LEGO 75978 Harry Potter Diagon Alley [Review]

Today, there is no LEGO theme as special as Star Wars. Not only is it one of the fundamental LEGO universes, but it is also presented in almost every category of LEGO products: regular sets, junior sets, action figures, keychains, stationery, video games, and many more including, of course, more expensive exclusive sets. Apart from the Star Wars and Creator Expert / 18+ advanced building sets, there are not that many themes that have earned an exclusive product release. Thankfully, the LEGO Harry Potter joined the club in 2018 with the release of 71043 Hogwarts Castle. And just two years later comes another massive exclusive set, 75978 Diagon Alley. Despite being 500 pieces smaller than the gigantic Hogwarts castle, with its 5,544 pieces, it’s big enough to be the fourth in the list of the biggest LEGO sets released so far. Remarkably, both sets have the same price tag of US $399.99 | CAN $499.99 | UK £369.99, so let’s build the new one and find out whether it has more value for the same money.

The box and contents

Since the implementation of the new strategy aimed at the adult customers, LEGO has already released several sets packed in boxes of strict black design. For instance, everything in the packaging of the latest LEGO Ideas 21323 Grand Piano says that it is a toy for grown-ups who are passionate about classical music. Judging by the way the box of the new Diagon Alley is decorated, it is safe to say that the franchise is equally popular among both adults and kids.

Trying to fit such an extended model into a single picture on the front of the box doesn’t look like a good idea. Unfortunately, the front image doesn’t make justice to the Alley, which measures more than 40″/100 cm long with all building aligned. The set looks a lot better in real life, so make sure to check it out in the nearest store on display if available. The top of the box reveals a small army of the characters. There are 14 of them, plus two more minifigures designed as mannequins in the windows of the Quality Quidditch Supplies store. With the total count of 16 minifigures and a ton of accessories for every scene possible, this set brings an extraordinary collection of Wizarding World minifigures. It would be great to compare this set of minifigures to the characters of the new LEGO Collectible Minifigures 71028 Harry Potter Series 2.

With a set this big, it’s hard to expect surprising packaging or contents unless you are getting something like LEGO Technic 42115 Lamborghini Sián FKP 37, of course. However, unboxing is where the magic of the new Diagon Alley begins. Inside are numerous bags with pieces marked from 1 to 20, per the stages in the building guides. But at the bottom of the box, you’ll find another tiny one numbered 21. To keep the magic alive, we will refrain from disclosing its contents. We can only note that this is a very heartwarming touch for any Harry Potter fan.

The set consists of four standalone buildings akin to the modular ones of Creator Expert. Every building comes with a dedicated building guide and can be assembled independently; feel free to invite friends for a cozy building evening. Another special thing about the set is the fact that every book opens with short descriptions of each building and its story.

The minifigures

The Diagon Alley is presented by eight iconic locations, which would be worthless without the characters. With so many places and interiors, there is a lot of room for play and display. This is possible thanks to 14 minifigures, of which four are new and exclusive to this set.

For the set, the design team decided to recreate locations from the first two books, plus add the Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes from the sixth book. The minifigures of the students all come equipped with shorter legs to capture them in their younger years. Looking at Harry, Hermione, and Ron, I wish the torsos were a little bit more detailed. With plain unprinted leg pieces, the characters look a bit too simple for an exclusive set.

Accompanied by his spoiled son Draco, Lucious Malfoy is exclusive to this set in this design. Unfortunately, Lucious only has one facial expression, although it captures his character pretty well.

Ginny and Molly Weasley is another parent-child pair of the set. Once again, torso designs aren’t that detailed, and Molly’s skirt has no prints at all. Another version of Molly can be found in the recent 75980 Attack on The Burrow set. Both versions of the character share the same head and hairpiece, so nothing that exclusive.

Surprisingly, the new Diagon Alley comes with not the first, not the second, but the third version of Garrick Ollivander. The other two can be found in the original edition of Diagon Alley (set 10217), as well as in its mini version, set 40289. The new minifigure design isn’t much different from the one that came with the mini version of the street, so if you are looking for Olivander to add to your private collection, the new exclusive set isn’t your cheapest option. However, it is the only way to get a brand new Florean Fortescue minifigure. These two merchants look great together and have detailed prints on both sides of the torses, as well as different facial expressions.

Another eye-catcher for minigifure collectors is a brand new Daily Prophet photographer. The torso, the head, and even the hat with hair are new designs in terms of colors and patterns. By contrast, Hagrid is a pretty casual minifigure with nothing special in its appearance. Obviously, the set won’t be complete without him, so it’s nice to see him included.

Gilderoy Lockhart is the fourth and the final exclusive character of the set. Gold and lilac patterns, magnificent hair, double-sided cape — what is not to love about this handsome writer? You can keep telling me that he is vain and arrogant, but I can’t help placing adding him the list of my favorite minifigures.

Finally, here come the two minifigures so good, the whole set is worth buying just for the sake of getting them. Fred and George Weasley are such a fantastic pair of minifigures; it’s impossible not to smile looking at their laughing faces. And since they are twins, with this set, you are getting four different facial expressions that can be used for one character. In case you missed it, make sure to watch James and Oliver Phelps play with the set and share their impressions of the minifigure versions of the twins.

Harry Potter fans will also appreciate a couple of mannequins dressed in quidditch sportswear. Designs are similar to ones we saw in 75956 Quidditch Match, and finally, we have them in colors of Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw.

Ollivanders Wand Shop and Scribbulus Writing Implements

If you choose to assemble the street according to the order suggested by the building guides, the Ollivanders Wand Shop and Scribbulus Writing Implements will be your first stop. Just like any other wizarding business on the Alley, these two shops occupy a regular 16×32 baseplate, with the buildings themselves being about eight studs deep. Do not expect much room inside, but rather enjoy all the diversity of building techniques and designs happing outside. There are hardly any oddly specific pieces used by the designers. Nevertheless, you won’t find two similar architectural elements on the whole street.

Surprisingly, a regular window frame 1x2x2 is one of the most common elements in the set. You’ll find these pieces in every building on the street in a multitude of colors. You can see them being used in both of the first two shops, but thanks to different building techniques and architectural solutions, the stores look unique and authentic.

When starting to assemble the shops, I expected the interiors to be a bit more detailed. Each room carries no more than a couple of pieces of furniture, and some walls look empty. For instance, the movie pictures the Ollivanders as a rather gloomy shop cluttered with thousands of boxes with magic wands. The LEGO version doesn’t quite capture the mood of the places depicted on screen, but rather reveals its own neat and toy-like version of the legendary site.

What the design team really nailed is the iconic floor-to-ceiling bookshelves filled with colorful boxes sticking out. There are two of those in the shop; assembling them was way more engaging than I could have imagined. There are even empty slots for the new magic wand box pieces, which we will take a look at a little bit later in this review.

The architecture of the Diagon Alley isn’t that sophisticated. The walls of the shops are built with a very limited variety of pieces and use some of the most basic types of bricks and windows. Actually, it’s the flags, shop signs, plaques, and even owls that create the atmosphere of the wizarding world. I think I will never stop praising the official LEGO color palette; shades of grey go extremely well with dark tan and dark blue.

There is no secret that all the shop signs and plaques in the set are actually stickers, so you’d better be prepared to apply a lot of them. And as if the sticker application wasn’t stressful enough, most of the plaques consist of two adjacent pieces. If you want a truly magical result, make sure the stickers align perfectly across several LEGO pieces and the gap between the stickers isn’t too wide.

Secondary rooms above the shops are full of excellent interior design ideas. For instance, a small room above Scribbulus features an adorable sofa decorated with a sticker. Once again, the colors of the interior work perfectly together, proving that you don’t need a lot of pieces to design an impressive interior.

The set introduces the magic wand box piece — a 1×3 box long and wide enough to fit a regular magic wand. A regular 1×3 tile can be used as a lid. The set comes with several boxes, so make sure Harry doesn’t leave the shop with someone else’s wand.

Quality Quidditch Supplies and the Daily Prophet

Next comes the second biggest store on the street, Quality Quidditch Supplies. The shop’s building occupies two-thirds of the baseplate’s length; the Daily Prophet editorial office takes up just a small corner to the right from the Quidditch Supplies. Although both buildings use exactly the same assortment of pieces like Ollivanders and Scribbulus, the colors and the building techniques establish very different architectural styles.

Boring and repetitive building techniques were one of my biggest concerns about the set, especially since it’s all about small buildings with straight walls. The way the Quidditch Supplies front is designed is totally worth a closer look. Not only do the windows use transparent wall bricks with new prints, the whole substructure slightly leans forward when put into place. And I can’t say there are any mindblowing building techniques involved in this part, but the final look is stunning.

I wish the top floor were as pretty-looking as the ground one, but unfortunately, it is only layers of pink bricks. As for the pink, I’m not sure the color choice for the set accurate. Neither the books nor the movies seem to include detailed descriptions or shots of the store’s front, but judging by the pictures from the themed parks, the front must be closer to sand green. Considering this, even sand green won’t be the best option as there are two more stores down the alley that utilize three different shades of green in their exteriors. Supposing pink was the designers’ choice. I wonder what the shop would look like in dark orange or dark red.

Unlike Ollivanders, this store is much more spacious — so that customers could test-fly any of their brooms. The shelves with fold up robes don’t look as impressive as bookshelves full of boxes with magic wands. Still, they are instantly recognizable and work just fine for the interior decoration.

With the roof and all the flags and shop signs in place, the building is ready to join the Alley. The build of the very top of the store feels unreasonable simple, and straightforward compared to the ground floor and the facade; I kept waiting for unusual use of regular pieces but instead found a rat with a massive chunk of cheese under the roof.

With these few interior elements, the Quality Quidditch Supplies feels quite empty. I even thought I must have missed a few pages in the building guide. However, as soon as you add the minifigures, suddenly everything falls into place. All the space is there for you to play out numerous funny scenes and stories. And with the minifigures included in the set, it’s simply impossible to create a boring one.

Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor and Flourish & Blotts bookseller

The third part of the Alley is yet another couple of wizard businesses nesting on a relatively small baseplate. Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor is the only catering on the street, so it has all features of a regular LEGO cafe build: a couple of chairs by the door, a small round table, and, of course, a sun-blind. Once again, take note that there are no special pieces, but the final design of the place is utterly charming.

As for the Flourish & Blotts, the store is remarkable for one of the most complicated builds of the whole set. The modular plaque above the entrance is a very tight blend of smaller brackets, modified bricks with studs on one side, and, of course, tiles with stickers.

The interiors of both buildings look a lot busier than those of the Quidditch Supplies. Mainly, this is because of the tall bookshelves full of thick books and less inner space due to more massive facades. Thanks to the simple interior solutions, I guess a lot of LEGO fans can try to expand the stores using pieces from their private collections.

Being a review author, I must remain neutral towards the product I’m writing about and give a balanced opinion of the set. However, I can’t help claiming these two stores, the cutest and coziest LEGO buildings ever. The combinations of colors and the choice of building techniques, including the roofs, make me wish they were released as a separate set.

Although no major events of the books unfolded in the Ice Cream Parlor, Harry Potter fans will know why exactly the Flourish & Blotts is a part of this set. The interior comes with a dedicated wooden table, which is where the one and only Gilderoy Lockhart presented his bestseller Magical Me.

Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes

Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes is the final stop of the shopping tour. The biggest, the tallest, and the brightest building on the street, this one was proclaimed the most favorite among my friends who are fans of the wizarding world. The mix of lilac and orange is a very bold design choice. In my opinion, it looks a lot better in real life than in any picture, but with walls being this tall, the front seems a little bit too empty. There are a couple of massive stickers on the right side, but they cannot be seen from the front of the building.

Unlike other buildings on the street, this one cannot be devived into separate floors because of the stairs inside. I was amazed to see Harry Potter fans among my friends going crazy about the interior of the store. From the adult fan of LEGO’s point of view, this interior isn’t that sophisticated at all. The stairs utilize regular pieces, the shelves are as primitive as possible, and all the rest of the design is just a ton of stickers.

Naturally, the store comes with everything you need to recreate a proper Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, but it makes an impression of unfinished work. Maybe it’s because I’m used to sophisticated tiled floors of modular buildings that make any interior look rich and fabulous? (see 10251 Brick Bank‘s floor for reference)

On the second thought, the reason why almost all of the set’s interiors look subpar is that the design team didn’t want to make too extraordinary. I clearly remember my excitement about the release of the previous version of Diagon Alley (set 10217); back in 2011, the set seemed to be the ultimate LEGO Harry Potter product. Today, that old version looks awkward and bizarre. I wonder, would the next version of the Diagon Alley look like. With so many things to improve, the design team will surely have an opportunity to surprise us.

As was mentioned above, the stickers are one of the most stressful aspects of the build. With my review copy, I found out that some store plaques do not quite align even if you apply them with extra care.

The only functional mechanism of the set is hidden right behind the statues head on the corner of the shop. By moving a Technic liftarm behind the wall, you can raise and lower the hat attached to a hand. This is a simple yet very spectacular addition to the store.

The complete build

If you have ever bought two or more LEGO modular buildings, you know what comes right after the assembling — you add one more building to your modular street. With the Diagon Alley, the process is similar, with the exception that you align four buildings at once. It’s just like you bought four modular buildings from LEGO Creator Harry Potter Expert theme. The final composition is exactly 102 cm long; this is the length of four 32-stud-wide baseplates.

Turns out, the 10214 Tower Bridge set’s base is exactly 128-stud-long, too. However, because of the colorful balloons peeking from the back of Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, you will need a spare inch between the far-right side of the street and the wall of your room (in case you are planning to put the set as close to the right wall as possible). This makes the new Diagon Alley the longest official LEGO retail model so far.

If you don’t have a spare 40″-long shelf on your wall, here is a magic trick you can do with the Alley. By “breaking” the street in two halves, you can re-arrange the buildings to form a very narrow passage between the storefronts. In this formation, the cobblestone road made with tiles and round plates forms an integrated space of the alley. Even without the minifigures, it looks simply charming.

The slightest re-arrangement of buildings can result in even more magical displays. All you need is Harry and Hagrid to shoot a heartwarming picture to be sent as postcards.

And even this is not the set’s final form. Arranging the building differently lets you form a block with stores facing opposite directions. Note how perfectly the shapes of roofs align as if these are not four, but two buildings with multiple facades.

You might have also noticed a small passage leading to the Knockturn Alley right by the Weasleys’ store. It turns out that with buildings put back to back, the passage perfectly aligns with the back of the Daile Prophet office. Together the two places form a dark and gloomy tunnel with a box of newspapers on the ground and a spiderweb in the crooked window. Now, isn’t this genius of Marcos Bessa, LEGO Harry Potter Design Lead, and his team?


Conclusion and recommendation

As LEGO exclusive sets become more and more specific oriented (see 21323 Grand Piano), choosing the right product to buy becomes a little bit complicated with every release. But it’s completely different with 75978 Harry Potter Diagon Alley. With a light heart, I can recommend it to anyone — to a LEGO fan, to a Harry Potter fan, to a child, to an adult, or anyone else. Finally, it’s a set that you let you kind of ignore the price tag. Yes, it $400 in the US, but actually a collection of highly-detailed] themed buildings for less than $100 each, plus an exclusive collection of 14 minifigures, four of which can’t be found in any other LEGO set. And, hey, there’s even a surprise box!

LEGO 75978 Harry Potter Diagon Alley is available from LEGO for US $399.99 | CAN $499.99 | UK £369.99. It may also be available from third-party sellers on sites like Amazon and eBay.

The LEGO Group sent The Brothers Brick an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.

2 comments on “LEGO 75978 Harry Potter Diagon Alley [Review]

  1. tim

    “Apart from the Star Wars and Creator Expert / 18+ advanced building sets, there are not that many themes that have earned an exclusive product release. Thankfully, the LEGO Harry Potter joined the club in 2018 with the release of 71043 Hogwarts Castle. ” -sorry nope, Diagon Alley 10217 released over 9 years ago and was also an exclusive release. They joined the “CLUB” in 2011

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