For Harry Potter fans, the Warner Bros Studio tour in Leavesden always tops the list of things to do in London – but as it’s not a cheap experience, it’s well worth researching tips for the Harry Potter studio tour beforehand to get the most from your visit.
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Whether you’re wondering about how to get tickets or how to get there, how long to spend, what to do about food, how to avoid giant spiders and whether you really need that digital guide after all, I’ve packed all the answers into my list of top tips for visiting the Harry Potter Studios, London.
Having visited several times with my daughter (and more times without her), there’s also advice if you’re visiting Harry Potter world with kids. Grab your cloak, pack your wand and read on. Suitable for Muggles and wannabe wizards!
Which attraction is the main one? If you’re wondering just how many Harry Potter attractions there are in London, the official name is the Warner Bros studio tour, but it’s also commonly known as the Harry Potter tour, Harry Potter Studio tour London and Harry Potter World
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Tickets for the Warner Bros studio tour get snapped up very early – plan to book in August if you fancy Hogwarts in the Snow at Christmas, and usually months in advance to visit during peak season as well.
If you’re visiting on a wet Wednesday in January, you’re likely to have more choice, but this really isn’t something to leave to the last moment.
An earlier time slot is also a good idea if you can get one, to give plenty of time to explore and to avoid a late night with younger fans.
Where to find tickets if the Warner Bros site is sold out
The cheapest way to visit is always booking direct with Warner Bros Studios but if your dates are showing as booked, there are some alternative options to try.
Tour operators will often have availability if you’re happy to buy tickets with a coach transfer – you can also book direct via Golden Tours which is the main provider. These also show one of the films on the journey to Watford which is fun.
While you can choose to take the bus from Victoria Station or near Baker Street Station, as well as from Kings Cross, there is also an option to make your own way and to meet at the ticket collection desk if you’re staying at a hotel near the Harry Potter Studios.
If you’re choosing the option without transportation, do consider how you’ll get to the site though as both the shuttle bus and parking require you to show a ticket.
You can also join small group tours to the Harry Potter Studios while some hotels offer packages including tickets. Again, this is a more expensive option but if you’re planning to book a hotel anyway, it’s worth exploring.
And if you have a Mastercard, you can sign up to Mastercard Priceless for last-minute tickets. There are 20 tickets available each day, available from 2-7 days in advance.
For hotels near Harry Potter World with kids, check out my top picks for places to stay
How to get to from central London
The Warner Bros Studio tour is around 20 miles from central London as the crow flies, in Leavesden, Hertfordshire – just outside Watford, but it’s easy to access using public transport.
By far the most straightforward way is to take the train direct from Euston station to Watford Junction – the direct fast trains take only 20 minutes and you can pay using contactless or Oyster card, just like the tube and other Tfl services.
Unlike other national rail services, children under 11 travel free on this route too – normally ages 5-15 pay a 50% fare on train tickets. If you do catch one of the other train routes between Euston and Watford Junction, it will take longer and you’ll need to have the correct child tickets.
Once you arrive at Watford Junction, there’s a free shuttle bus which is included as part of your entry ticket. The journey takes around 15 minutes, and buses run at least every 30 minutes during the day: the last bus heads back when the Studio Tour closes in the evening.
You’ll need to show your ticket or booking confirmation to the driver to be able to use the shuttle bus, so make sure you have it to hand. Sadly the Knight Bus isn’t an option.
There’s no direct tube route to the Harry Potter Studios or to Watford Junction itself. However, you can take the Metropolitan Line to Watford Underground station, just over a mile from Watford Junction station.
You’d then either need to get a taxi to the Warner Bros Studios – around 10-15 minutes by car – or make your way to Watford Junction station to catch the shuttle bus.
There are bus routes which run between the two stations, although it will also involve at least a short walk and some only run every 30 minutes. Alternatively, it’s 5-10 minutes by taxi, which costs around £7-£10.
Allow plenty of time
While you can go at your own pace, it pays to leave plenty of time to explore here. Harry Potter World in London is huge – and new areas are constantly being added and unveiled.
There’s also an incredible amount of information to discover, with behind-the-scenes videos to watch, a chance to read more of the details of the creation and inspiration of the various props, plus interactive activities including casting spells and riding broomsticks.
It’s recommended to allow around at least three and a half hours. While you could rush round in less time if you’re visiting with younger kids (or less committed fans), it’s not a cheap day out so it’s worth making the most of it.
You can very easily spend longer too. On one visit with my then seven-year-old daughter, we spent around 6 1/2 hours exploring, and even on my earliest visits before several new areas were added, I’ve never spent less than about three hours there.
The morning slots are always the best option if you can find them, as you can then spend as long as you want inside. Bear in mind there’s only one (busy) place for lunch once you’re inside, as well as a cafe at the start, although you can bring your own food to eat in the Backlot cafe.
There are limited numbers for the very start of the experience, so expect to have to stick to the time on your ticket, but after that point, you can explore at your own pace.
While you can return to some areas, especially in the first section of the experience before you reach the Forbidden Forest, it’s not always easy (or possible) to go back, so it’s always better to take your time then move on.
After you pass the Hogwarts Express at Platform 9 3/4 and the last part of Studio J, there’s no turning back. From here, you head past the Backlot Cafe to the outdoor areas including the new Professor Sprout’s Greenhouse and Privet Drive, before getting to Studio K, with Creature Effects, Gringotts and Diagon Alley – check out the downloadable map here.
What age should kids visit?
There’s no minimum age for admission, so if you want to turn up with a baby or toddler, you’ll still be welcome as the whole attraction is family friendly.
However, unless you think your baby is going to nap the whole way round, I wouldn’t recommend it with younger kids. Fans will want to have the chance to soak up every last detail, while toddlers simply don’t have that attention span – they’ll get bored, you’ll get grumpy and it’s an expensive option to speed walk through.
There’s also a lot of walking for little legs – it’s not a small site – and often lots of queueing, especially at the start. If your youngest has older siblings who are desperate to go, it’s well worth taking a buggy or carrier and finding something which will keep the littler ones entertained.
I’d recommend it for kids aged around 6+ though, as long as they’ve already been introduced to the early stories – once they’re a few years older and they’ve read more of the books or watched more of the movies, they’ll get even more out of it.
Watch at least one film beforehand
If you’re planning to visit the Warner Bros Studio tour, the chances are you’re already a fan, have read all the books, watched the movies and maybe even have your own wand.
But if you are planning to visit with kids and introduce them to the wizarding world, it’s well worth watching at least one film before you go.
Visiting with my daughter for the first time just before her sixth birthday, she had only watched the first movie and we were beginning to read the books, but it really helped her to feel familiar with Hogwarts (and sparked a love of the stories which has seen us return here and enjoy a string of other Harry Potter days out around the UK).
Bear in mind that you might spot some things which will act as mild spoilers for later movies along the way.
Consider bringing your own food
Apart from a cafe before you go into the Harry Potter Studio tour, there’s one main restaurant (the Backlot Cafe) around half-way through the attraction and it’s – unsurprisingly – very busy.
It’s also not the cheapest place to eat, so it’s well worth bringing your own food to save time in the queues and money. You can use the cafe tables, or the picnic tables outside if the weather is good.
There’s also a separate section to buy butterbeer and butterbeer ice cream if you just want a sweet treat rather than ordering food. If you haven’t had butterbeer before, I’d recommend ordering one to share – it’s definitely an acquired taste, so you might find you don’t want a whole one each!
You can keep the plastic mugs as a souvenir though (and there’s an area to wash them up so you don’t have a sticky mug in your bag for the rest of the day).
Or if you’re planning to make a special event of it, you can book a Harry Potter afternoon tea, with timed slots and a separate area to eat, currently £70 for two.
Set a budget for the gift shop
For Harry Potter fans, the gift shop at the end is almost as magical as the studio tour itself, and you could very easy spend a lot of money very quickly – especially if you’re considering clothing, wands and other bigger items.
Happily you can also get some souvenirs without breaking the bank, including chocolate frogs and other sweets, stationery and plenty of themed bits and bobs, including options for each of the four houses.
Whether you’re trying to prevent yourself spending your entire trip budget or want to reduce pestering from your kids, it’s well worth setting a budget before you go in, to avoid both temptation and tears.
Watch out for the added costs
While entry to the Warner Bros studio tour covers the cost of most things inside (barring food, drink and the gift shop), there are some extra charges if you want a photo posed on a broomstick, for example.
These are optional if you fancy trying the green screen experience without an official photo, and there is more free interactive fun and special effects, including making a broomstick jump up into your hand or having a go with a wand.
Keep your phone charged
It goes without saying that you’ll want to take photos as you explore, of everything from a chance to become a giant or wave a wand, to the amazing props and sets along the way.
So discovering your phone battery is almost flat as you arrive is something of a disaster.
You can buy branded portable phone chargers from the information desk for £15, but it’s better to keep your phone charged or to bring your own power bank – I’m a fan of this Anker portable charger which is compact but powerful enough to charge two devices at once.
There’s also WiFi inside in case you can’t wait to start sharing.
Don’t carry your bags all day
There’s a free cloakroom where you can leave coats, bags and suitcases while you visit, so you needn’t drag everything around with you all day.
You can also leave buggies and pushchairs there if you prefer not to take them in, although a limited number are allowed inside for each timeslot.
Skip the scary bits
If you’re visiting with younger kids, or arachnaphobes, it is possible to skip the scary bits – although there aren’t too many of these anyway.
Walking through the Forbidden Forest, there are two paths to choose between, so if you want to avoid Aragog entirely, you can. Make sure to ask staff as well if you also want to avoid him in the Creature Effects section towards the end.
The area on the Dark Arts is also off to one side, so you can skip past if you’re visiting with younger kids.
And staff are great too if you’ve got nervous younger fans with you – on our first visit, my then 5-year-old daughter was unexpectedly scared of Buckbeak. Staff offered to take us around to avoid walking past, then played a game to help her build up her courage to scurry past so we wouldn’t miss anything else.
Pick up an activity passport
There’s a free Activity Passport which includes puzzles, more trivia, a Golden Snitch hunt and space for souvenir stamps to collect along the way.
There’s so much information to take in, and so much to see and do that having this isn’t essential, but it does make a fun mini souvenir if you don’t want to buy the official guide, and is another fun option with kids if they are feeling overwhelmed or starting to lose interest at the sheer amount of detail.
And download the app
Download the Harry Potter Fan Club app before you visit, and you can use your Enchanted Keys to unlock more fun as you explore.
The app is free to download (from the appstore or Google Play), and all you need to do is log in, tap the key symbol in the Discover tab and scan the Enchanted Keys whenever you spot them on the Studio Tour. That includes extra quizzes, more videos and other secrets of Hogwarts and the Wizarding World.
But you don’t need a digital guide
Digital Guides are also available with added behind-the-scenes footage, more facts, interviews and so on.
Realistically, there is such a huge amount of information available as part of the main displays, that you really don’t need these to get the most out of your visit.
They are available in a string of languages as well as English, including French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, Chinese (Mandarin), Brazilian and Portuguese, so it’s one to consider if someone in your group has limited English though.
Let them know if it’s your birthday
If anyone in your group is celebrating their birthday, let them know at the entrance – not only will the birthday boy/girl get a badge, they can also play a special role at the start of the tour.
That’s all I’ll say so as not to spoil the surprise, but it’s something even the youngest Harry Potter fans can do and will love (as long as they’re not too shy).
Is it worth visiting?
If you’ve visited any other Harry Potter experience around the world, you might wonder is a visit to Harry Potter World worth it?
Personally, I don’t think there’s anything else quite like it. While you’ll get a taste of the wizarding world at Universal Studios in Orlando or recreated in the Forbidden Forest in Cheshire, for example, this is the only place where you can see the original props, visit the original sets and stand where the films themselves were made.
Don’t arrive expecting a theme park with rides but for fans, this really is unmissable.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links – any purchases you make are unaffected but I may receive a small commission. All tips for the Harry Potter studio tour in London are my own recommendations
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