A Harry Potter Fan's Paradise
After years of hoping I'd one day get an opportunity, I was fortunate enough to visit the Warner Brothers Studio Tour in London, and it's absolutely as amazing as it looks and sounds!
I'm aware there are a million and one blogs/articles/videos out there giving tips and tricks on this tour, but even having browsed through a ton of them beforehand, I still feel like I picked up on a few pointers during my tour that I wanted to share for anyone who might be taking a trip to the studio in the future. Hopefully at least one of these is helpful!
1 - Get your tickets ASAP!
When I say ASAP, I mean ASAP. The popularity of this tour can't be overstated. I had an idea of when I wanted to go about two months early and I still barely managed to find an available day that worked for me, and even then it was a slot at the end of the day. So... the second you find out that you'll be visiting London and have a date in mind, book your tour right away. If you go around Christmastime like I did, they have a "Hogwarts in the Snow" theme where there are Christmas decorations and additional wintery aesthetics, which was a nice touch.
2 - Schedule your tour as early in the day as possible.
I was told weekends are more busy (of course), and it's busier the earlier in the day you go. We went on a Friday around 5:30pm (6:30 is when the last group of people are let in) and while there were a lot of guests, it didn't feel overly crowded. Especially since we hung back and were one of the last people before they closed, so we got to enjoy the second half of the tour without anyone around us. All this to say, I recommend (if available) to go as early as possible, because while I had plenty of time to do the whole tour (about 4 hours from arrival to closing) it was dark by the time I got to the outdoor section and I would've preferred being able to get those photos during the day. We also had to skip past a few of the more "boring" sections of the tour like the special effects to make sure we got through the more anticipated parts of the tour. So getting a tour earlier in the day allows you the flexibility to go as slow as you want and take in every last detail, and there's a lot of detail. It also gives you plenty of time to eat at the various cafes inside or peruse the shops at your leisure. However, if you prefer less crowds, I'd recommend a tour in the evening.
3 - Prepare to spend a LOT of money.
As most vacations go, the Warner Bros Studio Tour makes quite the dent in your wallet. Between the price of admission, souvenirs, food inside, the cost of select photos offered, you'll be spending a lot unless you're on a tight budget. I say that with the caveat that it's 100% worth it for the experience if you're a Harry Potter fan. The photos and videos you can pay extra for (while optional) are really cool and make good memories, so I would recommend at least the one where you get to fly on a broomstick. The gift shops have a lot of cool (though overpriced) merchandise, the best deal in my opinion being the unique wands offered which are at a reasonable price and can spice up your photos. The food is probably the easiest expense to skip if you eat a meal beforehand or just bring some snacks. You will probably want to get the butterbeer (there's the drink as well as ice cream) but none of the other food is very memorable. And the butterbeer comes with a souvenir mug, so you get good bang for your buck!
4 - Prepare to take a LOT of pictures.
Like I mentioned above, there are a few photo/video ops at an additional cost like flying on a broom, putting yourself into a wanted poster like Sirius Black, or enjoy a ride on the Hogwarts Express. We inclined to skip the Sirius Black poster one since that was an easy photo to recreate on your own as well as riding on the train as if you've been to Universal Studios in Florida, you get to ride on the train in a very similar style. Flying on a broom was worth the extra price, especially since you can get multiple photos as well as videos. If you don't care to spend extra money on photos, you won't miss much. They have plenty of free photo/video ops as well, including making a broom levitate to your hand and making yourself appear as big as Hagrid, that are more than enough to give you a full experience. Plus all the props and set pieces that you can already take pictures in front of for no additional cost, like the train, Knight Bus, Great Hall, Mirror of Erised, Hogwarts castle, etc. Make sure to have plenty of storage on your phone or camera because you're going to walk out with easily HUNDREDS of photos from this experience.
5 - Pack plenty of snacks/food... and get BUTTERBEER!
As I mentioned in an earlier tip, if you want to save some money during the tour I would bring some snacks to munch on throughout the experience. Not only is the food offered a bit pricey, it's also not anything to write home about. Things like hot dogs, burgers, sandwiches, etc. Again, what IS worth getting inside the cafe that acts as the halfway point during the tour is the butterbeer drink and the butterbeer ice cream. While the butterbeer is not as good as what you get at Universal Studios if you've been, it's still refreshing. The ice cream I would argue is just as good as what is offered at Universal Studios. Depending on how big your family/group is and how long you plan to take in the tour, snacks could be a huge money saver for this overall expensive trip.
6 - Take your time and be patient.
With everything I've said in mind, I want to end on the most important thing: take your time. Even if you end up in the last tour group of the day, you'll have 3 and a half hours to get through the tour which is still plenty of time. The more time you grant yourself, the more time you can afford to soak in every last detail, the more time you can spend in the cafe taking a breather before the second half of the tour, and the more time you have to get those perfect photos. This is even more important if you're bringing babies in a stroller like I did. There will be crowds of people standing in front of a prop you want a picture with and it'll take a few minutes for you to get a turn. It is entirely self-paced so I recommend if there's a long line for something, look at something else and come back to what you were waiting on. If you go at the right time in the afternoon, you'll get the chance to see the outdoor portion of the tour during the day and at night. There are also free "passports" that make great souvenirs where you will need to spot out the 6 or 7 stations throughout the tour to grab a stamp, so be on the lookout for those if you're interested.
All in all, there isn't a better Harry Potter experience out there. Wizarding World at Universal Studios comes very close, but it has nothing on seeing the actual props, clothing, and sets used when filming the Harry Potter movies. It's incredibly immersive and will be something you remember and cherish for the rest of your life!
"Whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home."