For a growing number of adventurers, choosing your next travel destination is often sparked by movie filming locations for a popular movie or a setting for a favorite film. Do you remember that moment in "Summertime" when Katharine Hepburn falls into a canal in Venice? Or when Julia Roberts has her “meet-cute” with Javier Bardem in Bali in "Eat Pray Love?" Well, you can travel to those movie filming locations and, with a slight leap in imagination, put yourself in the scene.
I once took the ferry to the Isle of Mull in Scotland to find the exact spot where Wendy Hiller lost her heart to Roger Livesey in "I Know Where I’m Going" (1945), and I dare you to watch the film without wanting to hop on a plane, too.
Though many fantastical places can easily be created by computer technology, there are still countless movie filming locations around the world that you can visit. Following are some wonderful places that can help conjure up your favorite film moments.
Romans are proud of their city. As the popular phrase non basta una vita suggests, “a lifetime is not enough” to see Rome. One way to visit the Eternal City is to follow the movie filming locations lensed in "Roman Holiday" (1953). This was the first American film shot entirely in Rome. Roman Holiday was also Audrey Hepburn’s first starring role.
Hepburn was unforgettable as Princess Ann, the unhappy royal who attempted to escape her regimented life by going incognito during a state trip to Rome. She meets an American journalist (played by Gregory Peck) while pretending to be asleep near the Temple of Saturn, at the northwest end of the Roman forum.
In a whirlwind tour of the city, the Princess and the journalist take in some of the most iconic places in Rome: the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, where the princess happily eats gelato (and you can, too!). Perhaps the sweetest scene in the film takes place at the Santa Maria in Cosmedin Church, where the stars go to see the relief sculpture of the “Bocca della Verita” (The Mouth of Truth). The story of "Roman Holiday" almost — but never completely — takes a back seat to the glories of Rome.
Other films shot in Italy include: "A Room with a View," "Under the Tuscan Sun," "Don’t Look Now" (a truly singular and mesmerizing look at Venice) "Angels and Demons," "Eat Pray Love" and many more.
See our learning adventures in Italy →
After the first "Mamma Mia!" film was released in 2008, tourists began to search for the “magical Greek island of Kalokairi,” where Greeks and visitors danced wildly on the beaches and up and down the craggy cliffs. What they found was Skopelos, a white and blue island in the northwest Aegean Sea. Skopelos was largely free of crowds, mainly because there is no flat ground for an airport. But more and more musical enthusiasts began to make the trek by ferry.
You’ll find "Mamma Mia!" film locations easily on Skopelos: from Kastani beach, on the southwest coast of Skopelos, to the small chapel of Agios Ioannis Prodromos, near the town of Glossa, where Sophie’s wedding took place. (Unfortunately, Donna’s Greek village is not on Skopelos; it was created at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, back in drizzly England.)
Other films shot in Greece include: "Zorba the Greek," "Shirley Valentine" and "For Your Eyes Only."
See our learning adventures in Greece →
Locals in Skopelos were understandably upset when the Greek island was spurned for the sequel, "Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again," which was filmed on the jewel-like Croatian island of Vis, off the Dalmatian coast. Why was Skopelos abandoned? Reportedly, Croatia provided “hefty government tax breaks.” The beauty and seclusion of the island also helped — it’s about two and a half hours from the mainland by ferry.
The small population of Vis has reportedly been ambivalent about the island’s new popularity as a "Mamma Mia!" film location. Originally a Yugoslav military base (until 1989), the island has few hotel rooms and bulged at its seams when housing the film crew. But the tide is turning, and intrepid travelers are now making their way to this beautiful island despite its remote location.
Other films (and TV) shot in Croatia include "Dr. Who," parts of "Sophie’s Choice," "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" and parts of "Game of Thrones."
Road Scholar Recommends: Treasure of the Adriatic Coast or Island Hopping in Magical Croatia
I always feel my Celtic blood stirring when I watch films set in the moody mists of Scotland (although “23 and Me” insists that this is purely my fantasy). It’s a magical place. Which makes it the perfect filming location for the Harry Potter films.
The Jacobite is a steam train (running from April through October) that crosses the Glenfinnan Viaduct (very recognizable in the filmed scenes of Harry returning to Hogwarts every year). The viaduct is called “the Harry Potter Bridge” by many. Potter buffs may also want to see "Harry Potter" filming locations like Rannoch Moor, where the Deatheaters stop the train to find Harry; Loch Shiel (called Hogwarts Lake in the films); Clachaig Gully (Hagrid’s Hut); Glen Nevis (background for the Quiddich stadium); and Glencoe (the dramatic and scenic valley in the western Scottish Highlands where Hermione punches Malfoy).
Other films shot in Scotland include: "Local Hero," "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," and "Braveheart" (with part of the latter filmed in Ireland, which provided better tax breaks).
See our learning adventures in Scotland →
England is filled with "Harry Potter" filming locations as well. You can visit the King's Cross train station, where, on Platform 9 ¾, Harry and friends left the Muggle world to return to Hogwarts. Parts of the series were filmed at Christ Church College and Cathedral in Oxford; Gloucester Cathedral (where tombstones within the church had to be covered up before filming); Lacock Abbey near Chippenham in Wiltshire; the Bodleian Library of Oxford University; and Alnwick Castle in Northumberland. In truth, the Harry Potter series is a dream for literary travelers.
Other filmshot in England include "Emma," "Sense and Sensibility," "Love, Actually," "Notting Hill," "Bridget Jones’s Diary," "Skyfall" and many more.
Road Scholar Recommends: Magical Oxford: From the Narnia Chronicles to Harry or any of our other England learning adventures
New Zealand director Sir Peter Jackson’s vision was to make J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth in "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" series come alive while filming in his home country. The 150+ "The Lord of the Rings" filming locations he used to create the background for his films (sometimes rejiggered by computer technology) basically established a film tourism industry in his country.
Here are some favorite Lord of the Rings filming locations for Tolkien fans to visit:
Wellington (on the North Island) is the home of Jackson’s WETA Workshop, where many scenes from "The Lord of the Rings" were created. Fans can also find several "The Lord of the Rings" filming locations within walking distance of WETA. Nearby in the Kaitoke Regional Park is the Elven City of Rivendell, where Frodo recovered from a knife attack.
Near Rotorua is Matamata, which was transformed into Hobbiton for "The Hobbit" films (and was also a site for "The Lord of the Rings"). Visitors can explore 44 Hobbit holes and wander through the buildings that make up “The Shire.”
Don’t miss the fantastic rock formations and eerie landscape of Tongariro National Park, a UNESCO site that doubles as the home of the villainous Lord Sauron. Mt. Ruapehu (good for skiing!) was the setting for Hidden Bay, the entrance to the Lonely Mountain in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug."
Canterbury, a few hours from Christchurch, is where elaborate sets were constructed for "The Lord of the Rings." Make sure you visit Queenstown, the base for visiting Lake Pukaki, where parts of "The Hobbit" were filmed. Other "The Lord of the Rings" filming locations on the South Island include Snowdon Forest in Fiordland National Park. There, in Fangorn Forest, brave Aragorn was reunited with Legolas and Gimli.
Other films shot in New Zealand include "The Piano," "The Last Samurai" and "Wolverine."
See our learning adventures in New Zealand →
About the Author Barbara Winard has earned degrees in English literature, journalism and, later in life, gerontology. For the past 25 years she was a senior editor and writer of online encyclopedia articles for children. She began her solo travels in college, and after returning from a long trip to Asia, she wandered off the street and was hired by the Asia Society in New York City to produce films and print materials for adults and children about Asian culture. She was also a producer and writer for New York City’s public television station, WNET/13. She lives in Jersey City.
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