Missing the Train to Hogwarts: A Day at Leavesden Studios

I couldn’t go to London without making the trek out to Leavesden Studios. Since filming of the Harry Potter movies concluded , the two studio stages, J & K ( See what they did there?) have been turned into permanent and interactive museums for Potterheads around the world. And in case you haven’t noticed by now, I’m quite the Potterhead.

Missing the Train

I carefully booked my tickets a month in advance. I would avoid crowds by going on a weekday and would arrive by noon so I would have  no trouble getting there and back using public transportation. My tickets had a 30 minute entrance window and, not wanting to miss the experience by being late as usual , I looked up directions ahead of time and planned to arrive an hour early.

After  a leisurely  morning in the hostel , I headed out to the Waterloo Station nearly three hours early…plenty of time to catch my train from Euston Station to Watford Junction and catch the shuttle bus to my destination.

After a series of missing trains and stops, I realized London was in the middle of a tube strike that restricted service and made my preplanned directions useless. After an hour and a half of waiting, pestering tube workers, and waiting in long lines to buy tickets I arrived at Euston just in time to see the tail lights of my train as it swerved around one last corner. I spent 30 minutes waiting for the next train and  staring at the time on my phone in disbelief. There was no way I should have made it. But by some miracle, I did, and with a whole ten minutes to spare.

Harry Potter Studios

Harry Potter Studios

Movie Stills line the Harry Potter Studios

Movie Stills line the Harry Potter Studios

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chess board props welcoming you into the studios

Chess board props welcoming you into the studios

I picked up my tickets, joined the entrance line, and within seconds had forgotten the whole transportation ordeal.

I hadn’t even entered the exhibition and was already surrounded  by the  props I grew up seeing on the big screen.

Entrance Hall

Entrance Hall

The Flying Ford Anglia

The Flying Ford Anglia

The Infamous cupboard under the stairs

The Infamous cupboard under the stairs

 

And on the other side of the room, Hogwarts was waiting.

Meeting Tom Felton and The Great Hall 

After two short movie presentations, one that showcased the franchise’s popularity with movie posters in different languages and another in which Harry,Hermione, and Ron ( Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint) prepare you for the upcoming magic, the audience was invited to push open the doors to the Great Hall.

The Great Hall Doors

The Great Hall Doors

Inside, the Great Hall was immortalized just as it was during filming. Giant spotlights shone down on  long wooden tables that were still set with paper cereals and plastics eggs. The different house tables are also flanked by their famous characters’ uniforms.

What Gryffindors eat for breakfast

What Gryffindors eat for breakfast

What Gryffindors eat for breakfast

What Gryffindors eat for breakfast

Students at Breakfast

Hufflepuff Students at Breakfast

Ravenclaw

Ravenclaw

Rightfully at the head of the hall, the ever-present Dumbledore, Mcgonagall, and Snape kept a watchful eye over the students.

Snape,Dumbledore, and Mcgongall keep watch

Snape,Dumbledore, and Mcgonagall keep watch

After ten minutes in the Great Hall, the guided portion of the tour came to a end. I turned on my audio guide, which is narrated by the movie’s Draco Malfoy himself, and got ready to explore.

Overview of Great Hall

Overview of Great Hall

Potter’s Secrets

As Tom’s voice guided me from set to set ,  I discovered some some well-guarded HP secrets. Did you know that…

 

Most of the Burrow’s magic ( like the self-stirring pots and knitting needles) are controlled by touch panels ?

The Burrow

The Burrow

The staircases lead to nowhere and most don’t move until post-production?

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The Grand Staircase

In some scenes, you’re looking at a robotic Hagrid and a completely mechanical Buckbeak ?

Buckbeak the robot

Buckbeak the robot

Something is missing...

Something is missing…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are magnets  on the other side of the Chamber of Secrets’ door that make the snakes slither?

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The Chamber of Secrets door

Green screens are used to create everything from flying scenes, spells, and even Harry’s invisibility cloak?

How Harry becomes invisible

How Harry becomes invisible

Green Screen Flying

Green Screen Flying

Costumes, Props, and More

The next three hours were spent browsing the many sets and costumes that make the movies so loved. There were personal details and stories to accompany nearly everything.

My favorite story came from the  Gryffindors’ dormitory. Each bed had small accessories to identify their owners ( like a stationary football poster over Dean Thomas’s bed and Ron’s Christmas sweaters). The same  beds were used throughout the eight movies and while the boys fit perfectly during the first movie, by the time filming wrapped their legs stuck out of the beds. That explains why we only see the boys from the chest up when they’re snuggled in bed.

Ron's Bed

Ron’s Bed

Harry's Bed

Harry’s Bed

Common room with costumes from the 1st and 3rd movie

Common room with costumes from the 1st and 3rd movie

Dumbledore's Office

Dumbledore’s Office

HP Stand in

HP Stand in

Props

Props

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Heads and Props

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Quidditch

Pucking Pastals

Pucking Pastals

Weasley Joke Shop

Weasley Joke Shop

Hogsmeade window display

Hogsmeade window display

 The Castle

The most impressive and beloved prop of all -the Hogwarts Castle itself – was the final stop of the tour. Although much smaller than the castle we’re used to seeing surrounded by lush green scenery , this version still takes up a whole room on its on. I followed a three-story ramp  from the roof of the castle to the base.Breathtaking views and photo ops awaited at every angle.  I took over a dozen photos in this room alone and each of them captured a unique and beautiful viewpoint.

The Castle in all its glory

The Castle in all its glory

The castle

The castle

After making sure to get a proper photo in front of the castle ( selfies wouldn’t do this justice) and a quick browse through the wand room – where everyone involved with the 10 year production is honored – I exited through the overpriced store and started the long trip back to my hostel.

The wand room

The wand room

Can you spot all the names?

Can you spot the standout name?

 

The Harry Potter Studio tour at Leavesden is a must-do for the films’ hardcore fans. If , like me, you’re a bigger fan of the books and how a writer built this entire universe with her mind, you’ll appreciate how even the most miniscule of details transpires perfectly from thought to book to real-life recreation. Either way , it’ll be very hard to not enjoy it.

 

Directions to Leavesden Studios: From Euston Station , take the train to Watford Junction. From there, go upstairs and take the shuttle bus leaving from platform 4.

 

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6 thoughts on “Missing the Train to Hogwarts: A Day at Leavesden Studios

  1. Wow it looks soo cool! Your photos are awesome. I live a stone’s throw from the Harry Potter studios and still haven’t got round to visiting them yet. . . after reading your post I have a new incentive to go! Glad you had such a great time, despite the tube strike! 🙂 x

    • You have to go to HP studios the next time you’re home. I think it was the most worthwhile thing I did during my time in London.I’m looking forward to a post about Stonehenge during the summer solstice, it sounds so interesting it has to be beautiful in the sunshine.
      Thank you for always coming back and commenting and liking… 🙂 And thank you for the Butterfly Light Award, I don’t know if I’m worthy after such a long absence but I will check it out! Thanks again!

      • I am planning on making a trip when some friends visit this summer. It will be brilliant! Fingers crossed the weather is good for the solstice, there’s nothing worse than when the rain comes down for it.
        You’re most welcome, I enjoy hearing about your travels – you have a great blog!
        By all means accept the award but no worries if not – was a pleasure to have nominated you 🙂 x

  2. Shantaya, so glad you made the tour! After reading books 1-5 to my son, I was excited to see your explanations and descriptions of the props and secrets. I think I need to book a tour to London with my kids one of these days! Thanks for the great info

    • Thank you! I think you should whenever you get the chance, there’s something there for everyone. I think your kids would love the HP museum and all the quirky tours. And the tea pastries!

  3. Pingback: The Best Travel Moments of 2014 | Girl and Her Pink Backpack

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