“Welcome, Harry, to Diagon Alley. Here’s where you get your quills and your ink, and over there all your bits and bobs for doing your wizardry.” — Rubeus Hagrid, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Just like Diagon Alley was one of Harry Potter’s first glimpses of the Wizarding World, working the VIP Preview for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida was one of my first experiences as a team member at Universal Orlando Resort. I’ll never forget the moment I first passed through the bricks and saw the iconic street all aglow!
There’s so much to see and do here, from the thrilling ride beneath Gringotts Wizarding Bank, to the Wizarding World’s most famous shops. You won’t want to miss a thing, so here’s everything you need to know.
WHAT TO DO
Take it all in
Diagon Alley is so mesmerizing, I recommend you pause for a moment when you first enter to give yourself a chance to absorb everything. The towering Gringotts Wizarding Bank. The animated facade above Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. The tantalizing aromas wafting from the Leaky Cauldron. All the incredible little details, from the intriguing magical objects in each storefront, to the entertaining ads printed on the walls (as someone who writes ads, I have a soft spot for those), are all definitely worth a closer look.
Journey deep underground on Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts
Inside the renowned goblin-run institution, you can go on an incredible thrill ride through the subterranean vaults. You’ll encounter Harry, Ron and Hermione, as well as more sinister characters. I’m generally a complete wimp when it comes to coasters (hence why I’m not a Gryffindor), but I can’t help but love this ride!
See a dragon breathe fire
The first thing I noticed when I first entered Diagon Alley was the dragon atop Gringotts Wizarding Bank (it’s hard to miss a fire-breathing dragon). My favorite spots to watch it are in the middle of the street near Shutterbutton’s, right outside Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour. It looks especially stunning at night.
Slink around the infamous Knockturn Alley
“You’re a mess, Harry, skulking around Knockturn Alley. Dodgy place. Don’t want no one to see you there.” — Rubeus Hagrid, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
If the Dark Arts are your thing, you’ll love wandering these dark corridors. Be sure to stop by the notorious Borgin and Burkes, home to powerful Dark Arts objects. In the courtyard around the corner from the shop, look for a bird in a cage in a window and use your Interactive Wand to see the magical effects on the bird. More on Borgin and Burkes and Interactive Wands below.
PRO TIP: Knockturn Alley is the coolest place in Diagon Alley, literally. The sun never seems to shine on this dark street, which means it’s nice and cold. The perfect spot to come to and escape the heat.
See a wand choose a wizard at Ollivanders Wand Shop
There is nothing more essential to a witch and wizard than their wand. Now’s your chance to witness the unforgettable moment when a wand chooses a wizard — it could even be you! Browse through unique wands, wand sets, character wands, and Interactive Wands — and check out our Guide to Wands in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Cast spells with Interactive Wands
With a wave of your wand and the proper incantation, you can cast spells in over a dozen locations in Diagon Alley. Find the locations on the map that comes with your Interactive Wand purchase. Knockturn Alley spell-locations are illuminated on the sinister street.
PRO TIP: While you’re at it, embrace your inner Weasley twin and convince an unsuspecting friend to stand under the umbrella above the restroom entrance in Horizont Alley while you use your Interactive Wand to cast Meteolojinx. And to make it up to them, I recommend trying your hand at Incendio to illuminate the dazzling Flimflam Lanterns near Knockturn Alley.
Sing along with Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees
As a singer myself, I love seeing a wizarding legend performing some of her greatest hits including “A Cauldron Full of Hot, Strong Love” and “You Charmed The Heart Right Out Of Me.” If you watch close to the stage, you may even get picked to be a part of the show! During the Holidays at Universal, you can catch a fun, seasonal performance.
Get lost in the plot of The Tales of Beedle the Bard
You’re never too old for storytime! The Wizarding Academy of Dramatic Arts uses a trunk full of props and puppets to retell the famous wizarding fairytales: The Fountain of Fair Fortune and The Tale of the Three Brothers.
PRO TIP: Download The Official Universal Orlando Resort App to see the latest showtimes and find out when you can catch a concert or a story.
WHERE TO EAT
Try some traditional British fare in this unassuming pub. I love the fish and chips (aka fries) or a Ploughman’s: a platter with bread, cheese, veggies, and scotch eggs. You can also get cold, frozen, and hot Butterbeer here, as well as a variety of non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks.
PRO TIP: If you’re craving an adult beverage, the Wizarding World has exclusive Wizard’s Brew and Dragon Scale beers as well as Fire Whisky liquor, available at the Leaky Cauldron, The Fountain of Fair Fortune and The Hopping Pot.
Fun fact: I was the very first person to ever purchase a souvenir ice-cream dish here (according to the team member I purchased it from). To this day, I display it proudly on my work desk as a reminder of the day I tried my first Butterbeer soft-serve AND in memory of the VIP Preview where I tried every flavor of hard-packed ice cream in one night (I’m very dedicated to my craft). Earl grey lavender topped with crystals is my favorite, tied with chocolate, naturally (if you’re also a chocolate fan, check out my Chocolate Lover’s Guide to Chocolate Desserts at Universal Orlando Resort).
PRO TIP: You get two scoops with hard-packed ice cream, so I sometimes like to combine salted caramel blondie with apple crumble, so then you get a salted caramel apple crumble blondie.
This place is bubbling with alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. My favorite is the non-alcoholic fishy green ale, a creamy cinnamon and mint concoction with blueberry bubbles.
I like to grab a Hot Butterbeer here on cooler days before catching Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees. You can enjoy all the drinks mentioned above, as well as beef pasties, chips, and Butterbeer soft-serve.
WHERE TO SHOP
Embrace your inner mischief-maker inside the twins’ colorful joke shop. Browse through Fred and George’s most infamous creations: Skiving Snackboxes, U-No-Poo pills, Nosebleed Nougats, and more.
PRO TIP: If you adopt a Pygmy Puff, the cashier can ring a bell and make an official adoption announcement.
This dark and dingy shop in Knockturn Alley is ideal for the purveyor of Dark Arts Objects, including Death Eater masks, accessories, possibly cursed jewelry, and other collectibles. Keep an eye out for notable nefarious items throughout the store.
As an animal-lover, I make a beeline for this store. Crookshanks, Buckbeak, Hedwig, and Pygmy Puffs are some of the many plush toy animals you can find.
If you’re a world-traveler like me, make sure you stop by the official travel agency of the Wizarding World. Stock up on travel essentials like passport holders and luggage tags, as well as hoodies, travel mugs, and more.
Chat with a Gringotts goblin and trade your U.S. currency for $10 or $20 Gringotts bank notes. You can use them for purchases in the Wizarding World, as well as select locations throughout Universal Orlando.
Admit it: you’ve always wanted to have a gown just like Hermione’s from the Yule Ball. This shop is the go-to for wizarding wear, including Hogwarts robes, ties, scarfs, sweaters, jewelry, and hats.
Rep your Hogwarts house with t-shirts, mugs, bags, and more, along with Ministry of Magic-themed merch.
Quidditch fans, this store is for you! Shop for Golden Snitches, Bludgers, Quaffles, sweaters, brooms, and fan attire for the Holyhead Harpies and Chudley Cannons.
If you’ve ever wanted to create a moving portrait of your own, now’s your chance to act out 12 iconic scenes in Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade. Then take your portrait home on a souvenir DVD.
Welcome to the Ravenclaw sanctuary. Okay, technically all Hogwarts houses can come here, but you know who’s nerding out over ink, feather quills, parchment, and notebooks.
This tongue-twister of a shop has all kinds of tasty treats, from caramel apples to cauldron cakes. My favorite is the tin of Bing Bong Ginger Snaps. If you’re on a quest to enjoy Butterbeer in all forms, try the Butterbeer Fudge.
I know there are a lot of Ollivanders’ loyalists, but this rival wandmaker is well-respected, too. Find the wand belonging to famous Bulgarian Quidditch champion Victor Krum, as well as other character and interactive wands.
TOUR LONDON RIGHT OUTSIDE DIAGON ALLEY
Before or after you enter the famous Diagon Alley, take in the sights of London, including the Knight Bus, Hogwarts Express: King’s Cross Station, snacks, shopping, and some magical surprises. I must admit, every time I come here, I wish I could visit the half-price bookstore, but it’s never open — I know, typical Ravenclaw!
Stop by the Knight Bus
Stranded witches or wizards can flag down the purple triple-decker bus for emergency transportation. Right now, it’s parked outside Diagon Alley. Chat with the conductor and then peek through the windows.
Board the Hogwarts Express: King’s Cross Station
Unlike Harry Potter before his first year at Hogwarts, you know how to reach Platform 9 ¾: walk straight through a brick wall. Then ride the train to Hogsmeade Station to get to Hogwarts. En route you’ll encounter familiar faces and unexpected creatures.
You’ll need a Park-to-Park ticket to ride the Hogwarts Express between Diagon Alley in Universal Studios and Hogsmeade in Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
Enjoy a traditional English snack
If you’re a baked potato fan, look no further than the London Taxi Hut. They’ve got beans & cheese, broccoli & cheese, shepherd’s pie, and loaded jacket potatoes, as well as hot dogs, crisps (aka potato chips), bottled beverages, and beer.
Wear your British pride
Shop at the London Taxi Hut Store for a variety of merch bearing the Union Jack, including t-shirts, mugs, tote bags, and keychains. My personal favorite is the teddy bear — I’ve always had a soft spot for stuffed animals (pun intended).
There’s more than meets the eye in Diagon Alley. Here are some of my favorite things I’ve discovered.
The Daily Prophet
If you put your ear up to the The Daily Prophet office, you can hear the sound of reporters hard at work.
12 Grimmauld Place
Do you know what happens if you knock on 12 Grimmauld Place in London? Stand outside long enough and you might catch sight of a familiar face in one of the windows.
The Phone Booth
If you pop inside the red phone booth in front of the record shop in London and follow the instructions inside, you’ll hear a mystery — or should I say Ministry — message.
I never pass up an opportunity to learn, especially from fellow magical beings. If you ask the Gringotts goblin in Gringotts Money Exchange a question, he’ll answer. If you’re feeling brave, ask “Are you a house-elf?”
Hidden Spell Locations
Try to find a couple of mystery Interactive Wand spell spots: one near a Ravenclaw haven and the other in Carkitt Market with a rather unpleasant aroma.
Look up toward the ceiling in Magical Menagerie and you can catch sight of cat-like Kneazle and other fantastical creatures.
Fair warning: if you stand in front of the mirror in Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions, it can be a bit judgmental.
Think you may be descended from Salazar Slytherin himself? Right outside Magical Menagerie to the left of the entrance, you can see if you understand Parseltongue by trying to converse with a resident snake in the shop window.
In the corner of Borgin and Burkes, you’ll find a Vanishing Cabinet from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. If you put your ear right up to it, you might hear what’s inside — at least for that moment!
Weasleys’ Wildfire Whiz-bangs
When you’re browsing through Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, look up at the ceiling to see their famed magical pyrotechnics.
I’m lucky enough to explore Diagon Alley on a regular basis, and every time I do, I notice something different and wonderful. What do you love most about Diagon Alley? Any hidden gems you’d add to the list?
Must be 21 years and older with valid photo identification to purchase or consume alcoholic beverages. Drink responsibly.