16 Stunning Film Locations

How many times have you watched a movie and wondered: is this landscape real? Does this amazing place even exist? And if so, where the heck is it? Well, in (perhaps) part one of this series, Rodrigo Dos Santos from the HostelBookers Portuguese blog will unveil some of those gorgeous, romantic, exciting and simply stunning film locations which can be visited and enjoyed by everyone!

Feel the same sand beneath your toes and dip your feet in the same spectacular blue water that Leonardo Di Caprio dived in to for The Beach in Thailand. Try Amelie Poulain’s crème brûlée in Paris, or walk the grandiose grounds that Kirsten Dunst strutted as the cosmetic queen Marie Antoinette.

Don’t forget share your favourite film locations below!

Mamma Mia!

Skopelos, Greece

Abba, Meryl Streep and Greece all in the same film? The proof is in the pudding, a film which collected over $600 million at boxoffices worldwide. But it’s obvious that part of the success of Mamma Mia! (2008), was due to the incredibly beautiful Greek countryside which anyone with a love of beach holidays dropped dead for. And it was all real, no studios!

However, some geographical liberties were take it is true. The island Meryl and co. called home is in fact called Skopelos, not Kalokairi. It has some of the most beautiful beaches in the region an only about five thousand inhabitants live there. With white sand and crystal clear waters, it really is a little slice of Paradise. The bay on the southwest coast of Skopelos was the main filming location. Nothing beats a glass of wine with a view – think Shirley Valentine style – so head to Agnanti restaurant in the town of Glossa to drink in the sunset.

Find Paradise and a Skopelos Island hotel.


The Beach

Hat Maya, Thailand

While it may be little but a teen cult film by now, oh and of course a mecca for lusting over Leo (as I said, a teen cult film), you can’t deny that Danny Boyle’s film brought to the fore the beauty of the beaches of Thailand, which is today one of the most popular destinations in the world for backpackers.

Producers stirred controversy over a number of ecological vandalism complaints as they began to remove and plonk a few more lush palm trees just to make the perfect view that little bit more perfect. The majority of the film was shot on Hat Maya, which is a very popular beach in Phi Phi Leh Island, close to Phuket. Visitors can reach the beautiful island in about 90 minutes by ferry (only one crossing per day) from either Krabi or Phuket pier. Also among The Beach film locations, the glorious Haeo Suwat waterfall is located in the Khao Yai National Park, and is a three-hour trip from Bangkok.

Check out hostels in Krabi.

Rapa Nui

Easter Island, Chile

A somewhat under-the-radar gem of a film Rapa Nui (1994), starring Kevin Costner as producer, has stunning cinematography of the beautiful landscapes from the Pacific Ocean’s Easter Island. Despite its location 3,700km from the coast, it belongs to Chile and is known for its huge stone statues, moai.

The film depicts rituals that once took place in the ceremonial village of Orongo, located on the southwestern tip of Easter Island (Rapa Nui) when the people would wait for the first egg of the sacred Manutara bird – also known as the swallow of the sea. In several scenes, cave paintings adorn the walls and we glimpse the stunning islets of Motus Nui, Kao Kao and Iti, so spread out across the ocean’s surface that the viewer has a sense of the curvature of the earth. The place is simply spellbinding.

Getting to Easter Island:
Lan is the only airline operating flights to Easter Island. Depending on the season there are between four and seven flights per week departing from Santiago, Papete (Tahiti) and Lima. Return flights around €600.

Find cheap accommodation on Easter Island.

The Oyster and the Wind

Jericoacoara, Brazil

Consistently voted the most beautiful beaches in Brazil and also one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Jericoacoara is your white sand blue sea picture perfect destinations. In the film The Oyster and the Wind (1997), by Walter Lima Jr., the beach serves as a backdrop to the story of a girl (Leandra Leal) who lives with her possessive father (Lima Duarte) on an island off the coast.

300km south of Fortaleza, Jericoacoara can no longer claim the isolation and exclusivity it once boasted. Today, a startling number of tourists are willing to make the 8-hour bus ride, then pay $200 for a private 45-minute journey across the sand dunes in the back of a jeep or pick-up truck. But the crystal-clear waters, coconut palms, calm sea and the dunes are still there and aside from hearing familiar accents from time to time the only other thing to taint the landscape is pausing to remember the rather sad and gloomy mood of the film.

Check out tips for hostels in Jericoacara.

The Lord of the Rings

New Zealand

The New Zealand tourist industry enjoyed quite a boom due to success of The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003) trilogy. Whether or not the appeal still remains or visitors are simply struggling to fork out for the long haul flights, this boom is certainly in decline. But who knows, The Hobbit is due for release this year and perhaps that will stoke the tourist flames. Peter Jackson used both the north and south islands of his home country to shoot the trilogy. Some of the locations are notoriously hard to reach or inaccessible to the public.

Situated on a geothermal system, the hot springs and active volcanoes of the North Island are breathtaking and exciting. Tongariro National Park is home to three active volcanoes: Mt Ruapehu, Mt Tongariro and Mt Ngauruhoe. Tourists can take in all three on a hike called the Tongariro Crossing Trail. These three volcanoes proved to be ideal settings for the dark realm of Mordor and Mount Doom. The snowy fields of Whakapapa on the slopes of Ruapehu set the scene for the opening battle at Mount Doom, when an alliance was formed between men and elves when they defeated the armies of Mordor and took Sauron’s ring.

Alexander Farm, a private property near Matamata in the Waikato area, represented the pastoral Shire, home of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. Today, Matamata, calls itself ‘Hobbiton’, with guided tours of the remnants of the movie sets.

Check the list of cheap backpacker hostels in New Zealand  or if you are still undecided about where to go, read our blog on New Zealand: North v South Island.

Inception

Paris

Inception (2010) is not short on gripping cinematography and no doubt it’s twisted plot and CGI effects had something to do with the four Academy Awards it won.

Perhaps the most memorable scenes are those of Paris when Ariadne folds the skyline in on itself. Visit the corner of Rue César Franck and the Rue Bouchut in the 15th arrondissement and you’ll be transported. Pause at the coffee tables of the Stuzzi cafe (or “Debussy” in the movie) and you’ll be following in the footsteps of Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page.

Another incredible reality-bending scene takes place on a bridge where the character produces a mirror and filmed on the Pont de Bir-Hakeim near Passy metro while their first meeting was filmed inside Musée Galliera.

See our list of hostels and cheap Paris hotels.

Amélie

(Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain)

Montmartre, Paris

Jean-Pierre Jeunet turned Paris, and particularly Montmartre where he grew up, into a colourful playground for the setting Amelie Poulain. The busy Rue de Saint Vincent (behind the Sacre Coeur), the charming Pont des Arts (near the Louvre), the erotic shop in Pigalle (called Video Palace at 37 Boulevard de Clichy, not that you need to know!), all were featured in the movie and are beautiful tourists attractions in their own right on and off screen.

But of course, top of the list will be the lovely art-deco café where Amelie works. Guess what, it exists! It is called the Cafe des Deux Moulins (15 Rue Lepic and corner of Rue Cauchois). The location was in due to shut down before the film was released but its new found fame has made it now a major tourist attraction in Paris. The names of the characters now grace the menu including the famous crème brûlée of Amelie.

See our list of hostels in Paris and a selection of the best cheap Paris hotels.

Marie Antoinette

Versailles, France

Whatever historical liberties director Sofia Coppola may have taken with her vision of Marie Antoinette (2006), the film is a feast for the eyes. The Oscar-winning costumes were exquisite, quite befitting for grandeur and beauty of the Chateau de Versailles which graced most scenes.

The rather modern take on the story follows the young and headstrong monarch. Played by Kirsten Dunst, we ogle at her infatuation with potions, lotions and her ability to make anything à la mode during her reign at the French palace. It is quite the rare feat that Coppola obtained permission to film inside Versailles – the scene of Antoinette’s marriage to Louis XVI in the Hall of Mirrors is particularly spectacular.

The palace of Versailles is open year round and it is located about 20km west of Paris. Direct trains leave from Montparnasse to Versailles Chantiers or from Saint Lazare to Versailles Rive Droite. You can easily spend a full day here.

Harry Potter

UK

Die-hard Harry Potter fan or not, the film scales some stunning locations around the UK worth touring. Who can forget the ‘I wish I went to school there’ sensation when we become acquinted with that magical dining room which is in fact the Hall of Christ Church in Oxford. This city and its architecture have inspired many filmmakers and crime thrilling TV series and the great hall featured in all of the Harry Potter films. The Hall of Christ Church is open Monday to Saturday 9am-5pm and Sundays 2pm to 5pm admission is between €7-€10.

The cutesy railway station, where students for Hogwarts alight, is just as dinky in real life. Goathland, a beautiful part of the world in the Yorkshire Moors, is relatively unchanged and is serviced by the steam-operated North Yorkshire Moors Railway. The train journey itself departs London Kings Cross station and follows the route of the Jacobite Express to Scotland from Fort William to Mallaig across the breathtaking Glenfinnan Viaduct, heather-clad hills and babbling burns.

Alternatively, the Warner Bros. Studios will be launching a tour of their studios in Leavesden where much of the movie was in fact filmed. The town lies on the outskirts of London, about 20 minutes by train leaving from Euston station. For 3 hours visitors can enjoy behind-the-scenes peeping of the most successful film franchise in history with scenery, costumes, props, animatronics and a display of special effects used in the eight films. Tickets go on sale on 13 October 2011, and advance purchase is required – no tickets will be available on site. So it is worthkeeping an eye on the official website.

 Start planning your Harry Potter tour here with hostels in Scotland and England.

Notting Hill

Notting Hill, London

One of the most charming districts in London, Notting Hill is a must-experience on any trip to London. The bustling Portobello Road market is hard to resist on weekends. And it’s easy to picture William Thacker’s quirky travel bookshop among them if you’ve managed to watch the friendly romantic comedy Notting Hill (1999).

William’s “Travel Bookshop” is in fact a shoe store called – you guessed it – Notting Hill (142 Portobello Road) and served as the facade for the film. The real bookstore, on which the film was based, is just around the corner, at 13-15 Blenheim Crescent.

Hugh Grant’s house with the blue front door is today black (280 Westbourne Park Road). The scene where they watch the science fiction movie of Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) is also real, the cinema is the classic Coronet Cinema (103 Notting Hill Gate, next to the tube station). The park where Grant makes a ‘whoopsy daisy’ date blunder is the Rosmead Gardens.

See our list of cheap London hotels near Notting Hill.

The King’s Speech

England

The King’s Speech (2010) utilised some of the most important and beautiful historic buildings in London. Interestingly, “official” places could not be used. For the test in Westminster Abbey was exchanged for Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire, Buckingham Palace was replaced by the Lancaster House on The Mall in London (a similar trick was used in Young Victoria and it also stood for the Palace of St. Petersburg in Reds), and Englefield House in Berkshire (now also used as a backdrop in such films as Match Point and X-Men First Class).

The scenes in Lionel Logue’s office were shot in 33 Portland Place (Fitzrovia), including the original decor. Unfortunately, this is a private building, used for parties, banquets and various other filming opportunities s, unless you are a special guest, your only chance to see the place is from the outside.

Other London scenes were filmed at the grand Old Naval College in Greenwich, and the control centre of the Battersea Power Station served as the wireless control room where BBC Radio broadcast the inaugural King in 1925.

Alice in Wonderland

Cornwall, England

The vast green fields and rocky outcrops of coastline in Cornwall county at the southeastern tip of the UK have long been a major British holiday retreat. Alice in Wonderland (2010) visited the town of Torpoint and the immense grounds of Antony House to film some of the more Victorian period shots. The historic building itself was built in the early 18th century and houses a  vast collection of art.

News of the location’s celebrity status spread and over 150 locals were used as extras – in fact I stayed at a local B&B who’s daughter auditioned for the part of Alice (long blonde hair and lanky type) but it was in fact her father – who was accompanying her in the queue – who they asked to audition for the part of the Mad Hatter (white haired and whiskers kind of chap!). To celebrate the release of the film, the area was populated by the oddball characters from the classic Lewis Carroll story.

It’s about five hours by train from London to Cornwall. The gardens of Saint Albert Antony House are open March-October (admission €10).

See the list of hostels in Cornwall.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

Siem Reap, Cambodia

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Siem Reap is home to the magnificent temple of Angkor Wat, the remains of the Khmer civilization, and considered one of the greatest archaeological and religious treasures of the world. It is the ultimate symbol of Cambodia.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001), the computer game heroine is humanised by Angelina Jolie and she does tend to jet set around the world but the scenes with the round temple of Angkor Wat really are among the best. When you are there, be sure to see the ruins of Ta Prohm, beautiful and partially obscured by giant fig trees. The site includes a complex network of temples exploited by Lara Croft and, as expected, the tourism industry in Cambodia is booming – she makes one hell of a mascot.

Landmarks aside, Siem Reap has great nightlife – including the Red Piano, apparently a favourite of Angelina’s!

See the list of hostels in Siem Reap.

Lost in Translation

Tokyo

A true postcard from Tokyo, the romantic Lost In Translation (2003) dwells on the Japanese capital from a foreigner’s perspective. Viewers are treated to a whirlwind tour of the Tokyo Tower, Rainbow Bridge and the artificial island of Odaiba. But two neighbourhoods in particular gained prominence in the plot: the colorful and bustling Shinjuku and Shibuya.

Shinjuku is Tokyo’s financial centre. It has one of the busiest train stations in the world and the glow of neon advertising boards, that this city is synonymous with, means you can experience a night almost as bright as day. Here you will find the posh Park Hyatt Tokyo, all 52 floors of it, where Bob (Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) were staying in the film. Their daily rates start at €600 so can you hazard a guess at the cost of a drink at the bar where Bob spent much of his time?! Now, if money is no object, how about a “Lost in Translation Package”: five nights for €4,000?

Shibuya is a neighborhood where the Tokyo youth gather, so it’s always pretty crowded but great for people-watching. There are lots of similar venues for karaoke in Tokyo but if you want the real Lost in Translation thing, Bob, Charlotte and her friends head to Karaoke-Kan (30-8 Utagawacho) less than five minutes from Shibuya Station. It also boasts better views than most. Ichikan (9-5 Daikanyama) is the sushi restaurant where they dine.

See the list of hostels in Tokyo.

Before Sunrise

Vienna

One of the most romantic films of the 90s, Before Sunrise (1995) is also an ode to the beautiful capital of Austria. The main characters, played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, stroll through the city as they talk of their lives, get to know each other better and, as happens with most romances, they fall in love.

But for tourists attempting to follow in the film’s footsteps, beware; geographical liberties have been taken and tourists might find themselves lost. At the start of the night, the couple set out from Westbahnhof station in Europaplatz. They traipse past several well-known points of the city; the Bridge Zollamtssteg (where Jesse and Celine put on a play about an imaginary cow); the elegant square of Theresien Maria close to Cafe Sperl where they play that ‘phone game’; and Riesenrad Ferris wheel in Prater for their *sigh* first kiss. If you want to check out the amazing record shop it is called (don’t ask me to say it aloud)  Teuchtler Schallplattenhandlung (Windmühlgasse 10) and, to re-enact their pinball antics, the lively bar is called Arena (Baumgasse 80) which you will find in Erdberg, Vienna’s somewhat alternative neighbourhood.

See list of cheap Vienna hotels.

Il Postino

Procida, Italy

Another gem from the 90s is Michael Radford’s masterpiece Il Postino (The Postman, 1994) with which the whole world fell in love with the story of the postman Mario (Massimo Troisi), and his unusual friendship with the poet Pablo Neruda (Philippe Noiret). The worldwide romance has as much to do with the setting as the plot itself. The two main film locations are Procida in the Bay of Naples and Salina. The latter is a stretch of coastline in Sicily called Pollara beach on the volcanic Aeolian island. Sadly, any trace of beauty aroused by the film has all but disappeared from here due to mass tourism since the film’s success, so we won’t be sending you there. Procida however is a different story.

The small island of Procida lies in the Campania region and has around 10,000 inhabitants. Fans of the movie will have no trouble recognising the bar where the waitress flirts with Beatrice Russo (Maria Grazia Cucinotta). Today it is called Bar La Taverna del Postino and it is located in the small fishing village of Marina di Corricella with spectacular sea views.

Procida is the smallest of the three Bay islands, and the only crowded month is August. The rest of the year it is blissfully peaceful and quaint. You can catch the ferry from either Naples, Ischia or Pozzuoli to Procida.

See our list of hostel in Naples.


Thanks to TitanasstefanedbergRobert Nyman*Marina Almeidadavid.nikonvscanon, Yasmin~ElizabethHipnosFelipe Skroski, fernando pradoc@rljones, gadl, Bryce Edwards, comzeradd, puritani35, kyle simourdJJKDC and jay8085 for the images off Flickr. Please note, all images were suitable for use at time of publication according to the Creative Commons license.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *