The ultimate guide for Harry Potter fans in London!
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Calling all Harry Potter fans for this one! J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter‘s author, is British and spent most of her life in London, Edinburg and Porto. These 3 places became part of the inspiration for the books and later on the movies. The Harry Potter movies were mainly filmed in London, in the Warner Bros studios (Watford) and in central London.
If you are going to the capital soon, there are many activities that will help you discover the world of Harry Potter in London.
Most of these activities can be fitted on a weekend so if you fancy becoming a wizard during your weekend in London, this article is for you!
We have put together a set of Harry Potter activities in London for all budgets.
Ready? Take your broomstick and let’s roll! (or maybe fly in this case?)
We will tell you everything you need to know about Warner Bros Studios, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play, Harry Potter tours and filming locations.
1 – Warner Bros Studios: The Making of Harry Potter
For over a decade, the Warner Bros Studios in Watford were the home of the Harry Potter crew. Once all the movies were finalised and released, Warner Bros opened their studios to the public. This gives you a unique opportunity to discover how the 8 Harry Potter movies were filmed. It is a truly unique experience whether you are a fan or not.
What is it?
The Making of Harry Potter tour has been specifically designed to show you how the movies were made from A to Z. It’s extremely informative while very entertaining. You can choose to go at your own pace. Although you book a time slot to start the tour, you’re more than welcome to stay until they close (at 10 pm) if you wish. You will go through the main sets such as the great hall, the forest, the Gringotts bank, diagonal alley… and discover everything about the movies.
This starts with a presentation of the main people who worked on the movies. This includes directors, producers, artistic directors, costume makers, special effects, construction directors, animal trainers…
Thousands of people were working on the movies. The Harry Potter films are a masterpiece of innovation and creativity and they required the best people in all areas. The tour takes you behind the scenes and it’s pretty incredible. Each section has screens with videos of people who worked on the movie, explaining what they did and how they did it. You can see how they trained the owls, how they used prosthetic makeup to create a Goblin, how they created Dobby with special effects, how they created the illusions of magic with green screens…
You will also get to see the main costumes and some mythical creatures like BuckBeak.
Everything has been created in a very interactive way so you can play with the sets. You will find buttons everywhere that will create illusions like the pan washing itself in the Winsley house.
How long is it?
On average, visitors spend 3 hours in the studio. However, as previously mentioned, you can stay as long as you want. If you want to dive into each section and look at everything, 5 or 6 hours will be a better time to stay in.
Where is it?
Warner Bros Studios are located in Watford, North London (Zone 8).
How do I get there?
Take a train or Overground (orange line) to Watford Junction. It will take you about 30 mins from central London (Euston). You can use a contactless card or Oyster card to get there.
Once you arrive at Watford Junction, just go out of the station and you will see the Harry Potter shuttle bus (hard to miss). The shuttle is almost always there but if not, you can go to the bus stop, first one across the carpark. The shuttle bus costs £3 return. Don’t forget to keep your ticket for the return. It will bring you straight to the entrance of the studios. Very convenient!
How much does it cost?
Several packages are available but the standard admission price is £47 for adults and £38 for children.
There are also some gift options available. You don’t need to choose a date and the gift will be sent to the person of your choice in a Harry Potter envelope or box.
How can I book?
You can buy and book your ticket online on the official Warner Bros website. If you choose to buy a gift ticket, you will get one year to visit the studio and will have to book a time and a date via telephone. They will provide you the number, everything is very quick and easy.
It’s best to plan your visit a couple of months in advance. The Harry Potter studios are a very popular attraction in London and can be fully booked very quickly. To ensure you get the day and time of your choice we’d recommend you to book at least 2 months in advance.
If you can’t plan that much in advance, here are two options. You can check online anyway. If you are going on a weekday there might be more availabilities. If you are already in London, you can book through a tour agency. Every tourist information, hotels or hostels have Harry Potter packages and are generally able to book you in for the next couple of days. They will generally arrange transportation as well but are a bit more expensive.
How do I pick my tickets up?
When you get to the studios, you will find on the left-hand side ticket collection desks. You will need to show the email confirmation (on your phone or printed) and the ID of the person on the ticket (yours if you booked for yourself or one of the people you offered to if it was a gift ticket). They will give you your entrance ticket. You can then go towards the entrance, located just behind. They will scan your ticket and proceed to some security and bag checks.
What are the facilities like?
Warner Bros studios offer a free cloakroom. Located right at the entrance on your left, you can leave your bag into a secured box for free. Just show your ticket and you will be given a cloakroom ticket for pick up.
In the entrance hall, you will find restaurants and bars, the Harry Potter shop, an audio guide desk and bathrooms. The tour finishes in the shop so don’t worry if you don’t have time to go through the shop when you get there, you will get to go back after the tour.
Once you start the tour, you will go through all the sets and find a restaurant halfway through. Prices are “reasonable” for this kind of attraction. For example, a burger with fries will cost £9 and a sandwich about £5. This is the only place where you will get to try butterbeer! (small glass for £3.75). The restaurant is located by an outside area with the sets of the knight bus and the Dudley’s house.
Tip: As you are free to stay as long as you want, the best time to book your tour is in the morning (up until 11 am). It will be less crowded than in the afternoon which will be a way better experience. Also, you can stay the whole day if you wish to.
2 – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play
Following the 7 books and 8 movies, J.K. Rowling released a sequel of Harry Potter, the Cursed Child. This book was written as a play and is now performed every day in London West End. The Palace Theatre is now the home of Harry Potter.
The play is set up in two parts. You can book part 1 and part 2 separately but it’s important to note that you will want to see both parts to get the most out of your experience. Part 1 leaves you with a cliffhanger and you will want to know what is next.
Part 1 is performed every day at 2 pm and part 2 at 7:30 pm.
How much does it cost?
Prices range from £15 (at the back in the balcony) to £80 for VIP seats. Obviously, the more expensive the ticket is, the better the seat is but even the £15 tickets are good. Even though you will be sitting at the back, you will get to see the whole stage and all the special effects. The theatre is beautiful and the sound fantastic so no matter where you are, you can only love the experience.
How can I book?
You can book your tickets on the ATG theatre website and Nimax Theatres website. New dates are released every quarter.
Booking at the box office is also an option however tickets generally are sold out for the next 6 months, so it’s better to plan in advance.
When should I book?
As soon as you can! The shows can fill up for up to 6 months in advance, especially the “cheap” seats. The sooner you book the better!
Even if the shows sell very quickly there are always some random seats available. So if you don’t mind sitting apart, you will be able to find seats at any time.
Do not book only one part. Even though that is technically speaking an option, you will regret it. The magic of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child happens when you go see both parts.
What is it like?
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is one of the best, if not the best, play you can see in London West End.
It’s truly magical.
The actors have been chosen carefully and are truly amazing. Everything is very true to the books and movies. The story is fantastic and very addictive. You know that feeling we all got with the books, where you can’t stop reading and just become obsessed. The play has that very same effect on you.
The set is wonderfully set up, organised and coordinated. There is no mistake. Everything is flawless. A level of perfection that is so hard to achieve at the theatre.
And most of all, there is magic! Magic everywhere. The objects and characters flying, disappearing, transforming… the illusion is perfect! It will trigger your curiosity!
The play is wonderfully written, as you would expect from J.K. Rowling. The set is beautiful. The actors are so talented. All of that will make it an experience magical.
The true beauty of Harry Potter on stage!
3 – Harry Potter walking tour
A lot of scenes in the Harry Potter movies were filmed in central London making the best city in the world to explore if you are a Harry Potter fan! Although you can do it by yourself if you research the spots beforehand, we’d recommend going on a Harry Potter walking tour.
Several companies offer Harry Potter walking tours in central London including some free ones. Strawberry tours and free walking tours London offer Harry Potter tours every day. They start in Leicester square and lasts about 2 hours. But this is not the only company that offers them. A quick Google should give you all the options.
You will also find Harry Potter walking tours on Get Your Guide. You have to pay for these tours but they are more comprehensive too. Up to you, if you have the budget, I’d go for this paying Harry Potter walking tour. If not, the free one is good as well! I went on both and they are both good!
The guides are all massive fans of Harry Potter. They know the books and the movies by heart and will be able to answer all your questions but most of all, they will take you to the best filming locations.
This includes Piccadilly Circus, Great Scotland Yard and the street that was the inspiration for Diagonale Alley. More importantly, they will tell you loads of anecdotes about the movies, the actors and the author. The productions of the Harry Potter movies were absolutely huge and whatever the Harry Potter crew wanted, they would have it. They went through a tremendous amount of work to make each scene exactly as they wanted it. They went through all kinds of hassle just to make it perfect. This includes, for example, removing all the poles on Great Scotland Yard. One of the best things about the tour is that the guide will also show you screenshots of the movie scenes so you can remember which part we are talking about and visualize better the changes that were made.
Another element that makes Harry Potter walking tours so interesting is the story of J.K Rowling and the actors. J.K Rowling lived for a long time in London and even though she wrote most of the books in cafes in Edinburgh, she was very inspired by London. The guides will point out some elements that inspired J.K Rowling. For example, the hippogriff was inspired by the birds engraved on the facade of the embassy of Australia, just a block away from where she used to live. The guides will also explain to you how they chose the actors especially Daniel Radcliffe.
A few fun anecdotes about Harry Potter:
– At the corner of Great Scotland Yard is located a palace that belongs to the Queen of England, Elisabeth II. The crew got in touch with the royal family to ask if they could use her palace in Harry Potter. She naturally agreed (who can say no to Harry Potter?). Once the movie was released, the Royal Family figured that the palace was never shown in. They asked about it to and the movie director answered that they did use it but it was never meant to be used as a filming location but as a refreshment and bathroom break for the crew.
– The premiere of the last Harry Potter movie was shown in London, on Trafalgar square. Unfortunately, Daniel Radcliffe was not available at the time as he had signed a contract to perform in a play in New-York on that exact evening. It was intolerable that the main character wouldn’t assist to the world premiere of the last movie of a decade-lasting saga. To fix the issue, the production bought every single ticket in the theatre he was supposed to perform for that night so they wouldn’t have to play and he could fly back to the UK.
4 – Harry Potter Filming Locations in London
A lot of scenes in the Harry Potter movies were filmed in London. If you want to make the best of your stay in London, go on a little Harry Potter hunt. Here are some Harry Potter filming locations you should check out:
- London Bridge and the Tower of London
- Piccadilly Circus
- Kings Cross station and St Pancras International
- London Zoo
- Millennium Bridge
- Charing Cross Road
- Leadenhall Market
- Australia House
- Westminster Tube Station
- Lambeth Bridge
It’s important to note that if you go to all these locations, you will get to see all the must-see in London!
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