Making of Harry Potter- Behind the Scenes (London)

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i distinctly remember being given “harry potter and sorcerer’s stone” and feeling instantly captivated by this young wizard. i even read parts of it in my closet, just to feel closer to the happenings. he was only one or two years younger than me (that meant there was hope for my letter perhaps arriving later inviting me to hogwarts).

my mom would bring me home each new book when it was delivered to costco, along with all the granola bars i could eat. i attended every movie premier during opening weekend. i waited until 12:01am at the local bookstore for the final book to be released, where i even convinced the stock guy to give me a super magical box they came in! it was sealed with official harry potter tape that said ‘do not break seal until after 12:01am on july 21, 2007.’

Behind the Scenes of Making Harry Potter

at one point in my wardrobe, i was the proud owner of 4 different harry potter t-shirts, previously owned by children that i squeezed into. listening to jim dale read the audiobooks was the only way i could fall asleep for years (seriously). i grew up with harry, hermione and ron.

to say i love the harry potter series feels like an understatement.

when my husband and i decided to make london our stop on our Map to Dreaming BIG tour, the excitement that filled my bones at the prospect of going to see the set of the harry potter movies was almost too much to handle! it’s was kind of like when professor quirrell tries to touch harry and gets burned – almost too much (but thankfully we didn’t crumble away)!

about an hour outside of central london sits the actual place where all of the movies were filmed at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London! this is adjacent to the working film studios, where all of the 8 movies were filmed! “the making of harry potter” is two massive sound stages and a backlot filled with all of the magical secrets and sets used with the movies. it was opened in june 2012. below is my look of shock and overwhelm.

chelsea avery harry potter

i have a spent quite a bit of time on this blog post trying to capture my top favorite experiences but also not giving it all away because there are some seriously magical things that happen at the WB studios in london!

very important note: the tickets sell out incredibly fast and can only be purchased in advance so if you know you are headed to london, get your tickets as soon as possible or you might not get in! also make sure you print your ticket confirmation out because you’ll need to scan it to get your actual tickets.

they have fun packages that include a harry potter themed bus ride there, audio guides and/or souviner booklets. if you just want the general attendance ticket, it’s £33 for adults (which is a bit over $50 USD) and i can first hand attest what you get is absolutely worth that and more!

IMG_5194 harry potter chelsea avery

my husband snagged this candid photo of me being super impressed with the audio guide. there is an ipod tucked in there so the picture quality is beautiful and it’s touch screen. audio guides are £4.95 and worth it. if you don’t love audio guides, they still have a ton of interviews and videos playing throughout the whole tour so you won’t be left out.

as you enter the massive building, you are greeted in the entryway by your best friends familiar faces and the option for a latte should you desire one. i checked and there is no butterbeer flavored latte but you can try a butterbeer later!

harry potter studio tour london

as you are waiting to get into the studios, the queue (line) weaves by the set of harry’s cupboard under the stairs! they even had the little spiders inside of it! the attention to detail is incredible.

IMG_5211 harry potter cupboard

i am going to leave the beginning of the tour a surprise because it was so magical and i want you to experience for yourself (if you really want to know, leave a comment or email me and i’ll tell you).

once the magic happens…your first stop is the great hall, which is absolutely beautiful!

harry potter studio tour london

harry potter studio tour london

during filming, the ceiling had a large green screen on it for graphics of the starry night or snow falling!

fun fact: at first they tried using real candles lit and suspended from the ceiling but they kept burning through the ropes and became a safety hazard!

they initially started out using real food during filming but found it spoiled too quickly. obviously the actors ate real food but the rest of the food was first baked by a pastry chef and then an artist would replicate it using resin and other materials so it appeared real but would last!


at first the faceless characters creeped me out but then i sort of liked staring at them. i felt like if i stared hard enough a face might emerge, though it never did. on the mannequins are the clothing worn in the movies. look at how tiny harry was!

harry potter studio tour london

fun fact: per law, the child actors were only allowed to work 4 hours each day and had to attend school so they set up a mini-school on set and cycled the children through!

after the great hall experience, the studio tour doors are opened and you are set free to roam around as you wish (and stay as long as want)! they said the average time to get through here is about 3 hours…we definitely stayed every bit of 5 hours (good question courtney!)


it was amazing to roam around free and spend as much time as you wanted in the sets or looking at props but it sort of stressed me out too. i felt like i was going to miss something and my husband wasn’t spending as long looking at things so he’d come back and be like “OMG did you see the burrow yet?! it’s so awesome!” and it was a little stressful. just mentally prepare for a free for all and don’t be too paranoid that you’re going to miss something (i have already made my husband agree that we will be coming back with our future children).

one of the super cool things about the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London is that they have people who still work there that worked on the movies! we got to talk to the make-up artist below! he’s holding the box containing the make-up used for the lightening scar on harry’s forehead!

fun fact: daniel radcliffe went through 2,000 scars during all of the movies and his stunt double went through 3,000+! he also went through over 160 pairs of glasses and 70 wands!

harry potter studio tour london

the photo with the clothes is both harry and voldemort’s clothes before and after their dueling! the aftermath one literally says “harry’s coat – dirty.” they made their clothing dirty and left it to be used in future scenes!
harry potter studio tour london

again, the amount of detail on these sets was outstanding. there were whole teams who painted the murals, created the books, made the drapes, etc. they bought these chairs new and then had to work to make them look 100+ years old!

harry potter studio tour london

fun fact: the four-poster-beds fit all the actors just fine when they were 11 but as they grew older, they no longer fit. you’ll notice in the later movies that most often they are sitting on the bed but rarely laying down because their bodies don’t fit in them!

harry potter studio tour london3

the potions room was amazing! it used to be a much smaller set but after professor slughorn took over the, they needed a larger set. “harry potter and the half-blood prince” had so many scenes in the potions room they needed more space. each of those bottles were hand-lettered with gold-leaf foil!

harry potter studio tour london

the burrow is always a favorite of mine in the movies. it seems so comfortable and like a happy, typically family lives there through the ups and downs of life. they had these neat things with the burrow where you would slide your hand over a little box and then you could control the carrots cutting, the knitting needles knitting or even iron a shirt with magic! so very well done.

fun fact: many of the items in the burrow were found at second-hand stores!

harry potter studio tour london

i think my favorite set was dumbledore’s office, partly because you could go into a fair majority of it. i just wanted him to tell me about his favorite candies and give me sage pieces of life advice. it was even more impressive than the photo leads you to believe!

harry potter studio tour london

during the audio tour of this, the costume designer said there was a purposeful difference in dress for the two dumbledores. richard harris played dumbledore in the first two movies before he passed away and was said to have a more traditional wizard and ostentatious look while michael gambon was said to have a hippie, boho chic look. this made me truly laugh out loud, thinking about dumbledore being boho chic! what a hipster.

fun fact: dumbledore’s telescope was the most expensive prop to create (and gets very little screen time)!

harry potter studio tour london

they obviously had props galore all throughout the massive studio! seen below is the goblet of fire to left, the triwizard cup top right and prophecy orbs.

fun fact: over 15,000 glass prophecy orbs were made before a director decided they didn’t look quite right and could be dangerous so they changed the whole hall of prophecy scene to computer generated graphics!

harry potter studio tour london

fun fact: originally some of the prop designers wanted to make the wands encased with jewels but JK rowling said nope, that’s not how the wands look and everyone has a different one!

below is the moving staircase, photos and notes about all of the animal actors over the years. also is the functioning chamber of secrets door! many people think it’s CGI but in fact, it really works!

harry potter studio tour london 7

the wretched professor umbridge office!

fun fact: they brought all the kitties in and did a photoshoot for each plate and then they were all adopted out but the families didn’t know that they were famous!



harry potter studio tour london 9 IMG_5393 chelsea avery hogwarts

you can actually walk on the hogwarts express!

fun fact: there is no rail station that runs all the way to Warner Brothers Studio London so they loaded the soon-to-be-turned-into-hogwarts-express on a flatbed truck to move it and then built temporary tracks on site for the train to rest on (trains get tired, ya know).

harry potter studio tour london 19

harry potter studio tour london 21IMG_5403

harry potter studio tour london

after you pass through the real train used (and ask your husband 14 times ‘anything from the trolley dear?’), you get to go ‘on-set!’ this was a super cool experience because they have a recording playing with a set director explaining what you’re seeing out the window (since it’s computer generated) so you, the actress, can respond accordingly as they did in the movies!

they have planned this really well because by the time you pass through studio J (the other is named K), your blood sugar is very low and miraculously they have food and butterbeer for you to order!

IMG_5421 chelsea avery

i must admit that this was not my first time trying butterbeer. i had it at universal studios at the harry potter world there! it was too sweet (shocking, i know) but i felt like i would be missing out if i didn’t have at least a few sips! i feel like the adult butterbeer should be vodka and a dash of cream soda (but they don’t serve that).

after lunch, you make your way into the ‘backlot’ which holds even more magic before you enter the next studio!

fun fact: the actual house sign of #4 is with rupert grint because he wanted it as a keepsake!

harry potter studio tour london

fun fact: the knight bus was not filmed using CGI – they really drove that thing down the streets of london! they had to put a bunch of weight in the bottom because it kept almost tipping over!

harry potter studio tour london 8

below is the real bridge used on set! my cheeks hurt later that night from smiling the whole day. thankfully i married someone who also enjoys harry potter (though i would not say he’s fanatic but i’m working on him)!

harry potter studio tour london

the next part of the tour is interesting because it lets you in behind the scenes of the animatronics used! did you have any idea that hagrid’s head is an animatronic for quite a few scenes?! i did not.

harry potter studio tour london

fun fact: the special effects team built a fully operational hungarian horntail that had a flame thrower with a 35ft reach! eventually it was decided that the dragons would be done by the visual effects team (computer) but they are all very proud of this beast!


sorry for the poor lighting and i can’t remember why harry looks dead but can we just focus for a minute on how short daniel radcliffe really is?! i mean…i knew he was a pretty short guy but i was sort of shocked. i suppose i’ll keep my hunky husband who stands at 6 foot 4 inches! i just googled daniel’s height. he’s 5’5. IMG_5452 harry potter tour london

 my eyes popped out of my head like i’d taken something from fred & george’s joke shop as i rounded the corner and my eyes greeted this:

harry potter studio tour london

it was amazing to see the set of diagon alley! my understanding was that they used a location initially but it was too tricky for additional scenes so they just built exactly what they needed!

fun fact: see those wands in the windows of ollivander’s? those are all that remain of the wand box props, as all the rest were purposefully destroyed in the ‘dealthy hallows’ movie!


after diagon alley, you pass through the creative side of things, which was mind-blowing to me. they had walls covered in sketchings and drawings by concepts artists. it was very interesting to see the initial drawings and models be brought to life!

harry potter studio tour london harry potter studio tour london

for the most magical moment that seemed to have topped them all…hogwarts castle. i literally gasped when my eyes took this sight in! magic.

harry potter studio tour london

fun fact: the model took over 7 months to create and 40 days to assemble. it’s used in a ton of scenes through all of the movies so the attention to detail on here is impeccable.

they have interactive TV screens all around the castle which allows you to zoom in and learn more about this amazing work of art! this is the last big part of the Making of Harry Potter Studios Tour and done so very well.

harry potter studio tour london

i could feel my heart getting heavy as i knew we were ending our time at Warner Brothers Studio London. i clicked the last video in my audio guide and it had the directors and producers talking emotionally about the last day of filming. they refused to say “that’s a wrap” because it was just too hard.

i found myself in a little corner next to the hogwarts castle to watch this video and felt my eyes get misty. i felt a sadness myself once the books and movies came to a close so i cannot imagine how the cast and staff felt after coming here for 10 solid years and then it was over.

before you walk into the magnificent gift shop, you walk through a makeshift ollivander’s wand shop.

fun fact: on each of these wand boxes is every name of every person that worked on the harry potter film series.


i could have went nuts in the gift shop (hedwig backpacks! puzzles! sorting hats! broomsticks!) but at the time of this post being written, the US dollar does not go as far as the british pound so prices are not what they appear to our minds! i did come away with a deathly hallows keychain and a caldron mug for a total of $32 USD! worth it.

harry potter souvenirs

as you can see, the Warner Bros. Studio Tour – Making of Harry Potter is a fantastic and magical place. i would highly recommend visiting here (and getting your tickets in advance) because your expectations will be far exceeded. even if your friends and family aren’t huge harry potter fanatics (but i know you are since you read this far), they will still find it fascinating and informative about all the things that go into making such a cult film series!

this experience deepened my love for the movies and filled me with a newfound respect for just how much effort and detail that was put into creating this magical world. it made me a happy little witch who will always try to get through platform 9 3/4.

all was well.

“whether you come back by page or by the big screen, hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.” – JK Rowling

me platform

thank you to Warner Bros. Studio Tour for the complimentary tickets for my review. all thoughts and obsessions are quite obviously my own!

what did you think? are you adding this to your bucket list?

what are some of your favorite harry potter moments from the movies?


  1. Lindsay

    August 7, 2015 at 9:42 am

    I love this so much, I feel like I was there all over again! So glad you guys had such a great time. 🙂

    PS with you 100% on the butterbeer, WAY too sweet for my liking. But hey, FOMO is powerful so I drank it anyway too.
    Lindsay recently posted…One Taco to Rule Them All

    • chelsea

      August 7, 2015 at 11:53 am

      we realllllly did! i loved every second of it and i super love that you’ve been here too lindsay! thanks for all your awesome help on letting me in on the details about your london trip! also you’re way cooler than me because i just had to google what FOMO means and too true 🙂

  2. Amber Krusza

    August 7, 2015 at 9:43 am

    I am absolutely adding this to my bucket list. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this with all of us. I have been a Harry Potter fan from the very beginning and I just HAVE to go! I’m not sure I could pick an all-time favorite moment from the books, but I have to say, I just loved watching the deep friendships and relationships grow in the books. 🙂

    • chelsea

      August 7, 2015 at 11:54 am

      you are going to LOVE it there, amber! thank you for reading and getting so excited because this post was one of the longest ones i’ve ever worked on but i knew it was important to own self and other harry potter lovers 🙂

      i loved watching the relationships grow and evolve too!

  3. Audrey

    August 7, 2015 at 10:13 am


    I am so in love with all these pictures and your fun facts and EVERYTHING! That settles it- the husband and I are flying to London tomorrow! 😀 It looks like you had a magical time (pun 110% intended) and I’m so excited you got to experience that! AWESOME!

    I love the middle of the 7.2 (when H, H, & R return to the castle) and I love the whole 5th movie- it’s my favorite. (But 3 is my favorite book.) So cool!
    Audrey recently posted…The Dog Park Chronicles

    • chelsea

      August 7, 2015 at 11:55 am

      yayaya!!!! hopefully i did the post justice for you, audrey 🙂 i kept trucking on it late last night because you were one of the people i really wanted to share it with!

      ahhh those are such good parts you bring up and now i want to watch the 5th movie again! actually…i want to watch them ALL.

      have a great flight to london tomorrow 🙂 haaa but seriously GO!

  4. Elyse

    August 7, 2015 at 10:49 am

    I’m not even the biggest Harry Potter fan but I LOVE behind the scenes things so this looks super cool! So glad you got to see it!
    Elyse recently posted…Expectations

    • chelsea

      August 7, 2015 at 11:56 am

      oh there were SO many more fun behind-the-scene things to see there elyse, if you ever find yourself there you will totally love it!

  5. Courtney! @ Redefining Athlete

    August 7, 2015 at 11:15 am

    How long did you spend there? My husband is not a HP fan (I KNOW), but this is something I absolutely MUST do.
    Courtney! @ Redefining Athlete recently posted…Catching Up…

    • chelsea

      August 7, 2015 at 11:58 am

      yeeeees you REALLY do! it’s an absolutely must if you love harry potter! i know your husband will have a great time too because it’s just amazing all of the other things that went into the actual movie making process!

      they say the average to get through the studio tour is about 3 hours but we stayed for 5 HOURS!!! i could have stayed longer. thanks for the question about how long we were there, i just added it to the post because i forgot to say 🙂

  6. Ashley @ Saving Money in your Twenties

    August 7, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    THIS IS THE COOLEST POST EVER. Omg. It makes me want to go watch every single HP movie and read every book all over again… love it!! I’m so glad you guys got to go and see this and thank you so much for writing such an awesome post and sharing your pictures (and narrowing them down from 700… 🙂 ) and all the fun facts! LOVED IT!
    Ashley @ Saving Money in your Twenties recently posted…Did you know you can freeze greek yogurt?

    • chelsea

      August 10, 2015 at 7:51 am

      yay! i’m so so happy you liked the post (and read it all) ashley 🙂 yes i want to go watch all the movies and read all the books toooooo!

      it was really amazing, far exceeded my expectations!

  7. lauren

    August 7, 2015 at 3:24 pm

    Ugh, I just read this and started feeling some serious nostalgia! The Harry Potter series has been my favorite since as long as I can remember. It’s one of the first books that I read when I was younger that I thoroughly loved. I’ve probably reread the series about a million times, and there’s noo way I’m done rereading!

    This looks incredible – I can’t wait to visit this one day!

    xx Lauren
    lauren recently posted…Airbrushed legs 

    • chelsea

      August 10, 2015 at 7:51 am

      it really was incredible, lauren! if you love harry potter, you definitely need to try to make it here because you will not be disappointed!!!

  8. Natalie

    August 7, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    I too have been in love with the Harry Potter world and I am so fortunate to be having another baby that I get the honor of introducing a new person to Harry!!

    • chelsea

      August 10, 2015 at 7:52 am

      ohhhhh what a great way of looking at having another baby natalie! i love it and you are so right…the more people the know harry and this magical world, the better 🙂

  9. Elizabeth T

    August 7, 2015 at 7:35 pm

    This is sooo on my bucket list!!!! Everything looks so incredibly magical–what an amazing experience!
    Elizabeth T recently posted…Starting Fresh

    • chelsea

      August 10, 2015 at 7:54 am

      it was SUCH an amazing experience elizabeth!!! so glad you’re putting it on your bucket list – you shall be verrrry happy!

  10. Amanda Wood

    August 8, 2015 at 2:27 am

    Oh my gosh! How amazing is that. When I visited London back in 2008 I managed to visit some of the one site filming locations in Oxford and even got to see the little platform 9 3/4 at the actual kings cross station. That alone was magical. But to experience the set and hear all the little details and tidbits. I’m so jealous!!
    Amanda Wood recently posted…Christmas in July – The Reveal

    • chelsea

      August 10, 2015 at 7:55 am

      so fun that you got to visit some of the filming locations in oxford, amanda! we didn’t it make it there so if you ever want to do a post revealing these photos…i wouldn’t be mad 🙂

      we stopped by the kings cross station too – it was a MAD house but i always love to see other people who love harry potter like us!

  11. Jenn

    August 8, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    I probably spent about twenty minutes reading this post. Thank you so much for the incredible detail and the pictures! I can vicariously live through you until I get the opportunity to go someday (hopefully). How cool is all of this?! It’s probably the most magical movie experience (magical as in the pun, but also movie-magical which is a different thing entirely). I was amazed at the movies when I first saw them, because they really brought to life what I envisioned while reading the book.The animatronics part seems a little intense for me, but I would love every minute of this tour. Thanks for sharing!
    Jenn recently posted…5 simple ways to celebrate, with Coca-Cola and REESE’S

    • chelsea

      August 10, 2015 at 7:56 am

      haaaa it was a long one, jenn! thanks for sticking with it and i’m glad you enjoyed it! you will totally LOVE it when you go, it far exceeded my expectations and they do such a great job!

      thanks for reading!

  12. Nina @ Flowers in my Hair

    August 8, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    I am adding this to my bucketlist!
    Nina @ Flowers in my Hair recently posted…Flower Crowns, Anthropologie Adventures, Sisters, Nonna in Leopard.

    • chelsea

      August 10, 2015 at 7:56 am

      your bucket list with absolutely thank you, nina!!

  13. Jennifer Haston

    August 13, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    Chelsea! I saw this post and actually flagged it because I knew I would want to read it when I had the time to really savor it.. I was NOT disappointed.. oh my heavens, this sounds like an AMAZING time!! I am ashamed to admit despite my deep abiding love for all things, Harry Potter I did not know this tour existed. Now after reading this post I MUST GO!! I MUST!!! Thank you for sharing the experience but leaving things to the imagination!

    • chelsea

      August 17, 2015 at 10:33 am

      so glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for coming back to it! it was seriously INCREDIBLE, jennifer! you absolutely MUST go, as i only grazed the surface of how spectacular it is 🙂

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