Last month, my husband and I went on a trip to Scotland & England. It went by so quickly and overall, I felt like we barely enjoyed London. Perhaps because we only spent a day and a half in the city proper. However - one of the things I had as a MUST DO on our list was the Harry Potter studio tour. I laughed. I cried. OK I cried a lot. This tour is not an amusement park filled with rides. It's the actual Warner Brothers J & K studio lots filled to the brim with real costumes, props and sets used in all eight movies.
It was a modest $120 USD for our two tickets. And 110% worth it.
Opt for an earlier time
We had a 3:30 tour time. Even though the studio closes at 8pm, we definitely ran out of time. The studio takes up two lots, with a courtyard and cafe break in-between. We found ourselves rushing through the end of the first part to make it outside before sunset. There are some amazing props and buildings to photograph outside (the Potter house, 4 Privet Dr, Hogwarts Walkway, Knight Bus, Weasley's enchanted car, and so much more!).
Taking the Studio Bus
The studio bus is one of the few ways to be brought directly to the studio (the photo below was taken right as I got off the bus). It's 2.5 GBP a person, so a 5 LB note will get you two tickets with free return. They only accept cash. Plan to arrive at the station 1 hr before your tour time. The wait for the bus was extremely long. We waited in line for at least an 30 minutes and two bus cycles before finally getting on-board. By the time we arrived to the studio, waited in the line to get in and actually made it inside - we were perfectly in line for our 3:30 tour. The last bus out of the studio actually leaves at 7:45. Even though we lined up outside at 7:20 pm the line was already long again. So always give yourself at least 30 minutes to wait for your bus on the return journey.
Try the Butterbeer
Take some time to try the butterbeer. We got both the drink and the ice cream. and of course a plastic souvenir cup. It's a little pricey, but for a once in a lifetime experience we thought it was worth it. The ice cream was my favorite.
Save up for the gift shop.
We were prepared to throw down some serious cash in the gift shop. There are so many crazy and fantastic things to see in the gift shop. They've also stashed away hundreds of more props in the gift shop to see, so look up! Art books, prints, prop replicas, wands, house clothing, books, collectible toys, Weasley candies, quidditch balls, uniforms, robes, Neville's sweater - you name it! You can probably buy it here. We bought 3 wands, some jewelry, two chocolate frogs (our cards were Guilderoy Lockhart and Salazar Slytherin) and some other candies. The wands here are nicer than any other wands we had seen during our trip, including the ones at the Platform 9 3/4 shop in Kings Cross station.
Take all the photos!
Bring your camera! Bring extra memory cards! Charge your phone! Oh my god I took over 400 photos (and only posted 40 - what amazing self control). There's so much to see and do here. If you have it, use a lens that performs better in low light. There were a few rooms with great lighting. But a large number of my photos didn't come out too well because all the lens I brought don't take in a lot of light.