Sunday Evenings at the Harry Potter Studio Tour, London
If you come here for recipes and restaurant recommendations, and you’re not nearly as much as a Harry Potter fan as I am, may I suggest you skip this post, and get a kick start on some festive baking for the weekend with my Mummy’s Mince Pie recipe? Otherwise, put the kettle on, grab a Chocolate Frog and settle down because somehow, out of the 495 photos I took on the Harry Potter Studio Tour the other weekend, I’ve selected about 40 to share with you all. A little peek at what you should be spending the next Sunday evening you have free doing if you live in London, and just at the pure magic of Harry Potter for those of you who live further afield.
Now, as we step into the Great Hall which was still all done up for Halloween when we visited (complete with Hagrid’s floating pumpkins) I want to make two things clear. Number 1: you need to book, and well in advance. We went for a 5:30pm ticket (even at the weekend it is mostly adults on that one and the studios/ shuttle buses back to the train station – just a 20 minute trip out of London – run until 10:30pm) on the one weekend that was still open. Plan way in advance. Number 2: the studio tour is geared more towards with the adults who grew up with Harry Potter, rather than children today. Even in the gift shop at the end, there are more art prints and items for adult wizards homes and Hogwarts house onsies for their offspring than stuff for kids. This is why the tour makes the ultimate evening activity!
There are really two parts to the tour: getting to see all of the props, costumes and sets that have been preserved from the years of filming at the studios (I’ve re-watched Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets since my visit and it was so much better having seen so many of the items in it in real life), and some behind the scenes bits, like how they make Nearly Headless Nick’s nearly severed head come to life, and CGI Dobby.
As I sit here cozied up in my brand new Slytherin house sweatshirt, listing to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (my favourite Harry Potter book – has to be read by Stephen Fry – I just got it for just £3.99 with a reduced 3 month Audible deal that is running until tomorrow) I’m thinking that I would have been a real potions whizz at Hogwarts. The potions classroom felt like my spiritual home, and while yes, I was terrible at Chemistry at school (there was that time with the exploding test tubes of acid..!) but I think it would be more like cooking, sourcing your ingredients and getting the balance just right.
Haven’t you noticed that when we were reading the Harry Potter books growing up we all wanted to be in Gryffindor, but as we’re now grown up we seem to have chosen our own houses (regardless of if Pottermore sorted us in them or not!)? I may be a natural Slytherin, but my other favourite set had to be the Gryffindor common room. Look in the top left hand corner of the room, towards the boy’s dormitories. Can you see Harry and Ron’s Weasley jumpers? My boarding school house common room looked nothing like this!
While the sets were nostalgic and cool, one of my favourite things about the tour was actually seeing the sheer level of design and detail that had been put into some of the props. Things like Chocolate Frogs, and boxes of Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans (and they mean every flavour!) I had an idea of how I’d imagined them before I ever saw the films because they were already out there in the world (yes, I was that kid who spent all their pocket money at the Warner Bros store and went to school with a Harry Potter satchel) but I’d never begun to imagine the cover of Rita Skeeter’s biography of Albus Dumbledore, or the branding of U-No-Poo (the constipation sensation that’s gripping the nation!)
Literally the only thing I can’t recommend about the studio tour is the Butterbeer. I just had to try it and I don’t regret doing it, but I was already warned I’d not like it. While it looks cool, it is so sweet it puts your teeth on edge, and is a really odd texture. And, beyond that, inaccurate. I know they’re making it child friendly, but I’m sorry. The Butterbeer served at The Leaky Cauldron, The Three Broomsticks, and even The Hogs Head (for crying out loud!) is slightly boozy – house elves manage to get drunk on it! However, if you really do want to try it they now serve Butterbeer soft serve ice cream; still very sweet, but enjoyable!
It is worth checking what special events are on when you book. Yes everyone tries to get tickets when it is Christmas at Hogwarts, but because we visited on the last day of their Halloween offering there was a special focus on the Dark Arts during our visit. Keep your whits about you, because you may just encounter (real, live and bloody terrifying) Death Eaters patrolling Diagon Alley!
At the very end of the tour, the real magic happens. After walking through a room full of the tiny, perfect, intricate models that were made of some of the more important sets like Hogsmeade, the Whomping Willow and Hogwarts Castle (set up for the final battle – if you look close enough the little figures are actually standing in formation of where they were standing during the fighting – such amazing detail) you see the castle itself, in 360 degree miniature. Perhaps it is the lighting, the music, or seeing Hogwarts laid out before you (and not the Harry Potter Lego version I used to build and re-build over and over, £800 on Amazon now – I have all the pieces, so I wish I’d kept the box!) is one of the most magical moments that had happened to me in a very, very long time. It sounds silly, I know, but if the magical world of Harry Potter was as much a part of your life growing up as it was mine, vist and I promise you the tour will be one of your highlights of 2018.