TRAVEL GUIDE: THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER
Calling all Muggles: If you find yourself boarding the train at Platform 9 ¾ this summer, here's a guide to what to do next.
Located just off Charing Cross Road, Diagon Alley is London's finest source for a wizard's every need. Flourish and Blott's, the bookseller, entices customers with shelves and displays of magical tomes of all shapes and sizes. (Some of the noisier titles add a whole new meaning to the term volume, and the less said about The Monster Book of Monsters, the better). Witches and wizards have been purchasing their wands from Ollivanders for the past 2,000 years. An ice-cream sundae eaten under the brightly colored umbrellas of Florean Fortesque's Ice Cream Parlor is a tradition for wizarding families when they're in London, and with good reason.
Recently, Weasley's Wizard Wheezes has opened at No. 93. A more delightful, amusing, and dangerous shop one can scarcely imagine. No visitor to Diagon Alley should miss a chance to visit, if only to stroke the Pigmy Puffs or purchase a few of Fred and George Weasley's fireworks.
Around Diagon Alley
Gringotts Wizarding Bank: Not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach, a cart ride along miles of ancient track into the underground vaults of Gringott's is worth sacrificing one's lunch for. Who knew that such wonders existed deep beneath the streets of London? Be on the lookout for dragons and sphinxes, both of which are rumored to guard the high-security vaults. Money exchange from non-wizarding currency to galleons is available, if one is willing to deal with goblins on money matters. Tip: Take what they give and ask no questions.
The Leaky Cauldron: Tom the Barkeeper welcomes thirsty travelers to this tiny pub on Charing Cross Road. Founded in the 1500s by Daisy Dodderidge to provide a passageway between the Muggle and wizarding worlds, The Leaky Cauldron is famous for serving up drinks and cheerful company as well as for providing a gateway through its back entrance to Diagon Alley. Rooms are available by the night or by the week.
Knockturn Alley: The Dark Arts are frowned upon, of course, but one may still find the need to purchase items like shrunken heads or cursed daggers strictly for research purposes. If so, Knockturn Alley is the place to shop. Located down a side street off Diagon Alley near Gringotts, Knockturn Alley is dominated by the infamous Borgin and Burkes, where cursed and Dark Magic items are bought and sold. Travelers are advised not to venture into Knockturn Alley alone or after dark...or at all, really.
One enters Diagon Alley by way of The Leaky Cauldron pub, which is located between a bookshop and a record store on Charing Cross Road. The Leaky Cauldron is connected to the Floo Network (Floo-word: Diagon Alley) and is a regular stop for the Knight Bus. Non-magical visitors should find a witch or wizard to help them along or they are not likely to be able to see The Leaky Cauldron at all. Access to Diagon Alley from the pub is through a back exit and a magical gateway set into a brick wall.