Famous film locations around the world: The top 10 movie locations

Who needs a travel brochure when you have the movies? Whether you love thrillers or romantic comedies, action adventure or golden oldies, at some point your wanderlust will have been awakened by a memorable scene on the big screen.

Whether it's Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck enjoying a Roman Holiday, or the imposing profile of Harry Potter's Hogwarts (actually Alnwick Castle in Northumberland), movies are filled with remarkable locations. Here, we take a closer look at 10 of the best, and show you how to explore them for yourself.

The Danish Girl

THE LOCATION Copenhagen, Denmark

Old school Copenhagen stars in The Danish Girl

Eddie Redmayne isn't the only star in Tom Hooper's critically acclaimed film The Danish Girl.

REEL LIFE The true-life tale of 1920s artist couple Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) and his wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander) as they struggle to cope with Einar's growing realisation that he is actually a woman trapped in a man's body.

REAL LIFE The streets of Copenhagen's Old Town provide a beautiful backdrop, from the cobbled waterfront at Nyhavn where the couple lives to the curving streets of Magstraede, where they accidentally wake up the residents while heading home after a party. The lovely yellow terrace houses where Einar visits his new friend Henrik are actually a former barracks in the Nyboder district.

STAR TURN Early in the film, they attend a glamorous party in a striking, high-ceilinged space. In real life, this is the Kunsthal Charlottenborg, an exhibition space for contemporary art.

See www.visitdenmark.com

See also: The world's hottest destinations for food

The Life of Pi

THE LOCATION Pondicherry, India


REEL LIFE Piscine Patel(Ayush Tandon) – known as Pi – is the son of a zookeeper in this southern Indian city. The family plans to relocate to Canada, along with their animals, but disaster befalls the ship. Pi finds himself stranded in a lifeboat with a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena and a tiger called Richard Parker.

REAL LIFE Pondicherry is every bit as charming as it appears in the film, although visitors looking for the zoo will search in vain. The zoo scenes were filmed in the city's Botanical Gardens: you will recognise the distinctive yellow entrance. Also featured in the film are the pretty pastel houses of the colonial quarter, and the flower-filled Grand Bazaar.

STAR TURN If, like Pi, you feel the gods speaking to you, Pondicherry has plenty of remarkable religious monuments. The church where Pi finds inspiration, the Holy Rosary Church, is more subdued than the eye-catching Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, or the Gothic Sacred Heart Basilica, and a lot less spectacular than the Sri Manakula Vinayagar Temple, dedicated to the god Ganesh.

See www.pondytourism.in

See also: India for beginners - what you need to know

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

THE LOCATION Oviedo, Spain

REEL LIFE It's not just Barcelona that shines in this film about two young Americans, Vicki (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johannson), who get involved with artist Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem). He invites the girls to join him on a long weekend away with the immortal line, "Come with me to Oviedo. We'll eat well, drink good wine and make love. Hopefully, the three of us."

REAL LIFE The local yellow stone gives Oviedo's buildings such warmth, they virtually glow. The trio's sightseeing tour takes in the Mercado del Fontan markets in the Plaza 19 de Octubre, and the church of San Julian de los Prados – which has lovely handpainted frescoes not shown in the film – just outside town. The nearby city of Avila, where Juan Antonio and Vicky take a day trip, is worth a longer visit. Beyond the picturesque Palacio de Ferrera, where Juan Antonio seduces Vicky, Avila is pretty city of spires and turrets, surrounded by imposing city walls.

STAR TURN Juan Antonio's favoured Oviedo hotel, the elegant Hotel de la Reconquista, is where Woody Allen stays when he's in town.

See www.spain.info

See also: 20 things that will shock first-time visitors to Spain



REEL LIFE A film that is as much about interior journeys as external ones, Wild follows Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon) as she hikes Oregon's Pacific Crest Trail. Woefully underprepared and subsisting largely on cold mush, Cheryl reflects on how her life has spun out of control since the death of her mother.

REAL LIFE Shot on location, the film provides plenty of spectacular scenery, although Cheryl has little time to admire it between misadventures. The opening scene, where she loses her boots over the cliff, was filmed at Tom Dick and Harry Peak near Mount Hood Ski Bowl, while the Oregon Badlands stands in both for the Mojave Desert, where Cheryl starts her adventure, and the Modoc Plateau, where she runs out of water.

STAR TURN Not up for hiking? You can still go location spotting in Portland, Oregon's quirkiest city. Scenes shot here include the flashback to Cheryl picking up a guy in a bar (actually the Driftwood Room at the Hotel Deluxe) and the scene where Cheryl confesses that she is pregnant, shot in the Casba Mediterranean Cafe.

See www.traveloregon.com

See also: The next big hotspot in the US for Aussies

The Talented Mr Ripley


REEL LIFE Italy in the 1950s looks glorious seen through the envious eyes of Tom Ripley (Matt Damon), commissioned by a wealthy American to convince his playboy son, Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law), to return to America. Ripley revels in the glamour of Greenleaf's crowd; when Greenleaf threatens to destroy the idyll, Ripley takes extreme measures.

REAL LIFE You will recognise the scenes shot in Venice and Rome, but if you can't place the resort town of Mongibello, that's because it doesn't exist. Two islands in the Bay of Naples stood in for Mongibello: the island of Ischia Porto (Ripley arrives in the bustling square of Ischia Ponte, then encounters Dickie for the first time on the private beach of Bagno Antonio) and the tiny neighbouring island of Procida. The fishing village of Corricella is where Tom watches Dickie riding his scooter on the steep Via San Rocco to a rendezvous with his secret girlfriend, while the scene where Dickie refuses to return to New York was shot in the Piazza dei Martiri.

STAR TURN The scene in Rome's opera house, where Tom first poses as Dickie, was actually shot in Naples' Teatro San Carlo.

See www.italia.it

See also: 20 things that will shock first time visitors to Europe

Bran Nue Dae


REEL LIFE Things aren't going well for Willie Johnson. A hotshot singer is hitting on his sweetheart Rosie (Jessica Mauboy), and he hates his boarding school. So he hitches a ride back to Broome with Tadpole (Ernie Dingo) and a pair of hippies in a van.

REAL LIFE Some of Broome's favourite landmarks feature in the film, from the lovely Matso's Brewery, where the interior pub scenes were shot, to Tong's Chinese restaurant on Napier Terrace, which doubles as the Port Headland restaurant where Roxanne tries to seduce Willie.

STAR TURN The church with the striking mother-of-pearl altar where Willie and his mother worship really does exist, but it's a bit of a hike. The Sacred Heart church is actually at Beagle Bay, 100km north of Broome.

See www.westernaustralia.com

See also: 20 reasons to visit Broome

In Bruges

THE LOCATION Bruges, Belgium

REEL LIFE Two hitmen are hiding out in Bruges, or Brugge, as locals know it. Ken (Brendan Gleeson) is keen to see the sights but Ray (Colin Farrell) feels differently, "What if that's what hell is?" he asks. "The rest of eternity stuck in Bruges."

REAL LIFE Ken makes a superb tour guide, dragging Ray (and the viewers) through many of this gorgeous city's most memorable attractions, including the soaring Belfry, the obligatory canal cruise and the medieval masterpieces at the Groeninge Museum, where Ray takes a shine to Hieronymus Bosch's The Last Judgment.

STAR TURN Hole up like the hitmen at the Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce, a welcoming boutique hotel perched on a canal bank. If, like Ray, you're keen to try a Belgian beer or two, sink an ale at 't Zwart Huis, the pair's drinking den of choice.

See www.bezoekers.brugge.be/en

See also: Behind the scenes Brugge

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon


REEL LIFE The tale of two star-crossed warriors, Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) and Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat), and young noblewoman Jen (Zhang Ziyi) who chooses a life of crime over an arranged marriage.

REAL LIFE As the film starts, Mu Bai, planning to retire to a life of meditation, arrives at a picturesque town. This is Hongcun, a 900-year-old town in Anhui Province known for its pretty waterways. Not far away is the lovely Anji Bamboo Forest, where Mu Bai and Jen later fight it out in the treetops.

STAR TURN The flashback to Jen and Lo's romance was filmed in China's northwest, close to the Kazakhstan border. This startling landscape of sculptured stones is known as the Ghost City; the eerie moaning sounds made by the wind were once thought to be the sound of wandering spirits. Tours can be organised from the regional capital, Urumqi.

See www.cnto.org

See also: The 20 rules of eating in a foreign country


THE LOCATION Santa Barbara wine country, US

REEL LIFE The film follows the adventures of Jack (about to get married, looking for a final fling, played by Thomas Haden Church) and Miles (depressed writer and pinot noir fanatic, played by Paul Giamatti), as they visit wineries, eat in charming local restaurants, and romance a pair of comely locals.

REAL LIFE Director Alexander Payne has provided a guide to the perfect wine country getaway, with an itinerary that includes a stroll through Lompoc farmers' markets (held every Friday) and visits to some of the area's best wineries, such as Firestone. If you want to visit Firestone's atmospheric cellar, which the foursome sneak into, sign up for one of their tours.

STAR RUN Book yourself in for a meal at Los Olivos Cafe and Wine Merchant, the setting of a double date during which Miles furiously insists, "I am NOT drinking any fucking merlot!"

See www.sbcountywines.com

See also: How to get over jetlag in California

Before Sunrise


REEL LIFE Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) are strangers on a train. What starts as a simple conversation ends with Celine alighting with Jesse in Vienna, where they spend the night wandering around before he catches his morning flight back to the United States.

REAL LIFE The pair manages to take in some of Vienna's best-known sights, including riding the Ferris wheel at the Prater – where they first kiss – and the magnificent Albertina palace, where Jesse recites the Auden poem on the monument to Archduke Albrecht. Less touristy stops include an interlude at the lovely Gothic church of Maria am Gestade, and the Cemetery of the Nameless, where suspected suicides – denied burial in Catholic cemeteries – were interred.

STAR TURN The charming cafe scene where the pair pretend to call their friends and report on the evening was shot in the Cafe Sperl, a typically grand Viennese cafe with chandeliers, marble floors and rich tortes.

See www.wien.info/en


Australian film industry insiders reveal some their favourite locations, on and off screen.


The Babadook, Lantana

ON SCREEN One of the movie landscapes which has stayed with me would have to be Ada and Flora and the piano on the [New Zealand] beach from The Piano. The combination of those two small female figures in their black bonnets with a piano on the enormous black sandy beach with its towering volcanic rock formations will be forever etched in my mind.

OFF SCREEN I do like a sense of wilderness, and I really loved staying for several weeks in the town of Montisi in the province of Siena, Italy. We were able to find a beautiful and atmospheric small stone villa that looked out onto the hills of southern Tuscany, with their changing light and olive groves.


Last Cab to Darwin, Bran Nue Day

ON SCREEN Landscape to me becomes another character in a film, sometimes the most important one, as it shapes destinies and influences narratives. In Lawrence of Arabia, the forbidding desert landscape is an alien yet exotic vista.


I was raised in Esperance on the far south coast of Western Australia. To this day, it remains isolated, pristine and remote. The beaches dazzle and stretch out long and impossibly white, framed by water so azure it almost hurts to look at.


Looking for Grace, Sucker

ON SCREEN Any good director or cinematographer wants imagery to linger in the minds of their audience, and one location I keep coming back to is from Chinatown. It is a dry rocky riverbed in Los Angeles where a small Mexican boy rides in on a swaybacked horse to greet Jack Nicholson's character, Jake Gittes. It is compelling imagery shot in beautiful natural light.

OFF SCREEN I was working on the Dampier Peninsula [Western Australia] for the film Japanese Story. I remember sitting on some large red boulders overlooking a gorgeous little beach and feeling how remote and how intensely old this place was. I felt like I was on Mars.


The Great Gatsby, Wolverine

ON SCREEN Hats off to the people who found and organised the filming locations for The Revenant, in Canada, the US and Argentina. Every location added to the story, creating a bleak beauty that made the central struggle for survival irresistible to watch.

OFF SCREEN The Australian countryside can be spectacular. I worked as location manager on a film called Country Life, and our memorable locations included the rugged bushland north of Bathurst, and the historic town of Carcoar [both in NSW].


Brick Lane, Angela's Ashes

ON SCREEN The landscapes of two movies have stayed in my mind for many years: Walkabout and Picnic at Hanging Rock. Both landscapes are used as states of mind, heightened, and totally reflecting the story of the movie. I love that both movies have a deep sense of the strangeness of white people in this ancient landscape.

OFF SCREEN A few years ago I was in Madrid. Often when I turned the corner from one street into another, it was like going from one world into another – from a convivial street into a silent, shuttered street which felt like an older Madrid. This made for great walking, always anticipating a bit of mystery.


JUVET LANDSCAPE HOTEL, NORWAY This combination of sleek modernist architecture and Scandinavian wilderness is as striking as it appears in Ex Machina, where it features as the home of tech billionaire, Nathan. See www.juvet.com

RAVLA KHEMPUR, RAJASTHAN This elegant palace hotel is a lot less dilapidated than it appears in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Its location, an hour outside Udaipur, is also far more tranquil than the streets of Jaipur that surround it in the film. See www.ravlakhempur.com

ATLANTA MARRIOTT MARQUIS, ATLANTA How good is that striking atrium? So good, it featured in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire as the training centre for the Tributes in. See www.marriott.com

HOTEL SIDI DRISS, TUNISIA Tunisia has made something of an industry out of providing settings for Star Wars films, but few sites in the country have as much pedigree as this simple hotel. Its Berber-style rooms featured in the original film as Luke Skywalker's childhood home. See www.hotel-sidi-driss.com

HOTEL DEGLI ORAFI, FLORENCE When Helena Bonham-Carter and Maggie Smith went looking for a room with a view in the eponymous film, they found it here. You can rent the same fourth-floor room that they did. The view does not disappoint. See www.hoteldegliorafi.it


These Australian film locations have all had their turn in the spotlight.

MUNDI MUNDI PLAINS, NSW The long roads stretching from these barren plains to Broken Hill have been used by many moviemakers over the years. Most famously, they provided the setting for Mad Max 2, including the opening and closing chase sequences. See www.visitnsw.com

ST PATRICK'S SEMINARY, SYDNEY In real life, this neo-Gothic sandstone building in the seaside suburb of Manly houses a business school. In The Great Gatsby, it was the home of Leonardo diCaprio's Gatsby. A touch of landscaping was required to help it pass as a Long Island mansion: palm trees were temporarily removed, and fountains and a pond were added. See www.environment.nsw.gov.au

STRICKLAND HOUSE, SYDNEY This stately house by the harbour doubles as Darwin's Government House in Baz Luhrman's Australia, in the scene where Hugh Jackman reluctantly dons a suit to accompany Nicole Kidman to a ball. In the movie, a kangaroo hops along the lawn; in real life, you're more likely to see picnickers enjoying the grassy splendour. See www.environment.nsw.gov.au

KINGS CANYON, NORTHERN TERRITORY In Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Guy Pearce has a dream: to "climb Kings Canyon – as a queen – in a full-length Gaultier sequin, heels and a tiara". When he and his cronies finally get there – in drag and desert boots – the result is one of the film's most spectacular sequences. See www.travelnt.com

KAKADU NATIONAL PARK, NORTHERN TERRITORY Back in the 1980s, Crocodile Dundee did for the Northern Territory what Lord of the Rings later did for New Zealand. Amid various scenic Kakadu locations, Paul Hogan hypnotised a water buffalo, took part in a tribal dance and saved Linda Kozlowski from a crocodile. See www.travelnt.com

See also: How Australia got magnificently replaced in Mad Max

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