7 legendary movie locations to visit in Southern Europe
Text: Arne Adriaenssens
Anyone who believes that Hollywood and Bollywood are the sole cinema paradises of the world is sorely mistaken. In Southern Europe, as well, one can travel from one spectacular set into the next, and not just from smaller local films, but also from some of the biggest blockbusters this world has ever seen. We take you to some of the places in Southern Europe that have been immortalised on the silver screen forever.
1. The planet of Naboo – Star Wars
A galaxy far, far away needn’t always be all that far away. To get to the lush planet of Naboo, a short flight to Spain suffices. In the heart of Sevilla, at the famous Plaza España, you can behold the palace of Queen Amidala. At the break of the new millennium, George Lucas and his crew struck down at the immense square to shoot the scene of Anakin and Amidala arriving on the latter’s beautiful home planet. Later in the film, the duo walks through the bright-white marble corridors of the palace and gazes at the water from a most-idyllic terrace. Those two scenes were shot in Southern Europe, as well; at the Royal Palace of Caserta, near Naples, and at the Villa del Balbianello, overlooking Lake Como. Star Wars fans might want to travel a bit further to Platja de Alcudia in Mallorca and Mount Etna in Italy, which are the earthly locations of the planets Scarif and Mustafar. May the force be with you!
Plaza España, Sevilla, Spain
PRoyal Palace of Caserta, Caserta, Italy
PVilla del Balbianello, Lenno, Italy
2. Lansquenet-sous-Tannes – Chocolat
Few writers have captured the essence of the French countryside lifestyle as well as Joanne Harris in her bestseller Chocolat. After Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp went to the picturesque-yet-fictional Lansquenet-sous-Tannes in 2000 for the eponymous movie, the whole world started dreaming of a quiet life in ‘la douce France’. Lansquenet-sous-Tannes might be fictitious, yet, the village in which the film was shot does exist and is just as adorable as you would imagine it to be. The sleepy medieval town of Flavigny-sur-Ozerain counts a little over 300 citizens, a handful of hotels, three restaurants and a bookstore. A chocolate shop like La Céleste Praline, however, they don’t have: yet, they do have a charming shop dedicated to their delicious, local anise candy, Anis de Flavigny, which is a true phenomenon in France.
3. Tomorrowland – Tomorrowland
As it is one of the least-successful Disney films of the last decade, few people remember the high-budget science-fiction epic Tomorrowland. In this picture with George Clooney and Hugh Laurie, the ‘It’s a Small World’ attraction at the 1964’s World Fair transports a young inventor to Tomorrowland, a mystical city in a distant future. While most of the film was shot in front of green screens in a studio, one major scene was filmed in the open air, at the City of Arts and Sciences in sunny Valencia. With its big water parties, humongous metal constructions and minimalist colour palette, it is the perfect setting to shoot a science-fiction film. More recently, the HBO series Westworld has also shot some scenes in the area for its yet-to-be-released third season.
City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia, Spain
4. Rome – Rome
If we told you that the HBO series Rome was shot in Rome, you probably wouldn’t be all too surprised. Yet, what if we told you that it was shot entirely inside Cinecittà, a huge film studio at the edge of the city? Cinecittà opened its doors in 1937 as a prestige project of Italy’s tyrant Benito Mussolini. He wanted to compete with Hollywood’s film industry and built up a strong Italian film sector. And with great success, too: because in the following decades, Italian cinema grew bigger than ever. Throughout the years, many blockbusters were shot in these studios. Among others, La Dolce Vita, Ben-Hur and The Godfather III were created here. For the HBO series Rome, they even built a full-size replica of ancient Rome at the studio’s premises. Afterwards, this décor would be recycled for an episode of Doctor Who which was set in Pompeii. Although the studio is still up and running, tourists can now take a tour amongst the sets, studios and dressing rooms.
Cinecittà, Rome, Italy
5. Ariadne’s dream – Inception
Where Paris may have been a dream destination to many already, it literally became one when the blockbuster Inception got released. In this slightly-complicated action film, Leonardo Di Caprio is specialised in building dreams and is up for his biggest challenge yet. While teaching his new apprentice Ariadne the tricks of the trade, he takes her on a dream journey to the Pont de Bir-Hakeim (Bir-Hakeim Bridge) in Paris. Since then, this bridge has been a must-see for film buffs on a visit to the French capital. Apart from its cinematic value, Pont de Bir-Hakeim is also a prime spot to view the Eiffel Tower. So, you don’t have to miss out on any of the city’s hotspots while walking in Leo’s legendary footsteps
Pont de Bir-Hakeim, Paris, France
6. Great Sept of Baelor – Game of Thrones
Never before did a series captivate the world like Game of Thrones did over these last eight years. Fans from all over the world dream of spending a day on the brutal continent of Westeros. Well, just hop on your dragon and fly to the Catalan town of Girona, where many of the series’ scenes were shot. Most iconic is the staircase of the Great Sept of Bealor which, in reality, is the staircase of the city’s cathedral. In the series, the original church has been replaced digitally by the Great Sept, yet its stairs are the exact same ones as in King’s Landing. For season six, the crew returned to Girona to shoot some scenes set in the mighty town of Braavos (which fits perfectly, as Girona is located on the Costa Brava). Big fans will easily be able to spot a street and alley here and there that looks oddly familiar.
Cathedral of Girona, Girona, Spain
7. The Capitol – The Hunger Games
With Mockingjay Part Two, the Hunger Games saga finally reached its magnum opus. At the beginning of the film, Katniss and her fellow rebels head back to the capital where they get ambushed in an arena-like housing colony full of lethal traps. This dystopian building is actually located just outside metropolitan Paris. Les Espaces d’Abraxas, as it is called, is an experiment by architect Ricardo Bonfill from 1978. Today, it is still fully functioning as a residential building. Yet, if you would ever drive from the city of Paris to the magical world of Disneyland, the complex is right on your route and definitely worth a quick stop.
Espaces d’Abraxas, Paris, France
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