The magic of Harry Potter is brought to life at Warner Bros Studios in London. Jody Ball checked it out...
The iconic films have been enjoyed by young and old the world over, and now fans of Harry Potter can get the chance to be let in on a few secrets and check out the actual sets, props, creatures, make-up and costumes involved in the making of all the films.
Fans like me will love getting to see firsthand the magic of the films at the studios in Leavesden, on the outskirts of London.
First things first, make sure you leave plenty of time to enjoy it. The great thing about this tour is that you can go at your own pace, Warner Bros estimate two-and-a-half hours, but I took four, so make sure you have a free morning or afternoon to soak up the magic.
And once inside the studios, which used to be aircraft hangars, you are transported into the world of Harry Potter.
From the flying Ford Anglia and the famous cupboard under the stairs, it's all here.
The tour is split into three sections - the first is most of the sets with costumes and you can even ride a broomstick, the second is outdoors where you can jump on the knight bus and see the outdoor sets, while the third part contains the animatronics, concept art and make-up along with Diagon Alley and a scale model of Hogwarts to explore.
Enter through the doors of the Great Hall just like Harry first did as an 11-year-old. It's an Aladdin's cave of iconic costumes of teachers and pupils, table settings and the large fireplace.
At Hogwarts you can also gaze at the bookshelves in Dumbledore’s office, see how small the Gryffindor dorms really are, see the original paintings from the changing Marble staircase, hunt down potions in the classrooms, peak inside Hagrid's hut, discover the Ministry of Magic and even learn how to use a wand.
Outside, you can sample a Butterbeer, but be careful how much you order because it is an acquired taste - it is a sickly sweet, toffee-flavoured cream soda. If you buy a tankard though don't throw it wash it at the special tap and pop in your bag it's yours.
Hop on Hagrid's motorcyle, jump in Arthur Weasley's Ford Anglia and pose with the Knight Bus. You can even peer through the windows of number four Privet Drive.
Meanwhile, on the cobbles of Diagon Alley, I was in a world of my own - the shops were so detailed I wanted to walk in and see the characters I know and love!
But the highlight - which drew gasps from the young and old fans - was the model of Hogwarts. Built to 1:24 scale, it was used in the exterior shots for the first six films. The attention to detail is absolutely incredible, with 3,000 fibre optic lights fitted inside and turned on as the night sky darkens. It took six months to build and is testament to the skill of the production designers.
As with most tourist attractions, you have no choice but to walk through the gift shop en route to the exit, although it could leave you seriously out of pocket.
There's mountains of merchandise, and much of it is on the pricey side: a polyester Slytherin scarf is £24.95 and a Gryffindor house jumper is priced at £74.95. The cheapest item I found is a £3.95 lollipop and the most expensive is a replica of Dumbledore’s robe - high quality and beautifully recreated, but priced at an eye-watering £495.95. Although if you are looking for a value-for-money gift I'd suggest purchasing a replica wand at a reasonable £24.99.
The only thing that may disappoint you after this amazing tour is that you can never watch Harry Potter in the same way ever again - you know all their secrets now!
By Jody Ball
Tips to remember:
- Make sure you schedule a good few hours in for your visit to make the most of it
- Book in advance, they don't sell tickets on the door
- If you have kids with you then pick up some Potter Passports, which are completely free and includes a treasure hunt for them