Ever since I first visited the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter several years ago, I hoped to return for their seasonal Hogwarts in the Snow event. Last week, I was excited to be invited to take a look at this year’s event along with my husband and father-in-law.
Hogwarts in the Snow is a Christmas/winter overlay applied each year to the Studio Tour. On arriving at the Studios, you are greeted by an enormous Christmas tree which dominates the entire lobby/cafe area. Another change from our previous visit to the Studios was the addition of a small display of props and costumes from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. This was the only mention of the new Potter-verse franchise within the building (excluding, naturally, a section of the extensive gift shop now given over to Mr. Scamander and Co.), but, as it grows, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a new section of the tour opening up for these films.
For me and my husband, the most impressive section of the Hogwarts in the Snow overlay was in the Great Hall. Always one of my favorite parts of the tour, the Great Hall was even more impressive than ever as a special effect fire roared in the enormous fireplace, stunningly decorated trees lined the room, and the long tables groaned under the weight of fake food. In fact, the only thing I didn’t like was how hungry those heaped bowls of fake roast potatoes made me feel–be sure to eat a good meal before you visit! The tables are decorated with themed place settings for each of the four Hogwarts houses and huge wreaths and garlands are strung around the room making it feel even more inviting than usual–especially as fake snow fell behind the windows. Periodically, the staff would use a special effect to remotely light many of the huge Christmas puddings on fire which always caused a few nervous squeals from anyone who wasn’t paying attention and suddenly had a dessert catch fire in front of them!
After the Great Hall, throughout much of the first building, the Christmas theming is somewhat lacking and the tour is just as it always is. This isn’t a detraction in any way, the tour remains as interesting and fun as it was the first time we visited, but it may be a slight let down for anyone who has visited recently and expects lots of new things to see. We noticed a few changes since our previous visit, including the appearance of a section of rather static moving staircase and an added poignancy on looking into the potions classroom and Professor Snape’s costume–although the latter may have just been in my head.
One area of the first building that was significantly changed for the season was the Gryffindor common room, which was decorated with golden garlands, a Christmas tree covered in red and gold ornaments, and handmade cards made by the cast and crew. The Gryffindor boys dormitory was also a little more festive thanks to more handmade cards and tinsel wrapped bedposts, and the Weasley house was ready for Christmas dinner with crackers and bowls full of oranges on the table.
Between building one and two is the cafe and outdoor courtyard, which is home to many of the larger props and sets such as the exterior of Number 4 Privet Drive. Before heading out into the bitter cold, we chose to try out a new addition to the cafe menu since of last trip–Butterbeer ice cream! In previous visits to the tour, and to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, I have tried both regular and frozen Butterbeer and found both to be excessively sweet. The ice cream, however, had a more subtle flavor thanks to only a small amount of Butterbeer being mixed in and the three of us all really enjoyed it. At £6.75 for a single portion, it’s not a budget-friendly snack. That being said, a single serving happily fed three adults and came in a mini sundae dish with the Butterbeer logo which we could take home. They even provide a sink in the cafe to wash out these collectible dishes and the cups from Butterbeer drinks so you’re not stuck with a sticky mess to carry around–I just wish that the big sink had been themed like the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets!
As I washed out our sundae dish, we heard yelps of delight and saw that the fake snow added to the outdoor courtyard was falling once again. We raced outside, alongside a lot of other adults acting like small children, and were soon covered in the falling foam. At approximately 9pm on an English winter’s night, it was far too cold to stay outside for long, so we soon headed into building two, home of the Creature Studio and Diagon Alley. These areas also had little theming, although in one corner of Diagon Alley you could watch Harry’s footprints magically appear in the snow as he walked along under his invisibility cloak.
The finale of the tour is [highlight to reveal spoilers] a spectacular model of Hogwarts castle that was used for exterior filming. For Hogwarts in the Snow, the entire model has been coated with a layer of fake snow made from a mixture of shredded paper and salt. Alongside the Great Hall, this model is another of my personal tour highlights, and seeing it covered in snow was simply magical. There was even a tiny snowman hidden on there for us to find!
In the same room, a small stall had been set up to demonstrate some wintery movie-making techniques. Here you could see how the fake flames in fireplaces throughout the tour have been created using water vapor and light tricks, and you could also get hands-on with different kinds of fake snow. A staff member was on hand to explain the different snow types and talked at length about the situations each one would be used for. He also explained that it was far easier to coat the giant Hogwarts model beside us in the fake snow than it will be to remove it, a process that involves industrial-scale vacuum cleaners on cranes!
The tour ends, as with all good tourist attractions, in the gift shop which is filled with everything a Harry Potter fan could ever want: wands and robes, books and board games, candy, and collectibles. As usual, we spent more in here than we intended, coming home with some new homewares and a few Christmas presents to boot.
Hogwarts in the Snow is a wonderful addition the Studios Tour, and well worth visiting. The overlay is just that, an overlay, and doesn’t really add much to the tour–rather changing what is already there to a more festive theme. For that reason, it is probably not worth visiting again for anyone who has been recently. Conversely, if your only opportunity to visit the tour falls during this season, you will not miss out on anything that you would see during the rest of the year thanks to the Christmas extras. We loved our time at the Studios Tour, as always, and still look forward to visiting again, proving that this is more than a one-trip attraction. I can’t wait to see what they do next.
Admission to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter was provided for promotional purposes.