Like most children born in the 90s, I feel like Harry, Ron, Hermione and I have been on countless reckless adventures through the Wizarding World together. That might sound a little riddikulus but I mean I kind of grew up with them. We all did. Who wasn’t filled with disappointment when realizing that they haven’t received an acceptance letter from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry?
A dream came true when I finally made it to the Warner Bros. Studios just outside London to see the original Harry Potter sets, props and costumes. Let me guide you through a spellbinding behind-the-scenes experience amidst the muggle world!
The tour which is officially known as the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter, starts with a short film about the Studio Tour presented by Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint. The giant doors to the Great Hall open as if by magic and I become that 10 year old overexcited Natalie who is about to enter the land of her dreams.
“It was hard to believe there was a ceiling there at all, and that the Great Hall didn’t simply open on to the heaven.”
― J.K. Rowling
Damn, that is impressive! I’m standing in the middle of the Great Hall – the setting of the Yule Ball or the famous Battle of Hogwarts – astonished by its grandeur. Okay, I have to admit that I am also a tiny little bit disappointed because there is no magical ceiling or a festive Christmas menu on the tables. But I can spot the Goblet of Fire and the Sorting Hat! I wonder where the Sorting Hat would put me… I’m secretly hoping he would say:
Leaving the Great Hall behind, I enter a huge open space which is filled with all props you can imagine: the door to the Chamber of Secrets, Ron’s not so pretty dress robes, Voldemord’s Horcruxes, the colourful fountains of the Prefects’ bathroom, the Mirror of the Erised, the Goblet of Fire, Arthur Weasley’s Flying Ford Anglia, the Invisibility Cloak, the Whomping Willow, Quidditch equipment or the Fat Lady guarding the Gryffindor tower – just to name a few.
Although I forgot the password, I made it to Dumbledore’s office and was able to retrieve some of his most secret thoughts from the Pensieve. Professor Snape showed me how to brew Amortentia, the most powerful love potion in existence (I can tell you guys it works, my boyfriend is still with me!) Unfortunately, Dolores Umbridge got wind of our secret potion class, gave me detention and made me write “I must not tell lies” in her kitschy pink office. Urgh, I hate cats!
»Welcome,« said Hagrid, »to Diagon Alley.«
― J.K. Rowling
Without having to pass the Leaky Cauldron pub, I suddenly find myself in Diagon Alley. The jolly sound I remember from the movies is playing in the background and makes my heart beat faster. Awesome, I always wanted to buy an owl! As I stroll through the narrow cobblestoned alley, I wander past Flourish and Blotts, where Gilderoy Lockhart once signed his book Magical Me, Gringotts Wizarding Bank, Mr. Mulpepper’s Apothecary, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes and Ollivanders wand shop that displays more than 17,000 individually labelled wand boxes. Oh, by the way – Gringotts Wizarding Bank just opened its doors for curious Muggles who want to gaze at the precious treasures stored in the Lestrange Vault: Gryffindor’s Sword and Helga Hufflepuff’s Cup (one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes).
Good old butter beer – well, people share different opinions on this heavily foaming beverage. Yes, it’s extremely sweet and creamy, but I really liked it. I guess you either love or hate it. Unfortunately, I just missed the Knight Bus, so I continue my journey and walk across the Hogwarts Bridge, visit the Dursleys for a coffee party at Number Four, Privet Drive and check out the location where the Potters once lived – a creepy little place to call your home if you ask me.
Dobby, Griphook and a Shrunken Head
It seems as if the adorable House Elf Dobby, Gringotts’ goblins and the Shrunken Head from the Knight Bus are just sleeping – I mean, look at these details!
The Hogwarts Castle Model: A truly spellbinding moment
The most magical part and my personal highlight of the tour is near the end: I’m standing in front of a giant and extremely detailed 1:24 scale model of Hogwarts and feel completely enchanted. If you add all the man hours that were involved in the creation of the model, it would come to over 74 years! Make sure to watch it switch from daytime to nighttime. I stood there for like 20 minutes, just marveling at the impressive castle and listening to the magical music. I completely immersed myself in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Goosebump alert.
“But, Hagrid, there must be a mistake! This says Platform 9 and 3/4. There’s no such thing! Is there?”
― J.K. Rowling
I’ve never felt closer to boarding the train to Hogwarts. You can even walk through the Hogwarts Express, see Harry and Ron sitting in their compartment waiting for the Trolley Witch. To be honest, it was really hard not to grab an owl and run straight into the wall of Platform 3/4 – it’s weird but as a real Harry Potter fan, you kind of hope it would eventually work.
Step into the Forbidden Forest and bow to Buckbeak
Strictly off-limits to Hogwarts students but not to Muggles like us: the Forbidden Forest. I walk deep into the dark grounds of the Forbidden Forest, bow to Buckbeak the Hippogriff and come face-to-face with Aragog, the scary Acromantula. 19 gigantic trees with a diameter of over 12 feet make me feel like I’m actually in in the middle of a dark and gloomy forest.
Before you leave the Wizarding World, make sure you’re taking some souvenirs to the Muggle World with you. You can buy everything Harry Potter related you can think of, from Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans to magic wands or Gryffindor scarfs.
The stories we love best do live in us forever, so whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.J.K. Rowling