We are going to take a look at Hobbiton in New Zealand and the Warner Bros Harry Potter Studios in Leavesden in the UK and compare both experiences. Who’s gonna be the winner?
— WB Tour London (@wbtourlondon) 22 octobre 2016
— Hobbiton™ Movie Set (@HobbitonTours) 2 décembre 2015
The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Harry Potter saga are certainly some of the most inspiring novels ever written so it was only logical they would be turned into some of the most decade-defining movies of the early 21st century.
The good news is that hardcore fans and curious tourists alike can have a taste of both universes by visiting the very places where the movies were filmed.
1. The Location
- Hobbiton: located on New Zealand’s northern island, near the town of Matamata, there is no wonder the Lord of the Ring’s movie team picked this specific location. The area is pristine with its vast green pastures where hundreds of sheeps are frolicking and old and majestic trees are paving the way. The story says that it was actually the giant tree in the middle of the set that actually made Peter Jackson and his team settle down there and buy the land to a family of long-established farmers as that tree was a core feature of the Shire, home of the Hobbits, in the books of J.R.R Tolkien.
- The location is therefore a great asset to get engrossed in the Lord of the Ring’s universe and for a couple hours you might just forget that Hobbits and Elves do not actually exist. After your visit, you might even want to linger in the countryside to make the most of its quiet and charming beauty.
- Warner Bros Harry Potter Studios: located in the town of Leavesden in Hertfordshire, a few dozen miles away from London, the place is not particularly stunning as it only comprises film studios, as the name might suggest. There does not seem to be much to do in Leavesden either and most tour visitors only get to the studios back and forth. Do not expect anything majestic from the outside then as it only looks like a big warehouse.
HOBBITON: 1 / HARRY POTTER: 0
Hobbiton wins this round as being entirely open air adds a genuine charm to the visit the Harry Potter Studios never come close to.
- Hobbiton: the place visitors get to tour is the exact set that was created by the Lord of the Ring’s team and the same set they used to film The Hobbit in more recent years. Guides will explain to you the secrets behind the making of such a visual wonder as well as anecdotes from the actual filming but you might figure that Hobbiton is somehow a village in its own right, not a place to exhibit props.
- Most of the Hobbit houses have been thought-out to the very last detail to look different and befitting to different kind of Hobbits but almost all of them are empty so do not expect to see Gandalf’s Costume or Bilbo’s Ring as they are not part of the experience. Hobbiton is also obviously dedicated to the Hobbits’ universe only and most of the iconic scenes of the movies have not been filmed here while some actors never even set foot on the location.
- Harry Potter: the Warner Bros Harry Potter Studios are as big in size as they are abundant in props, costumes and sets. All eight movies were indeed filmed here and the Harry Potter’s team created endless pieces of wonderful props to give life to this magical universe as well as real-size sets, such as the Gryffindor’s Common Room or Diagon Alley, that they then coupled with CGI and real-life locations throughout the UK.
- Visiting the studios is an absolute delight as it allows for amazing experiences, from climbing on an animated broomstick to getting inside the Hogwart’s Express, but it also gives any proper Harry Potter’s fans the sensation to get closer to their favourite characters and a sense of belonging to the universe for a couple hours. You will discover the secrets behind the creation of some of the movies’ monsters and magical creatures too.
HOBBITON: 0 / HARRY POTTER: 1
The Harry Potter Studios win over Hobbiton as there is much more variety in its collections.
3. The Prices
- Hobbiton: the $79 entrance fee (about US$60) for the Movie Set tour might deter some aspiring visitors but they are well worth it. The price includes a full guided tour as well as a beverage (I would recommend the cider) at the Dragon’s Inn, which is an experience in itself. You might get on the bus from Matamata to get to Hobbiton but it is always easier to rent your own car and get there by yourself. Be warned though that prices from Rotorua are a bit more expensive as you will be further down the island.
- You can get more information on the tours here: Hobbiton’s available tours
- Harry Potter: get ready to pay £35 (around US$45) for a regular adult ticket or £44,95 (about US$55) for a complete studio package. Although this is a money well-spent, you will have to consider spending more money if you want to try Butterbeer (£3.95 for a small cup), if you want to borrow a digital guide (£4.95), if you want to take pictures on a broomstick or simply if you need to get to the studios by shuttle bus. (£2.50 return fare)
- You can get more information on the fares here: Harry Potter Studios’ Ticket Information
HOBBITON: 1 / HARRY POTTER: 0
The prices may be quite similar but Hobbiton seems to provide more bangs for your bucks when the Harry Potter Studios will have you spend much more money than you would have expected to make the most of your visit.
4. The Memorabilia
- Hobbiton: you will find two gift shops around Hobbiton, one on site and one at the nearby town of Matamata. Lord of the Ring’s fans could be disappointed as most souvenirs deal with the Hobbit rather than with its predecessor but they will find plenty of gifts they could bring back home nonetheless.
- Die-hard fans might of course want to buy a genuine Ring (about Us$100) or Evenstar’s earrings (around US$120), created after the pendant Arwen gives to Aragorn, but tighter budgets can focus on more affordable souvenirs such as Hobbiton Ale or maps of the Shire. Those travelling throughout New-Zealand might want to purchase the Lord of the Ring’s location guidebook, even though snapping pictures of the pages you’re interested in could also work…
- Harry Potter: welcome to the paradise of merchandise! Once you step into the Studios’ gift shop, you will undoubtedly feel overwhelmed by the profusion of merchandise, and probably by its prices too. There is everything you’ve ever dreamed of and even things you probably never thought of before: a replica of Ollivander’s shop with almost every character’s wand (even Fenrir Greyback’s or Mondigus Fletcher’s), a whole section dedicated to Quidditch, jewellery, notebooks, clothes etc. You will also find original candies from the movies such as Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans or Chocolate Frogs but they are quite small and overpriced.
- For more information, click on that link: Harry Potter’s Merchandise
HOBBITON: 0 / HARRY POTTER: 1
Harry Potter wins this round as there is simply no end to its range of merchandise while Hobbiton has less to offer.
So that’s a tie in the end.
HOBBITON : 2 / HARRY POTTER : 2
Whether you are a Lord of the Ring’s fan or a Harry Potter’s fan, and especially if you are a fan of both universes, these are definitely places you should get on your bucket list. While I personally have a thing for Hobbiton, as the overall experience was genuinely magic to me as I could feel I actually was in the Middle Earth, you should definitely pay a visit to the Harry Potter Studios too for its amazing exhibitions.
Here are a few tips you might also find useful to plan your trip:
- the Lord of the Rings: if you are planning to spend some time in New-Zealand and want to see actual locations, be sure to get to the Tongariro National Park where you will get a glimpse of real-life Mount Doom but also pay a visit to the Weta Cave in Wellington, where lots of props and costumes are exhibited. You can pay to get inside the cave but the entrance to the shop is free.
- Harry Potter: tickets to the studios are usually sold out well in advance but there is a way you can get last minute tickets by refreshing the booking page regularly. Some people might cancel their visit and the studios will bring more tickets to the public so keep a watchful eye on their website and act quick!
- You can also save money on your trip by avoiding group tours and using public transport to get to Watford Junction, when the shuttle will await you. Bus 142 will take you there among other buses so try and take a look at bus routes before your trip, even though they obviously will take longer than the tube.