REVIEW: Warner Bros. Studio Tour London and Coach – The Making of Harry Potter

Harry Potter fans the world over have been grieving for the lack of new boy-wizard stories since those Deathly Hallows sealed the deal, leaving them clutching boxsets and rereading J. K. Rowling’s timeless tales in consolation.

Enter the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter, an utterly unmissable opportunity for Harry-starved fans to get closer to the world of Hagrid, Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic than they ever thought possible …

You’ll begin your day in central London, approaching the double-decker Harry Potter bus along a Victoria Coach Station walkway. Vibrant purple and flaunting the iconic logo, the waiting vehicle is only one deck and a sprinkle of magic away from the haphazard Knight Bus. Despite an absence of supernatural speed, the tour bus saves you the hassle of negotiating twisty Tubes and train changes, crawling through M25 traffic or enduring an extortionate taxi ride. The Harry Potter theming is sure to get your toes tingling before you even set foot inside, and then it’s simply a convenient and relaxing drive out to the Studios near Leavesden, where the wonder really kicks in.

From the moment you’re ushered through the rope queue and into the holding chamber, you know this is a world absolutely designed for hardcore Potterites. The lights cut out and videos flash up of the stars, producers, designers – every facet of the team who helped bring J. K. Rowling’s beloved series to life. Then the focus shifts to devoted fans queuing for premieres, squeezing up to railings to nab a signature, clamouring for a touch of Emma Watson’s arm, and it’s not long before the ultimate fan’s paradise opens up before you for a majestic welcome to the Great Hall.

Walking past the tables where Gryffindor and Slytherin ate and chatted and feuded throughout the franchise is an awe-inspiring experience, and that’s just the beginning – after soaking up the Hall’s grand architecture you’re let loose on the main section of the walking tour, featuring uncountable authentic props, models, costumes and breathtaking sets used in the films. Wander up Diagon Alley’s cobbled street, where you’ll spot Ollivander’s wand shop, the safe-haven of Gringotts Wizarding Bank and even the Weasleys’ gleefully prankish joke shop. Witness the gigantic Magic is Might monument, held aloft by pained stone Muggles, then minutes later stare goggle-eyed at the ceiling where overgrown spider Aragog stares from the rafters. You’ll see special vehicles, from swooping bikes and brooms to the Knight Bus itself, plus meet a wealth of furry friends in Hagrid’s disheveled hut and stand just inches from He Who Shall Not Be Named’s infamous Horcruxes.

Got a question? Don’t hesitate to ask the chirpy ‘interactors’ scattered about the tour, armed with Potter lore and always eager to share a fact or ten to ensure you get the most from your experience. For instance, while admiring Dumbledore’s office with its helical design spiraling up and away, portraits lining the upper walls and cabinets of vials and potions nestling beneath them, I was advised to crouch behind the back wall of the set and peer through the glass for an unbeatably filmic view of the wise professor’s office.

Before long you’ll be exhausted from repeatedly picking your jaw up off the floor, but save some amazement for the make-up and special effects exhibits: from goblin-face prosthetics to animatronic Buckbeak the Hippogriff, the diligent detail and incredible workmanship poured into each part of the Potter puzzle is on display and truly astounding. You’ll spy a moving electronic Hagrid-head worn by Robbie Coltrane’s taller double, the Weasleys’ self-washing frying pan, and even the terrifying, squirming Inferi – corpses reanimated to do the Dark Wizard’s bidding.

Wherever you turn there are multiple treats to discover, and it’s no exaggeration to say your gaze will often be drawn to several spots at once – that sky-high leaning tower of books; those gorgeous cakes from the Yule Ball – which makes the tour’s three-hour running time ideal for exploring at your leisure. Cameras are permitted throughout, so take plenty of souvenir snaps of your one-off journey to the world beyond Platform 9 ¾. Plus there’s extra dollops of fun on-hand as you keep your eyes peeled for hidden Golden Snitches and fly a broom via the movie-magic of green screen. All this and a taste of the famous Butterbeer, a sickly favourite of our Hogwarts heroes available midway through the tour.

The unforgettable walkthrough is capped by a stunning 50ft 1:24 scale model of Hogwarts used for aerial photography, viewable from every imaginable angle as its 2,500 lights twinkle through a beautiful day-to-night cycle every four minutes. It’s the perfect end to a magical day, guaranteed to get you gasping in awe at the art, talent and dedication behind such spectacular sights onscreen.

With a real behind-the-scenes vibe, the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London offers rare firsthand insights into the making of Harry Potter that could never be gleaned from even twenty hours of DVD extras. Fans are spoiled rotten as the most iconic sets and phenomenal props are unveiled before their eyes, while even Potter newcomers will enjoy the fascinating filmmaking facts, and with so much to see, everyone is sure to have their own favourite sights and exhibits to share with friends and family.

Experience the magic with an enchanting break from Play and Stay, including return travel to the Tour, the unmissable Studio Tour itself and a convenient overnight hotel stay in London.

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