Christmas At Hogwarts21:09
For Christmas my sister and I decided to gift our boyfriends with tickets to the Harry Potter Studios in London. We booked it for the 27th January, along with a hotel in London for the night, and constructed an acceptance to Hogwarts letter to present it in. Luckily the date we chose coincided with the last few days of their 'Hogwarts in the snow' feature, so we got to visit the Hogwarts sets dressed for Christmas. Any fans living in England have probably already visited, but if you haven't here is the rundown of my visit. I'm not going to lie, I'm not the biggest Harry Potter fan, but I still had a great time. I enjoyed seeing behind the scenes and special effects of the massive franchise, as well as trying a Butterbeer.
The studios are pretty much any die hard Harry Potter fan's dream. From the boys bedroom and Dumbledore's office, to Platform 93/4 and the train that took Harry to start his journey, you can experience it all. There's so much to see and learn, with hundreds of props, costumes, masks and sets used in the famous movies. The tour is mostly self guided so you can go at your own pace and take your time absorbing every last bit. We went for the 4:30pm time slot as we had a two and a half hour drive from Somerset and hotel to check into, which turned out to be suitable for us. Before entering the tour you are able to browse the gift shop or get a bite to eat in the cafe, which keeps you occupied while waiting for your designated time slot.
The tour begins in the cinema with watching a short video of clips from the movies to familiarize yourself with the narrative (like you'd forgotten). Then like magic, you're transported to the Hogwarts entrance, opening up into the Great Hall. It's probably my favourite set used in Harry Potter, as it truly looks like a medieval castle, and reminds me of the first Harry Potter movie that everybody loves. It's much smaller than it appears on camera, much like a lot of the sets in fact, but still magical. Amongst the Hogwarts uniforms there were various Christmas trees and decorations to make it feel festive. The tables were also lined with a Christmas feast, including Christmas puddings that come to light through special effects.
From here the tour becomes self guided, and you're free to explore lots of different sets, props and costumes used in all 8 movies. I particularly enjoyed the potion room, featuring self stirring cauldrons, and Platform 93/4. I think that the platform is a very key part in the series and running into the wall with a luggage trolley is something all fans should experience.
There's a lot of photo opportunities throughout the tour, and you're allowed to take as many as you like, except in the green screen areas. These two areas give you the opportunity to purchase a photo of yourself riding a broomstick or riding the Hogwarts Express as a souvenir from your trip.
After exiting the train station, you will be greeted into a picnic room, where you can stop to have a bite to eat and try some Butterbeer treats. You are allowed to bring your own food, or they have a selection of hot and cold snacks available. I opted for the standard Butterbeer, but I have to say I was slightly disappointed. I tried the frozen Butterbeer at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Los Angeles and it has the English one beat, by far. I do enjoy the sweet, delicious foam on top, but the rest of the drink tastes almost just like fizzy water. I did finish mine as I didn't want to waste my money, but I don't think I'd get it again. I would like to try the Butterbeer ice cream however, but it was too cold to try it on this day.
After eating, you then exit into the backlot. It was dark once we reached this part of the tour due to it being roughly 6pm in January, however I think that the lights gave it a great atmosphere and made the experience a bit more unique. Here you can see the Knight Bus, Hogwarts Bridge, Privet Drive house, chess pieces and flying car. This is a great area for photo opportunities and exploring some of the bigger pieces used in the movies.
Once you enter into the second of the sound stages, it begins with make up, masks and animatronic creatures used to create some of your favourite monsters. The following room greets you with another of my favourite sets, Diagon Alley. Here you can walk along the street perfect for purchasing everything from the Hogwarts supply list. The street is realistic with the props in the dusty windows and various shops including Ollivanders and Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes.
The second part of the tour is definitely my favourite. After Diagon Alley you can view models and blueprints used in the movies, from broomsticks to Hogwarts, even down to the Gargoyles. You're then unexpectedly greeted with a view of the beautiful model used to create the external shots of Hogwarts. It amazes me how they can use a model to create something so realistic and stunning. The castle was dusted with snow for the current event, which two days later would have been removed with small brushes and vaccum cleaners. They also had a little hut in the room where you could touch and learn about different types of snow they would use in the movies, including shredded paper and plastic. You were also able to touch the flames of a fire burning, which looked and smelt realistic.
The last part of the tour contained the wand shop, and all of the wands handcrafted for the movie. Once you pass through here you are welcomed into the gift shop, where you are free to buy your own wand, chocolate frogs and other magical Harry Potter merchandise. I decided to purchase some of the sweets and treats for myself which I will be doing a post about, following this one. I also allowed my boyfriend to pick out a wand as part of his Christmas gift, he decided on the Elder Wand.
I would recommend driving if you can as the area doesn't really have any of the awful London traffic. Our hotel at Jury's Inn, Watford was a 15 minute drive from the tour, in a good location and very well presented. It also meant that after the tour we could drive 15 minutes to the nearest TGI Friday's. Thank you for reading, and I hope this post helped if you're planning your own trip. If you've already been, left me know what your favourite part is. April