Which Harry Potter World is Better: London vs. Orlando

Comparing the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando

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Being a devoted Harry Potter fan can be expensive. Meaning that as a devoted Harry Potter fan, I obviously have to traverse the UK in search of all things Harry Potter (most importantly the studio tour in London).

I am also a devoted Disney fan, which means I have spent countless years at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. But I never made it down the street to Universal Studios.

Never, that is, until my husband said can’t we go to the Harry Potter World at Universal Studios? And I laughed and said no we were going to the Harry Potter London experience, and we just can’t afford to do both (and Disney World)…

Well, several years and no kids later… we have now done both the Harry Potter London experience and the Harry Potter Orlando experience. And I’m here to compare and contrast them for you, tell you which (or both!) is worth visiting, and which (or both…) to spend your money on!

So here is my comparison of London vs. Orlando, as well as tips and planning advice so that you can get the absolute most out of your (expensive) trip to the magical world of Harry Potter.

London Harry Potter Studios Tour Overview

The Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour is located 20 minutes outside of downtown London, in Leavesden, England. It is fairly simple to get to the Harry Potter tour from London using public transportation.

The tour takes place at the actual studios where they filmed much of the Harry Potter movies. You can see authentic sets, costumes and props from the movies, as well as buy Harry Potter souvenirs, try butterbeer, and find lots of photo ops.

This experience is like a museum, with behind the scenes videos and artifacts from the movies.

  • Note: The makers of the Harry Potter Studio tour just opened a new tour in Tokyo, Japan, similar to the tour offered in London.

Orlando Wizarding World of Harry Potter Overview


Hogsmeade Village at Universal’s Islands of Adventure park in Orlando, FL.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction at Universal’s Orlando Resort is actually part of two separate theme parks (soon to be three!).

These parks are right next to each other, and you can easily walk from one to the other, or ride the Hogwarts Express train between parks if you have a park-to-park ticket.

If you only have a single park ticket, you can only visit one side of the Orlando Harry Potter World.

This is an immersive theme park experience, with rides, shops, restaurants, plus the rest of the Universal parks to enjoy.

Sites: Harry Potter World London vs. Orlando

Diagon Alley in London

Diagon Alley in Orlando

You will be able to step into the world of Harry Potter at both the London and Orlando experiences. You will see some of the same sites (for example, Gringotts Bank and Diagon Alley) at both Harry Potter worlds. But each one is unique in its own way.

Here are some of the sites you will see at the London and Orlando Wizarding World:

Diagon Alley

London Ollivanders set design.

Orlando Ollivanders gift shop.

You will see a lot of similar looking shops at Orlando’s Wizarding World vs. the Harry Potter studios in London. The set of Diagon Alley was my favorite part of the Harry Potter tour in London, AND the Diagon Alley section of the park was my favorite part of the Wizarding World at Universal!

They both have Ollivanders, Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour, and Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. The difference is, the set in London is just that, a set. It is one room of the tour, with adorable facades that you can walk past, but not in.

Whereas at the Harry Potter world in Orlando, Diagon Alley is an entire neighborhood of the park, with TONS of stores you can go inside and shop around in.

For this reason, Diagon Alley in Orlando is better than Diagon Alley in London, although it should be noted that each section of the gift shop at the end of the London tour is designed to be like the stores in the Harry Potter series. So in that sense, you can actually shop in Ollivanders at the London studio tour.

Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour facade, London

Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour, Orlando

Gringotts Bank

The set of Gringotts Bank, Harry Potter Studio Tour, London

Gringotts money exchange, Universal Orlando

Actor Warwick Davis said his favorite part of the London studio tour is the set of Gringotts Bank, and it was truly an awe-inspiring set to walk into. And it was my favorite part of the tour too! That is until we walked into the next set, which was Diagon Alley, and I decided Gringotts was my second favorite.

Now, the Gringotts at Universal… The actual Gringotts Bank (and centerpiece of Diagon Alley) houses the Escape from Gringotts ride. And while I went on the ride, I went in the (much faster) single rider line, which basically cut out all the fun interiors you would see if you instead stood in line for 40 minutes…

I was sorely disappointed with the lack of Gringotts grandeur, until I learned later that it’s there, you just miss it if you don’t wait in line…

So the only Gringotts we experienced at the Universal Harry Potter World was the little tiny bank we went into to exchange our muggle money, and it was less than impressive. But again, that’s because the actual Gringotts is in the ride queue.


Harry Potter Studio tour Knight Bus in London

Universal Studios Knight Bus in Orlando

There is a very brief section of the Harry Potter world in Orlando that is the “London” section. London is in the Universal Studios park, and is where you will arrive if you take the Hogwarts Express train from Islands of Adventure.

In the London section of the park, you will find the Knight Bus, King’s Cross Station, and #12 Grimmauld Place. The fun part about Orlando’s Knight Bus is that you can talk to the driver and… umm… Dre Head (the shrunken head from the movie).

There are no actors to talk to at the (real) London studios tour, but you do get to see Harry’s house, #4 Privet Dr, which you can’t see at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando.

The real King’s Cross Station in London

King’s Cross Station replica at Universal Orlando

One big thing that you can do in (the real) London that you can’t do at the Harry Potter World in Orlando is take a photo at Platform 9 3/4, both at the actual King’s Cross Station (though not on the actual platform), and at the studio tour.

There are tons of Platform 9 3/4 photo ops on the set of the Hogwarts Express at the Harry Potter tour, and you can also look on the train and spot “Ron” and “Harry” eating ALL the sweets on the trolley!

There is a moment when you are in line for the Hogwarts Express ride in Orlando that you “run” through Platform 9 3/4, and supposedly if you do it at the right angle, the mirror there makes it look like you are running right through the wall. There were too many people trying to get in line for the ride when we were there that we didn’t really notice this ourselves.


Zonko’s Joke Shop (or is it…?) in Hogsmeade, Universal Orlando

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando wins the prize for Hogsmeade, as there is no Hogsmeade Village at the London studio tour. However, I did enjoy the Diagon Alley side of Harry Potter World much more than the Hogsmeade Village side.

There are a lot of shops in Hogsmeade Village, but the only one that’s really unique from the books is Honeydukes Sweet Shop. This shop is really great to visit, because they have everything you ever read about eating in the Harry Potter universe, like pumpkin pasties and exploding Bonbons (though it should be noted there is a “Honeydukes” section of the gift shop at the London studio tour).

The one shop you can’t go in in Hogsmeade is Zonko’s Joke Shop…the only door is the exit! We walked around and around to find the entrance, but the joke was on us… We finally realized that it was actually just part of Honeydukes on the inside.

The Forbidden Forest

You can walk through the set of the Forbidden Forest at Harry Potter Studio tour in London. There is no Forbidden Forest area to walk through at the Harry Potter World in Orlando (though you venture into it during the Forbidden Journey ride and Hagrid’s Magical Creatures ride).

The Forbidden Forest set is really cool, but I didn’t take any pictures of it when we were there, so I currently have nothing to share with you on that (#nexttime).


Hogwarts Castle model at London Harry Potter Studios

Life size Hogwarts Castle (housing the Forbidden Journey ride) at Universal Orlando

As probably the main attraction of any Harry Potter World, Hogwarts Castle is prominently featured at both the Harry Potter Studio tour and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

The Hogwarts you see at the studios is the scale model they used for filming. It is huge (for a model), and so fun and magical to walk around and see all the different angles of Hogwarts’ grounds and all the little details they included.

Conversely, the Hogwarts in Orlando is life sized, and you can walk into it (but only if you are going to ride the Forbidden Journey ride)! It is the centerpiece of the Islands of Adventure Wizarding World, and is perfect for photo backdrops to remember your trip.


The giant Hungarian Horntail dragon in the Harry Potter Studio Tour lobby

The fire-breathing Gringotts dragon at Universal Studios

No Harry Potter World is complete without at least one dragon, and both the studios and the Wizarding World have one.

When you first enter the Harry Potter Studio tour lobby, you are greeted by a ginormous Hungarian Horntail hanging just above your head! It’s crazy how large it is!

Universal has their own dragon, clutching the Gringotts Bank building in Diagon Alley. You can’t get as close to this dragon, but it’s even cooler (or hotter…). Every ten minutes you hear the dragon start to grumble, and then fire shoots out of his mouth! And yes, you can feel the heat of that fire!

Attractions: Harry Potter World London vs. Orlando

A stamp in the Harry Potter Studio tour passport book

Postcards stamped and sent from the “Owl Post” in Hogsmeade Village, Universal

There are a lot of fun things to do at the Harry Potter Worlds besides just seeing all the sites from the book! You will definitely find more things to do in Universal, as it is a theme park, and has rides and shows. But there are also unique things you can do at the studio tour that you can’t do in Orlando.

Harry Potter Rides at Universal

There are five rides in the Wizarding World section of Universal:

  • The Forbidden Journey-Inside Hogwarts Castle at Islands of Adventure. This ride is somewhat of a cross between a roller coaster and a 4-D movie ride. I personally think it combines the best of both worlds! It was one of my favorite rides at Universal.

  • Hagrid’s Magical Creature Motobike Adventure-This is a new roller coaster at Islands of Adventure, and I’ve heard REALLY good things about it! The wait time was only 40 minutes when the park first opened for resort guests (1 hour early), so that’s not too bad of a wait. But the line can get really long, although people have said It. Is. Worth. It. We actually didn’t ride any roller coasters… because I guess we are getting too old for that…

  • Flight of the Hippogriff-This is a smaller coaster at Islands of Adventure. From what I’ve heard, this is good for younger kids and people who don’t want too many crazy thrills, but otherwise is worth skipping.

  • Escape from Gringotts-Inside Gringotts Bank at Universal Studios. This ride is similar to the Forbidden Journey, combing thrills and high-tech interaction. It was fun, but not too scary.

  • The Hogwarts Express-Goes between parks. You need a park-to-park ticket to ride it. The journey is slightly different each way, but it’s not enough to really matter if you ride it both ways or not. If you only ride it one direction, I would ride it from Universal Studios (Diagon Alley) to Islands of Adventure (Hogsmeade).

The Wand Experiences at Universal

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has a fun wand experience you can participate in at the Ollivanders Wand Shop, either in Diagon Alley or in Hogsmeade Village. It’s basically a show about wand lore, and the wand will “choose” a wizard during the experience.

In addition to this, all of the wands sold at Universal Studios are interactive wands. Which means you can actually use them throughout the Wizarding World to perform “magic.” For instance there is an umbrella outside of the bathrooms in Diagon Alley that will pour out rain if you flick your wand at it.

These interactive wand experiences are something unique to the Harry Potter World experience at Universal. However, the downside is that you cannot buy a regular wand. You have to buy an interactive one, which is more expensive than a regular want.

Harry Potter Shows at Universal

Tales of Beedle the Bard street performance in Diagon Alley, Universal Orlando

Another thing you will see a lot of at the Wizarding World in Universal is street performances. These will pop up at various times throughout the day. When we were there we came across a performance of the “Tales of Beedle the Bard” in Diagon Alley, and a frog choir in Hogsmeade.

These are fun extra perks that you will not find at the London Harry Potter tour.

Owl Post in Hogsmeade Village

One final activity that is unique to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando is sending cards via “Owl Post.”

There is an “Owl Post” kiosk in Hogsmeade Village where you can buy and send postcards or regular cards with a special postmark. It’s a little tricky to find, as it is not the Owl Post store. There is a little kiosk right outside of the store (next to Ollivander’s Wand Shop).

You can buy cards or postcards, and you can also buy stamps or bring your own stamps. I thought they would have Harry Potter themed stamps, but they just had regular postage stamps.

There is a station with quill pens for writing your letters, and then you can drop them in the Owl Post box. But be sure to get them postmarked before you drop them in the box!

You can also get letters postmarked and then take them home to mail them, if you don’t have someone’s address on you at the time. Postcards come in packs of 10.

Authentic Costumes at the Harry Potter Studios

Hagrid’s and Professor Flitwick’s costumes in the Great Hall at the Harry Potter Studio tour, London

The Harry Potter Studio tour in London has its own special sites and activities. Something that you will see here but not in Orlando is the actual costumes worn in the movies.

There are tons of costumes from throughout the film series on display at the studio tour. You will see costumes from a bunch of different Harry Potter characters standing in the actual sets where they filmed the movies!

Behind the Scenes Footage & Actual Movie Props

In addition to costumes and sets, you will also see tons of movie props at the studio tour. There is behind the scenes footage showing how certain props were created, like the Gringotts Goblins. While you watch the footage you can also see actual goblin masks, and equipment from the studio where they were created.

You will see all sorts of props from the movies, from the Maurader’s Map to giant chocolate ice cream towers!

Harry Potter World Photo Ops

There are certainly plenty of photo ops at both London and Orlando, but you will find more specially designed photos ops on the studio tour. Here you can take a picture at “Platform 9 3/4,” fly on a broomstick, or post your face on a wanted poster.

One of the highlights of the studio tour is taking green screen footage of yourself flying on a broomstick.

At the Orlando Harry Potter World, there is so much to see that we did not even see a photography shop, but I have read that they will take moving pictures of you there, so there’s that.

The Making of Harry Potter “Passports”

One special free souvenir you can get at the London studio tour is a passport book. Ask for one at the information desk when you first enter the studios.

Then throughout the tour you will find different spots where you can emboss a stamp into your passport. You will just have to stand in line with a bunch of 10 year olds… #noshame

Food: Harry Potter World London vs. Orlando

Ice cream from the Chocolate Frog Cafe, Harry Potter Studios, London

Ice cream from Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour, Universal Orlando

The food in both London and Orlando is pretty good! Although I will say the Wizarding World in Orlando gets the win for overall better food, more options, and more “on theme” food.

Places to Eat at London Harry Potter Studios

There are 4 places to eat at the Harry Potter Studio tour in London:

  • Main Food Hall- The main food hall is in the lobby of the Harry Potter Studios. You will find traditional British fare here, as well as your typical theme park food. We ate here and got fish and chips and tomato soup. I was really surprised by the quality of the food here!

  • The Chocolate Frog Cafe-Definitely stop here on your Harry Potter tour! You can get all sorts of instagram worthy desserts! We got ice cream and a cupcake. The cupcake was ok, but the ice cream was SO good!! Seriously, it was my favorite part of the tour. Plus, they coated everything in edible gold glitter, which was SO pretty!

  • The Hub Cafe-This is just a generic Starbucks Cafe in the lobby if you need to fill up on coffee and pastries.

  • The Backlot Cafe-The Backlot Cafe is halfway through the tour, in case you get hungry or just need a break. This is the only place at the studio tour where you can try butterbeer. We did not stop here on our tour, so I’ll have to try their butterbeer next time!

You can also book a Harry Potter afternoon tea and eat it under the enchanted ceiling! Note that you do need a tour ticket in order to attend the afternoon tea.

Places to Eat at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

There are two main restaurants at the Orlando Harry Potter World, one in each park:

  • The Leaky Cauldron-Located in Diagon Alley (Universal Studios)

  • The Three Broomsticks- Located in Hogsmeade Village (Islands of Adventure)

Both restaurants serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. They have traditional British food, such as the ploughman’s lunch, fish and chips, or shepherd’s pie. They also serve butterbeer and pumpkin juice.

It’s really fun to eat in one of these restaurants because they are themed to look like they would if you were actually in the world of Harry Potter. I was also impressed with how quickly they got everyone through in the middle of the lunch rush.

In addition to the main restaurants, there are also food stands, butterbeer shops, and several specialty shops:

  • Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour-Located in Diagon Alley (Universal Studios). Hard and soft ice cream in unique flavors like butterbeer, chocolate chili, or earl gray lavender.

  • Honeydukes Candy Shop-Located in Hogsmeade Village (Islands of Adventure). Every candy you ever read about in Harry Potter, like exploding bonbons and chocolate frogs. They also have lots of Harry Potter World pastries, like pumpkin pasties and cauldron cakes.

Butterbeer & Pumpkin Juice

Cold butterbeer

Hot butterbeer

We have not tried the butterbeer at the Harry Potter Studio tour, because we didn’t realize that you can ONLY get butterbeer at the Backlot Cafe on the tour. But I imagine it tastes quite similar to the classic butterbeer at Universal.

You can also get butterbeer ice cream at the Backlot Cafe. At Universal, you can get butterbeer ice cream at Florean Fortescue’s.

Universal Studios definitely wins the butterbeer war, because not only can you get it literally EVERYWHERE around the Wizarding World (not just one place), they also have multiple forms of butterbeer. AND pumpkin juice:

  • Hot Butterbeer-Bascially like a creamy butterscotchy hot chocolate. I don’t super like carbonated drinks, so I tried the hot butterbeer, and it was delicious.

  • Cold Butterbeer- AKA your traditional butterbeer. Jason tried this at the Leaky Cauldron and really enjoyed it. I also tasted some of his and liked it, despite the carbonation. I love how it has all the creamy foam on top!

  • Frozen Butterbeer-We didn’t try this kind, but some people like to argue it is the best version of butterbeer (then again, other people will argue for hot butterbeer). It’s basically a butterbeer slushy.

  • Pumpkin Juice-I was so excited to get to try pumpkin juice, because I love all things pumpkin (and it wasn’t carbonated)! It was super sweet, but really good (I read that someone watered hers down a bit to mellow out the sweetness, which I think is a brilliant idea). It tasted a lot like apple cider, but with a hint of pumpkin. This drink would be perfect to enjoy during the holidays!

Shopping: Harry Potter World London vs. Orlando

Honeydukes Candy Shop, Universal Orlando

Inside of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, Universal Orlando

There are plenty of places to spend extra money at both the London and Orlando Harry Potter Worlds.

The gift shop at the end of the tour in London is huge, and in my opinion, the best place to buy Harry Potter souvenirs in the UK. They have multiple sections of the gift shop, each themed like a store from the wizard universe. So this is your chance to buy a wand from Ollivander or candy from Honeydukes.

There are also little gift shops sprinkled throughout the tour, like a holiday themed shop near Platform 9 3/4.

As great as the shopping at the London Harry Potter Studios are, there is just so much more at Universal!

Here, you can walk in an actual Honeydukes shop. Or an actual Ollivanders (or two). In fact, you might even be chosen by the wand! It is just so cool to be able to walk into all of the shops you read about in the books (or saw in the movies) and buy real life wizard world products!

Cost: Harry Potter World London vs. Orlando

Gringotts money exchanged from muggle money in Diagon Alley, Orlando

I’m just going to disregard the cost of plane tickets, because depending on where you are coming from, a flight to London and a flight to Orlando are going to be very different in costs.

But as far as everything else, the London Harry Potter tour is way cheaper than the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando.

Ticket Cost

Ticket prices for Universal vary greatly, but an average one park ticket will cost you about $120 for one day. But you really want to get a park-to-park ticket so you can ride the Hogwarts Express and experience both Wizarding Worlds, which will cost about $175 per person for one day (yeesh, these add up fast!).

Consequently, a ticket to the studio tour will only cost about $60 a person, which in comparison is A LOT cheaper!


Either way, you will have to stay at a hotel, and you can find good prices on hotels in both Orlando and London. But if you stay at a Universal hotel (which I suggest), you get free transportation to the parks, plus 1 hour early admission.

If you’re not staying at a Universal hotel, you can just take a ride share service to the park. We used a lot of Uber rides in Orlando, and it was super easy and affordable!

To get to the studio tour from London, you can take public transportation or you can book a tour that includes transportation.

The included transportation is easier (especially when they shut down the one line you need on the day of your tour!), but it will be cheaper to just use the public transportation in London to Watford Junction. You can then get a free shuttle to the studios.

Extra Costs

One reason I think the Orlando Harry Potter World costs more is because there is just so much more to buy!

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of great things to buy at the studio tour, but there is just More. Everything. at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

More food to try, more activities to participate in, more shops to explore.

Then there’s also the fact that you can only buy interactive wands at Universal’s Harry Potter World (even at the airport shop. We checked.), which cost a lot more. You can buy cheaper (muggle ordinary) wands at the studio tour in London.

And one more added cost at Universal is that you have to store you bags in a locker for most of the rides. There are small free lockers you can use, but these are very small. I had to get a bigger locker to fit my camera bag, which meant that almost every ride I went on required a $3 locker charge. Or for Jason to hold my bags while I went in the single rider line… Or that!

Which Harry Potter World is Better?

Afternoon tea under the enchanted ceiling at the Harry Potter Studio tour, London

Outside of Honeydukes Candy Store in Hogsmeade Village, Universal

So…which Harry Potter World is better?

That’s really hard to say, as they’re both so different. Here’s a recap of the pros & cons of each:

London Studio Tour


  • Actual sets, costumes and props used in filming.

  • Located in London/the UK, where there are lots of other Harry Potter things to do on a trip there!

  • More photo ops.

  • Most of the tour is inside, so the weather doesn’t affect it.

  • Free bag check!

  • Cheaper overall than a visit to Universal.


  • Smaller and less interactive.

  • Less immersive.

  • Only one chance to try butterbeer!

  • No rides.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter


  • Super immersive experience!

  • SO much fun food to try, including multiple forms of butterbeer.

  • So many extra things to do, like send Owl Post, see shows, or use wands.

  • Cool rides!


  • Expensive as heck…

  • Only sells (expensive) interactive wands.

  • Outside in Florida… so potentially HOT, or potentially being blown away in a hurricane…

  • Not in actual England.

  • More crowded.

At the end of the day, I think both Harry Potter Worlds are worth visiting, as they both offer something so unique and special.

Visit the Harry Potter Studios in London if you want to see where and how they made the movies.

Visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando if you want to be a wizard for a day (or two).

Tips for Visiting London's Harry Potter Tour

Set of the Gryffindor common room, London studio tour

Here are some final tips to make sure you get the most out of your visit to the London Harry Potter Studios:

  • Feel free to dress up!

  • Pick up a free passport souvenir at the information desk.

  • Make sure you get butterbeer at the Backlot Cafe.

  • Do other Harry Potter things while you’re in London/UK.

  • Plan to spend at least half a day here, and take your time.

  • The Studios open at 10 am daily, and are open till 8 pm in the winter, and later over the summer. Note that the last tour starts several hours before the closing time.

Tips for Visiting Orlando's Harry Potter World

Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, Universal Orlando

Here are some final tips to help you plan the most magical trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando:

  • Save time in line by using the single rider line.

    • But also know that you miss out on some of the sites if you skip the line…

  • Get a park-to-park ticket so you can ride the Hogwarts Express between parks.

  • Stay at a Universal hotel for free transportation and early admission to the park.

  • Pay attention to which park is open early, as only one each day will have early park admission.

  • If you have a choice, do Universal Studios first, Islands of Adventure second.

  • Try to only bring a small bag, so it can fit in the free lockers (not the $3 lockers!).

  • Don’t forget to see the rest of the parks too!

  • The parks open at 9 am daily, with various closing times starting at 7 pm. One park each day will have early park admission for hotel guests from 8-9 am.

I hope you enjoyed my review of both the London and Orlando Harry Potter experiences, and can plan your own magical trip to each unique destination in the near future!

Any more questions?

If you have any questions about visiting the London or Orlando Harry Potter experience, feel free to email me or comment below! You can also share your own tips and/or opinions for each place.

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