund Halley's House

Alice Merchandise in Oxford

The Martyrs' Memorial commemorates the Oxford Martyrs who were burnt at the stake for heresy in 1555. It’s said that mischievous students have sold unsuspecting tourists a tour of the underground church beneath the ‘spire’. The supposed stairs to this church actually lead to public toilets.

The Martyrs' Memorial

Next time we’ll return to London for a visit to Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery.


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