One of the best things about London is how much you can do by simply walking around and soaking in all the culture and history surrounding you. Whether you are seeking your next photograph to post on the Gram, or are a purist film aficionado: a trip to London is not complete without visiting some of the sites where your favourite scenes were filmed.
Using the Central London district as your base for maximum movie-scene-hopping, there are plenty of locations that served as the setting for some of the films that came to define British cinema. When most spend their days fleeting from monument to monument to tick off the “London Tourist Bucket List”, why not mix it up and base your site-seeing off your favourite films? You’ll be sure to cover all the traditional tourist hotspots along your way whether you intended to or not!
To maximise your time and make sure that you’re not trapesing back and forth across London, here is a list by location rather than film so you can make your way from one glorious setting to another.
Central London Treasures
There are few things as British as Bond and the directors of the many films made sure to show off all that London has to offer from Pierce Brosnan chasing a speedboat down the Thames in The World is Not Enough to walking along Westminster Bridge (featuring Big Ben and the tops of the houses of Parliament in the background- of course) where Brosnan-Bond receives a special key to MI6 from M in Die Another Day. The Bridge is also where a certain nemesis infamously crashed his helicopter after Daniel Craig-Bond shot it down in Spectre. If you’re up for a trip to Vauxhall, you can see the exterior of the headquarters for Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service: featured in all of these Bond films as well as GoldenEye…but don’t expect to be allowed inside.
If, however, you would like to stay put and follow along the many famous bridges, then you have to marvel at The Millenium Bridge and the magic of special effects when it was supposedly destroyed by Death Eaters in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Or, if you’re feeling sentimental, then you can park yourself in between Waterloo Bridge and Blackfriar’s Bridge on a bench at Gabriel’s Wharf where Daniel and Sam speak about “the total agony of being in love” in Love, Actually.
The Old Royal Naval College – Greenwich
The pièce de résistance of London film locations is, surprisingly, not the likes of bustling cityscapes nor Buckingham Palace – but rather The Old Royal Naval College. Greenwich is a popular area and its pier on the Thames is the point of departure for most river cruises. However, if the thought of spending your stop at the Fan Museum is less than titillating, then I would definitely suggest a trip to The Old Royal Naval College. Its exterior and the history that it represents make it a monument in its own right, but it is its stunning interiors that have designated it as the prime location for all period pieces and almost anything royal.
You will have to get creative in your poses and photographic compositions for this location, as it is the setting for many favourites including The King’s Speech, The Queen, The Duchess, The Irony Lady, Les Misérables, Cinderella and its chapel even served as the backdrop to Bernard and Lydia’s wedding (Wedding Number 2) in Four Weddings and a Funeral – talk about fancy!
While this location is considerably further West than the rest, can you really say that you are a British movie buff if you do not pay homage to the romance between a floppy-haired travel book salesman and a world-famous actress? No, you may not. The good news is that so much of the film was actually shot in its title’s location that you can visit many spots that brought you scenes that stole your heart.
The setting of Will’s travel book shop is now supremely successful owing to the publicity generated from the film: so much so that the little shop located on 13-15 Blenheim Crescent has been renamed ‘The Notting Hill Book Shop’ and – in spite of Will’s protestations – it does, in fact, sell more than only travel books. Although, one has to wonder whether there is as much purchasing of books as opposed to photo-taking and scene reenactment. One can picture exhausted employees hearing the same famous line over and over again and thinking to themselves that they are just a salesclerk…standing in front of a customer…asking them to buy a bloody book.
A mere 2 minute walk away from The Notting Hill Book Shop, nestled on 280 Westbourne Park Road, you can find the exterior for the ‘house with the blue door’: the home of Will and the eccentric Scotsman, Spike – a firm favourite of movie-lovers from around the globe. At one point, the owners were so fed up with the unwanted attention and flurry of tourists that they repainted the door black in hopeful disguise. But don’t worry – this focal point of the lovely town has since been restored to its former blue glory to the delight of visiting fans.
When you return to the city and are in need of libations that you can relaxingly sip while continuing your site-seeing mission, then head to a good rooftop bar. The Aviary, located on the 10th floor of The Montcalm Royal London House in Finsbury Square, is a spectacular viewing point where you can bring out your inner Daniel Craig- Bond in Skyfall (as he ponders over the city he must protect while gazing over the skyline) and tick off the final items of your must-see sites all from one luxurious place. If, however, you are off the clock and need to release some tension from your own stressful responsibilities, then nothing quite prepares you for a martini on the roof than indulging in The Montcalm Hotel Spa Deals.
You best believe that after the day of walking around London in search of these famous spots, your weary feet will certainly thank you for this.