Picture the scene. You find the correct brick – three up, two across – and tap the wall behind the Leaky Cauldron courtyard three times. And there it is, the wizarding world opening up in front of you, revealing the cobbled street beyond. We can completely understand why Harry wishes he has ‘about eight more eyes’ at this moment – who wouldn’t want such excitement and exhilaration at the start of their shopping trip? So, for starters, the magical brick entrance to Diagon Alley is something we absolutely wouldn’t want to miss out on, whereas it sounds like you can walk straight into Hogsmeade just like any other Muggle town. Dull as as an old cauldron.
And once you’re in, Diagon Alley is bustling with witches and wizards of all ages and from all walks of life. Hogsmeade, on the other hand, sounds like it only comes to life when Hogwarts students are allowed to visit. We’d want to see witches complaining about the price of dragon liver outside the apothecary, and children marvelling over broomsticks in the window of Quality Quidditch Supplies. The thing about Diagon Alley is that it gives an insight into wizarding life that feels realistic, palpable, even gritty. Hogsmeade is a fairy tale village that doesn’t reflect the day to day lives of wizarding folk. Picturesque? Yes. Nice for the occasional weekend trip? Yes. Good for shopping? We’d rather have down-to-earth Diagon Alley any day of the week.
What comes with a shopping destination for real wizards is choice and variety. And with that variety comes competition – meaning that we think Diagon Alley houses the best wizarding products Galleons can buy. Remember that Harry has to write to Flourish and Blotts in Diagon Alley to get a copy of Advanced Potion Making and not just pop over to a bookshop in Hogsmeade. Not to mention that Hogwarts students appear to pick up their school supplies in Diagon Alley, rather than choosing other wizarding shopping destinations. It’s also in Diagon Alley where Harry first sees the Firebolt. Quality Quidditch Supplies is selling the state-of-the-art racing broom, later used by the Irish in the Quidditch World Cup. With options like these, not only would you be able to get everything you actually needed, but window-shopping would be an absolute dream.
Again and again Diagon Alley proves itself as the place to shop. It has Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions (emphasis on the all), and it is also home to Ollivanders which Hagrid says: ‘Just Ollivanders left now – only place fer wands, Ollivanders, and yeh gotta have the best wand.’ And let’s not forget that it has a plethora of options when it comes to pets: Eelops Owl Emporium which gave us beautiful Hedwig, as well as the Magical Menagerie that gave us crafty Crookshanks!
Shops and magical products aside, Diagon Alley is superior to Hogsmeade because of the opportunities to bump into friends outside of Hogwarts! Hogsmeade might be pretty, but it’s practically next door to the castle. We love Harry, Ron and Hermione’s reunions during the summer holidays in Diagon Alley, and we’d definitely want to experience that sense of anticipation as students flocked there to buy school supplies, catch up with friends and prepare for the year ahead.
Sorry Hogsmeade, you just can’t compete with this bustling hub of wizarding activity!
In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, a new realm of opportunities opened up to Hogwarts students: access to the neighbouring village of Hogsmeade. Described as looking like a ‘Christmas card’ due to its abundance of snow, the village was awash with pubs, thatched houses, tea shops, joke shops and beyond – and even includes its own tourist attraction in the ‘supposedly haunted’ Shrieking Shack. See? Already that sounds pretty brilliant.
Although we’d already become quite accustomed with the joyful hustle and bustle of Diagon Alley, discovering Hogsmeade was even more intriguing. We associated Diagon Alley with getting back to school, picking up books and supplies and the like, while Hogsmeade was designed as a break from school, a chance for students to unwind and properly start feeling more independent. After all, the trip was only available to third-year Hogwarts students and beyond – getting to go to Hogsmeade was like a dream for the younger pupils.
And while Diagon Alley appears to only have one pub (The famous Leaky Cauldron, of course) Hogsmeade has options! You can pop to the Three Broomsticks for a flagon of Butterbeer with Madam Rosmerta, or if you want a bit of quiet time, you can go to the Hog’s Head, which is admittedly a bit dodgier, but good for private meetings. While we’re aware of the legendary status of The Leaky Cauldron, Hogsmeade feels more like the place to go for a bit of an escape, and not just for students, but for Hogwarts staff too. Witnessing the likes of Professor Flitwick enjoying a flamboyant cherry drink with an umbrella in the Three Broomsticks, for example, was simply a joy to see.
Beyond the more vibrant social haunts, Hogsmeade is known for confectionary shops such as Honeydukes, which has an enviable array of different sweets on offer, and the extremely popular Zonko’s Joke Shop, where students could purchase all sorts of whacky and wonderful items to infuriate Filch the caretaker with. Compared to Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade just seems a bit more fun, and dare we say it, a bit more rebellious. Just look at the Shrieking Shack, the ‘haunted’ house that couldn’t help but spark interest in its young student visitors. Hogsmeade definitely has a more unruly aura.
While Hogwarts students were more likely go to Diagon Alley with their parents or families, Hogsmeade was altogether the cooler option to go with your friends, or even go on dates. It is altogether quirkier, more interesting and more varied than Diagon Alley, and served as an important location for many key moments in the Harry Potter series.
Sure, Diagon Alley may have been Harry’s first proper introduction to the wizarding world – but Hogsmeade is when things really got interesting. The wizarding village’s atmosphere was always a point of consternation for Hogwarts students, and really seemed to represent the curiosity and excitement of growing up.
To learn more about Diagon Alley, why not watch Chapter Five of our Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s/Sorcerer's Stone readalong, where you can revisit Harry’s first trip there..