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Front up to the world's most popular backdrops – each stars in their own right. From Lonely Planet's new book, 1000 Ultimate Sights, out now.
ROYAL PAVILION, BRIGHTON, ENGLAND
The exotic palace-cum-play-pad of Prince George, later Prince Regent then King George IV, is one of the most self-indulgently decadent buildings in England. Even the forest of Indian-style domes and minarets outside is only a prelude to the palace's lavish Chinoiserie interior, where no colour is deemed too strong: dragons swoop and snarl from gilt-smothered ceilings, gem-encrusted snakes slither down pillars and crystal chandeliers seem ordered by the tonne. It's an irresistible setting for film. Oh! What a Lovely War, Richard III, The End of the Affair and Brighton Rock have all used it as a backdrop.
Check out the current art exhibitions and plan your visit on its website (www.brighton-hove-rpml.org.uk).
ALNWICK CASTLE, ENGLAND
The Duke and Duchess of Northumberland call this not-so-humble place home, but it's only been a family residence for a mere 300 years or so. It started out as a medieval fortress, and it still likes to relive the old days by playing castle roles in films such as Elizabeth and Ridley Scott's Robin Hood, as well as TV series including Blackadder. But its greatest role is as Hogwarts (exteriors and interiors) in the Harry Potter films. What kid wouldn't want to down a glass of butterbeer here? Adults may prefer to visit for the Renaissance art and porcelain collections.
Alnwick Castle is just off the A1 in Northumberland. The nearest railway station is Alnmouth (15 minutes away).
CHARLES BRIDGE, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
Take a stroll across the Charles Bridge and you'll see why directors can't resist it. The atmospheric mists, the blackened statues, the Castle District rising steeply above you – it's a heaven-sent location for Gothic movies such as Van Helsing. The bridge was also used as a set for Mission: Impossible and xXx. It was famously used in the film clip for INXS' Never Tear Us Apart, which showed off Prague's charms to the West when it was barely known there. More recently, Kanye West has upheld the Charles Bridge clip tradition.
The bridge can get impossibly crowded with tourists and touts. Hit it at dawn for a chance of solitude and unforgettable views.
BROUGHTON CASTLE, ENGLAND
Broughton in Oxfordshire is a quintessentially romantic English castle. There's a king's chamber where both James I and Edward VII once hit the royal hay, a great parlour with an elaborate plastered ceiling, and a garden with hedged fleur-de-lis beds and a heady profusion of roses. It's been the setting for The Madness of King George, Lady Jane, The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Slipper and the Rose and (cough cough) Three Men and a Little Lady. It also provided the setting for a scene in Shakespeare in Love – quite fitting as its star, Joseph Fiennes, is related to the family that still lives at the castle.
The castle only welcomes visitors on certain open days. Check www.broughtoncastle.com for the latest.
MINI HOLLYWOOD, TABERNAS, SPAIN
Ever think that the scenery in all those iconic westerns was...Spain? That's right – Mini Hollywood, the nearby Texas Hollywood and the desert surrounding them played the Wild West in Sergio Leone's classic spaghetti westerns, legends of the genre such as A Fistful of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. It also served as a location for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. These days, Mini Hollywood, built in 1965 by Leone as a film set, is rarely used for filming, and has become a theme park.
The Tabernas desert is in the province of Almería. The region also acted as a backdrop for Cleopatra and Lawrence of Arabia.
EMPIRE STATE BUILDING, NEW YORK, USA
This fabulous art deco needle of a building is a magnet for film-makers: it's appeared on screen in more than 100 movies. And it's a versatile performer, too, doing its stately thing in musical comedies, romances, arthouse films and action flicks. If you're making a film in which the city is a character, it's a must-have: Woody Allen used it in Annie Hall and Manhattan, Scorsese used it in New York, New York. But its most memorable moments are probably as a meeting spot for Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr in An Affair to Remember and in the climactic scene of King Kong.
The view from the observation desk is at its romantic best as dusk melts into night. The last elevator up leaves at 1.15am.
MILLENNIUM BILTMORE HOTEL, LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, USA
This classic LA hotel is a film veteran. The list of movies shot here is encyclopaedic, and includes Beverly Hills Cop, Bride and Prejudice, Spiderman, Fight Club, Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, Pretty in Pink, A Star is Born and Chinatown.
Hitchcock used the staircase in Vertigo. It's also been the setting for commercials, photo shoots and film clips (including Britney Spears' Overprotected). What makes it so photogenic? Fantastically elaborate Spanish Revival architecture with chandeliers, twisted pillars, fountains and statues, not to mention the Crystal Ballroom with its classical frieze. No wonder it's been a popular venue for the Academy Awards.
Have a Black Dahlia cocktail in the Gallery Bar – it's named after a murdered starlet who was last seen leaving the lobby.
EIFFEL TOWER, PARIS, FRANCE
Designed by Gustave Eiffel and built in 1889 for the Universal Exhibition and to celebrate the centenary of the French Revolution, Paris' most famous landmark was roundly derided when it first burst upon the skyline (critics sneeringly dubbed it 'the Metal Asparagus'), and it only survived because it served as a decent platform for radio transmissions. But over the years it has thrust its way into hearts and imaginations, including those of directors as diverse as François Truffaut, who used it in The 400 Blows, and Vincente Minnelli in Gigi. And who will ever forget Grace Jones jumping off it in the Bond movie A View to a Kill?
Take your latest amour up to the top-floor champagne bar (open 5pm to 10.30pm) so you can drink bubbly like Greta Garbo in Ninotchka.
MULBERRY STREET BAR, NEW YORK, USA
It used to be called Mare Chiaro in the days when Frank Sinatra drank here (and until recently, when it changed hands). Sinatra's still on the jukebox, and the bar still looks more or less the same – old-school Little Italy, perfect for bumpings-off . It's this vibe that's made it a fave with directors of such movies as The Godfather III, Donnie Brasco and 9½ Weeks, and with the producers of The Sopranos. The walls are crammed with memorabilia. Slouch into a fedora and mooch along for an Old Fashioned at the elaborate mirrored bar.
You'll find the bar on Mulberry Street (who'd have guessed it, huh?) between Broome and Grand Streets.
10 ADELAIDE STREET EAST, TORONTO, CANADA
A gracious Edwardian number built in 1909, this was once a financial building and is now home to the Ontario Heritage Centre, which has had it carefully restored. It still has the gravitas of its original incarnation, with heavy oak panelling and trimming and a marble gallery that was once a banking hall. You might recognise it from the background of shots in Serendipity, Focus and Cinderella Man. The rooms can be hired for functions or events. Check out the oak-heavy Oval Boardroom if you're up for a really stylish meeting.
Call the Heritage Centre on 416 314 3585 to talk about holding a gathering in its rooms.
This is an edited extract from Lonely Planet's 1000 Ultimate Sights © Lonely Planet 2011. RRP: $34.99. lonelyplanet.com