From Pretty Woman‘s Beverly Hills hotel to the wilds of Jurassic Park, these TV and movie locations are just as epic in real life as they look on screen…
1. Harry Potter: Christ Church College, Oxford
This famous college of Oxford University (pictured above) doubles up as the world’s premier magic academy: Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Christ Church’s sweeping staircase and atmospheric cloisters are the perfect setting for this extraordinary world – and even in real life, it’s easy to imagine Harry circling the turrets on his broomstick.
Believe it or not, it has been over 20 years since the first publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
2. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: India
Most of the filming for this hit British film took place in Rajasthan – and the real-life Ravla Khempur hotel was chosen to star as the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel on screen.
This rambling hotel, a former palace in the village of Khempur, has “something special”, said director John Madden. “It had these wonderful cool dark interiors, with glimpses of saturated light and the teeming life outside its walls.”
Want to see the hotel for yourself? Our Real Marigold Hotel Tour includes a tour of the Taj Mahal, a stay at the Ravla Khempur, and a talk with author and screenwriter Deborah Moggach, who’ll reveal the locations that inspired the hit film. See the details
3. Pretty Woman: Beverly Hills, USA
The Beverly Wiltshire, the swanky digs where Richard Gere and Julia Roberts played unlikely lovers Edward and Vivian, is now an even fancier Four Seasons hotel – and it hosts Pretty Woman-themed weekend breaks.
The themed packages include a weekend in the Presidential Suite, personal shopping on Rodeo Drive, and a night at the LA Opera. “Throughout your stay, we’ll inspire you with stills from the movie, allowing you and your sweetheart to mimic classic scenes for photography opportunities in the movie locations,” says the hotel. Pass the bucket…
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4. Mamma Mia!: Skopelos, Greece
When it was released in 2008, this ABBA-themed romp put the tiny Greek island of Skopelos on the map. Who could fail to fall for its sun-drenched beaches, charming white-wash villages and free-flowing wine?
Happily, it’s just as gorgeous in real life, and local tour operators will whisk you around the island to visit all of the main sights – such as Agios Ioannis Kastri, the top-of-the-rock church where the wedding finale was filmed. Alas, Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth are long gone.
The Mamma Mia sequel (which is out in July 2018) was filmed in Croatia – whose stunning coastline is dotted with 1,244 pristine islands, only 50 of which are inhabited. Find your own paradise island on our new Croatia cruise aboard a stylish small yacht, discovering beautiful unspoilt beaches and pretty whitewashed villages – just like the ones that star in the film. See the details
5. Lord of the Rings: Matamata, New Zealand
While Lord of the Rings was filmed in locations all over New Zealand, Matamata – on the North Island – was the charming setting of Hobbiton. And happily, this little corner of Middle Earth has been preserved to look exactly as it did in the movies.
You can tour the 12-acre set with a guide, exploring the Hobbit Holes and the Mill, hearing behind-the-scenes stories, and even swigging a murky ale in the Green Dragon Inn. Give or take a few tourists, the setting is just as spectacular as it was in the film – with lush rolling hills, gurgling streams, and the mighty Kaimai mountains in the distance.
6. The Durrells: Corfu, Greece
If you’ve been watching ITV’s hit drama The Durrells, you’ll already know and love the gorgeous island of Corfu. When he was a boy, the late naturalist Gerald Durrell moved there with his family, kick-starting his passion for wildlife – and our new Corfu holiday will take you to all of his favourite wild and beautiful places.
You’ll meet Lee Durrell, Gerald’s wife, who will give a private talk about her family’s love of the island and her late husband Gerald’s pioneering role in wildlife conservation. Lee will also accompany you on a visit to some of the family’s favourite places in Corfu, including the locations used in ITV series The Durrells. See the details
7. Skyfall: Glencoe, Scotland
Filming locations for this 23rd Bond film include London and Turkey, but the star of the film (well, apart from the delectable Daniel Craig) is the bleak and brooding Scottish landscape – of Glencoe, to be precise.
Although Bond’s childhood home doesn’t actually exist (it was built from plaster and plywood), this moody Highlands spot is no post-production trickery. And eagle-eyed film fans will also recognise it as the home of Hagrid, Harry Potter’s half-giant friend in the Prisoner of Azkaban film.
8. The Hunger Games: DuPont State Forest, USA
This North Carolina national park provided the gorgeous natural backdrop to the violent Hunger Games tournaments – with contestants fighting for their lives in the pine forests and waterfalls in the first 2012 film.
DuPont is just as spectacular in real life, but far less savage. It’s a popular hiking and wildlife watching destination, with horse riding, kayaking and wild swimming too. You might also recognise it from 1992’s historical epic The Last of the Mohicans.
9. The Sound of Music: Salzburg, Austria
Most of the Rodgers and Hammerstein film was shot in and around Salzburg – and it’s still a popular pilgrimage spot for die-hard fans of the film (they’re the ones wandering around the filming locations singing Edelweiss).
Visit the church in Mondsee where Captain Von Trapp and Maria married; the Mirabell Gardens where Maria and the children sang Do-Re-Mi; Leopoldskron Castle, which stood in for the Von Trapp family home; and Nonnberg Abbey, where Maria was a novice nun.
10. The Shining: Timberline Lodge, USA
Guests of Timberline Lodge in Oregon might feel an unsettling sense of deja vu when they pull up at the hotel gates. This imposing mountain retreat was used for all of the exterior shots of the Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining – the film that saw Jack Nicholson turn bonkers, and try to murder his long-suffering wife and child.
The sets for the interior shots of the Overlook were knocked up at Elstree Studios in the UK, but were inspired by the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park.
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11. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: Petra
In this 1989 action adventure – the third Indiana Jones installment – Indy heads off in search of his father. His quest leads him to the ‘Canyon of the Crescent Moon’, where intricate stone carvings and booby traps conceal the Holy Grail. Incredibly, this filming location exists in real life: it is Al Khazneh (The Treasury) in the ancient city of Petra, Jordan.
After the film was released, Petra saw a surge in visitor numbers – people on their own Holy Grail quest, perhaps? Today, the desert city remains one of Jordan’s main draws, and at night The Treasury is lit up with hundreds of candles – a spectacular sight.
12. The Theory of Everything: Cambridge
Stephen Hawking was a student at Cambridge University, which is where he met his wife to be, Jane Wilde. Scenes from the film of the night they went to the Cambridge May Ball are magical, but there is much more to this town than its movie locations.
Pay a visit to the Fitzwilliam Museum, the arts and antiquities museum for the University of Cambridge, take a stroll around the exhibition space at Kettle’s Yard and spy contemporary art at the city’s many independent galleries. And of course, you must take a punt on the River Cam, or explore the winding streets on a bicycle tour.
13. Jurassic Park: Hawaii, USA
The island of Kauai is just as wild and wonderful in real life as it looks on screen, when it stands in for the tropical Jurassic Park island. Happily, the only feral animals you’ll find on Kauai these days are wild pigs – much tamer than a T-rex.
Hawaii has actually provided the movie locations of over 50 Hollywood blockbusters – including Avatar, Godzilla, 50 First Dates and the TV series Lost – and it’s not uncommon to see crews filming the next big movie while you’re on holiday.
14. The King’s Speech: Ely Cathedral
Westminster Abbey looms large in The King’s Speech – the setting of the stammering Duke of York’s coronation – but in fact those imposing interiors are Ely Cathedral, in Cambridgeshire.
“Lincoln Cathedral is a closer match to Westminster architecturally, but Ely gave us the scale and space to be able to build what we needed to build,” said location manager Jamie Lengyel. “We could present not just the coronation itself but the huge amount of work that went into it.”
All images from Alamy