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Cecil Court
London, WC2N

Closest station: Leicester Square

Opening times vary

Street for book lovers and antiques enthusiasts

Check website for specific vendor information

Cecil Court: The real Diagon Alley?

Right around the corner from touristy Leicester Square and all the theatre-goers bargaining for cheap tickets, is mysterious Cecil Court.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is a hushed up Victorian pedestrian street, lined with old-fashioned stores dealing with antiquarian books, maps, stamps and other prints.

Walking down that little alleyway, ignorant of bustling London on either side, feels like stepping back into the 19th century.

Eccentrics galore

With names such as The Witch Ball and David Drummond At Pleasures Of Past Times, the shops here trade the most delightfully eccentric goods. One dusty little store sells old postcards from all over the world, including a bunch from homesick Brits, posted in India more than half a century ago.

Then there's antique shop Mark Sullivan, with a wealth of snuffboxes, Victorian charms and even cricket bats signed by Australian and Pakistan players touring around the world in the 1960s. Nearby is the mysterious Watkins shop, abounding in occult books, beads and tarot cards.

Motors, music and maps

Cecil Court is not just about eccentric goods and memorabilia, but also offers everything from motor sports to music to maps. Visit St. Martin's Models for a collection of miniature car models, or step into Travis and Emery to read up about antiquarian and contemporary music.

Visit Tim Bryars to get a glimpse of the first pocket London map from the 17th century or the first map ever drawn of the North Pole.

It's magic

Cecil Court is widely believed to be the 'real Diagon Alley' or at least the one that inspired J.K Rowling in the popular Harry Potter series. Rowling is also reported to have worked around the corner, just off St. Martin's Road. Cecil Court is now an integral part of Harry Potter Tours around the city.

Just like Harry enters the magical world by purchasing his first wand in Diagon Alley, Cecil Court allows visitors to get a taste of magic as well.
The Harry Potter connection has helped the street in more ways than one. Christopher of Christopher St. James recalls the time when Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson walked into his store last year to pick up their London premiere gifts.

"It is usually quiet, but on that day, the street was filled with hundreds of people, mostly screaming girls."

And, of course, if you need to stock up on Harry Potter money — galleons, sickles and knuts — you'll find a store at Cecil Court that sells that too.

Do not be afraid

Entering an antiquarian shop can be intimidating - items are centuries old and worth thousands of pounds. But at Cecil Court, not everything is exorbitantly priced.

While a first edition of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre can cost around £50,000, a third or fourth edition might cost about £200.

Make your way down Cecil Court, marvel at the Georgian buildings and traditional shop signs, and visit a true book lovers and antique collectors paradise.

Preethi Ramamoorthy