AusCanuckSarah, Butterbeer, Diagon Alley, Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Hogwarts, Leavesden, London, Privet Drive, Ron Weasley, The Making of Harry Potter, The Meandering Maple Leaf, United Kingdom, Warner Brother Studios
I learned how to read when I was 3 years old. My kindergarden teachers used to send me home with extra reading lists. My mum’s best friend once mentioned that ever since she’d known me I’ve “had your nose in a book”. I love reading. When I started university, my friend used to bring Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire to school and read it on our breaks. Despite my love of reading, I used to make fun of her for reading a kids book-I’d associated it as so because my grandmother had bought them all for my little brother. That Christmas holiday, I cracked the first book and had all 4 books read within the week. I’ve never looked back.
I love Harry Potter. Every time a new book was to be released, I would re-read the entire series so I was “caught up”. Every time a movie was released, I would re-read the book. When the 5th book came out, I was on holiday in Australia and actually pre-ordered it at a local store and the read the whole book on the plane ride back home. When I moved to Australia and got rid of all my stuff, I brought the whole series, in hardcover, down with me.
When I moved to London, one of the first things on my to-do list was to visit the Warner Brother Studios in Leavesden. Unfortunately I hadn’t had the chance to visit yet but when I had some time off between jobs, I decided to head out and I was totally excited!
There’s a special coach that can bring you from Victoria station or you can also just take a normal train to Watford station and there’s a shuttle bus that takes you to the studios. You must buy your tickets in advance and there are allocated time slots. Being the complete nerd I am, I got the Complete Tour Package ticket which includes the audio guide and a souvenir guidebook.
The tour begins in the Great Hall, complete with house tables, student costumes grouped by house and models of the teaching staff. There’s also the hourglasses filled with coloured stones that mark the house points. From here you enter a massive area that is filled with sets and props, video screens with clips from behind the scenes and plenty of secrets from the movies.
You can see costumes worn by the actors, as well as the wigs, makeup, tattoos for each of the characters. There’s the Gryffindor common room, the Gryffindor boys dormitory, the entrance gate to Hogwarts, Dumbledore’s office, the potions classroom and many more.
There’s even an area where you can enter the world of Hogwarts, through green screen, and ride in the the Weasley’s Ford Anglia or ride a broomstick through London and across Hogwarts grounds. Yes, I might have dressed in Hogwarts robes and gone for a broomstick ride….after all, ‘when in Rome’!
After going through the Ministry of Magic set, you exit the soundstage and find yourself on Privet Drive. There you can buy Butterbeer (delicious-tasted like butterscotch!), ride the Knight Bus, and see the house where Harry grew up, as well as the house he was born in.
The next soundstage contains lots of the creatures and non-human characters in the story. The giant model of Aragog hanging from the ceiling was definitely shudder-inducing. Then…it gets magical. Just past the creepy creatures, you step into Diagon Alley. No bricks to tap with a wand but magical nonetheless. Diagon Alley is amazing and you get to walk past all the shop fronts you see in the movies: Flourish & Blotts, Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour, Madam Malkin’s, Olivander’s and, of course, Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes, giant, orange and outrageous at the end of Diagon Alley. God what I wouldn’t give to go into that shop!
After exiting Diagon Alley, there’s a room with a giant replica of Hogwarts. It really is astounding and apparently was the model used in all shots of the castle in the movies. Then you can see a room filled with wand boxes containing a wand for every single cast or crew member. There are very helpful staff about that will help you locate Daniel, Emma or Rupert’s wands, as well as anyone else you might be keen on. Leaving the wand room, you step into the gift shop. Now I am a big fan of gift and tourist shops. I could have wandered in here for hours and I do believe I was in there for a 45 mins!
There was stuffed Hegwigs and Hogwarts robes, replica wands and life-sized brooms. There was a section for each house with clothing in each house colour. There were magnets and keychains, stacks of Honeydukes chocolate bars and tons of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans. There are coffee mugs and beer steins, crystal models and stuffed pillows for each house. I may or may not have got a Gryffindor tank top and pair of shorts. I walked out of there very happy and wishing I could have bought one of everything.
I realized I had forgotten to pick up my souvenir guide when I was on the shuttle on the way back to the train station. The driver was super nice and let me get back on the bus heading back and I ran back in for my guidebook. Unfortunately I lost my phone two days after I visited and lost several pictures of me with the Hogwarts model and inside the shop. Well I guess I’ll just have to go back for another visit!!
If you are ever in London and a fan of Harry Potter, you must visit The Making of Harry Potter!!