When I first heard about this place at Britmums Live three years ago I really wanted to go - it sounded so great and whilst I wouldn't describe myself as a 'huge' Harry Potter fan, I've read all the books (first, of course) and seen all the films more than once. The story is such a classic, timeless tale and there is such magic about it all (no pun intended). Needless to say, when I visited for my first time last week I wasn't disappointed.
My sister and I travelled down to Watford Junction, where we were staying and only ten minutes drive from the studios - shout out to the Holiday Inn Express in Watford who were really friendly and offered an comfortable and reasonably priced night's stay almost as close to the studios as you can be. We were lucky enough to be attending an evening preview of Hogwarts in The Snow, where the sets had been dressed for Christmas and having never visited the studios before I could barely contain my excitements.
We arrived at 5.30pm - the studios offer a free shuttle bus from Watford train station and back which takes around fifteen minutes. Before the doors opened for the tour, everyone gathered in the atrium where various photos and artifacts are displayed around the walls, and the Christmas tree was set up in the centre. We were provided with nibbles and a smoking blue vodka drink whilst we waited and the store was open for us to browse in.
Once the doors opened we proceeded into a room where a short introduction was played before we were led into a cinema room with a big screen. This was a lovely introduction to the tour as a short film was played, featuring the main three actors and giving a little insight into how much being part of the films meant to them and inviting us to share the magic with them. Then the screen went up and Hogwarts doors appeared behind. This in itself was just magical and I was awed just standing in front of those great doors.
From there the doors were opened and we entered The Great Hall. Decked out for Christmas, there was so much to see it was a bit overwhelming and I spent so long looking around I got told off as the next tour were ready to come in! From original outfits from the films, to flaming Christmas Puddings, I could easily have spent an age in there.
From then on we entered the studios, where we were free for us to roam around as we pleased. The were original sets, wigs the cast wore and so much more. Highlights for me were the Gryffindor common room and Dumbledore's office, oh and the Ministry of Magic - the green tiles were all handpainted and are stunning up close.
It really does take your breath away. Only opened in March 2015, we were able to explore inside the train and see props used in the films, such as Hedwig's cage and suitcases.
After this we walked through the cafe area, where we were offered a Butterbeer each - quite an acquired taste - and outside to see the sets of Privet drive, Godric's Hollow and the Knight bus. I found Godric's Hollow to be quite eerie, obviously knowing what went on there in the films. The Knight Bus was fab, and you can walk into the back and peer at the beds all laid out.
We then returned inside and explored the creatures of the film - from the goblin masks of Gringotts Bank to Buckbeak, Aragog and a dying Voldemort - it is all right there in front of your eyes. It really was amazing. We then turned another corner and found ourselves in the original set of Diagon Alley. Walking down the street transports you to another world where stores sell broomsticks and cauldrons and the garish storefront of the Weasley twins waves you down the street.
The final, and one of the best parts, was the model of Hogwarts. This model was used for aerial photography and digitally scanned for CGI scenes. Created by 86 crew members, the attention to detail is stunning, and as you walk around the full 360 degrees there are films playing explaining how the model was created and used within the film.
Once the tour was over, we were then taken into the gift shop - beware though, it is huge and not cheap so bring your wallets. It is pretty immense and there is so much on offer from replica wands to Quidditch shirts or even cloaks. I have to admit I did go a little crazy, but I figured for me it was an adventure I may never get to experience again.
Overall the Harry Potter Tour was everything I hoped it would be and more. It left us even more enchanted with the Harry Potter stories and completely overawed by it all. It's not a cheap experience - tickets are £33 for an adult, but in my eyes it is well worth it and I look forward to introducing my children to the films and maybe one day, when they are old enough, taking around the tour myself.
If you want to see more of our trip, you can watch my video below.
*We visited the studios FOC however all options are my own.