“Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.”
With these two sentences, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” begins, and a cultural phenomenon was born. Nobody could have predicted it—least of all the Dursleys. Harry's uncle and aunt would not approve of the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, as it’s overflowing with Potter paraphernalia.
For Potter fans, however, there are few places that generate as much excitement, because this is where much of the film series was shot. The movies were being made while JK Rowling was still writing the books, so props and sets were retained at Leavesden in case they were needed later. When filming wrapped in 2010, efforts began to preserve this haul, and The Making of Harry Potter tour opened in 2012.
A Brand New Opening
After seven magical years, the tour has just been expanded to include Gringotts Wizarding Bank. Walk through the banking hall, with its marble pillars and crystal chandeliers, before exploring the treasure-filled Lestrange vault. See costumes, goblin prosthetics and piles of Galleons, Sickles and Knuts. It’s the biggest expansion to date and incorporates a new entrance hall as well as a cafe, which serves food inspired by the world of Harry Potter.
Whether or not you’re a Harry Potter obsessive, the elaborate studio tour is hugely enjoyable. It begins with a video telling the story of the books and films, played on a large screen that opens to reveal the Great Hall set. Hogwarts Castle is here too, which, at its pinnacle, is four times taller than an adult. The detailed model measures approximately 50 feet across—the length of one-and-a-half London buses.
The tour is open daily until late evening, and it’s essential to book tickets online. It’s incredibly popular, but it is possible to secure last-minute tickets online. You can catch a train from Euston to Watford Junction and jump on a shuttle bus to the studios, or book a bus from central London direct with operators such as Golden Tours.
5 London Sights for Potterheads
You want more to satisfy your Pottermania? Head to these fabulous London venues ...
1—Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
In 2017, this new West End play was awarded the most gongs ever in the history of the Olivier Awards. Written by JK Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, performed at the Palace Theatre, the play is split into two parts, which you can either watch during a full day, or across two consecutive evenings.
2—House of MinaLima
Close to the Palace Theatre, this gallery and shop at 26 Greek Street showcases the work of Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima, a design duo that spent years creating art for both the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts film series. Their work fills four floors here, making it a dream come true for Potter souvenir hunters.
Once the heart of Roman London, this ornate and majestic market, now filled with boutiques and wine bars, was founded in the 1300s as a meat market. It was a location for the first Potter film from 2000-2001—head to Glass House Opticians on Bull’s Head Passage: its entrance was used as the door of the Leaky Cauldron pub, the gateway to Diagon Alley.
You’ll find the mythical Hogwarts Express platform entrance near one of King’s Cross Station’s northernmost exits, where you’ll join an excitable queue of wizarding fanatics. There’s a Potter shop and staff on hand who will take a professional photograph of you on the trolley, as well as provide Hogwarts props for the picture.
5—The Millennium Bridge
In the film version of the penultimate book, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince", Voldemort unleashes Death Eaters in full destruction mode onto the streets of London. The Millennium Bridge is rocked from side to side by the swirling baddies, creating an image that’s reminiscent of a real-life episode that temporarily closed the bridge shortly after it opened in 2000.