Who doesn’t love a good movie or TV show? We all keep up with the academy awards and have our favorite shows or movies that we could watch a hundred times in a row and still love. And you can tell that even the people who proudly decree that they don’t watch TV still watch Duck Dynasty or Orange Is The New Black behind in secret.
But it’s the films and shows with the most spectacular settings that really add that extra glam to the picture. And I’ll focus on three filming locations you can actually visit.
1. Downton Abbey: Highclere Castle, UK
Ah, Downton Abbey. Probably the only British drama that even Americans are getting into. The story of an aristocratic Yorkshire family and their servants begins with the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, and details the love, excitement, and scandal of British upper class life- both upstairs and down. The show is famous for the incredible estate that masquerades as Downton: a 1000 acre plot (Winnie the Pooh, eat your heart out) of hills, trees, gardens, and of course the centerpiece: the building itself. A 50+ room behemoth built in the 1600s, Highclere Castle is currently managed by a more modern version of the Crawleys: Lord and Lady Carnarvon. When it’s not booked for the filming of the acclaimed series or being used by the Earl and Countess, the castle and gardens are open for visiting about 60-70 days out of the year. There’s also an Egyptian exhibit within the castle as well as space around the land for weddings and other events. If you can spare the trip up to Yorkshire, Highclere Castle should definitely be on your to-see list. Just don’t expect Carson the Butler to greet you at the front door.
2. Casino Royale: Grandhotel Pupp, Czech Republic
In yet another installment of 007s adventures, Bond is sent to the Hotel Splendide in Montenegro to play a dangerous game of poker. The action that follows can only be found in a James Bond movie. But mountainous, Adriatic Montenegro was not where the movie was filmed. Instead, Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) in the Czech Republic was where the Bond crew decided to settle. The magnificent Hotel Splendide was actually the Grandhotel Pupp, an iconic 228-room luxury hotel at the base of the Czech alps. The hotel is full of traditional European glitz, and is open to guests year-round (even in winter, when it becomes a full-service ski resort). The Grandhotel Pupp also starred as itself in The Last Holiday, when a distraught department store employee from New Orleans decides to live it up in Europe when she finds out she has a rare terminal brain disease. The beautiful hotel and incredibly charming town of Karlovly Vary beyond won’t disappoint- whichever movie you’re coming to relive.
3. Mamma Mia: Skopelos, Greece
What could possibly be better: the stunning Greek isles playing a backdrop to Meryl Streep singing ABBA songs? That’s right- very few things. In fact, the broadway-show-turned-movie led to a spike in travel to Greece- fans in search of the idyllic Kalokairi on which Donna and Sophie live in Villa Donna. Unfortunately, the movie wasn’t filmed on just one island- you’ll have to do a sailing trip if you want to visit every filming location. The majority, however, of the Kalokairi scenes were shot on Skopelos, a small island in the Sporades chain- around 100 miles north of Athens in the Aegean Sea. Skopelos isn’t uncharted- the tourist spike since the movie came out invigorated an already strong tourist season- so you won’t feel like you’re on an uncrowded isle. But the beaches, cliffs, and olive groves are still like they were in the movie. Just don’t be ashamed to belt out “Dancing Queen” while you’re prancing along the sand.