Iconic European Attractions from Your Favorite Films
As we fall in love with characters and storylines in classic films, we can also fall head over heels for their settings. In movies like "The Sound of Music," "Notting Hill" and "Wonder Woman," locations play a role no less important than the A-list actors who grace the screen.
Here, we take a look at 16 European locations found in beloved movies, from timeless classics to modern blockbusters. Rich in history, romance and celluloid-ready beauty, they're all well worth visiting in real life.
"Wonder Woman": Phlegraean Islands
Would you expect the most strong and intelligent warrior women in the galaxy to live in squalor? Most definitely not. That's why Wonder Women and her ilk live on beautiful, mystical Themyscira island, which is actually the Campania coastline of Southern Italy.
The area is nestled along the crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea and includes the Phlegraean Islands (often referred to as the Paradise Islands), the gorgeous isles of Capri and Ischia, and countless beaches and cliff overlooks that provide views almost as beautiful as the Amazons. It's no wonder these islands were considered the Gods’ playground.
"Wonder Woman" Scene on the Phlegraean Islands
"Notting Hill": The Blue Door and Portobello Road Market, UK
The Julia Roberts-starring rom-com "Notting Hill" made the hip neighborhood of the same name a must-see when frequenting London. Filled with colorful rowhomes and the antique-filled Portobello Road Market, the area has much to offer tourists. But it's Hugh Grant's house in the movie, with its distinctive blue door, that many seek out when strolling the streets here.
Director Richard Curtis (who also directed “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “Love Actually”) knows the Blue Door quite well: it was his own home that he filmed (although the interior was on a sound stage).
You’ll find the Blue Door at 282 Westbourne Park. The inspiration behind the film’s charming Travel Bookshop, the Notting Hill Bookshop, is at 13 Blenheim Crescent.
"Notting Hill" Scene in Notting Hill
"Harry Potter": Alnwick Castle, UK
Much of the Harry Potter films used special effects and sound stages to recreate the magical and mythical locations children and adults have come to love. But many interior and exterior shots came courtesy of a real-life Muggle location: Alnwick Castle, located in northern England along the Scotland border.
Walk the same courtyards that Harry and his classmates strolled en route to the castle’s Outer Bailey, where Quidditch practices and matches took place. You can visit the castle’s grounds, museums, state rooms, armory, stables and gift shops from late March through late October.
"Harry Potter" Scene at Alnwick Castle
"Mission Impossible": Charles Bridge, Czech Republic
When Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt makes his debut in “Mission Impossible,” it is along the romantic and moonlit Charles Bridge in Prague. Built between the 1300s and 1500s, the bridge is the oldest and one of the most visited spots in the Eastern European capital city.
The Lesser Town Bridge Towers and the Old Town Bridge Tower flank each end of the bridge on opposite sides of the Vltava River, connecting, what else? Lesser Town (Mal Strana) and Old Town (Stare Mesto). There are more than 30 sculptures to see on this pedestrian bridge that can get quite crowded with selfie sticks, so don’t forget yours.
"Mission Impossible" Scene on the Charles Bridge
Multiple Films: The Grand Canal, Italy
It’s no wonder Venice's iconic Grand Canal has appeared as a main feature in numerous movies over the decades.
World-traveling spy James Bond makes his appearance there in 2006’s “Casino Royale,” in which a palace collapses and a chase ensues along the famed waterway. Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie also sped through the canal, with Depp plunging into the water in 2010’s “The Tourist.” Even Indiana Jones (aka Harrison Ford) arrives in Venice via the Grand Canal in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.”
Of course, the most popular way for non-movie-characters to explore the canal is via a gondola ride, romantic serenade included.
"Indiana Jones" Scene Near the Grand Canal
"Spectre": Ice Q, Austria
If you've seen the 2015 James Bond flick "Spectre," starring Daniel Craig, you can probably picture the explosive action scenes that took place amid the snow-covered Alps in the Otztal valley. You may also recall the clinic where nemesis Christoph Waltz plotted against the rogue MI6 spy.
The clinic scenes were shot at Ice Q, a fabulous glass-walled restaurant with even more fabulous views. You can visit the establishment to splurge on cuisine worthy of an international heist. After dining, pop into the nearby 007 Elements, a museum showcasing all things Bond through high-tech exhibits that give Q a run for his money.
The venue is as sleek as one of Bond’s well-tailored suits.
"Spectre" Scene in the Austrian Alps
"Under the Tuscan Sun": Villa Laura, Italy
When Diane Lane’s Frances Mayes gets her heart broken and embarks on a single’s journey across Tuscany, she stumbles upon Villa Bramasole near the town of Cortona, deciding on a whim to purchase the villa and change her life.
Today, the movie location has become a rental villa so you, too, can experience firsthand the romantic life of Tuscany and its golden sunshine. The 10-bedroom Villa Laura estate, which dates back to the 17th century, consists of a 5-bedroom villa (the main star of the film), a farmhouse and a limonaia, as well as an outdoor swimming pool.
You’ll have to book a minimum of seven nights at this luxury retreat, which falls under the “if you have to ask you can’t afford it” price range.
"Under the Tuscan Sun" Scene at Villa Laura
"The Sound of Music": Mirabell Gardens, Austria
Do not be disappointed when the locals of Salzburg roll their eyes at you when you ask them about “The Sound of Music.” The Austrians do not share in the American passion for the film.
Still, they understand the beauty of their city, and that you will not be able to help yourself from skipping and singing through Mirabell Gardens, just as Julie Andrews and the von Trapp children did as they learned how to sing "do-re-mi" for the first time.
The gardens belong to a baroque palace built for Salome Alt, the love of Prince Archbishop Wolf Deitrich von Raitenau, who, as an archbishop, was forbidden to marry. He not only created something worthy of his princess, but just as beautiful.
"The Sound of Music" Scene at Mirabell Gardens
Multiple Films: Tabernas Desert, Spain
Fans of American Westerns will be surprised to learn that many a cowboy movie takes place in a Spanish desert. Southern Spain’s Tabernas Desert in Almeria has appeared in movies including “Once Upon a Time in the West,” “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly” and even the classic “Lawrence of Arabia.”
The desert is home to an old-time set known as Fort Bravo, one of 14 villages created for filming and still used today.
Tourists are welcome to inspect Fort Bravo, as well as two other villages, Western Leone and Oasys, the latter of which features a Mini Hollywood Theme Park offering guided tours and live cowboy shows. The theme park expands beyond its Western Frontier façade with a zoological reserve boasting more than 800 different animals, as well as workshops for kids, educational activities, special events and dining.
"The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" Scene in the Tabernas Desert
"In Bruges": Belfry, Belgium
Two bumbling hit men (Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson) need to lay low and are forced to hide out in the small Belgian town of Bruges in the 2008 sleeper hit “In Bruges.”
Yes, it may be small, but Bruges is also the capital of West Flanders. Considered the Venice of the North due to its canals, the historic city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to the Belfry, a main landmark in the film and a medieval bell tower standing 272 feet tall.
The tower, overlooking the main square, features 47 bells, as well as 366 steps you can climb to enjoy amazing views of this charming city.
"In Bruges" Scene Near the Belfry
"The Godfather": Church of St. Nicolo, Italy
The Corleone family in the Oscar-winning film is from Sicily’s Corleone, of course. But in 1972, inland Corleone was thriving more than it should have been for the movie's dated setting, so director Francis Ford Coppola decided instead to shoot in the intimate seaside village of Savoca.
Here, explore the Church of St. Nicolo, where future Godfather Michael (Al Pacino) married his Italian sweetheart. And don't forget to grab a limoncello at Bar Vitelli, where Michael enjoyed drinks in the sun in the film that launched a classic trilogy.
"The Godfather" Scene at the Church of St. Nicolo
Multiple Films: Chateau du Versailles, France
One of the most opulent palaces in the world, Versailles appears in period movies showcasing the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette and the dynasty of King Louis, including “The Three Musketeers,” “Dangerous Liaisons,” “Midnight in Paris" and (naturally) "Marie Antoinette."
Originally the home of Louis XIV in the late 1600s until the 1789 French Revolution, the palace encompasses 700 rooms in 721,182 square feet of space, with lavish features like the Hall of Mirrors and more than 2,000 windows. Its equally famous gardens are spread across 1,976 acres, and include multiple fountains and forests.
You can easily access Versailles via a 20-minute train that departs near the Eiffel Tower.
"Marie Antoinette" Scene at Versailles
"The Da Vinci Code": Church of Saint-Sulpice, France
Again, there are more popular churches to see when visiting Paris. But that's precisely why too many miss this gem.
The baroque Roman Catholic Eglise Saint-Sulpice, located in the Sixth Arrondissement, was a pivotal backdrop in “The Da Vinci Code.” Built in the 17th century, it is one of the city’s largest churches, and featured the fictional Rose Line in the Dan Brown novel and movie. The actual line is a gnomon, or sundial, that calculates the winter and summer solstices, and is not, in fact, the Paris Meridian, as the movie will have you believe.
However, the church is beautiful and the gnomon is an architectural wonder, so swing by when in Saint-Germain-des-Près.
"The Da Vinci Code" Scene at the Church of Saint-Sulpice
"To Catch a Thief": Monaco
Set along the French Riviera, and featuring the debonair Cary Grant and princess-in-the-making Grace Kelly zipping about the coastline in a convertible, "To Catch a Thief" is a classic for a reason. You can see why Kelly, after filming the movie, left behind her Philadelphia roots to make the movie setting of Monaco her forever home. (Of course, it helped that she married the country's ruler, Prince Rainier III.)
You can prance on the same beaches, see some of the most expensive jewels in the windows of palm tree-lined shopping streets, and press your own luck in Casino Monte-Carlo, just like the two stars of the iconic film.
"To Catch a Thief" Scene in Monaco
"Inception": Pont de Bir-Hakeim, France
Paris is filled with settings for movie buffs, even in animation (think “Ratatouille”). Sure, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and countless quintessential buildings across the city could make this list, but you should visit all of those biggies when you visit the City of Lights anyway.
Instead, we invite you to check out the bridge featured in the 2010 Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt film “Inception” (not to mention “Last Tango in Paris” and “National Treasure”). Like many bridges in Paris, it is a work of art crossing the Seine River.
Constructed at the turn of the 20th century, the arched bridge is nearly 800 feet long. The lower level is for cars and pedestrians; the upper level is for the Metro.
"Inception" Scene at the Pont de Bir-Hakeim
"The King’s Speech:" Ely Cathedral, UK
When England’s King George VI is coronated in the Academy Award-winning “The King’s Speech” (starring Colin Firth), it is not in Westminster Abbey, where actual coronations have taken place since William the Conqueror in 1066.
The film location is instead Ely Cathedral, located 80 miles north of London, near Cambridge. Constructed in 1083, the cathedral is a Gothic-style church with a glass museum and a 288-step tower for visitors to enjoy.
Nearby, you may get cozy in the house of Oliver Cromwell, who served as Lord Protector of England during a reign-free period in the 17th century.
"The King's Speech" Scene at Ely Cathedral