At the end of 2018, I looked back at yet another year filled with some great film-inspired travel adventures. In this round-up post, I have written about my 18 best film-inspired travel ideas that I came accross in the past year. Perhaps, these will inspire you to add one or more of of them to your very own film-inspired travel bucket list in 2019…
1. Potsdam, Germany
In August 2018, I officially became a tour guide in Bremen. At the beginning of the year, I was still in training. So my first trip of 2018 took me to a tour guide conference that was held in the East German city of Potsdam.
Potsdam is located close to Germany's capital city Berlin and can be reached in just half an hour by train.
In Potsdam, you will find the film studios of Filmpark Babelsberg, which have been the setting for countless international blockbusters. Among these are Inglourious Basterds (2009), Anonymus (2011), The Pianist (2002), and most recently, Babylon Berlin (2017) – a new German crime / drama series set in the roaring Twenties.
Of course, I also had to visit the world-famous former Royal Palace of Sanssouci, which reflects the city's great past as a royal residence and state capital of the once very powerful state of Prussia.
Read more about Potsdam in my post:
10 Things to Do in Film City Potsdam
2. Berlin, Germany
I have been to the German capital Berlin three times this year. First, for the annual tourism trade fair and conference ITB Berlin in March, then for a conference organised by a client in May, and finally in July for an interview with a German actor regrading a new cinema biopic that will be released in March 2019 (stay tuned for that!).
But even though I have been to Berlin several times before and I even lived there for a while, I always find something new to discover here. For example a self-guided food tour, which I tried for the first time ever in July this year.
When I stayed in Berlin on the 27th of July, I also witnessed the so-called "Blood Moon" phenomenon, the longest total lunar eclipse of the 21st century, from the Oberbaumbrücke. This Berlin bridge became famous as it was one of the central film locations in the German heist thriller Run Lola Run (1998).
3. Prague, Czech Republic
From Berlin, I hopped on the train to Prague, the capital city of the Czech Republic. With its many grand buildings from the so-called "art nouveau" period (erected at the turn from the 19th to the 20th century) as well as the city's communist past, budget-friendly Prague was an intriguing mix of East and West.
Prague, and it particular the city's famous "Charlies Bridge", have featured as film locations in many blockbusters and period films, including Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011), A Royal Affair (2012) and the WW2 resistance drama Anthropoid (2016).
To discover the city through its famous film locations, you can get a free copy of Prague's film locations map "Lights! Camera! Prague!" from the tourist information centre on Old Town Square.
Read more about Prague in my post:
A Film Fan's Guide to Prague
4. Dresden, Germany
From Prague, it was only a 2 hour train ride to the East German city of Dresden, which I combined with a day trip to the annual book fair in nearby Leipzig.
Since it was mid-March, but freezing cold due to a final winter outbreak with snow, I spent most of the few days I had here indoors (Dresden offers some great museums and art galleries).
Despite the cold, I still thought a guided tour is a must-do in this city. After all, Dresden looks back on a very versatile history. Once a grand royal residence for the wealthy and powerful Counts of Saxony, Dresden was heavily bombed in World War 2 and almost completely destroyed.
During the time when Germany was divided by a wall into East and West Germany, Dresden was on the Eastern side. There was a lot of spying and we can get a glimpse of what life in the GDR must have been like in films and series like The Lives of Others or Deutschland 83. During this time, Dresden was also the temporary home of current Russian president Vladimir Putin, then a secret agent of the KGB.
5. Görlitz, Germany
The final stop on my little "Go East trip" was Görlitz – the easternmost town in Germany located right on the border to Poland.
In recent years, Görlitz has become one of Europe's most popular film location spots, which even earned the city the nickname "Görliwood". Famous films shot on location in Görlitz include The Reader (2008), Inglourious Basterds (2009), The Book Thief (2013), The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), Monuments Men (2014), and Frantz (2016).
Read more about Görlitz in my post:
Görlitz Film Locations Walk
6. Gouda, the Netherlands
But before I arrived in Rotterdam, I spent one night in Gouda – a quaint little Dutch town just like you would imagine it (with canals, bridges, old houses and lots of cheese).
Of course, I tried my favourite cheese, Gouda, in the city's very own "Cheese Museum". I also had a look inside the magnificent Town Hall – one of the oldest town halls in Europe dating back to the 15th century.
I felt a bit like walking through the film set of Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003) once more – a period film with Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson, which was set and partly filmed in the nearby town of Delft.
7. Rotterdam, the Netherlands
Heavily bombed during World War 2 by Nazi Germany, present‐day Rotterdam only owns a handful of pre‐war buildings. So instead of old buildings, I found funny shaped "cube houses" here, a buzzing student scene, and a sky‐scraper density that can easily rival Downtown Manhattan.
Movies that have been partly filmed in Rotterdam include Everly (2014) with Salma Hayek, Who Am I? (1998) with Jackie Chan, Move On (2012) with Danish star Mads Mikkelsen, and the Dutch/German/British co-production Crusade in Jeans (2006).
Moreover, a love letter to the city called Rotterdam, I Love You is currently in the making and set to be released in 2019.
Read more about Rotterdam in my posts:
Rotterdam in 10 iconic Photos: A Walking Tour with Rotterdam Pages
10 Things to Do in Rotterdam
A Quick Guide to Rotterdam
8. Thessaloniki, Greece
My first stop, Thessaloniki, was the most budget-friendly city on this trip and a great place to get a first taste of Greek culture and cuisine.
Every year in November, the city also hosts the Thessaloniki International Film Festival – one of the most important film festivals in Europe.
Read more about Thessaloniki in my post:
24 Hours in Thessaloniki: A Compact Guide
9. Athens, Greece
The next stop on my Greece trip was the capital Athens, which was easy to get to by train from Thessaloniki. As I only had one full day for sightseeing here, I made the most of it by seeing all highlights of the city on a hop on / hop off bus tour.
Of course, I also had to see Greece's most famous landmark – the Acropolis. As I was walking around here, I felt like I had stepped right into the comedy movie My Life in Ruins (2009), which tells the story of a stressed‐out, poorly paid Greek Tour Guide played by Nia Vardalos from My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002).
The Acropolis also served as a filming location in the thriller The Two Faces of January (2014).
Read more about Athens in my post:
A Quick Film Fan's Guide to Athens
10. Skopelos and Skiathos, Greece
Ever since I saw the first Mamma Mia! movie in 2008, I had a dream. A dream about visiting the gorgeous film locations of the movie myself.
Exactly 10 years later, when the release of the second Mamma Mia! film was just around the corner, I finally made this dream a reality and visited the prime film locations of the first Mamma Mia! movie on the Greek Islands of Skiathos and Skopelos.
11. Dublin, Ireland
A visit to Ireland usually starts in the capital Dublin. Do spend a few days here, but remember that you haven't seen the real Ireland unless you have been to the unique Irish countryside.
From Dublin, you can easily hop on a day trip to Belfast (where you can see the Belfast Peace Wall and visit the interactive Titanic Belfast museum!).
Read more about Dublin in my post:
Dublin in a Day: A Power Sightseeing Tour for Film Fans on a Budget
Vikings Film Location Tour in Wicklow County, Ireland
12. Hamburg, Germany
At the end of September 2018, I spent a few days in nearby Hamburg, Germany to attend the annual Hamburg Film Festival.
I saw some really good films there, including the extremely entertaining Swedish comedy The Cake General (2018). The film has made Köping, the hometown of one of the directors that was voted "the most boring town in Sweden" in 1985, an overnight film star.
In a Q&A that took place after the film was shown, the director even said that thanks to the film, there are now film location tours available in Köping.
Equally great films were the Romanian drama/comedy One step behind the Seraphim (2017), and England-set The Favourite (2018) – a hilarious period drama/comedy about British Queen Anne and her servants.
Scheduled for a cinema release in January 2019, The Favourite is already a "favourite" with film award judges. So far, the film has scooped 5 Golden Globe nominations and one Golden Globe win for Olivia Colman and her role as Queen Anne.
Stay tuned for my Film Review of The Favourite, which will be released in January 2019!
As part of the Hamburg Film Festival, I also attended a special Hamburg Film Locations Tour through the area around Hamburg's famous red light district and party mile – the Reeperbahn. There will be a new post about that soon!
13. London, UK
My final trip of the year took me to the annual tourism trade fair "London World Travel Market" in November 2018.
London is always worth a visit. Even after having lived there for three and a half years, I find new areas to visit and new (film-inspired) activities to discover every time I come back to this buzzing city.
While I was in London in November, I watched the Freddie Mercury / Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody (2018), which had been released just a few days prior. Quite fittingly, a London-based friend of mine celebrated his birthday in a pub called "The Champion". Apparently, Freddie Mercury used to be a regular at "The Champion" and, inspired by the name of the pub, wrote his famous song "We are the Champions" there.
I also joined a Harry Potter walking tour, took my obligatory tourist pics at Buckingham Palace, the setting of hit Netflix series The Crown (2016) and A Royal Night Out (2015), and revisited Bridget Jones' house near Borough Market.
A sneak peak at 2019
Thanks to the films I watched and the tourism fairs I attended in 2018, I got a lot of new travel ideas for 2019. 😉 So here are my 6 planned film-inspired trips for the year ahead…
Scene from "Frida" at the ancient ruins of Teotihuacán just outside of Mexico City. Photo: © 2002 – Miramax
In 2018, I've only been travelling in Europe. Thus, I'm really looking forward to finally flying over the "big pont" again as I will be heading to Mexico City and Yucatan in March 2019.
Mexico is a destination I have been wanting to go to for a long time. Technically, I have already been to Mexico once before. When I stayed at a hostel in San Diego, USA in 2011, I joined a group from the hostel and went just across the border to Tijuana in Mexico for one night. While visiting some of the Southern States in the US (Texas, New Mexico, California), I also got a good taste of the Mexican cuisine.
But, of course, these short adventures only gave me a glimpse into what Mexico will actually be like. Thus, I am eager to experience the film locations of Mexico-set movies and series such as Frida (2002), Y tu mamá también (2001), Don't Blame the Kid (2016), Roma (2018) or Made in Mexico (2018-) myself this year.
15. Hamburg, Germany for In the Fade
Scene from "In the Fade". Photo: © Warner Brothers/Gordon Timpen, SMPSP
Hamburg will be a "home run" for me as I live in Bremen, which is just a one hour train ride away from the second-largest German city by population. I will be going there at the end of February for a video content conference hosted by the Travel Blogger association Traverse.
Hamburg was the setting of In the Fade (2017), a German Neo Nazi drama, for which Diane Kruger received a Golden Globe last year. The city also served as a film location in A Most Wanted Man (2014) or Bend it like Beckham (2002) and is currently one of the film locations to appear in an upcoming reboot of Charlie's Angels (2019).
16. Northern Italy for Call Me By Your Name
Scene from "Call Me By Your Name". Photo: © 2017 – Sony Pictures Classics
In June 2019, I will attend this year's annual Traverse Travel Blogger conference, which will take place in and around the town of Trento in Northern Italy. I am really looking forward to writing about the region of Trentino, as I have been to Italy a couple of times before, but never to this lesser known mountain area in the North.
One of the cinema surprise hits of 2018, the coming-of-age drama Call Me By Your Name (2017), was filmed close-by to Trentino, in the region of Lombardy and the towns of Bergamo, Cremona and Brescia. Thus, I am hoping to find the time to visit these towns as well either prior or after my stay in Trentino.
17. Berkshire, England for Downtown Abbey
The cast of "Downtown Abbey" with the main film location Highclere Castle in the back.
Photo: © Carnival Film & Television Ltd
This year also sees the first feature film of the popular TV series Downtown Abbey coming to cinemas in September. Thus, I would love to join the Downtown Abbey film location tour, and see "the real Downtown Abbey", Highclere Castle in Berkshire, on a day trip from London .
17. Scotland for Outlander
Scene from "Outlander". Photo by Nick Briggs – © 2014 Sony Pictures Television Inc.
After having binge-watched the first three seasons (and the fourth to follow soon), I would love to explore the Scottish highlands through the film locations of hit TV series Outlander (2014-) on one of the dedicated Outlander film locations tours.
18. Laois County, Ireland for Titanic
And while we're at it, I would love to go back to Ireland. This time to explore the countryside in Laois County (formerly Queen's County) near Cobha bit further and to continue my research for my first novel, which I have started to write on in 2018.
This novel will be set mainly in the years 1907–1912 and will tell the (mostly fictional) love story inspired by two real-life Titanic passengers.
Read more about the Titanic-inspired travel ideas in Ireland:
Day Trip to the Titanic Experience Cobh, Ireland
5 Must-See Titanic Museums and Experiences From Around the World
Over to you: What are your travel plans for 2019? Any of the above or something completely different? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!
Unless otherwise credited, all photos by © Sonja Irani | filmfantravel.com