Harry Potter is a series of films and books that have stole the hearts of millions of people across the world, from different generations, whether they’re celebrities or ordinary people (like me).
It took ten years to create this intricately designed spell, with all it’s skill and morals binded into one, it truly is the most powerful spell to have been cast in the muggle world. And it has kept us all tranced to this day.
For some, Harry Potter and all it’s glory has ended once and for all. For many, it’s only just begun.
As you all know, in March last year, Warner Bros decided that it would be a good idea to let Potterheads all over the world experience the magic behind the scenes, and get told the secrets of creating the masterpiece that was the Harry Potter series. Therefore they came up with the magnificent idea of launching a tour of the ‘Leavesden Studios’ ( the place where the films were filmed, for those of you who don’t know), for however long it will stay successful. Well, it’s been a year and let me tell you, it’s attracting more visitors than a magnet attracts paperclips. 🙂
So, earlier this year, during the Easter holidays, I begged my parents to take us, and since we didn’t have any plans, and they knew I was a mega Harry Potter nerd (like mega), they agreed, and off we went. And my, is it worth it. Those of you Potterheads who haven’t been, I seriously advise you to go. It opened last year-so what, that doesn’t mean anything, everything is just as the actors left it. You’re walking on the sets they walked on once upon a time. When you put it like that, it sounds pretty great, you have to admit.
The first step of the tour, is actually getting to the studios and it’s from this point on that everything is Harry Potter-fied (if that’s a word…) There you are waiting at the ‘bus’ station until out of nowhere, a double-decker comes to a stop in front of you as if in slow motion, completely covered head to toe (-well, roof to wheels,) in blown up images of the studio, yes, the windows as well. Everybody around you are trying hard not to show their excitement but you can see the eagerness in all of our faces. And then you just hop on, after showing your tickets of course. The best part is, it really doesn’t matter how many people are on the bus, even if it only seats a certain number of people, at least twice as many come on. There’s people standing, sitting, and children on their mum’s laps. (Luckily enough, I got myself a seat.) Around you, you can hear a buzz of different languages coming from the tongues of different people around the world, and funnily enough, you just know they’re talking about the tour, the happiness is clearly oozing out of every word.
About 15 minutes later, you’re on the road leading to the studios. You can already see Harry waiting for you, along with Ron and Hermione, next to a sign saying: The Making of Harry Potter. This is it. Everybody stops for a moment and just stares. You can hear the sharp intake of breath as you and the others around you realise, this isn’t what you see in the leaflets, it’s the real thing, and you’re about to step inside…
Once everyone is off the bus, nobody runs round like hooligans screaming in delight (which is what a lot of people think.) They just stand for a while, allowing themselves a moment to take it all in, and then compose themselves by beginning to take pictures. (Although don’t take too many as the real deal is inside.) Just go to the ticket booth, get it all checked out, you’ll receive a ‘Harry Potter‘ passport, and boom! You’re ready to go in…(you could stay outside if you like, but that’s your choice. I practically ran to the doors.) 😉
As soon as you walk in, you hear murmurs of fascinated tourists, but that’s like the background track. The thing that overpowers it, is the Harry Potter theme tune playing absolutely everywhere you go inside (totally NOT annoying, but that might be because it’s the theme tune of my life…aah well.) You’ll find the studio cafe to your left, the studio shop on your right, and the entrance/que to the tour in front of you. Depending on what time your tour is due, you may have to wait for a bit (like us), so I suggest you take this time to grab a snack from the cafe just in case you feel peckish during the tour (no food/drink is allowed whilst the tour is going on due to sets getting ruined, etc.) Also, check out the studio shop for things you’ll like to buy, so you can purchase them after your tour has finished, it’ll save you from looking around for ages after the tour.
Half an hour before the scheduled time for your tour, you’re able to wait in the que, which doesn’t move all that slow. And since we went during the anniversary (throughout most of March), we were given free ‘1 year anniversary’ badges, and were also promised to be given surprise gifts throughout the tour. It all sounds so exciting. And it just keeps getting better, as whilst moving through the que, you see Harry’s ‘cupboard under the stairs’ and a rather mesmerising quote by J.K. Rowling. Then the doors open and you’re allowed access inside the first stage of the tour…
You find yourself in an extremely dark room with Harry Potter film posters on the walls, then a short video plays, reminding you why you’re here, and the greatness of Harry Potter. More doors then open enabling you to walk straight into the studio tour cinema. (Now we’re talking…)
Take a seat, wherever you like ( everywhere’s comfy-better than your ordinary cinema seats), you’ll get a brief intro (super brief) of what you’re about to watch, and then you just sit back and relax-well, for at least ten minutes and then…
Your standing on the familiar flagstones, that you’ve only seen in the films, an arm’s length away from the table settings, the headmaster’s golden eagle stand directly in front of you. It’s The Great Hall. When you first walk through them doors, you feel like you’re seeing the most iconic set in Harry Potter through the eyes of Ron, Hermione and Harry, just like the Philosophers Stone-it’s breathtaking. The cast’s costumes line the wall of The Great Hall and you just can’t stop gawping whilst you’re given a brief overview by one of the staff members.
Next, you’re in ‘The Big Room’ where most of the sets are, these being: the Potions Classroom, the Gryffindor Common Room, Dumbledore’s Office, Umbridge’s Office, parts of The Ministry of Magic and The Yule Ball, Hagrid’s Hut and The Weasley’s Kitchen. You also see many of the costumes and props such as the horcruxes, doors, trophies-all the little things that you don’t really pay attention to, but make a big difference in the films. Be sure to take lots of pictures, and spend as much time as you want, because once you’re out of there-you’re out, there’s no going back in. Oh and this was really great fun. There’s a photo booth where you can take a photo of you sitting in the famous ‘Ford Anglia‘, and on a broom where you’ll be suitably dressed in Hogwarts robes (remember to say cheese.) Make sure you take one, you don’t want to be missing out now do you?
Now, I hope you’re feeling thirsty because in this next stage of the tour there’s gonna be a lot of a little known drink. Butterbeer was it? Yes, that’s right. Barrels and barrels of the sweet stuff (Fun Fact: It’s one of the two places in the world where you can get this, so make sure you do! It’s non-alcoholic, don’t worry), but that’s not all ‘The Backlot‘ has to offer. The Knight Bus, 4 Privet Drive, the Potter’s cottage in Godric’s Hollow, the famous bridge at Hogwarts, chess pieces that played a crucial part in the first film, the grave of Lord Voldermort’s (oops! He-who-must-not-be-named I mean) father and a chance to sit on Hagrid’s famous bike and inside the Ford Anglia.
The final stage of the tour will be exploring The Art Department, in other words the brains behind everything you’ve just seen and more. In here you’ll find progress of the castle model, wigs, mask, the creature department (Buckbeak, Aragog, Elves and Owls alike) and the infamous, Diagon Alley. What’s not to love? Walking through the best street you’ll ever find, ever, and seeing your favourite elves. And then you walk in on something even more brilliant…
Finally you find yourself inside Ollivanders, where you find that those thousands and thousands of wand boxes, actually bear the names of every single person who made the Harry Potter films what they are now.
And then your back in the shop, ready to splurge your cash on everything and anything (it doesn’t really matter, no one will think your crazy, we’re all Potterheads at the end of the day). It is quite expensive, but it’s totally worth it: Honey-duke sweets, costume replicas, wands, I would’ve bought the whole shop if I was that rich! And then you’re out, catch the bus before you miss it, and then look back out of the windows, tears in your eyes wishing you’d never left and hoping you’d be back again, seeing their faces getting further and further from yours, the music beginning to fade, the warm welcoming lights getting dimmer-sorry getting a little emotional, but that is what you’ll feel ( well, what I felt anyway). Like when you feel like you’ve lost a good friend at the end of a good book ( which is also how I felt at the end of the books.)
(sigh) There you have it. My personal walk-through shared with you of probably the best experience you’ll ever live. Visit, you won’t regret it! 🙂
–‘No story lives unless someone wants to listen.’~J.K. Rowling
P.S. All photos taken by me, please do not use or take without asking. Thank you x