At 6,020 pieces, the new microscale 71043 Hogwarts Castle is the LEGO set with the second-highest part count ever, exceeded only by last year’s 75192 UCS Millennium Falcon at 7,541 pieces. This massive Hogwarts is part of the new wave of LEGO Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts sets, including the minifig-scale 75954 Hogwarts Great Hall. In what is sure also to be one of our longest LEGO set reviews ever, we’re immersing ourselves in J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World as we take a close look at this massive set, which retails for $399.99 and will be available on September 1st (August 15 for LEGO VIP Program members).
Packaging, instructions, and sticker sheets
The Ultimate Collector Series branding and packaging is usually limited to LEGO Star Wars sets, and packaging for very large LEGO sets still varies widely across themes, with LEGO Technic sets like the Bugatti Chiron featuring premium packaging and the spiral-bound instruction book for the Falcon nestled in its own tray atop four interior boxes. LEGO used neither of these approaches for Hogwarts, with the first thirteen bags along with the instructions in one smaller box inside the overall box, and then the remainder of the 37 bags loose in the box. The secondary box is unprinted, and presumably serves primarily to reinforce the structure of the outer box. Thankfully, LEGO seems to have improved its packaging process since the UCS Falcon, and the interior box includes a logical group of bags rather than the random assortments in the four Falcon boxes.
The sheer scale of the build becomes evident when you lay out all of the bags before beginning to build. Unlike the Falcon, every bag is numbered separately — there are no groups of bags. As a result, the numbers go all the way up to 37 rather than 17 for the groups of Falcon parts. This makes the build process somewhat faster and easier, since you’re not dealing with quite so many parts at once.
Instead of a single, large instruction book, the set includes four standard instruction booklets, which come in their own packaging along with the four sticker sheets
Each instruction booklet includes detail shots of the key locations you’ll build using that booklet, and the first instruction booklet has several pages of introductory material about Hogwarts, along with background from the LEGO Harry Potter design team — model designer Justin Ramsden and graphic designer Crystal Marie Fontan in particular. Justin explains that the part count (6,020) is a reference to his favorite LEGO Castle set, 6020 Magic Shop from 1993, which also featured a wizard.
Crystal features prominently in the introduction, stating that “Small details … can only be achieved via stickers at this scale.” We suspect that many LEGO builders will quibble with this assertion, and balk at the four huge sticker sheets included with this set. In addition to designs that we’ve come to expect as stickers in the absence of a printed part, like the Hogwarts house banners in the Great Hall, the set also includes large stickers that get applied to big panels and wall sections, including two sets of doors, various brick-work details, and a dizzying array of portraits and other wall art. Many of these designs add little to the completed model, or might have been achievable with a brick-built solution (though of course at a higher part count that could have tipped it past the Falcon).
To be clear, the sticker designs themselves are excellent, and fit perfectly with past and present Harry Potter designs — we just felt that many were unnecessary or could have been achieved differently.
The build, techniques, & new parts
While the non-premium packaging and sheer volume of stickers were an initial disappointment when we opened the box, the real fun of any LEGO set is in the build. The first instruction booklet covers the base under the Great Hall and Dumbledore’s tower, spanning bags 1 through 7. We’ve come to expect Technic beams sandwiched between plates in any large LEGO set, and this one is no different. But to achieve the complex angles of the magical castle, there’s a bit of magic in the building techniques as well.
The off-grid sections of the base are connected to the main section with hinge plates (for the large section next to the Chamber of Secrets) and with A-shaped wedge plates for the small boathouse on the water’s edge. Two types of large BURP pieces in dark tan raise the base another six bricks high, with various details attached to add variety and texture.
A lattice of Technic beams drops into the middle of the BURP structure, creating an incredibly sturdy base for the upper section to come.
Large, light gray plates then cover over the Technic lattice and the essentially empty interior of the base. The Chamber of Secrets is also complete at this stage, since it’s part of the base.
The circular entrance to the Chamber of Secrets stands to the left of the chamber’s cutaway, built from a rather complex structure that includes Technic liftarms between which a panel with the door is inserted. At first, I thought the door would slide up and down, or that Dumbledore’s large tower would be anchored to the Technic pieces, but neither of these is the case, leaving me rather baffled as to why the door structure is so parts-intensive and complex.
After completing the base, we move onto the Great Hall and Dumbledore’s tower, which consume bags 8 through 21 and all of the second instruction booklet. The highlight of the Great Hall is the vertical stained-glass windows. Each window is built from several different colors of transparent pieces, connected with dark gray grill pieces, attached at their base to trans-clear headlight bricks (the set includes 46 of these relatively uncommon pieces) and secured in place at the top by the brand new half-arch pieces we first saw in the prototype of 75954 Hogwarts Great Hall at Toy Fair back in February.
LEGO tell us that the two new arch pieces were not made available in 75954 due to price considerations (removing them lowered the production cost by a drastic amount, keeping the final set to $100 at retail). However, we’re glad the arch elements didn’t get dropped from LEGO’s lineup entirely, as they’re perfect for creating these windows at this smaller scale.
The quantity included here helps make up for the lack in the earlier set. The set includes 29 of the straight, 1×2 arches, as well as 16 of the corner arches. (The set also includes 4 “tent cheese” slopes — technically 1×1 double convex slopes — that LEGO did end up including plenty of in the minifig-scale Great Hall set released in July.)
The small tower on top of the Great Hall includes several innovative techniques, with inkwell/”nipple” pieces that provide an inverted attachment point for plates to which decorative silver tooth pieces are in turn attached.
Round towers can be particularly challenging with LEGO, but Dumbledore’s Tower incorporates some space-age techniques we saw in the LEGO Ideas 21309 NASA Apollo Saturn V set released last year.
Panels of shallow, rounded slopes attach to brackets in the square core, with 2-wide sections completing the curve.
The top of the tower includes inverted cheese slopes that serve as corbels, architectural elements that support a floor above that juts out slightly.
Dumbledore’s office at the top of the tower is relatively straightforward, but I struggled to attach the wedge plates in a way that makes the conical roof smooth — the plates leave gaps, and the whole sub-assembly wants to pop off when you try to adjust the gaps.
The courtyard in front of the Great Hall and central tower use a new printed window piece — the set includes 29 of this new printed element.
The second half of the build begins with the base for the remainder of the set. This section spans only six bags (22-27), and the third instruction booklet is the shortest at just over a hundred pages. Again, sandwiched Technic beams are topped with BURPs to elevate another section of the castle.
The area not covered by BURPs serves as the base for rooms with the flying keys and the giant chess set from the first book in the Harry Potter series.
The large building on the upper area of this section includes the library and a house common room, with an exterior wall that uses the same stained glass technique from the Great Hall. Two smaller towers stand on either side of this structure and use entirely different techniques from the larger tower next to the Great Hall. The lower section of the towers do have curved panels attached to brackets, but the difference at the top is particularly striking. The corbels are built by attaching cheese slopes to headlight bricks at an angle, and the rear quarter of the tower uses some complex geometry to integrate with the corner of the roof.
The next layer up is no less complex, with 1×1 outer sections of the curved wall attached to 1×1 round plates with a handle, in turn attached to 1×1 clips. Because the set uses this curved wall technique in several places, it includes 23 of the round plates with handles.
Even the spires of the smallest 4×4 towers at the back of this structure use an unusual 1×1 core with narrow strips sandwiched between long slope panels.
To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the LEGO brick, Hogwarts incorporates 13 red 2×4 bricks in places like the interior of roof sections. This photo also illustrates how well-incorporated the round towers are into the angled roofline.
In case you hadn’t noticed by this point in the build, the odd width of the library/dormitory building becomes obvious once you start building the section above the front door. Throughout the build, odd-colored pieces in lime green, orange, medium azure, and red (like those 2×4 bricks) in non-visible portions of the build make it easier to follow the instructions and ensure that you’re placing bricks in the right places.
Once the second half of the castle is complete, it connects to the first half via Technic axles that insert into Technic pin holes in the base.
Importantly, these are Technic axles, not pins — they don’t clip in place, and there is a slight gap between the two sections. A gray wedge plate in the walkway next to the round tower and the end of the covered bridge flushly abut to their counterparts, making it evident that the gap is expected.
The finished model
If you make it through a dozen or more hours of building, through all those repetitive stained-glass sub-assemblies and hidden clip connections on tower corbels, you’ve earned the right to take a deep breath and admire what is ultimately a stunning model of Hogwarts castle.
In addition to the main model, Hogwarts also includes several smaller models — a group of five magical boats, the Hungarian horntail dragon, the Whomping Willow, and Hagrid’s hut.
And this LEGO Hogwarts is stunning from just about every angle. The model includes layers of details from the ground level to the top of the tallest spire, with the boathouse, a path up the slope to the courtyard, clock on the side of the Great Hall, and Dumbledore’s tower looming over everything.
The second section of the castle is no less impressive in its level of detail, with a bridge that connects from the library/dormitory building to the courtyard.
The bridge is scaled perfectly to the microfigures, and looks like a Roman aqueduct, just like the bridge in the movies.
The courtyard is surrounded by an awning, with some really great use of 1×2 wedge bows for the interior corners. The wall behind the clock above the courtyard features a large sticker, and the doors under the archway are also stickered — both examples of stickers that we think are unnecessary.
Dementors fly above the Great Hall, making a nuisance of themselves.
LEGO builders have used a variety of techniques over the years to create stained glass, but the approach Justin and the rest of the LEGO Harry Potter design team have used results in a remarkably multi-colored, wonderfully translucent design that is hard to imagine any other way at this scale.
The interior of the Great Hall is no less stunning, with rows of tables, an elevated dais, and house banners floating above. The stained glass is just as beautiful seen from the inside, with the grill pieces working perfectly as the window frames beyond.
Hollow LEGO studs like the ones on brackets look particularly unfinished, and it’s rare to see them on a completed model. Unfortunately, I find the exposed brackets on the far end of the Great Hall distracting. Looking over reference photos of official Warner Brothers models like the ones at theme parks, the lower section of this large bay window is smooth — it doesn’t include any circular details that would explain these light gray brackets with exposed hollow studs.
The Chamber of Secrets lies below the Great Hall, with enormous snake statues along both sides, and the monumental face over the entrance. It’s one of the most detailed micro-fig scale interior sections. The basilisk is the same animal element as Nagini that came with the Voldemort collectible minifigure.
The library/dormitory building includes identical stained-glass windows, with the same stickered wooden doors. The four “tent cheese” slopes at the top of the columns between the windows are a lovely touch, as is the round opening above the door with more stained-glass detail (though it’s not hollow behind to let light through).
The top of the large tower makes the mix of scales very evident. In the movies, Dumbledore’s office is in the trio of small towers that extend up from the top of the larger tower’s spire. Yet, flipping the model around, there’s a version of his office that fits the micro-figures under the conical section built from plates.
And that mix of scales, with a focus on cutaway detail in back, is one of the key weaknesses of this set. As impressive in its detail and consistency as the front facade is, the cutaway back is just as surprising for the interior sections’ highly variable degree of accuracy and even believability. In fact, the differences in scale, reliance on stickers, and placement of key locations can sometimes be confusing.
Aside from a basic desk (a 1×2 brick) and a chair (a neck bracket attached to a round 1×1 plate), most of the detail in Dumbledore’s office consists of stickers applied to wall panels
In contrast, lower-level rooms like the secret storeroom work rather well, with a jumble of stacked furniture and boxes.
We’re less-convinced by Snape’s potions classroom, for which 1×1 round plates in various colors stand in for all the jars of ingredients on shelves against the wall. When you place the micro-figs in the classroom, the desks and chairs sort of work, but the enormous cauldron, flask, and the 1×1 round pieces simply don’t work. This is exacerbated by the stickers on the rear wall panels, which show various details at the correct scale to the micro-figures.
The house common room is another example of a micro-figure scale area that works rather well, with couches (1×2 brackets in red) placed on a dark red carpet, with a lovely fireplace.
Similarly, the library area looks homey and inviting, with bookshelves full of enormous magical grimoires spilling out onto the floor. Like several other sections, the chairs are built from neck brackets on round 1×1 plates, tying together the various sections at this scale by using a common accessory.
The Mirror of Erised is a 1×2 pearl gold tile with a sticker, surrounded by flames. Again, this micro interior section looks great, though its placement in the dungeon level of the castle rather than closer to the library from which Harry was escaping in the Cloak of Invisibility may not be particularly correct.
Close examination would be very rewarding for anybody who didn’t personally build the set. There are numerous details hidden around corners, under overhanging ceilings, and behind pillars throughout Hogwarts. Unfortunately, some of those details are achieved with stickers — the large pillars and panels in the area below the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom are covered in several stickers, including a large sticker that warns the denizens of Hogwarts that the Chamber of Secrets has been opened. Note the small brick sticker on the third pillar, and the secret doorway to the Room of Requirement farther along.
Dolores Umbridge’s hideous pink office juts out from the same floor as the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. Round 1×1 plates allude to the horrid collectible plates with kittens on them that she used to decorate her office.
Next door, the narrow Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom itself has a row of desks, with a couple pieces of equipment at the front for practicing charms against boggarts. Minifig magnifying glasses look great as the large lenses that hang above the room. A sticker featuring pixies is applied to a long brick along the back, with another small sticker for the dragon’s skeleton.
The floor below Dumbledore’s office at the top of the largest tower features the second-floor girls’ lavatory haunted by Moaning Myrtle. The central column of wash basins is lovely, but behind it again we have very large stickers applied to large panels (stickers applied to the convex side of any type of panel are always irritating). The left panel features a mermaid, while the right panel features bathroom stalls and the ghost of Myrtle herself. We’ve criticized the presence of such large stickers several times in this review already, but we’ll also reinforce that the designs on the stickers are consistently excellent — Moaning Myrtle appears as a micro-fig in the sticker design, complete with a 1×1 round base, depicted in black and white.
Moving staircases are one of the most magical features of Hogwarts, and the LEGO design team has carefully recreated them with Technic gear racks attached to turntables that spin back and forth on each floor.
Moving beyond the core build of Hogwarts Castle itself, Hagrid’s hut uses small sub-assemblies attached to a pair of round bases with clips, complete with pumpkins growing out front and an enormous spider out back.
The second standalone build is the Whomping Willow, built on a 3×3 cross piece attached upside down, with Exo-Force robot arms for limbs, complete with a tiny Ford Anglia hung up in the branches.
The minifigures & microfigures
Like UCS-scale LEGO Star Wars sets that may not actually be designed in minifigure-scale (such as last year’s UCS Snowspeeder), Hogwarts Castle includes four minifigures. For the first time, a LEGO set includes the four founders of the student houses at Hogwarts, Godric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff, Salazar Slytherin, and Rowena Ravenclaw. The four minifigures can be displayed on a stand that features their respective house crests.
All four characters include accessories, such as wands in four different colors and Godric’s famous sword.
Both of the women have the new skirt/dress piece and every character has detailed printing on the back of their torsos, even when they’re hidden under cloaks or capes.
The two women also have alternate expressions, though both of the male founders do not.
To match the scale of the interior sections, the set includes a whopping 27 distinct micro-figures, including the 5 dementors and several unprinted micro-figures used as statues or chess pieces.
Only four of the student micro-figures are named in the official product description and instruction booklet — from left to right in the photo below, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, Harry Potter, and Draco Malfoy. The micro-figure shape works reasonably well for male figures with short hair, but we were hard-pressed to locate and identify Hermione among the rest of the figures.
The set also includes twelve non-specific student figures, three from each house in their house colors.
Several professors and adult characters are also included. Left to right: Bellatrix Lestrange, Lord Voldemort, Dolores Umbridge, Severus Snape, Albus Dumbledore, Minerva McGonagall, and Remus Lupin.
The black, cloaked micro-figure has only appeared previously as a trans-blue hologram of Emperor Palpatine, but serves as dementors here. Each of the generic micro-figures in pearl gold, black, and white comes with an extra in the set, but the printed figures and dementors do not.
The dementors “fly” by being attached to trans-clear elements, which attach to various studs and anti-studs on the back and top of the Great Hall.
Conclusions & recommendation
71043 Hogwarts Castle is an incredible LEGO set by many measures — its size, exterior design, unique figures, and even value at $400 for more than 6,000 parts (though many of those are, of course, 1×1 and other very small pieces). The exterior design is breathtaking, from the irregular footprint to the tallest spire, with a silhouette that’s essentially perfect.
Unfortunately, several sections of the rear cutaway view don’t live up to the stellar standard set by the front facade. Many details are achieved with stickers, either unnecessarily (like brick details on panels and pillars) or somewhat distractingly (like the portraits in Dumbledore’s office). Similarly, the micro-fig scale doesn’t always work with the 1×1 level of resolution that LEGO provides, as illustrated by the enormous potions in Snape’s classroom. Nevertheless, it’s doubtful that LEGO collectors will display Hogwarts from the rear, and the less-than-perfect interior sections are far fewer than excellent areas like the Great Hall interior and Chamber of Secrets.
Regardless of certain imperfections, 71043 Hogwarts Castle is still an amazing, excellent set that may teach even experienced builders a few techniques for building round structures, off-grid building, and more. It may seem odd to recommend a $400 set as a pure parts pack, but for architecture aficionados in particular, new elements in large quantities at a great price-per-parts ratio are certainly strong attractors. Overall, then, Hogwarts Castle lives up to the anticipation as well as the hype, and will make a magical addition to any Harry Potter fan’s LEGO collection.
71043 Hogwarts Castle includes 6,020 pieces, 4 minifigs, and 27 microfigs. The set is available August 15th to LEGO VIP Program members and September 1st to everyone. The set is available exclusively from the LEGO Shop (USD 399.99 | CDN 499.99 | GBP 349.99), but it may also be available from third-party sellers on Amazon.com, eBay, BrickLink, and elsewhere.
The LEGO Group sent The Brothers Brick an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.