Harry wished he had about eight more eyes.  He turned his head in every direction as they walked up the street, trying to look at everything at once: the shops, the things outside them, the people doing their shopping….
There were shops selling robes, shops selling telescopes and strange silver instruments Harry had never seen before, windows stacked with barrels of bat spleens and eels’ eyes, tottering piles of spell books, quills, and rolls of parchment, potion bottles, globes of the moon…  (SS, 5)

As you know Diagon Alley is the ‘market’ center of the wizardry world.  Diagon Alley is another place I am sure many of us wish really existed.  It appears lively and fun!  I found an amazing map at HP Lexicon of Diagon Alley. You must check it out:

As you can see there are a lot of shops in Diagon Alley.  I think its best to break it all down…

Your first step into Diagon Alley is through The Leaky Cauldron.  The Leaky Cauldron seems to always be busy with guests partaking in pea soup, drink and conversation.  While it doesn’t look like much to the typical muggle it is warm and welcoming.  Harry even ‘runs away’ to the Leaky Cauldron after an argument with the Dursleys that ended in the ‘accident’ magical use of blowing up his Aunt Marge like a balloon (PA, 2).  Many ominous events take place inside The Leaky Cauldron that foreshadow events to come: Harry first hears about Lord Voldemort and he sees the wanted posted of Sirius Black, for example.

As you go through the Leaky Cauldron and through a brick wall in a courtyard in the back, you continue onto Diagon Alley Road.  For any new student of Hogwarts one of the most important shops is Ollivanders Wand Shop, at the very end of Diagon Alley Road.  There is no other shop in the wizardry world that makes better wands, that is until Ollivander was kidnapped by Voldemort.  However, during it’s ‘hayday’ Ollivanders was the place to go to, despite its shabby looks inside.

But what is a wand without the robe?  Madam Malkin’s Robes For All Occasions is the place to go for any robe.  It is in Madam Malkin’s that Harry and Draco first meet, giving a glimpse into their turbulent ‘relationship’:

In the back of the shop, a boy with a pale pointed face was standing on a footstool while a second witch pinned up his long black robes. 

Right away Harry notices his high snobbery attitude and can’t wait to leave his presence.  

Now that you have your Wand and your Robe you need your books.  The place to go is right next to Madam Malkin’s:  Flourish & Blott’s.  No other bookstore is mentioned in Harry Potter, at least to my recollection, making this the hub for books.  And while we all love books like Hermione does, working at Flourish & Blott’s can be a bit more interesting than a Muggle Bookstore.  Sometimes there are book signings such as with Gilderoy Lockhart and other times it is the daily routine of selling magical books to wizards that makes the experience unique.  Think about it…  the book “The Monster Book of Monsters” is not your typical book…. it literally bites, let alone something not very nice to look at.  Now imagine working at Flourish & Blott’s and having to deal with such books as this every day.  

Other important shops that every Hogwarts student must stop at include Magical Instrument, the Cauldron Shop, and Eeylops Owl Emporium.  But one shop that EVERY Hogwarts student can’t wait to step foot in is Quality Quidditch Supplies.  Not only does Quality Quidditch Supplies sell all things that are Quiditch it also sells broomsticks.  Here is where Harry gets all of his brooms (Nimbus 2000, Nimbus 2001 and then the Firebolt), a necessity for every wizard and Quidditch player.  
As you can see, Diagon Alley is the place to go for any new Hogwarts’ student.  And these are just some of the places – we haven’t even hit upon Gringotts or any of the shops off of Knockturn Alley (the darker side of Diagon Alley) ~ maybe that’s for another time.

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