"Mom, are you crying?"*sniff* "No." *sniff*(Okay...maybe just a little.)
When we visited London, we knew we wanted to experience some Harry Potter magic. We are serious about reading in our household, and J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series is a favorite.
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- Harry Potter Film Locations Tour - London Walks
Warner Brothers Studio Tour London
- Arriving at the Studio
- What you'll find at WB Studio Tour London
- Sets from the movies
- Props and magical objects
- Cafe and Backlot
- Kings Cross Station, Platform 9 3/4, and the Hogwarts Express
- Art and Special Effects
- Hogwarts Castle
- Gift Shop
Andrew and I know the books and the movies like the back of our hands. Cadence has also finally read the series and seen the movies. Carrick has seen and enjoyed all the movies, and we try to forgive the fact that he hasn't read any of the books. So, being the Potterheads that we are, we booked a walking tour in London, a tour to Oxford, and a visit to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour north of London which houses the sets, costumes, and artifacts from the movies.
Where to find the best Harry Potter London sites
If you're looking for great Harry Potter London walking tour, London Walks has them. We chose the Harry Potter Film Locations in the City tour. We used London Walks for this tour because we knew what a great company they were due to our previous experience with their company in Paris - Paris Walks. (Read about our Paris tour here). Our fabulous guide took us through the various spots where the movies were filmed, and he included some other interesting facts about the City of London along the way. He interacted with the children in the group by asking them questions about the movies and focusing on things he knew they would be interested in.
Famous Harry Potter London sites with London Walks
We were able to see landmarks like the Millennium Bridge and City Hall which can be seen in the sixth movie, Leadenhall Market which you can see in the first movie as Harry asks Hagrid, "Can you find all this in London?", and the train tracks that are visible through Harry's window at the Leaky Cauldron in the third movie.
This Harry Potter London tour is a fascinating way to explore the city, and we could not wait to pull out our pictures and compare them to the movies when we got home. This is a great tour for families wanting to see some Harry Potter filming locations. And, even now, when we watch those movies, the kids say "Hey! That's the marketplace that we saw on our tour!" Our walk ended just outside St. Paul's Cathedral where our guide performed a magic trick with the kids. It was a wonderful way to end our Harry Potter tour!
Other Things to See in London with Kids
When you're finished exploring Harry Potter, check out our guide to London with kids here. It has 22 amazing things to see and how to get to each one! Cherio!
The Magic of the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London
One of the pinnacle experiences for me during our trip to London, however, was visiting the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, and I would say that it was a highlight for the whole family. Needless to say, there was a lot of anticipation for this excursion. This, of course, is the largest of the Harry Potter attractions in London, and is the very best place for families looking for the best of Harry Potter in London. We've been twice now, and the magic never gets old.
What to expect when you arrive
We purchased our Warner Bros. Studio Tour tickets online ahead of time, and we found out that the time listed is more of a guideline of when to arrive. So, don't panic like I did if public transportation gets the best of you, and you end up running a few minutes late.
Once you arrive, you will wait in line for a bit before you are taken into a theater where you watch a short film the actors have made about their time growing up at the studio. You are then lead with some fanfare into the Great Hall as though you are a first year about to be sorted.
From there, you take a self-guided tour through the actual sets, props, and costumes from all seven movies. You are allowed as much time as you wish, so while someone moderately interested in the series might spend a couple of hours, the true Potterheads will require much longer. We stayed for four hours, and we did not get as much time as I would have liked in the gift shop due to the fact that they were closing, and we had a bus to catch. We also missed out on the Butterbeer ice cream, which was a real bummer.
What You'll See at Warner Bros. Studio London
Incredible sets from the movies
We enjoyed reading about all of the scenes and learning new details about the movies from the knowledgeable staff. (Can I work there, please? #dreamjob). We saw how the floating candles worked and the mechanism behind the door to the Chamber of Secrets.We saw Harry's first robes as worn by Daniel Radcliffe, the beautiful dress that Emma Watson wore when Hermione went to the Yule Ball, and Evanna Lynch's jewelry that she hand made for her role as Luna Lovegood (because we all know that Luna would never wear something ordinary).
We also got a close up look at the changing colors of Voldemort and Professor Umbridge's costumes. Did you know that Voldemort's robes are really green or that the pinkness of Umbridge's dresses intensifies as she gains power?
We saw the inside of Hagrid's hut, the Gryffindor common room, and Professor Dumbledore's office as well.
New for our 2017 trip was the Forbidden Forest set, which was really neat and one that wasn't on display before.
Props and other magical items
There are plenty of small artifacts there too, from the golden snitch to the philosopher's stone, to the ornately carved goblet of fire.
They even have a gorgeous framed display of all the characters' wands. The kids were given passport activity books at the start of the tour that they had stamped along the way, and we also took time to let them have their pictures made on flying broomsticks. Quidditch Anyone?
The Backlot Tour
After a quick meal and some mandatory Butterbeer, we toured the backlot which houses the knight bus, Number 4 Privet Drive, the Hogwarts bridge, and the Potters' house in Godric's Hollow. The kids also got to hop on Sirius Black's motorbike.
Related: If you love Harry Potter, be sure to check out our post on Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It's amazing!
King's Cross Station and Platform 9¾
Next, we made our way through the Hogwarts Express in which there were cars containing the set decorations for the train scenes from all the movies.
There are also several spots here to get a shot of the kids headed through the platform.
Tip: There is also a Platform 9¾ at London's King's Cross station if you're interested. Read through our guide to London with kids for this and lots of other fun recommendations!
From concept to screen - art and special effects
As if seeing the sets, costumes, and props wasn't enough, you get to tour the art department too. There we saw costumes and models for all the "fantastic beasts" and magical creatures.
You can even turn yourself into Dobby! Super Fun! #DabbinDobby
We then wandered through rooms of the artists' renderings in the form of blue prints, paintings, and 3D models. The detail is remarkable.
The grand finale
It was all so fascinating and beautiful. But, there is a big surprise at the end of the tour...the one that brought tears to my eyes...an entire room dedicated to an enormous model of Hogwarts. It is what they used in all of the areal shots of the school grounds, and it was absolutely breathtaking.
While in this room, learn all about the model, how it was built, and how they used it for shots in the movies.
Overall, the entire tour of the studio was fun, engaging, and interactive for the whole family. Our children were the perfect ages at 8 and 10 to really appreciate and enjoy all the cool things they were seeing. And, I'll be the first to admit, I was in awe the entire time.
For our second visit, the kids were 10 and 12. Andrew was a bit bored at the things he had seen, but enough had changed that it was still fun. The girls were as enamored as ever.
Don't for get the Harry Potter souvenirs!
A stop at the gift shop is mandatory, and I'm sure that everyone in the family will find something to take home (chuckle).
Harry Potter filming locations at Oxford University
There are several scenes from the Harry Potter films that were filmed at Oxford University which is why we were excited to visit here. We booked a tour with Viator that took us to WB Studio Tour London and Oxford on the same day. It was a great day trip, and our guide was quite knowledgeable and lots of fun. She made sure that the kids were always up towards the front so they could hear, and she made sure to get them involved in the tour which was nice.
In addition to learning about of the the history and hearing some funny anecdotes about the filming, we had time to look around, do some shopping, and pop into the King's Arms pub for some fish and chips. Everything was getting decked out for Christmas, and we had a great time!
It's well known that J.K. Rowling drew much of her inspiration for her books from Oxford. Does this look familiar?
Hmm...what do you think - is this a coincidence? See if you can find it when you visit Oxford!
How to Book Your Own Harry Potter Tour in London
London Walks are not booked ahead of time. You pick a walk that you would like to go on, show up at the designated meeting place (usually an easy to find landmark near a tube stop), pay for the tour (cash only), and away you go. Currently, adults are £10, kids are £3 and under 8 go free.
It's very simple, and we had a great time. We can't say enough good things about London Walks. We love them so much that they have a permanent spot on our Resources page. Here is their current schedule.
Book your tickets ahead of time. Currently, prices are £39 for adults, £31 for kids ages 5-15, and children under 4 are free. Family tickets (2 adults and 2 children) are £126. They are limited and tickets are sold for a set time, so book as far ahead as you are able. Saver tickets are available for some days that are slightly discounted. Remember, if they are sold out, check places like Viator for tours and packages that include tickets to the Studio.
There are several ways to get there, but we took a combination of tube, light rail, and bus. It was the cheapest option, but a little more complicated. Google Maps or Rome2Rio can help you put together a good travel plan. Build in enough time for travel however you decide to go, because you don't want to be rushed around closing time trying to catch the last bus to the train station.
If you want something easier that includes admission and transportation for one price, you might consider the tour that we booked.
Day Trips to Oxford
Oxford is easy to get to and not far from London at all. Trains run from Paddington and Marylebone stations (near Baker Street Tube station) and take around 1½ hours. Google Maps or Rome2Rio can help you with schedules and tickets.
If you want to travel with a guide on a bus, consider doing what we did and booking this trip with Viator. The guides were great, and the schedule worked perfectly. If was a full day of Harry Potter, so what could be better?
So there you have it, Potterheads! What's your favorite Harry Potter book? Have you read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Yet?
Related: Check out our post on visiting London with Kids!
This trip to London was part of multi-city trip we took this summer. For the other parts of the trip, check out the following posts:
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