Is London calling YOU?! Calling all movie aficionados and literary travelers!
Updated: Oct 18, 2021
Have you ever watched a movie or read a book, and fallen in love with where it took place? (Literary travel is my jam, BTW. - read this.) I remember the first time I saw Notting Hill with Julia Roberts and deciding for sure that I was going to travel to London again one day, a stay right there in Notting Hill. And hopefully, find a travel bookstore just like the one Hugh Grant owned. (FYI, I met MY Hugh Grant on Match.com over 20 years ago, and we’re still madly in love!) And then when I saw Under The Tuscan Sun, I decided for sure that I’d like to one day buy a farmhouse in Tuscany and convert it into a bed and breakfast. It hasn’t happened yet, but there’s still a chance!
Movies, like books, have such a powerful effect on our imagination and no doubt they have influenced many people by inspiring them to travel to their favorite movie or television locations.
If London is on your travel bucket list be sure to check out these movies to get you and your travel companion in the mood. Trying to convince a group of friends to go with you? These movies will help!
What’s your favorite movie set in London? Let us know!
Four Weddings and a Funeral
Floppy-haired Charles (Hugh Grant) is looking for The One in Richard Curtis’s sweet, soppy movie. The capital provides a picture-perfect backdrop as Grant and his band of twenty-something aristo Londoners date, flirt and consider settling for sub-standard partners in an effort to get down the aisle. Proof that spending every sunny Saturday at a friend’s wedding is not a modern affliction. London Location: Charles lives (and has that romantic, rainy reunion) on Highbury Terrace in Highbury Fields, the lucky sod. He also wanders along the South Bank and has a matrimonial meltdown at Smithfield’s St Bartholomew the Great.
A Fish Called Wanda
John Cleese hauled Ealing comedy legend Charles Crichton out of retirement to co-write and direct this acid-tongued shout-out to the classic comedy crime caper. Cleese plays a barrister swept up in a robbery plot; Michael Palin outraged stutterers worldwide as an animal-loving getaway driver; and two Yanks, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Kevin Kline offer scathing observations on British life. London location: The iconic scene where Kline dangles Cleese out of a window was shot at New Concordia Wharf in Bermondsey.
Sir Conan Doyle’s sleuth gets a post-modern update, with Robert Downey Jr playing a beefed-up version of Holmes. London location: Shot in and around London (as well as Liverpool and Manchester), Ritchie’s London of yesteryear is a romantic place of heaving bosoms and ridiculously cool heroes.
It’s from the same makers as Love Actually, but Notting Hill is a funny, light-hearted fantasy romance that has its tongue pressed enough into its cheek just about enough. Only
In London: Notting Hill is one of London’s most multicultural hot spots, which means it’s odd that Curtis’ film doesn’t reflect that. Still, the area looks the best it ever has – though Portobello Road is where you’ll find Grant’s bookshop.
Bridget Jones Diary
Renée Zellweger stars as the perpetually single Bridget in this canny update of Pride & Prejudice. Only In London: Visit Borough Market and you’ll easily spot Bridget’s little flat near the pub, not to mention the restaurant that's the setting for Firth and Grant's hilarious dust-up. Bridget: This is an occasion for genuinely tiny knickers.
Bend It Like Beckham
Two 18-year-old girls aspire to become professional football players in Gurinder Chadha’s gentle comedy. Only In London: Chadha captures the city’s cultural diversity beautifully as Parminder Nagra rebels against her orthodox Sikh upbringing – with Hounslow providing the perfect suburban backdrop.
Carol Reed’s classic musical in which young orphan Oliver (Mark Lester) falls in with a gang of street urchins who’ve been trained as pickpockets. Only In London: The city’s a smoggy place filled with danger in this movie adaptation of Dickens’ novel – you definitely believe somebody like Fagin could live here.
28 Days Later
Sci-fi horror from Danny Boyle in which an incurable virus sweeps the UK, transforming people into ravenous zombies. Only In London: Trust us, it’s never this empty in London – not even at 4 am when the clubbers are all tucked up in bed. Which makes the sight of a deserted central London all the creepier…
The Bourne Ultimatum
Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) continues his hunt for answers while dodging the CIA. Only In London: Waterloo Station is a battlefield at the best of times, but it becomes a hustle-bustle setting for a fantastically tense action scene in this Bourne film, as he attempts to protect Paddy Considine’s journalist.
Mary Poppins (1964)
Joyous musical romp starring Julie Andrews as the titular nanny, who’s hired to look after two very unhappy children. Only In London: This is London as envisioned by Walt Disney Pictures, where everybody’s smartly dressed, the townhouses are towering and gorgeous, and there’s not so much as a single turd in the parks. Dare to dream, Disney…
A Bangladeshi woman arrives in London, leaving behind her family and friends. Only In London: Cultural diversity is all part of London’s charm, and here we get a look at the East End’s Bangladeshi community, where the aftershock of 9/11 is strongly felt.
Eight films adapted from JK Rowling’s bestselling book series, with Daniel Radcliffe as the lightning-scarred boy wizard. Only In London: Sad to say, Diagon Alley doesn’t actually exist in our beloved capital. That doesn’t stop Columbus, Yates, et al from lavishing the city with adoring screen time, whether it’s the Millennium Bridge getting destroyed in Half-Blood Prince or those gorgeous over-city shots in Phoenix. And, of course, there’s King’s Cross station… Hermione: [putting a large book on the table] I checked this out weeks ago for a bit of light reading.
The King's Speech
Oscar-nabbing historical drama starring Colin Firth as King George VI, who struggles with a debilitating stammer. Only In London: Rush’s Harley Street practice should look familiar – it’s a Georgian townhouse 33 Portland Place, a popular location used in Amy Winehouse’s ‘Rehab’ video…
A 1998 British-American romantic drama film written and directed by Peter Howitt and starring Gwyneth Paltrow and John Hannah, while also featuring John Lynch, Jeanne Tripplehorn, and Virginia McKenna. The film alternates between two parallel universes, based on the two paths the central character's life could take depending on whether she catches a train, and causing different outcomes in her life. Only In London: The bridge featured is the Albert Bridge between Battersea and Chelsea. The late-night scene when Paltrow and Hannah walk down the street was filmed in Primrose Gardens (formerly Stanley Gardens) in Belsize Park.
Ready to head to London? View our ever-accumulating album of photos on Facebook. See if you can imagine yourself in London. I’d love to help you plan that group trip for you and the people you care most about. Amazing options of all types are available - classic literature trips, much like the one I experienced as a teen, or immerse yourself in the world of Harry Potter. Garden tours, tea room tours, culinary travels, just about anything you can imagine can be fashioned into an astounding itinerary! Reach out and contact me today and we will work together to bring your ideas into reality.
Erin Smith ~ Affinity Group Travel Advisor