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Warner Bros Studio Tour, London… The Making of Harry Potter (Warning: spoilers and photos!)

8 Jul

Earlier this week I went to the Harry Potter studio tour in London…and quite frankly it was one of THE best days of my life! I really am not exaggerating, I am a major Potterhead!

I woke up at 5am (clearly far too excited for a woman of 24) and began to get ready to leave the house! The traffic around London wasn’t too bad so we arrived an hour early than the time stated on our tickets. However you can go in before your time slot to the entrance hall where there is a cafeteria which served some lovely food and was reasonably priced and a Starbucks….because you don’t see many of them around! You could also have a look around the gift shop before going in and there were also many things in the entrance foyer to keep you amused and pass the time. The famous theme music from the films was constantly piped into all areas of the tour and entrance way so you really got a sense of excitement before you walked in!

About 10 minutes before our time slot was due we decided to queue up because the line was getting pretty long. The staff then scanned our tickets as we queued (presumably to check people were in the right time slot). I have to say that the whole operation was extremely well organised and that the staff were polite, knowledgeable and great with the kids! As the time slot began and the queue shuffled/pushed towards the door we were mystifyingly cut off just before going in and told we would have to wait another 10 minutes! It all became apparent, when we went through the doors and were ushered into a small cinema to watch a short 5 minute film, so presumably they only allow however many people they can fit into the cinema in at a time. I won’t spoil what happened next for those who are planning to go, but let’s just say, it was a nice touch and really brought the magic to life for me!

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The first place you enter is the Great Hall as a guide takes you through the set and the costumes and tells you about how it was made, etc. However he spent so long talking that there wasn’t really enough time to take many photos and then we were hurried out before the next lot of people came in behind us. This was a little annoying, however as you enter the next part of the tour all is forgotten as you try to take in every little bit of detail that hits you all at once!

I felt like a kid in a toy shop, wishing I had 6 pairs of eyes and running around not knowing what I wanted to look at first! Even though they say the tour is a one way system, the main body of the tour is actually one large room and there are displays in the centre and all around the edge, so it doesn’t seem too much like you are moving from one exhibition to the next in one long line!

Despite it being a Tuesday and during term-time, I found the tour to be uncomfortably busy (particularly with several classes of school children on school trips there). Even though the books and films are aimed at a young audience, I think the tour is more of a young adult/adult place, since there is no touching of the props or sets and there is not much for the children to do except the broomstick ride…for which there was a 45 minute queue. Having said that, I did see that some children were given a passport to take around the tour in which they put stamps when they found certain things, but these didn’t hold their attention for long! So if your plan was to go during term-time to miss the crowds and queues you may be disappointed, it seems like this place will always be busy!

Half way through the tour you go outside, where you can buy refreshments and most importantly of all…BUTTERBEER! This was one of the parts of the tour that I was looking forward to the most. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is my favourite book of the series and is the first book we we hear of this drink that made my mouth water just reading about it;

‘Harry drank deeply. It was the most delicious thing he’d ever tasted and seemed to heat every bit of him from the inside.’

Yum! I queued up for about 10 minutes to pay my £2.95 for a half pint plastic glass of Butterbeer and took my first sip. It was cold and fizzy with a cream head on top. It was quite sweet and I found that after a while the fizziness, the sweetness and the cream all mixed together was quite a sickening combination, which left me feeling a bit disappointed. My mum said it tasted a little like ice cream soda with butterscotch syrup. It’s not a drink that can be drank quickly and presumably why they only serve it in small volumes. I struggled to finish mine!

But I was lifted out of my disheartening Butterbeer experience by the amazing outdoor sets and props, such as Privet Drive and the Knight Bus. The outdoor area was slightly better as the sets were more hands on and you could go right up to the door of Privet Drive or sit in the flying car from the Chamber of Secrets. However this meant more amazing photo opportunities, which meant more orderly queuing (what we Brits do best) and only a small amount of time in which to take them!

From there you move on to visit other sets and prop showrooms which I won’t describe in detail here as I don’t want to spoil too much for anyone planning on visiting the tour! I do have to share this wonderful photo of the model of Hogwarts castle however, as it is breathtaking and even more impressive to see in real life!

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When I came out of the studio tour and walked into the (now packed) gift shop to stock up on some Harry Potter goodies, I quickly became disenchanted when I saw some of the prices. Some of the most wanted items such as a wand or a house scarf or some of the famous sweets were ridiculously over-priced. One chocolate frog was £8 and a small box of Bertie Bott’s beans was £9! The prices for some of the clothing such as Hogwarts tshirts and hoodies started from around £18 to the knitted house sweaters and cardigans which were around the £50 mark! Let’s just say if you are a die hard Harry Potter fan and are planning on spending in the gift shop then bring a credit card or take out a small loan! After wandering around for nearly an hour (I kid you not) I finally selected a chocolate frog, and a Deathly Hallows keyring. I had to buy something, if somewhat begrudgingly.

All in all I did have a fantastic day, spending around 4-5 thrilling hours at the tour. There was so much to see that I am considering going again as I did miss things despite snapping photos of everything in sight (cameras are a must!). Yes there were crowds, yes there were queues and yes I felt slightly robbed in the giftshop…but it was a truly magical day! I sat in the car on the way home, clutching my gift shop bag, happily humming Hedwig’s theme and planning my next visit! 🙂

Mischief managed.