Travel Writing

Take Five: real-life movie locations

In the era of super CGI, it’s refreshing that some film locations do exist in real life, and are just as vivid off-screen.

Here are five of the most cinematic.


The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe  in Czech Republic

The Adrspach-Teplice Rocks of the Czech Republic Photo: Luzux
The Adrspach-Teplice Rocks of the Czech Republic Photo: Luzux

No wardrobe is required to experience the fantastical landscapes of Narnia. The snow-capped rock formations that dwarf the children on their adventures are real, and can be found in the Czech Republic.

Pravčická Brána is a 26m natural stone arch found high in the Ore Mountains. It is the largest natural stone bridge in Europe looks just as spectacular in real life as in the film.

The Czech Republic’s Adršpach Park in East Bohemia also appeared in the film’s awe-inspiring Narnia.

Look out for the teetering sandstone monoliths known as the Adršpach-Teplice rocks.

The famous tunnels of Lake Garda Photo: John Burke/Flickr
The famous tunnels of Lake Garda Photo: John Burke/Flickr
Bond in Lake Garda
Stills from the movie Columbia Pictures

Quantum of Solace in Lake Garda, Italy

The backdrop to Quantum of Solace‘s opening car chase was Italy’s equally breathtaking Lake Garda. The cameras followed Bond’s Aston Martin through the castle-topped village of Malcesine, down twisting lakeside roads and through the arched tunnels of the Gardesana. Rent a car and you can follow in his tire tracks along the mountainside roads above Garda’s western shore and the teetering town of Tremosine.

Keep your eyes on the road though as those hairpin turns are just as treacherous in real life. While filming the famous chase scene Bond’s stunt driver lost control and plunged into the lake along with the Aston Martin DBS. The driver escaped with minor injuries, but the €200,000 supercar did not.

Harry's Hogwarts canteen Photo: htakashi
Harry’s Hogwarts canteen Photo: htakashi

Harry Potter in Oxford, UK

The awesome grounds of Christ Church College in Oxford didn’t just inspire the sets of the Harry Potter films. These 500-year old buildings influenced many of the world’s most famous campuses such as Harvard, Cornell and NUI Galway.

Oxford’s magnificent Great Hall was the direct inspiration for Hogwart’s dining hall. Step inside and soak in the atmospheric hammerbeam roof, gazing portraits, yawning fireplaces and long polished dining tables: the only thing missing are floating candles.

Potterholics will also recognise the college’s exquisitely grand staircase as Hogwart’s moving stairs which featured in both The Philosopher’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets. Hogwart’s musty, magical library was based on Duke Humfrey’s Library, which holds ancient manuscripts among its 80 miles of book shelves and is the oldest part of Oxford’s Bodleian Library.


The town of Seaside. Image: Visit Florida
The town of Seaside. Image: Visit Florida

The Truman Show in Florida, United States

The pastel-perfect town of ‘Seahaven’ in The Truman Show is a real town on Florida’s gulf coast. Seaside is as idyllic as its movie counterpart: 80 acres of white-picket-fence perfection fanning a superb beach. The carefully calibrated cuteness is a result of New Urbanism town planning and walking through it is as surreal as an Oculus Rift session.

Truman’s house exists too. It’s proudly labelled and can be visited on the west side of town.


Canyonlands National Park Utah Photo: Ken Lund/Flickr
Canyonlands National Park Utah Photo: Ken Lund/Flickr

127 Hours in Utah, United States

Before the film’s action narrows to a single canyon and stubborn boulder, the sun-baked, river-scarred rocks of Canyonlands National Park fills the screen. The narrow slot canyons of ‘Blue John’ in south-eastern Utah was where Aron Ralston spent his notorious 127 hours, as reimagined by James Franco in the nail-biting film. The area is as remote as you would expect and this is one movie you do not want to re-enact.

However, the ancient petroglyph stick figures that peer down on Ralston near the end of the film are more (relatively) accessible. It can be a 8 hour round hike thorugh sand, but visitors swear the effort is worth seeing the Great Gallery.  Some of the pictographs are dates over 1000 years old and are typical of this mysterious and extraordinary landscape.


An earlier version of this article first appeared in Cara magazine