A Killer Guide to Universal Studios Diagon Alley

After what may have been the highlight of my nerdom, I’m bringing you the Fairytale Traveler report and guide to Universal Studios Diagon Alley. This is an easy-to-read resource of shoppes, attractions, Harry Potter spells list, tips, and the inside local scoop on the best time of year to visit and avoid the crowds. From my Butterbeered lips to your spells of magic, here’s all the wizardry that Universal Studios Orlando and the Harry Potter books have brought to life.

Universal Studios Diagon Alley shops 12

OMG I love with a capital “L” the signage in Diagon Alley. I’m a total graphic design nut, and these just make my unicorn sparkle.

I made my way past King’s Cross Station, the Knight Bus, the Eros Fountain from Piccadilly Square, and to the hidden entrance behind Leicester Square to Diagon Alley. As I entered the brick hole in the wall my eyes scrolled along a cobblestone street laid between towering shoppes. My eyes widened with every inch, every window, and every sign as they led to a fire-breathing dragon perched upon Gringotts Bank.

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Enter Diagon Alley behind Leicester Square Station just like in the movie and Harry Potter Books.

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This place is going to make a ping pong tournament of your eyes.

Universal Studios Diagon Alley shops 12

There’s no shortage of magic here.

There was no question after the unveiling of Universal’s Islands of Adventures Hogsmeade in 2010, that Diagon Alley was going to be amazing. The question was, could they actually outdo themselves? The answer is yes. Having collaborated with J.K. Rowling and film production designers, Universal Studios recreated a near mirror of Diagon Alley from the famed Harry Potter books and movies.

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An exact replica of London’s Leicester Square Station in muggle London. Sweet tip, use the phone booth to dial MAGIC and see what happens!

Muggle London

Universal’s London is the all new facade of Diagon Alley with a near exact replica of King’s Cross Station, Leicester Square, Wyndham’s Theater and the Eros Fountain from Piccadilly Circus. Inch by inch, it will blow your mind if you’ve been to London as I have, to see this elaborate recreation -it’s just like being in London. What makes it muggle London?

Universal Studios Diagon Alley knight bus

Standby and get a word in with the shrunken head on the Knight Bus.

Muggles London King's Cross Universal Studios

King’s Cross where you go to get on the Hogwarts Express looks exactly like the real thing!

  • Knight Bus -see the interactive shrunken head here
  • 12 Grimmauld Place – The Black Home
  • The Hogwart’s Express (enter through King’s Cross Station) – Takes you to Islands of Adventure’s Hogsmeade
  • Hidden entrance to Diagon Alley – Behind Leicester Square
Hogwarts Express Diagon Alley

The Hogwarts Express is pretty sweet and takes you to and from Islands of Adventure’s Hogsmeade.

Hogwarts Express

One of the two main attractions at Universal’s Diagon Alley is the Hogwarts Express. The life-sized movie replica train takes you from Diagon Alley at Universal Studios to Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure and back again. There’s something especially remarkable about this attraction. Not only are the details perfected (as if we were surprised) complete with your own compartment and bench seating, but there is a digital screen where the windows are which displays your journey as if you were riding the train in the movie. It’s down right flipping awesome! For added awesomeness, it’s a different journey on the way back to Diagon Alley.

Hogwarts Express Diagon Alley

The magic is in the details. The deliberately scuffed up train is fitting to the movies.

Note: You will need dual park passes to get on this ride. Sorry, no dual park passes, no dice. You’ll be tacking on an extra $40 for this unless you’re an annual pass holder then you’re in like Flynn.

Carkitt Markett at Diagon Alley

Carkitt Markett.

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The signs, oh the signs.

Universal Studios Diagon Alley

From fire-breathing dragon to the inlaid spell medallions in the cobblestone, Universal Studios Diagon Alley is more remarkable than we ever imagined it to be. With specialty shoppes, eateries, and of course the feature attraction, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, there is no shortage of wizarding magic and adventure. Here’s the skinny on everything you need to know about shopping, dining, and spell casting at Universal’s Diagon Alley.

Universal Studios Diagon Alley 22

There’s so much to look at, so much to swoon over.

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

The main attraction of Universal Studios Diagon Alley is Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. This dark, thrill-ride coaster with 3D elements is suitable more young children, still fun for adults!  It’s a soft coaster with a smooth ride and features cast footage as well. The line is a million miles long, but that’s to be expected for a while. The cool thing is, the portion of your line in Gringotts Bank is pretty sweet with lavish chandeliers and goblins that look at you when you ring their bell. The main goblin will even say something to you when you get near him. These interactive animatronics have mind blowing, state-of-the-art technology that will enchant you.

Gringotts

The main goblin at Gringotts. He will speak to you if you stand next to him.

Gringotts

Goblins in Gringotts will look right at you, it’s the creepiest and coolest thing!

Gringotts Diagon Alley

20′ crystal chandeliers hang from the elaborate ceiling at Gringotts. So posh.

Dining and Refreshments at Diagon Alley

  • Leaky Cauldron – A replica of the pub from the books serving British pub food, fish and chips, Guinness stew, bangers and mash – that sort of thing. You can also grab a cold beer (at $8.50 a pop) but hey, beer on a hot day in Florida is always a win. There’s a line, but you’ll enjoy the scenery as you let your eyes wander the old English fabrication of this enchanted nook.
  • Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour – If your lips have met the famed Butterbeer, you’re going to go ape over the new Butterbeer flavored ice cream.
  • The Hopping Pot – Wizarding beers and non alcoholic brews.
  • The Fountain of Fair Fortune – Another watering hole like the Hopping Pot.
  • Eternelle’s Elixir of Refreshments – This is a super cool spot to mix your own drinkable potions!
Universal Studios Diagon Alley 3

Mix your favorite magical potions into a drink here! Totally fun and there’s even a unicorn. WN!

Universal Studios Diagon Alley shops 3

Magical beer, isn’t all beer magical?

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Don’t eat the jellied eels… just saying. Just another cool store facade in Diagon Alley.

Universal Studios Diagon Alley shops 3

MMM BUTT-ER-BEER ICE CREAM is so the jam. You’ll want to face plant into a cup of this after sweating your ass off in the Florida heat. Silver linings are free!!

Diagon Alley Shops

Now it is pretty obvious that with only two rides (one of which requires a dual park pass), Diagon Alley is largely made up of shoppes that will pull the money from your pockets like a magnet. I’m still not complaining and here’s why. Universal Studios has the largest collection of Harry Potter fandom merchandise than anywhere in the world. Bottom line here is, if you are a Harry Potter fan, you’re going to be packing some mula because this is your candy store kids. That said, BRAVO! Diagon Alley shops and Hogsmeade shops are attractions in of themselves! With props and window fronts that will make your wizarding heart patter.

Universal Studios Diagon Alley 1

Want some sweet Harry Potter pics with you in the mix? Check out Shutterbuttons.

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Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. Check here for fun magic tricks and gag gifts.

  • Borgin and Burkes – Death eater masks, fandom merch, and super sweet dark Gothic elements like skulls and such.
  • Magical Menagerie – Magical stuffed creatures.
Universal Studios Diagon Alley Borgin and Burkes

There’s some great fandom merchandise in Borgin and Burkes. You’ll find it in Knockturn Alley.

Universal Studios Diagon Alley Borgin and Burkes

I love Borgin and Burkes. There’s something so alluring about the dark and creepy in this store. Then again, I have a thing for dark and creepy.

  • Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions – Wizard robes, of course.
  • Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment – A cool place for wizardly supplies with steam punk flare.
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Get your science on in Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment with cool gadgets and awesome steam punk telescopes.

Universal Studios Diagon Alley shops 12

A cool telescope that stood out to me in Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment.

Universal Studios Diagon Alley shops 12

I love the steam punk style of these telescopes in Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment.

  • Quality Quiddich Supplies – Sport clothing and equipment.
  • Scribbulus Writing Implements – where you can get pens, quills and such.
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Outside of Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment.

Universal Studios Diagon Alley shops 12

There are plenty of facades in Diagon Alley but they are all flawlessly designed and add to the wizardly magic.

Oh those Harry Potter Wands

Most every Harry Potter fan knows about Hogmeads Ollivanders Wand Shop, where you can buy movie replica wands for yourself or your little wizard. What most don’t know is Diagon Alley also has an Ollivanders, and they are selling the all new Harry Potter interactive wands which allow you to cast your own magic spells!

Universal Studios Diagon Alley spells of magic

A little wizard tries his hand at a magic spell with his interactive wand.

Check out the Little getting chosen at Olivander’s Wand Shop!

Click here for our guide on the new Harry Potter interactive wands, spells of magic, Harry Potter spells list information and getting “chosen” at Ollivander’s Wand Shop for a special magic wand of your own!

Spell locations Universal Studios Diagon Alley 3

Potterheads will remember this creepy mermaid from Hogwarts Lake in Goblet of Fire.

Knockturn Alley

Can I get an OMG! This was one of my favorite parts of the entire attraction, then again I have a thing for dark Victorian and Gothic flare. Here you can cool off (a much-needed bonus) as the alley is dark and cold. There are plenty of creepy embellishments to dance your eyes around. It is also where you will find Borgin and Burkes, a killer dark Gothic and fandom store where you can find skulls and Death Eater masks.

Universal Studios Diagon Alley Knockturn alley

Get some sweet pics here in Knockturn Alley. Not camera phone friendly, but you can try your luck.

Universal Studios Diagon Alley Borgin and Burkes

The store front at Borgin and Burkes is as creepy on the outside as on the inside.

Universal Studios Diagon Alley Knockturn alley

There’s some magic spell spots hiding in Knockturn Alley.

Universal Studios Diagon Alley Knockturn alley

Cast a spell here and see what happens!

Universal Studios Diagon Alley Knockturn alley

With a wave of your interactive wand and you can make these shrunken heads sing.

Universal Studios Diagon Alley Knockturn alley

Dinner anyone?

Gringotts Money Exchange

Your head will be on a swivel at Diagon Alley, there is so much magic to take it! One thing you won’t want to miss is Gringotts Money Exchange. Here you will meet the most realistic interactive animatronic Goblins you’ve never seen! Ask them ANYTHING, and they will answer you. Where’s Harry Potter? How do I slay a dragon? There are countless things for Potterheads to ask, and there’s no doubt you will love all the answers. The room fits about 25 people and you can pop in and out at your leisure. There’s no line to get inside, it’s very chill and laid back and a great way to get some air conditioning!

Check out what the Goblin had to say when I asked him, “Where’s Harry Potter?”:

And a Fire-Breathing Dragon You Will Love

Perched upon Gringotts Bank is a giant dragon that blasts out fire every 15 minutes. This thing looks so real, it will totally trip you out. I couldn’t take my eyes off this fierce beast!

The Best Tips and Tricks for Your Diagon Alley Trip

  • Budget – As if visiting Universal Studios Orlando isn’t expensive enough (although I’ll be the first to say they are the most budget friendly when comparing them to Disney) you need to be mindful of spending limits. The bottom line is you are going to love this place. Your kids are going to go ape. If you’re not a Florida resident and getting to Universal Studios Orlando is an act of God for you, plan way ahead with regard to budget. There is a lot of eye candy and merchandise you will not find anywhere else in the world. You’re going to want to come off some bank for this one but put your money on things you can actually keep. You can save a good deal of money with the meal passes and by bringing your own water.
Universal Studios Diagon Alley shops

With shops like Magical Menagerie, you’re going to want to bring your milk money.

  • Ride Anyway – Universal Studios is the only theme park that has “child swap”. Here you can leave one parent with any children who aren’t old enough to ride while the other enjoys the adventure. Then you guessed it, tag you’re it! One parent in and the other out while they enjoy the ride. Pretty sweet!
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

Tag team your adventure with child swap.

  • Best Times to Visit – Take it from me, a Florida resident, you don’t want to sell the farm to go to Universal only to wait in 3 hours lines in the sweltering heat. You’re gonna be wicked pissed. The secret to visiting any Florida theme park is more obvious than you think, go when everyone else isn’t going! Take your kids out of school and go during the week (they will still go to college), go immediately AFTER a holiday break has ended, and be VERY mindful of the UK school holidays as well as they are a huge demographic of the Orlando tourism audience. The beginning of September is an AWESOME time to go. All the kids are back to school, and it’s just before the Halloween events gear up so everyone is holding out. It’s like UH-MAZING!
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Don’t end up like this. Stay at Universal Orlando Resorts. You will be winning.

  • Stay at a Universal Orlando Resort Property – With the all new Cabana Bay Beach Resort by the luxury hotel brand Loews Hotels, you get swank and family budget friendly in this new budget concept property. That’s right, the same service and swagger design, without all the frills that make for a super expensive hotel bill. They offer early admission to all guests getting you first dibs access to the Diagon Alley magic. STRESS-FREE NO BRAINER HERE. Check out their rates here.
Harry Potter Dobby

What would Diagon Alley be without a Dobby?

A special thank you to Universal Orlando for touring us around Diagon Alley. While we worked with Universal Orlando on this story, it in no way shaped our review of the attraction.

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About Christa Thompson

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Christa Thompson is the Founder and Senior Editor of The Fairytale Traveler. Christa has been traveling the world since 2003 when she attended a summer abroad study at the University of Cambridge in England. Since then, her wanderlust has been fierce. Her three passions in life are her son, traveling, and being creative. The Fairytale Traveler brand gives Christa the opportunity to do all of these things and to live intentionally every day.

“It’s never too late to believe in what you love and to pursue your dreams.” -Christa Thompson

48 Comments on this post

  1. Wow, that place looks amazing. Might need to think about another trip to Florida sometime soon.

    Melissa | Suitcase and Heels / Reply
  2. This looks incredible. Such an immersive experience is every Harry Potter fan’s dream. I even have to show my nieces and nephews this one. It’s easy to see that you had so much fun

    Kareem / Reply
    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I know it’s a lot but the pictures are fun. For anyone that’s planning a trip though, this will have them covered.

  3. Ahhhh this is amazing! I went three years ago and cannot wait to see the updates they did. I am such a HP crazy fan! My friends and I had three day tix for Universal studios and we spent the whole time at the HP section.

    Samantha / Reply
  4. […] We recently stayed at Cabana Bay Beach Resort during our trip to Universal Orlando to explore the all new Harry Potter, Diagon Alley, and boy were we in awe at all the cool things happening from the drive up right to the bar of […]

  5. Ohhh I love Harry Potter.

    Have you been to Leavesden at all? 🙂

    Sammi Wanderlustin' / Reply
  6. OMG I’m literally sitting here fuming with envy. I want to go SO BADLY! I’ve heard of it but didn’t know it looked this amazing!
    And is it weird that now, I also have a huge hankering to re-read the entire HP series?!

    Anna | slightly astray / Reply
  7. Harry Potter is my jam and I loved this post! Even though I live near Orlando, I still haven’t made it to Universal yet to check out all the HP stuff…but it is a priority for me this fall to get there. And I can’t wait!

    Amy / Reply
  8. I’m so jealous! I love love love Harry Potter and need to figure out how to get to Universal Studios ASAP. This looks fab.

    Adelina // PackMeTo / Reply
  9. My brother took his kids there and they loved it

    Kareem / Reply
  10. This place is a dream-come-true for the kids and the young-at-heart. I can hardly wait to bring my grandson here (it’s going to be a while though since he was barely born…). Excellent picture and a very useful guide to Universal Studios.

    Anda @ Travel Notes & Beyond / Reply
  11. Wow! That’s a VERY thorough post! I’m going to Orlando next month so if I swing by Universal I think I will check it out. 🙂

    Raymond @ Man On The Lam / Reply
  12. I have never been to Universal, but with older kids I think that may be more appealing than another trip to Disney. 🙂 I agree with your tip to skip the summer heat and lines and visit when the kids go back to school. I’ve not been to Orlando in September, but my family did visit the first week of December and it was incredible.

    Tonya / Reply
  13. Christa, great photos and this place looks amazing! I am not even a big Harry Potter fan (don’t hate me…) but this place looks like a lot of fun and I would definitely go if in the area!

  14. Great article and information. And you went on a rainy day, so it WAS just like London. We just missed it when we visited in February.

    Michael Orobona / Reply
  15. Such a fun adventure!!! I would love to check this out and make a few of my dreams come true!

    Vanessa / Reply
  16. Okay, this looks awesome! I read all the Harry Potter books to my kids when they were little, and I know we would all love visiting here!

    Lois Alter Mark / Reply
  17. I almost feel guilty that I still haven’t taken my kids to Universal. Thanks for a great guide — It’s now on the 24 month bucket list plan. Perhaps to celebrate a high school and college graduation! 🙂

    Karen Dawkins / Reply
  18. Ok, I am now completely sold on the idea that I need to visit this place. It looks amazing. I did a double take on the photo of Leicester Square tube station – the resemblance is uncanny! 🙂

    Tam Gamble / Reply
  19. […] When the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens its Diagon Alley addition (slated for summer 2014) you can be among the first muggles to get your ticket to the 9 3/4 platform and board the Hogwarts Express train. The train, which is currently stationary, will actually run and connect different areas of the park. Update: read Christa’s tour of Diagon Alley here! […]

  20. I haven’t been to the Universal Studios and never even contemplated a visit. Your fabulous article though is so interested that I am tempted to change my mind 🙂

    Fida / Reply
  21. […] in the Harry Potter books, you can cast your own spells of magic and execute your wizardry in the new Harry Potter theme park at Universal’s Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. The wands are almost like another attraction they […]

  22. […] to stay true to the film fan by introducing new experiences like this new Fast & Furious ride, Diagon Alley and Transformers. There’s always something for everyone which keeps us (Florida residents) […]

  23. […] of the Mummy, The Simpsons Ride, Escape from Gringotts, TRANSFORMERS The Ride 3D (Diagon Alley open this year at […]

  24. […] Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley (Universal Studios) and Hogsmeade (Universal’s Islands of […]

  25. […] the Deathly Hallows I think it’s safe to say us Potter fans have been dying for more, with the opening of Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando Resort leaving us literally begging. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the official screenwriting […]

  26. […] this one is a given. The whole Harry Potter loving universe will be piling up in theaters to see its release as the latest installment of book to films from […]

  27. Actually almost all theme parks allow some sort of child swap. It’s not unique to Universal.

    Kathy Mitchell / Reply
  28. […] Love Harry Potter? Have you been to Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando Resort? […]

  29. […] of the Mummy, The Simpsons Ride, Escape from Gringotts, TRANSFORMERS The Ride 3D (Diagon Alley open this year at […]

  30. […] to do the whole darn thing? Here’s my advice on Diagon Alley, Ollivanders Wand Shop, the VIP Experience and Universal Orlando Resort for […]

  31. […] and get Butterbeer ice cream? Want to know more about things to do in Diagon Alley? Check out my Diagon Alley highlights here. […]

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