While there are various Harry Potter filming locations scattered around the UK, the bulk of the work for the films took place at the Warner Bros Studio in Leavesden. The Harry Potter Studio tour is a must for any fan, but visit during the winter and you are in for a special treat.
During Hogwarts in the Snow, the tour is covered with snow and Christmas decorations. If you are wondering if you should go, read my Hogwarts in the Snow review to learn more about it.
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- What is the Harry Potter Studio Tour?
- What is Hogwarts in the Snow?
- Our Hogwarts in the Snow Experience
- Booking Tickets for Hogwarts in the Snow
- Arriving at the Harry Potter Studios
- Beginning our Tour of Harry Potter Studios
- The Great Hall
- Interior Sets and Dark Arts
- Forbidden Forest
- Platform 9 3/4
- The Backlot Cafe
- The Backlot
- Creature Effects
- Gringotts Bank
- Diagon Alley
- Art Department
- Hogwarts Model Room
- Harry Potter Studios Gift Shop
- Hogwarts in the Snow FAQs
- Tips for Visiting the Harry Potter Studio Tour at Christmas
- How to Get to Harry Potter Studios From London
- Where to Stay Near Harry Potter Studios
- Hogwarts in the Snow Review
- Is Hogwarts in the Snow Worth it?
- Should you visit Harry Potter Studios during the winter?
- Expert Tips for Visiting Hogwarts in the Snow
What is the Harry Potter Studio Tour?
The Harry Potter Studio Tour is a popular tourist attraction in Leavesden (21 miles northwest of London) where you can see two soundstages, a backlot with original sets, animatronic creatures, other Harry Potter artifacts and more, right by the film studios where all eight Harry Potter films were made.
Keep in mind that the Harry Potter Studio is not a theme park. It does not have any rides like Universal Studios in Orlando. I would describe it more like a huge museum.
If you are a Harry Potter fan, you will also want to go on a London Harry Potter walking tour.
What is Hogwarts in the Snow?
From mid-November to mid-January, you have the chance to experience the magic of Christmas in the wizarding world at the Harry Potter Studios. All the sets are decorated for the holidays and covered with snow. In some cases, what you will see reflects how the sets were actually dressed for Christmas scenes in the films.
It could be a fun day trip from London during the winter.
Our Hogwarts in the Snow Experience
For those who haven’t been to the Harry Potter Studios for Christmas, I am sharing more details about our visit so that you can know what to expect.
Booking Tickets for Hogwarts in the Snow
All tickets to Harry Potter Studios must be pre-booked. We actually got our timed-entry tickets online in February for our December visit. Times fill up fast especially for the weekends, so it’s best if you can book in advance.
Arriving at the Harry Potter Studios
We drove to the Harry Potter Studios. Following google maps, it was easy to find and we could see it in the distance. They have a large parking lot, so there were plenty of spaces. I made sure to note the row letter so we wouldn’t have problems finding the car after we finished.
It was a short walk to the entrance, where they scanned our tickets. Then we had to empty our pockets and go through the security checkpoint.
Just past security we entered the lobby. Here Russell got an audio guide (which he barely used) and then we went to check out coats. While they do have a free cloakroom, the attendant advised us that there was a section of the tour that was outside and we might want to keep our coats since it was cold out.
With our coats in tow, we moved to the next room which is called the Hub. Here you can’t help but notice the huge Ukrainian Ironbelly dragon above you. There was also a large snowy Christmas Tree.
Since we had our lunch in the car, we were ready to start our tour. If you need some food or a drink, the Hub has a cafe and there is also the Food Hall next to it.
Beginning our Tour of Harry Potter Studios
At the start of the tour, we were reminded of the history of the Harry Potter franchise. It’s hard for me to believe that they started filming the first Harry Potter movie in 2000!
*Did you know that J.K. Rowling got some inspiration for the Harry Potter books when she was living in Porto? If you get the chance to visit, you will have to do this Porto Harry Potter tour.
We went through the two rooms that were filled with information about the movies and a display showing Harry’s cupboard under the stairs a bit quickly as we heard someone saying it’s time to go in. The crowd entered a dark room with screens on three of the walls. A staff member greeted us and gave a bit of an introduction before starting the short introductory film.
When that concluded the doors ahead of us opened into an auditorium where we were instructed to take our seats. Another short film about the history of Harry Potter and the studios came on. When it was over the movie screen went up and revealed what looked like it could have been a medieval doorway. Was it our way into Hogwarts?
The Great Hall
When the big doors opened into The Great Hall, it was almost like there was a collective “wow” from everyone in our group. The room, which was inspired by the Great Hall at Christ Church College in Oxford, was all made up like it was for the famous Yule Ball scene in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
The tables were set for a Christmas feast complete with Christmas crackers. There were also several Christmas trees. Our guide showed us how they would light the Christmas pudding.
At the far end of the room, there was what looked like an astonishing ice sculpture inspired by the Brighton Pavilion. The artistic details, lighting, and colors made it special.
While we probably could have spent more time admiring The Great Hall, we were encouraged to move on to the next section of the tour.
Interior Sets and Dark Arts
The Interior Sets and Dark Arts is a huge area full of everything Harry Potter. I am only going to mention a few of my favorite things that you don’t want to miss here.
Roof of the Great Hall
You might remember there was no roof on The Great Hall set. For the most part it is illuminated with candles or stars using computer generated images, but they could use this model if they needed to show the roof.
The Marble Staircase
This staircase was used to film the scenes that had moving staircases. They used a greenscreen along with additional shots of a detailed miniature of the stairs to create the special effect.
Gryffindor Boys’ Dormitory at Hogwarts
We could see where Harry and his friends would have slept while they were at Hogwarts. They had their initials on the drawers under their beds.
The Common Room
The Common Room looks smaller than it does in the movies, but the Christmas decorations made it feel homely and festive.
The Griffin Staircase
This is one of the two models made to create the effect of the magically spiralling staircase that leads to Dumbledore’s office.
It felt a little intimidating climbing the few steps (not the spiral staircase from the movie) to Dumbledore’s office. The walls are almost all bookshelves, but it was funny to find out that most of these books are actually British phonebooks covered in leather.
It was fun to see all the different bottles (there are more than 500!) lining the Potions classroom. For the first movie, they actually shot the Potion classroom scenes on location at Lacock Abbey, but the later movies were filmed here.
You get to peek inside Hagrid’s home. It was interesting to learn that they made two versions of this set. Onc was smaller to make Hagrid appear bigger.
Here they use the magic of the greenscreen to help you get pictures and video of yourself flying on a broom. There is no obligation to buy the photos.
Whomping Willow and the Flying Car
It was interesting to see how they created the scene where the whomping willow attacked the car.
Note: If you want to see the real Whomping Willow, you will have to visit Blenheim Palace.
Ahead we could see the darkness of the Forbidden Forest. As we got closer we could see it was covered in snow. I wondered what creatures would be waiting for us among the giant trees.
The Hippogriff and Buckbeak seemed innocent enough. Around the corner was Aragog. The Acromantula and his tribe were a bit unsettling for me since I don’t like spiders. I tried to just look down as I walked past them.
The Forbidden Forest at Harry Potter Studios is actually a replica of the original set made by the same crew. The delicate materials used in the original forest were too difficult to preserve and store.
Platform 9 3/4
We left the Forbidden Forest and were transported back to King’s Cross Station in London. The Hogwarts Express was sitting at Platform 9 3/4 ready to depart.
Taking a picture in front of the train was challenging as everyone else was trying to do the same. It’s a lot easier to take photos with the shopping carts along the wall.
There was a short line to board the train, which is actually the one that was used in the films. Once inside we walked through the carriages and could see the different compartments set up for key scenes from the Harry Potter movies.
At the end of the platform there is another green screen experience where you and your party can get photos and videos on the Hogwarts Express. You sit in what looks like the train and the window is the green screen. There is no obligation to purchase anything.
The Backlot Cafe
At the halfway point, there is a cafe where you can try butterbeer, grab a drink, or get a bite to eat. We were thirsty but hadn’t heard good things about butterbeer (it is supposed to be very sweet) so decided to go for coffee and cokes.
Given that we reached the cafe about 3:30, I was surprised to see such a long line. There was a separate slightly shorter line for butterbeer and butterbeer ice cream, but we would have to wait in the longer one for our drinks. They did also have a place where you could refill water bottles (with no line!).
We grabbed a table inside, but there are also some tables outside in the backlot. Keep in mind you must finish your food and drink before going inside the house on Privet Drive.
The outside area next to the cafe has some instantly recognizable sets and props. Even if the weather is bad, you don’t want to skip over this section.
First up, we went over to check out the model of The Burrow, which was the Weasleys’ house. This is a replica of the model built to be burned in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It is roped off but you can get close enough to see all the details and the snow around it.
They also have the Wooden Bridge from Hogwarts with its roof dusted with snow. Normally, you can walk through it but it was closed when we were there because of the icy conditions. The Courtyard Fountain was also off-limits due to the extreme cold temperatures.
Next to the bridge, you can’t miss the purple triple-decker Knight Bus. We took a quick peek inside where you can see the beds.
After that we were ready to go inside the Privet Drive house, so we joined the short line.
Inside the living room was set up like the scene where all the letters from Hogwarts arrive for Harry after his uncle burned the first one.
In the kitchen, the scene where Harry casts an inflation charm on his aunt is depicted.
Next door, we went inside Professor Sprout’s Greenhouse. Here we had fun trying to pull out the Mandrakes, there was something quite satisfying and almost addictive about it.
Before going back inside, we walked past the motorcycle with the sidecar and Mr. Weasley’s blue car. You are welcome to sit in either and take photos, but there might be a little bit of a wait.
Back inside, it was time to learn about how some of the most memorable characters in the Harry Potter films were brought to life. It was fascinating to go behind-the-scenes.
We got to see how they created Greyback’s werewolf face and the enormous animatronic Hagrid head used by stunt doubles. My favorite section in the room was the interactive corner where we were able to make Dobby move. We had fun dancing and moving our arms in front of the screen and watching Dobby try to follow.
The Gallery of Goblins showed the process the team went through to turn some of the actors into goblins. They also had a display with the different characters played by Warwick Davis.
The goblins were a hint of what was up next, Gringotts Wizarding Bank. When I stepped inside the bank, I was in awe. The tilework on the floor, the marble columns, and the chandeliers were all palatial. Seeing a few goblins behind the counters made me feel like I was there.
Then in the next room, I was shocked to learn how it was all made. I don’t want to give away all the secrets so I will just tell you that there is no marble used in making Gringotts Bank.
Before moving on to the next room, there is a warning sign suggesting that those that are bothered by flashing lights, loud sudden noises, shaking of the walls and floor should bypass the chamber. I was a bit concerned but decided to see what it was all about.
I moved towards the crowd that had gathered and heard loud footsteps. It was like the scene where the Ukrainian Ironbelly dragon destroyed the bank in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.
My view was a little impeded by other people so I waited after the scene ended to get a better spot and watched it all happen again. It was a bit like watching the movie in 3-D. I was close to the action but knew it was part of a fictional story.
We moved on into Diagon Alley which had a dusting of snow. It was fun to peek in the shop windows of Mr Mulpeppers Apothecary, Wiseacres Wizarding Equipment, and Flourish & Blotts Booksellers. Inside Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes you can see the puking pastilles. This set changed throughout the film series.
We left the street and stepped into the art department which plays such a big role in the final film. The office of Stuart Craig, a production designer, was on display and I wondered about how many long hours he spent sitting at that desk. It was fun to look at the models and sketches the team had done.
Hogwarts Model Room
The grand finale of the tour is the room that showcases the model of Hogwarts. We followed the pathway slowly around so that we could study the miniature structure in detail. For the season, it is covered in snow.
We spotted the Covered Bridge, Clock Tower, Astronomy Tower, the Twin Bell Towers (modeled after Durham Cathedral), and more. The video about how they used the model in filming was fascinating.
In addition to the model, there is also an exhibition in the room about snow and fire in the Harry Potter films. We got to feel snow made from paper, plastic, and polymer. There is also what looks like a real fire, that you can touch.
Note: Alnwick Castle in northeast England was used as Hogwarts in the first two Harry Potter films, so that is another place that you will want to visit!
Harry Potter Studios Gift Shop
Harry Potter merchandise makes a good gift for any Harry Potter fan and the gift shop at Harry Potter Studios is the best place to find them! It is huge. I kept thinking we would reach the checkout but then we would enter another room full of goodies.
Most kids will want a wand of course. They sell a selection of replicas used by different characters in the films, so you can have your own copy of The Elder Wand if you like, but they are not cheap!
Fair warning, the line to check out was long but it did move quickly. Once we had paid for our items, we exited back into the Hub.
Hogwarts in the Snow FAQs
How long does it take to see Hogwarts in the Snow?
According to their website, visits average about 3.5 hours so it could make a good half day trip from London. For us, it took about 4 hours but we did spend a bit of time in the cafe and gift shop.
Is Hogwarts in the Snow good for kids?
I think Hogwarts in the Snow is good for kids that have read or watched Harry Potter. It will be hard to keep the attention of younger children because it is not a theme park or place with interactive exhibits.
Are you allowed to take your own photos and videos at Hogwarts in the Snow?
Yes, so you will definitely want to make sure you have a camera or smartphone with you. You can take your own photos and videos with a few exceptions. No photos and videos are allowed in the room with screens on three walls, the cinema room, or where there is a green screen. Where they have the green screens, there will be professional photographers and the photos/videos will be available for purchase.
Tips for Visiting the Harry Potter Studio Tour at Christmas
If you plan on going to the Harry Potter Studio Tour for their Hogwarts in the Snow event, I have a few tips that will make your visit more enjoyable.
Book tickets far in advance especially if you want to visit on a weekend. The best times book up quickly so don’t leave it until the last minute.
You probably don’t need priority parking. Priority Parking is an additional charge and must be booked at the same time as your tickets. We just opted for the regular parking and it was only a couple minutes to walk to the entrance.
Wear comfortable shoes. You will be standing most of the time that you are doing the Harry Potter Studio tour, so you don’t want your feet to hurt.
Skip the Audio Tour. It will save you a little money (about £5) if you skip the audio tour and read the signs instead. You will still learn a lot!
Bring a reusable water bottle. The line to get drinks (or food) at the Backlot cafe was long. You can skip it and refill your water bottle for free.
How to Get to Harry Potter Studios From London
You have three options to get to the Harry Potter Studio tour from London – take a tour, use public transportation, or drive yourself.
The drive from London could take anywhere from 1 hour to 1.5 hours depending on traffic and the exact location you are coming from. To get specific directions use “Harry Potter Studio Tour” on google maps. If you haven’t driven in the UK before, please make sure you understand the differences between UK and USA driving.
If you want to take public transportation, you will have to take the train from Euston Station to Watford Junction and then catch the dedicated shuttle bus which will take you directly to the studios. The shuttle bus is included in your admission price so you just need to show your Harry Potter Studio Tour tickets to board. You will need to buy your train ticket separately here.
The easiest (and least stressful) option will be to take a tour that includes transportation and tickets to the Harry Potter Studio Tour. Check out the options available here.
Note: The Harry Potter Studio tour could also be a good day trip from Cambridge since it is only a 1.5 hour drive.
Where to Stay Near Harry Potter Studios
Most people just do the Harry Potter Studio Tour as a day trip from London, but if for some reason you would like to spend a night nearby, there are a few options as you can see on the map below. If you are on a budget, check out this Premier Inn nearby with free onsite parking.
Hogwarts in the Snow Review
It is special to be able to walk through some of the Harry Potter sets, get close to the artifacts and props, and learn more about how the movies were made. I was impressed with just how much there was to see!
The tour was well-organized. There were many information boards and videos, making the audio tour superfluous. They also had plenty of staff members around to answer any questions that we had.
I learned a lot about how they were able to make the movies so magical. Some of these tactics, we may even try to implement in our photography.
The snow and Christmas decorations made everything feel magical. It’s no surprise that December is the most popular time of the year to visit the Harry Potter Studios.
Is Hogwarts in the Snow Worth it?
Tickets to Hogwarts in the Snow are not cheap, but if you are a Harry Potter fan or interested in learning the behind-the-scenes secrets of filming, it is a must. The snow and Christmas decorations make it more special and photogenic.
You will enjoy seeing all the artifacts and sets used in the films. Plus you can show off the pictures to fellow Potterheads – they will be jealous if they haven’t been themselves!
Should you visit Harry Potter Studios during the winter?
Yes! During the Hogwarts in the Snow event you get to see all the sets dusted in snow and plenty of Christmas decorations. Plus the majority of the tour is indoors so you don’t have to deal with cold weather except for the short time you spend in the Backlot.
Have you been to Hogwarts in the Snow?
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Last Updated on September 15, 2023