I think we film fans are all prone to get that little buzz of excitement when we stumble across a location that triggers a sense of deja vu, only to remember why it seems so familiar; it’s a location from one of your favourite films. It’s like you’ve tracked down a secret that no one else knows – people are just walking by completely oblivious to the fact that Johnny Depp stood just over there, and Brad Pitt stood there, and George Clooney touched that door handle over there. It can feel even more… awe-inspiring if you are looking upon a film location used by long-gone stars: Hepburn (both of them), Grace Kelly, Cary Grant, for example.
It’s fair to say, London has become one big scrapbook of movie locations over the years; enough to write a book about. Nevertheless, it’s always fun to spend a few hours as a Hollywood tourist, and so I thought I’d share a few of my favourite London spots for the film enthusiast.
1: Notting Hill. William Thacker’s house
One of the easiest locations to find – not including London landmarks, of course – home of Hugh Grant’s bumbling lead, William Thacker (aka, Flopsy). He pretty much pinpoints the exact location of the house within the opening line of the movie. I watched this movie when it first came out, and so it was probably the first movie location that I made a mental note of. Yes, that means that I was seven or eight years old when I first watched Notting Hill… young enough that I had to ask my parents to explain the ‘big feet, large… shoes’ line, which of course is rather awkward now that I get it. And FYI, their response was a smirk and an ‘I don’t know’.
This is someone’s house, so don’t turn up to knock on the door! Now days, fifteen years after the film’s release, the door is still blue, and it’s next door to a Starbucks which sits on the corner between Westbourne Park Road and the famous Portobello Road, which makes it even easier to track down!
From Notting Hill Gate underground station, turn at Pembridge Road, and take a left down Portobello Road. Take a second left when you come to The Castle pub, and you’ll find yourself in Westbourne Park Road, facing the famous blue door.
2: Notting Hill. The Travel Bookshop
This location is not so straight forward. The shop used in the movie was at 142 Portobello Road, which over time has been an Antique Arcade, a furniture store and most recently, a shoe shop named, of course, Notting Hill.
As for the Notting Hill Travel book shop, you will find it on Blenheim Cresent. This bookshop changed location fairly recently from Portobello to its current address, so while it is the business that inspired the bookshop in the movie, this location actually had nothing to do with the film.
Turn left off Portobello Road, just one turning before Westbourne Park Road.
Above: the original Portobello Road shop.
Below: the newer Blenheim Crescent shop.
3: Bridget Jones’ Diary. Bridget’s Flat
I tend to watch this movie just waiting to see Hugh Grant (I’m just now realising just how many Hugh Grant movies could potentially make it into this list) and Colin Firth fight and flap at each other. I’m in tears, laughing, every time. It makes sense really that they would choose to situate Bridget’s flat directly above a pub. To be more precise, they chose The Globe pub in Borough Market for the exterior shots of Bridget’s home.
Unfortunately there seem to be a lot of road works going on directly next to this location right now, making it even trickier to spot, and as they build more bridges around it, it disappears further into London everyday. Now days it is literally sandwiched between three such bridges, as well as several scaffolding-covered buildings. However, the pub is still open for business, and it’s really very cosy.
The entrance to The Globe that was used for shots in the movie can be found on Bedale Street.
From London Bridge tube station, walk down Borough High Street – walking away from the Thames, and Bedale Street will be your first turning on your right.
Above. The Globe circa 2001.
Below: The Globe circa 2014.
4. Bridget Jones’ Diary. The Greek Restaurant.
This one is a bit of a bonus location for number three. Just like in the movie, the Greek Restaurant where the amazing fight takes place is just opposite The Globe, also on Bedale Street. While it is only a Greek Restaurant in the movie – or perhaps I am wrong on that part and it was a Greek Restaurant in 2001 – now days it is Bedales Wines. Still, a great place to stop for some wine and artisan food. Again, road and building works are clogging up Bedale Street, as you can see below.
5. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. The Streets of London.
Back in the days before his mid-life crisis, I would have killed to run into Johnny Depp in his Jack Sparrow costume while filming in the streets of London. And I almost did – I was literally two minutes away, having coffee with a friend who only afterwards mentioned that she had passed the film set on her way to see me. I could have killed her. Luckily, I didn’t, and I forgave her, and we are still good friends.
POTC 5 seems to be one of a long lost of movies for which the Royal Naval College in Greenwich was selected as a location; it seems to be the go-to place for period movies looking for old London. It was even used for old-Paris when filming Les Miserables.
A full list of the movies and tv shows the have used the Royal Naval College can be seen here.
The painted hall was also used during Pirates of the Caribbean: it is the scene in which Jack Sparrow meets King George. And then proceeds to wreak havoc, as ever.
There are many ways to approach The Royal Naval College. From Cutty Sark Light Metro station (change at Canary Wharf for the Docklands Light Metro line), walk the short distance from Creek Street to Greenwich Church Street. A left and immediate right brings you to College Approach – a literally named street! Entry is free.
6. Italian Job. Charlie’s Flat.
I’m a big fan of the classics. While the most scenic moments of the movie; the opening titles and the iconic end scene are both shot in the alps, where else would a guy like Charlie Croker live than London? More specifically, Denbigh Close, once again in Notting Hill. Once again, this is someone’s home, so while I’m used they’re used to the occasional film buff tourist (though probably not as many as the blue painted door of William Thacker), please don’t knock on the door.
This is another really easy location to find. Begin again at Portobello Road, until you come to the famous (and unmissable) Alice’s Antique Shop. Turn down the side road alongside Alice’s. Charlie’s house is the first of the street; joined to the back of the antique shop.
7. The Italian Job. Blow the Bloody Doors off!
I can’t mention the Italian job without mentioning this scene. While many believe this scene to have been shot at Sydenham Common, the actual location is Crystal Palace Park, in South London. While it is a little out of the way if you’re visiting the city, it does have its own metro stop that opens straight into the park, so it’s not a difficult spot to reach.
Also, this park is worth a visit just for its dinosaur court, which is literally a corner of the park dedicated to sculptures of dinosaurs, which date back to Victorian England and were made back when the park first opened, before the Crystal Palace itself burnt down.
The Overground, which includes Crystal Palace station, circles Zone two of the London tube route, so it’s easy enough to catch from pretty much any corner of the city. Make a note of where the tube is going though – the line splits just before Crystal Palace, so you may end up in West Croydon instead if you just hop on without checking its destination.
8. Shaun of the Dead. The Winchester Arms.
Pub? Who hasn’t seen this movie now days? The chosen setting for the iconic pub can be found on the corner between Barlborough Street and Monson Road in south east London. Sadly, the ‘Winchester Arms’ hasn’t managed to stay afloat through the recession, and currently seems to be up for sale once again. It’s been refurbished a few times, and to be honest I think if I were to walk past without knowing what it was, I’d be completely oblivious. Nevertheless, I couldn’t write this list without it. I’m sure the currently unnamed pub will be pulling pints again in no time.
If you want to pass by the old Winchester Arms pub on your trip, the nearest tube station in New Cross Gate, which is on the same overground route as the Crystal Palace station, and so once again it’s easy enough to reach from all over London.
From New Cross Gate station, walk down New Cross Road, heading west. If you get off at New Cross Station instead, no worries, it just means walking in the same direction, down New Cross Road, for an extra ten minutes. When the road splits, take the right turn, continuing down New Cross Road, rather than left, which is Queen’s Road. After two or three minutes, turn right into Casella Road. Cutting across the park on your left – Eckington Gardens – will bring you to Monson Road, where you will find the pub.
9. Harry Potter. The Entrance to the Leaky Cauldron.
The Leaky Cauldron evolved a fair bit across various movies, as is natural, I suppose when the reigns were also handed over to a new director for most films. While the exterior of the wizard bar during the first movie can be found at Leadenhall Market (another film location top spot in it’s own right, having featured in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Brannigan and Lara Croft – Tomb Raider).
More specifically, the entrance of the Leaky Cauldron is The Glass House, in Bull’s Head Passage. It’s a quaint little show, now used as an opticians, though it was empty and unused while Harry Potter was being filmed.
From Monument tube station’s Fish Street Hill exit (you will see the sky-high monument to the Great Fire of London, which has a viewing tower at the top, to your right), walk away from the monument and cross the road, walking down Gracechurch Street. Walk for three or four minutes, and then you will find Bull’s Head Passage, tucked away between 80 and 82 Gracechurch Street, and opposite The Crosse Keys, which is a rather grand-looking Wetherspoons. At present, while the passage is accessible, the building around it is currently covered in Scaffolding.
As I said before, locations changed throughout the Harry Potter series because of changing directors. While the Leaky Cauldron could in the Philosopher’s Stone be found Leadenhall Market, in The Prisoner of Azkaban, it moved to Borough Market. I guess magical pubs can do that, maybe.
Still, it didn’t move too far – just on the other side of the Thames from Monument station, and therefore an easy walk between the two if you wish to incorporate a Harry Potter tour into your itinerary. The new Leaky Cauldron can be found at 7 Stoney Street, Borough. While number 7 Stoney Street was used for the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron, number 8 used as the ‘Third Hand Book Emporium’ in the movie.
In fact, the two locations are so close, I’m just going to give you directions from one to the other. From Bull’s Head Passage, head back to Gracechurch Street, and walk back towards Monument Station. Rather than walking back down Fish Street Hall, take the main road next to it, heading south. It will bring you to London Bridge (which was used in The Mummy Returns, so you’ll see yet another movie location as you walk from A to B!). Cross the bridge, and you will find yourself on Borough High Street. Pass London Bridge tube station, pass Bedale Street (where you will find Bridget Jones’ flat) just before the road splits, take a right turning – Stoney Street. You will find numbers 7 and 8 Stoney Street – a little florists built into the brick bridge – beneath the old railway bridge.
10. Harry Potter. Platform 9 and 3/4.
The train stations of Harry Potter need no directions, really. Most long-distance trains to London pull in at either Euston, St Pancras, or King’s Cross, and so it’s pretty much guaranteed that you will pass through a Harry Potter location just by arriving in – or departing from – London.
Now days, a Hogwarts luggage trolly has been built into the walls between platform nine and ten, a perfect photo opportunity (which usually involves a long queue of waiting fans). However, since the major station revamp, which saw the addition of the huge western concourse, you can no longer just wander onto the platforms without a valid train ticket, which is a bit annoying. Still, if you are travelling via King’s Cross, it’s worth the photo opportunity. Or of course, you could just buy the cheapest train ticket available (I’d recommend using the self-service machines for this – the staff probably won’t like it if you just want to go ‘anywhere cheap’… it’s suspiciously spontaneous, after all), just to get access to the platforms. You will also find a Harry Potter shop on, of course, platform 9 and 3/4.
As for exterior shots for the flying cars scene of the second movie, St Pancras was prefered to the real King’s Cross, and so whether your train arrives at St Pancras or Euston (they are practically next door to each other, on the Euston Road), you will find yourself passing by a bit of Harry Potter history.
11. Harry Potter. Grimmauld Place.
I promise the rest of this post isn’t all about Harry Potter.
Just down the road from St Pancras and Euston train stations, you will find the real 12 Grimmauld Place. Personally, if someone was to knock on my door and ask to use the exterior of my house – and street – as the location, I’d question whether my home needed a lick of paint, seeing as the fictional street is such a ‘grim old place’. Nevertheless, a street was found, and, honestly, it was perfect.
From Euston Station, walk down Euston Road in the direction of St Pancras. Pass the station, and after about fifteen minutes, turn right, into Claremont Square. While I can’t tell you specifically which buildings were used in the square, as soon as you there you’ll see instantly that you are standing in Grimmauld place.
12. V for Vendetta. The Climax Scene.
So many iconic London locations feature in this movie, such as The Old Bailey, which ends up as rubble in the film, or Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament… which also end up being blown up. It is in Piccadilly Circus where V fills the giant tv screen (‘Strength through unity, unity through faith’), while thousands of Guy Faulkes-mask-wearing Londoners fill Trafalgar Square, before marching to Parliament Square.
From Big Ben and Parliament Square, walk north down Whitehall, which will bring you out at Trafalgar Square. From there, you can either take the mile-long walk down the Strand. After about twenty minutes, take a left. The name of the street is Old Bailey, which makes it much easier to find. You will find the Old Bailey on your left. Alternatively, from Trafalgar Square, rather than taking the Charing Cross tube, walk down Northumberland Avenue to Embankment station. Take two stops along the Circle or District line, and hop off at Blackfriars. The station will bring you out at Queen Victoria Street; back up a bit until you reach the cross roads. Walk north, away from the Thames, following New Bridge Street until you reach the next cross roads. Turn right down Ludgate Hill. After a few minutes, you will find the turning for Old Bailey on your left.
13. Batman Begins. Gothem City State Courts (Interior)
The setting for the scene in which Joe Chill is gunned down takes place in the Senate House at the University of London. Actually, this is another location that has been used one thousand times before. For example, it acts as the King’s bunker in Richard III, as New York in The Hunger, and as a Moscow restaurant in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.
From Euston Square tube station, walk south down Gower Street, turning left down Torrington Place after about two minutes. From there, take the first right down Malet Street.
Alternatively, Senate House sits perfectly circled by several tube stations; Euston Square, London Euston, Warren Street or St Pancras to the north, Goodge Street to the west, Russel Square to the east and Holborn or Tottenham Court Road to the south, so it’s really easy to find.
14. Sense and Sensibility. London Houses.
It’s crazy that this movie is almost twenty years old. While most of the movie took place in grand rural country estates, such as Montacute House in Somerset and Saltram House, Devon, a few select houses were chosen for those important London scenes.
Firstly, just a short walk from Trafalgar Square, you will find the beautiful home of John and Fanny Dashwood, Adam House. This is an office building now, so while it can be booked for meetings or used as offices, it is not open to the public.
From Trafalgar Square, walk for about five minutes along the Strand. Turn left into Adam Street, where you will find Adam House.
Just north of Oxford Street, you will find the home of the Palmers, Chandos House. Now days, this is a beautiful hotel that can be hired for weddings, meetings and events.
From Oxford Circus tube station, walk north along Regent Street, before turning left along Cavendish Place, walking a short distance before taking a right turn down Chandos Street. You will find Chandos House at the corner where Chandos Street meets Queen Anne Street.
15. The King’s Speech. Lionel’s Office.
This location is not open to the public, but I couldn’t help but include it anyway. I’ve loved this location since I first saw it as Lionel’s therapy office in The King’s Speech. It’s so amazing, I just presumed that it was a set, built just for the movie. Luckily, it’s not, and while 33 Portland Place is not open to the public, this space – and many more in the same house, including a jacuzzi, a ball room, eight reception rooms, twenty-four bedrooms and ‘London’s only hydraulic wall’ – can be hired for photo shoots, and the like.
From Oxford Circus station, walk down Regent Street, which will lead onto Langham Place and then Portland Place. Or alternatively, you can walk from Regents Park tube station, walk down Portland Place. You will find number 33 Portland Place roughly halfway between the two – on your left if you are walking from Oxford Street, or on your right if you are walking from Regent Street.
16. Sherlock. Sherlock’s ‘death’.
Sherlock. Literally the only TV show that I will plan around. On those rare occasions every couple of years that it’s on TV, I lose all interest in the rest of the world. It doesn’t matter who you are, Sherlock is on, and that’s that. Because the location of the famous fall is no secret – it’s mentioned several times in the scripts of several episodes – I imagine that this is quite a popular Cumber Collective tourist spot: St Bartholomew’s Hospital. While the exterior shots are filmed at the real St Bart’s, the interior shots are all shot in Cardiff. Also, the rooftop is strictly off limits. Just in case you were thinking about going up there to admire the view.
You will find St Bart’s a five minute walk from St Paul’s tube station. The station will exit at Cheapside, and from there. When the road splits, take the left; Newgate Street. After a few minutes, turn right into Giltspur Street. You’ll soon see the famous painted wall of the hospital on your right. You will find the ‘jump spot’ further along the building, with a small single story building and parking space for ambulances on your left.