Bond locations
Photograph: Nicola Dove © 2019 DANJAQ, LLC AND MGM/Shutterstock

What is set-jetting and where are the best movie and TV locations to visit?

The best travel destinations from your favourite movies and TV series, including ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘Star Wars’

Nick LevinePhil de Semlyen
Contributor: Phil de Semlyen

What is set-jetting?

If you find yourself Googling shooting locations while watching a movie or TV show, you’re definitely interested in set-jetting. That’s because it’s the growing trend of travelling to destinations familiar from buzzy and/or iconic pop culture properties. Think the Sicilian hotel in The White Lotus, the grand Oxford buildings Timotheé Chalamet frequented in Wonka, the Edinburgh college where Emma and Dexter meet in One Day.

Why is set-jetting such a hot trend?

The term set-jetting was first coined by New York Post journalist Gretchen Wilson in 2008, but its popularity has grown exponentially since then. In the streaming era, we have more amazing movies and TV shows at our fingertips than ever before – and we can always pause while we search ‘where was The Grand Budapest Hotel filmed? 

Just last year, set-jetting was picked as a key travel trend by ExpediaWe found it hard to believe people were actually booking trips to places they saw on a show. We commissioned research and sure enough, movies and streaming shows are now the top inspiration for travel, the brands chief trend tracker, Melanie Fish, said at the time.

What are the best TV and movie locations to visit?

That’s very much a matter of personal preference – not everyone loved The White Lotus, you know. But if you’re looking for set-jetting inspiration, check out our guide to some of the big-hitters below.

The best movie and TV locations to visit

The best for Marvel stans...

St Abbs, Scotland – as seen in Avengers: Endgame

Welcome to New Asgard: Better known as St Abbs, a harbourside hamlet in Berwickshire about the size of Thor’s actual abs and the only fishing village in the Marvelverse. Retooling it to represent Tønsberg in Norway in Avengers: Endgame, directors Joe and Anthony Russo set up camp here during production. It’s where Chris Hemsworth’s Norse god comes to nurse his sorrows – and several hundred beers – until his fellow Avengers cajole him out of it. If he’d stayed he might have enjoyed the coastal walks, clifftop views and top-notch scuba diving. There’s no pub in the harbour but you can pick up one of the Ebbcarrs Cafe’s enviable lemon curd sponges. Which might explain Thor’s waistline. 

Fun fact Thor’s New Asgard local, The Cormorant and Tun, can be found at 6 Seaview Terrace (though it’s a house not a pub).
Phil de Semlyen
Global film editor

The best for Bond disciples...

Ice Q, Austria – as seen in Spectre

This gleaming bar-restaurant 3,048 metres up in the Alpine resort of Sölden looks like the sort of place Bond villains go for after-work drinks. It has its own space-aged cable car, a gourmet restaurant and, since Spectre filmed here in 2015, a James Bond exhibition for anyone looking to keep the British end up after a long day’s skiing. In the movie it was the clinic where 007 meets Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) and then a big old mountain chase kicks off. The exhibition has more of a Bond villain lair set-up, with slick visuals complemented by ridiculous views of the Alps. You’ll get a look at how that big action scene came together and the chance to check out some vintage Bond props (Scaramanga’s golden gun is on display). When you’ve had a browse, best bet is to head to the bar and order a Vesper martini in an ostentatious fashion. 

Fun fact Because the ice base beneath it moves, the building’s foundations are also movable. Which is apparently not as terrifying as it sounds.

🎬 Read our review of Spectre


The best for Star Wars superfans...

Villa del Balbianello, Italy – as seen in Attack of the Clones

Star Wars locations come in all shapes and sizes, from the rocky outcrop of Ireland’s Skellig Michael (Episodes VII and VIII), to Death Valley (Ep IV), to Tikal in Guatemala (Ep VI). Even a London tube station popped up in Rogue One. But if you’re looking to whisk someone away for a romantic Jedi-related date, and they’re not into searing heat, bracing Atlantic air or thousands of commuters, try this former monastery on Lake Como. It was used by George Lucas as Padmé Amidala’s lakeside bolthole in Attack of the Clones, albeit with a CG renovation to make it look more Naboo-y. It’s also a Bond location – 007 comes here to recuperate from his Le Chiffre ball-whipping in Casino Royale. You can tour the house and gardens for €24, or just head straight to the terrace to recreate Anakin Skywalker’s astonishingly bad ‘I don’t like sand’ speech. Phil de Semlyen

Fun fact: The villa has some cachet in Bollywood, too. Indian cinema’s power couple, Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone, were married here in 2018.

🎬 Read our review of Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones

The best for Roald Dahl lovers...

Headland Hotel, Cornwall – as seen in The Witches

Nicolas Roeg’s wonderfully icky 1990 adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches was filmed in this Grade II-listed seaside edifice in Cornwall. In the movie, it’s the Excelsior Hotel that Angelica Huston and her brood of warty sorceresses decamp to; in real life, it’s the five-star Headland Hotel, where a night in one of its ocean rooms will set you back £600 in high season and there are no warty sorceresses. If you want to stay in a room used in the movie, 223 is the one to book. If you’re just here for the seaside good vibes, the Cornish coastline, including the surf-tastic Fistral Beach, is about 50 yards away. 

Fun fact During the shoot, Rowan Atkinson flooded the film’s production offices when he fell asleep with the bath running a floor up.

🎬 Read our review of The Witches
Phil de Semlyen
Global film editor

The best for fans of Dune and historical epics...

Wadi Rum, Jordan – as seen in Dune and Ridley Scott movies

‘Like nothing I’ve ever seen anywhere else on Earth.’ So says Ridley Scott, a man who has been everywhere else and would definitely know, of Wadi Rum. The filmmaker has made three movies in Jordan’s ethereally beautiful sandstone and granite wadi (The MartianPrometheus and All the Money in the World), but it was David Lean who first had film fans pilgrimaging to the area after shooting most of 1962’s Lawrence of Arabia here (cineastes with sat nav can find the spot where Lean shot Prince Faisal’s camp at N29° 42' 50" E35° 25' 20"). Since then, it’s taken centre stage again in Denis Villeneuve’s Dune movies, where it provides the backdrop for Arrakis. Seriously, when will Wadi Rum get its own star on the Hollywood walk of fame? Phil de Semlyen

Fun fact: It has stood in for two Star Wars planets (Jedha and Pasaana), and will soon star as the desert planet Arrakis in Dune. Someone get this valley an agent.

🎬 Read our review of Lawrence of Arabia

The best for X-Men obsessives...

Hatley Castle, Canada – as seen in the X-Men movies

Let’s face it, most of us secretly wish we’d gone to Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters to channel our superpowers (binge viewing and ping pong in our case) a bit more constructively. You can do the next best thing, though, and pay a visit to the real-life location of the X-Mansion. Better known as Hatley Castle, it’s actually in British Columbia, not the comic-book setting of New York State, in easy reach of Vancouver, where many of the X-Men movies and Deadpool were filmed. It’s been a go-to location for films and TV for years (MacGyver once took down a villain here), but there’s other reasons to visit beyond following in the footsteps of Patrick Stewart (and Richard Dean Anderson) – including an ornate Japanese-style garden and a free museum. 

Fun fact: The Cyclops-eyed will have noticed that other country piles have played the X-Mansion, including Canada’s Casa Loma and Parkwood Estate in X-Men, and England’s Englefield House in X-Men: First Class.

🎬 Read our review of X-Men


The best for Downton stalwarts...

Highclere Castle, England – as seen in Downton Abbey

If there really is a place called Downtonia (cc Tatler), this huge Hampshire pile is its capital city. In Downton Abbey it’s the home of the Grantham family – although bonus marks if you recognise it as Totleigh Towers from Fry and Laurie’s evergreen Jeeves and Wooster. IRL, it’s the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon who live here and who have welcomed the show’s cast and crew over six seasons to film in the house and on its 1,000 acres of grounds – oh, and back again for its big screen spin-offs. More imposing than the Dowager Countess (RIP), the castle was completed in 1842 and is dripping in history (the fifth Earl was on the expedition that discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun). Tours are usually packed with fans on a pilgrimage to Downton. And if Hampshire is out of range, Lady Carnarvon has a podcast for you. 

Fun fact No one is quite sure how many rooms there are. The best guess is around 300. 

🎬 Read our review of Downton Abbey

The best for sci-fi aficionados...

Juvet Landscape Hotel – as seen in Ex Machina

That hoary old cliché about a location being ‘another character’ in a movie absolutely applies to Ex Machina’s sleek Scandinavian bolthole. IRL, the house of slippery tech genius Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac) is an uber-chic hotel and spa tucked away near Norway’s fjords. Ex Machina’s cast and crew spent 19 days filming at Juvet in August 2013, so only its summery side appears in the film, but it’s equally stunning when blanketed in winter snow. Tom Cruise also loves this corner of Norway – so much so that the new Mission: Impossible movie will feature a sequence filmed in nearby Hellesylt in which he drives a motorbike off a cliff. As you do. 

Fun fact If you’re hoping to recreate the iconic ‘Get Down Saturday Night’ moment and wondering which room to check into, bad news. It was shot at Pinewood.

🎬 Read our review of Ex Machina


The best for Lord of the Rings lovers...

Hobbiton, New Zealand – as seen in Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit

The marketability of movie sets has its limits – it’s hard to imagine queues round the block to visit The Village – though not in this corner of Middle-earth. Originally built for The Lord of the Rings movies, then re-upped more permanently for The Hobbit films, Hobbiton is one of the keepers: a perfectly preserved mini hamlet on a 1,250-acre New Zealand sheep farm that has morphed from film set to tourist gold just swimmingly. All Frodo’s favourite spots – Bag End, the Party Tree, Bagshot Row – are present and correct on the tours. Our pick? The Second Breakfast tour for hungry hobbitses. Getting there (and back) from Auckland is an easy drive. 

Fun fact A Pennsylvania architect and Tolkien nut commissioned his own Hobbit house, complete with a 54-inch round hobbit door. 

The best for horror connoisseurs...

The Stanley Hotel, Colorado – as seen in The Shining

It’s amazing to think people actually choose to stay at Colorado’s Stanley Hotel. Sure, this secluded retreat in the Rocky Mountains is renowned for its lush grounds and epic views – but, y’know, have you seen The Shining? This is the place author Stephen King and wife Tabitha made a brief sojourn, only to find the hotel eerily empty and cut off from the outside the world. It was once a health retreat for tuberculosis sufferers, built by Yankee steam-powered car inventor Freeman Oscar Stanley, but later became a luxury resort and is now a major tourist destination for the movie’s legions of dedicated fans. Whatever you do, avoid room 237. 

Fun fact You should also avoid room 217. That was the room King and his wife actually stayed in. It’s said to be haunted, owing to an electrical explosion that gravely injured the hotel’s chief housekeeper in 1911. 

🎬 Read our review of The Shining
Huw Oliver
UK Editor
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