If you haven’t already guessed by the title of this blog, I am a great fan of Harry Potter.
Its funny actually – up until a few years ago, I had never seen Harry Potter. I can hear you all gasping and screaming at me from behind your screens, but yes, such was the case!
You’ll be pleased to hear that this changed very quickly once I went to see the final film in the cinema. The film was like nothing I had ever seen before, and I found it completely mesmerising. I had officially fallen under the spell.
What followed was a marathon of Harry Potter films, from start to finish, multiple times, and I am now the proud owner of countless Harry Potter merchandise and I am currently making my way through the books. I have also visited the studios where the films were made once before when I got tickets for my birthday!
The magic still hasn’t worn off.
So, you won’t be surprised to know that when I had the privilege of returning recently, I was very excited. This time was still as enchanting as the first. The combination of film sets, costumes and props was enough to once again transport me into the wizarding world of Harry Potter and the story of The Boy Who Lived.
It took three hours to complete the tour, in which time I walked along Diagon Alley, visited Dumbledores office, took a trip on the Knight Bus, ventured into the Forbidden Forest and more. Too much more to list here in fact, so I’ll just show you some photos instead. Of course, I’ll try not to ruin the magic.
The Great Hall
The Great Hall is one of the first glimpses of Hogwarts that you see in the films, and it is also where the tour begins. Believe it or not, the set is much smaller than it looks on the films. Nevertheless, it is filled to the brim with character, the same as you would expect of an old building. You would think that its not true, but all the little details that you see in the films are there. The wall markings, carvings and pictures have all been created by set designers, and all of this has been aged to appear older than it is. Its as though it has really stood there for hundreds and hundreds of years – but this version of the Great Hall can actually be seen by muggles!
Inside are also many costumes all worn by characters who stood in the Great Hall throughout the films. This is quite interesting, as those who work at the studios reveal secrets behind the filming of Harry Potter – you’ll never look at it quite the same again!
Costumes and Props
Throughout the tour are some of the genuine costumes and props used in the films. Again, they don’t quite look the same as they do on screen, but the realism of them is extraordinary. From the costumes that Harry, Ron and Hermione wore to the Yule Ball, to others worn in the Gryffindor common room, and even the Triwizard Cup and the Golden Egg, it all feels magical. They have all been put together so intricately, so much so that I sometimes found myself shocked at how they were made.
I even took a trip to Dumbledore and Umbridge’s offices, and the Potions classroom. Unlike the Great Hall, these sets actually look quite big.- much bigger than I had expected them to look. They were so detailed that they had been bought to life, quite literally. Some of the props used in the film actually moved, but even when looking closely, I could never really tell how. That keeps the magic alive at least.
The cat plates in Umbridge’s office didn’t move. But it is just as pink as it looks – its quite something!
More costumes surrounded each of the sets – some of them look so lifelike that it is scary!
Platform 9 and 3/4, Forbidden Forest and Diagon Alley
Since last time I visited the studios, there have been a couple of additions to the sets. Platform 9 and 3/4 has been added and equipped with the Hogwarts Express. I even had the opportunity to get on and have a little peak at the inside! I’m still not quite sure how they walked along the train because the walkway is so thin! But, each of the train carriages hold different props used in each of the films. I also took a walk through the Forbidden Forest, new this year. I always wondered how they filmed this, and thought it was done outside, but its amazing how film can fool you! Its so long, and the darkness really makes you feel like you’re really outside at night. Its hard to explain what its really like, unless you have seen it yourself but if you have you will know what I mean.
My favourite part was taking a walk down Diagon Alley. This was another set filled with such a lot of character, and I saw a lot of shops that I never really noticed before. But there is one I did notice a lot – If you know me well, you will know that I am a massive fan of the Weasley family, particularly twins Fred and George. I was ecstatic to see Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes as I have always loved the scenes in their shop. In general, the detail in this set is incredible – the cobbled stones, the aged buildings, even the eerie feel!
The Knight Bus, The Flying Car and 4 Privet Drive
After stopping off in the cafe, it was onto the Knight Bus. This is one of my favourite things about the Harry Potter films, so it was really exciting to see it for real. And of course, I had to get a picture with it, because its not often you see something like it. You certainly can’t miss it, not only is it bright purple but it is huge, and very tall – I struggled to get up the step of the bus for this to be taken.. But as you can see I made it, and I was very happy about that! The only thing that would make it better is to actually take a ride on it, but it was not to be.
The flying car was also a lot of fun. In the films, Ron and Harry make this bit look so easy, and very cool. But I’m glad this doesn’t actually fly because I definitely wouldn’t have coped well. It was fun to sit behind the steering wheel and pretend though.
On my first visit to the studios, I knocked on the door of 4 Privet Drive, and had the obligatory photo, but this time was slightly different – this time the door was open to have a look inside. And we took a glimpse into the Dursley home. Much more than the detail in the other areas of the tour, this surprised me the most – the walls were covered in certificates and pictures drawn by Dudley Dursley. We took a peak into the living area – which was cordoned off because it was covered, completely in Hogwarts letters addressed to Harry – I was so surprised how many there were that I took a photo! You also get a chance to venture around the back of the house and see how it was made, which was great fun.
The Hogwarts Castle
And last, but by no means least the final stretch of the tour was to see the Hogwarts model. And it really was something to behold. It was the complete 3D mocel, which they used to film the outside shots of the castle. To give you an idea of the size, once the films were completed, it took them 2 whole months to move it to where it currently stands and put it all back together. That is big. It was a perfect end to the tour, a chance to take in all that I had seen. The castle was also placed in dimmed lighting, which made it quite atmospheric. I spent a long time just staring at it from all angles, both on the upper and lower level. And here I am in fact, after admiring it in all its glory.
It’s crazy that this world that was once inside one person’s head is now made real. It represents the dreams of J.K.Rowling herself but also those who have fallen in love with the Harry Potter films. Its a rare chance to get up close and personal with all things HP, and I have no doubt, if you’re a Harry Potter fan, you should take a trip there and see it for yourself. Its a self guided tour (after the Great Hall), so you can stay for as long as you like… if it takes your fancy you can stay until closing time! It is so worth it.
I have been twice now and I still love it just as much as I did. Even since I’ve been the first time, there have been changes, so I am sure that each time I will find something new. And of course, each visit ends in a trip to the gift shop – which for a Potter fan like me means only one thing – more merchandise! As I said before, the magic hasn’t worn off yet, so while its still there, I have a feeling I will be back!
If any of you have visited the Harry Potter studios before, I’d love to hear about your experiences. Also, if you have visited the one in Florida, please comment below and tell me all about it. I have never been but would love to!