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Why is the Leaky Cauldron¹ famous?

‘This is it,’ said Hagrid, coming to a halt, ‘the Leaky Cauldron. It’s a famous place.’

[...]

For a famous place, it was very dark and shabby.

Philosopher's Stone - pages 53-54 - Bloomsbury - chapter 5, Diagon Alley

At first I thought perhaps the Leaky Cauldron was famous because it is so old, but then I thought a more fitting word in those circumstances would be "historical". "Famous" implies that something of great importance happened at the Leaky Cauldron, an incident of sorts. Is there anything in canon that explains why the Leaky Cauldron is famous?

★ I'm looking for an answer based in canon (the Harry Potter novels and three supplemental books, any interviews with J.K. Rowling, or information from Pottermore) and do not prefer an answer from the HP Wikia or Wikipedia.

¹Although it should be obvious, I will pre-emptively clarify that I am asking about the pub the Leaky Cauldron in the Harry Potter novels and not The Leaky Cauldron the website.

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I wouldn't take anything Hagrid says as gospel. –  Jack B Nimble Nov 14 '12 at 16:40
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I point of semantics: I disagree with the conclusion that "famous" implies some momentous event occurred there. Many restaurants and bars are "famous" for their food. Some places are famous for being places to be seen, or even for having unusual architecture. Some could be considered famous for being good locations for hearing and sharing gossip. I suspect at least a few of the reasons I listed are good candidates for the Leaky Cauldron's fame. –  Beofett Nov 14 '12 at 17:12
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I concur with @Beofett - in normal muggle usage, a "famous" inn would not even primarily imply some event occurred there. I'd be more likely to think of the quality of the food, or in this case perhaps the drink! –  Mark Beadles Nov 14 '12 at 17:27
    
...some places are famous just for being historical. –  Gorchestopher H Nov 14 '12 at 17:28

4 Answers 4

up vote 12 down vote accepted

My theory is that the Leaky Cauldron is either the only way, or one of very few ways, for Muggle-born witches and wizards and their Muggle families to enter Diagon Alley from London.

There's a Wikipedia article called Places in Harry Potter which says the following on the subject:

The pub serves as a way of entering into Diagon Alley from the Muggle world for Muggle-borns and their parents (both of whom, until the first letter from Hogwarts, have no magical knowledge or means of entering). The rear of The Leaky Cauldron opens onto a chilly little courtyard where a brick (found by counting three up and two across from a dustbin) is tapped three times.

(This information isn't cited, but it's fairly common knowledge from the first book.)

The pub probably is not famous in its own right, but rather it is well-known because of its being a portal to Diagon Alley (which is very well-known as a shopping district for wizards and others).

This question provides some insight on other methods of gaining entry to Diagon Alley. It seems that the Leaky Cauldron is the only physical location from which one can enter. (There may be one more, but it's thus far unconfirmed.)

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I'm not sure if this is right. Could Muggles even enter from the courtyard without using magic? He tapped the wall three times with the point of his umbrella. –  DVK Dec 16 at 5:05
    

It's also possible that he meant "famous" as in "2. Informal excellent; splendid." It fits with Hagrid's character that he would find a shabby pub to be excellent and/or splendid.

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We got some new information about The Leaky Cauldron in a recent Pottermore update. (Spoiler warning for anybody working through it themselves.) It was unlocked as part of a “12 Days of Christmas” promotion on Pottermore.

This suggests several reasons why the pub might be famous:

  1. It’s the oldest pub in London.

    As the piece opens, it predates any other pub in London, including Muggle ones:

    Some people argue that the oldest pub in London is the White Hart on Drury Lane; others that it is the Angel on Bermondsey Wall, or the Lamb and Flag on Rose Street. All of these people are Muggles, and all of them are wrong. The oldest pub in London, as any wizard will tell you, is the Leaky Cauldron on Charing Cross Road.

    In particular, it actually predates Charing Cross Road itself.

  2. It leads to Diagon Alley.

    Although it’s still not clear if it’s the only entrance, it seems to be the way that everybody uses:

    The main entrance to Diagon Alley, where witches, wizards and others purchase magical goods, is located behind the pub.

    The main portal to the centre of wizarding commerce in the Capital would get quite a rep.

  3. There are several contentious bits of history.

    When Charing Cross road was built, it wasn’t clear whether the pub would survive. It was a good example of the magical community persevering against the apathy of politicians:

    The Leaky Cauldron faced one of its most difficult challenges in the late nineteenth century, with the creation of Charing Cross Road, which ought to have flattened it completely. The Minister for Magic of the day, the tediously long-winded Faris Spavin, gave a melancholy speech in the Wizengamot explaining why the Leaky Cauldron could not, this time, be saved. When Spavin sat down seven hours later, having finished his speech, he was presented with a note from his secretary explaining that the wizarding community had rallied, performed a mass of Memory Charms (some say, to this day, that the Imperius Curse was used on several Muggle town planners, though this has never been proven) and that the Leaky Cauldron had been accommodated in the revised plans for the new road.

    The magical community is small, so this probably involved a significant proportion of the community. You can imagine direct stories about it would get passed down for some years (“your grandad helped save this pub”, etc.), which would help it stick in the community mindset.

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It's also where most British witches and wizards have their first experience of walking into a bar and ordering a drink by themselves; for many it's where they have their first alcohol drink on their own (or just with their own friends); their first bar fight, etc. Memories, good times, cheers! –  Joe L. Dec 16 at 18:05

From what I can tell, Leaky Cauldron is the only Wizarding pub in/around Diagon Alley. At least, the only one mentioned in canon.

As such, all other reasons aside, it would be famous basically by the virtue of being the only one at a famous location, central to Wizarding World. Sort of how Moskow McDonalds in early 1990s was "famous", not for any special property, but merely for being the only McDonalds in USSR at the time.

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