Whether you’re a fair-weather fan or a full-on Potterhead, this magical studio tour is well worth the admittedly hefty admission price. All visitors have to book tickets online, in advance, for a specific time slot, and arrive 20 minutes beforehand; allow three hours or more to do the complex full justice. Visits begin with a short film, before you’re ushered through giant doors into the actual set of Hogwarts’ enormous Great Hall – just the first of many ‘wow’ moments.
Beyond that, you can explore the rest of the complex at your own pace. One large hangar contains the most familiar interior sets – Dumbledore’s office, the Gryffindor common room, Hagrid’s hut – while another holds Platform 9¾, complete with the Hogwarts Express. An outdoor section features the exterior of Privet Dr, the purple triple-decker Knight Bus, Sirius Black’s motorbike and a shop selling snacks and (sickly sweet) butterbeer. Video screens along the way burst into life to discuss elements of the production.
Other highlights include the animatronic workshop (say 'Hi' to the Hippogriff) and a stroll down Diagon Alley. All your favourite Harry Potter creatures are on display, from an enormous Aragog to Dobby the House-Elf, as well as props such as Harry’s Invisibility Cloak. The most magical treat is saved for last – a shimmering, gasp-inducing 1:24 scale model of Hogwarts, used for exterior shots.
Then comes the biggest challenge for true fans and parents: a quite extraordinary gift shop stocked with all your wizardry accessories, including uniforms for each of the Hogwarts houses and replicas of the individually designed wands used by pretty much any character you can think of.
The Studio Tour is 20 miles northwest of London, not far off the M1 and M25 motorways. For drivers, there’s a large free car park, plus extensive directions on the website. To come by rail, catch a train from London Euston to Watford Junction (£10.20, 15 minutes), then take the shuttle bus (return £2.50, 10 minutes, cash only).