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Still from Pirates of the Caribbean

The iconic London locations behind your favourite films

From the gallery where Bond and Q rendezvoused to the spot where Daniel Cleaver got a soaking, discover six of the city’s most memorable filming locations  


There’s a cinematic backdrop around every turn in this city, from secret garden squares and old-fashioned pubs to blockbuster monuments and more. Think Harry Potter boarding a train at King’s Cross, with Hedwig’s cage perched on a trolley, Bridget Jones cavorting on Primrose Hill, or Paddington visiting the National History Museum (and almost becoming an exhibit). Here, we’ve picked six of the city’s most memorable big-screen cameos. How many do you recognise?

HLD 5 24 London Film Locations 01B The National Gallery D29TE8

The National Gallery

In situ on Trafalgar Square since 1838, the commanding, column-fronted National Gallery is one of London’s greatest landmarks. What better place for a secret meeting, hidden in plain sight? It’s here, in Skyfall, that a world-weary 007 meets the new – and youthful – Q (“You must be joking!”, says an incredulous Bond. “You still have spots!”). Their rendezvous is in room 34, in front of a sunset-streaked seascape: JMW Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire. Bequeathed to the nation in 1851, it’s a painting of a soon-to-be-retired warship sailing to the scrapheap in Rotherhithe. For Q, it’s a melancholy commentary on the inevitability of time, though all the laconic Bond sees is “a bloody big ship”. Daniel Craig and Skyfall director Sam Mendes took time to check out some of the gallery’s other masterpieces (above), and we suggest you do the same, from Van Gogh’s Sunflowers to Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus, reclining in room 30. In the mood for lunch? It’s a short stroll to Rules in Covent Garden, where M, Q and Moneypenny meet in Spectre. Claim their table and see if staff will mix you a martini.

HLD 5 24 London Film Locations 03B Franks M6P41K


Who needs Notting Hill’s leafy squares and mansions to backdrop a rom com? Not first-time director Raine Allen-Miller, who set the lo-fi, lovable Rye Lane in Peckham and south London. Yas and Dom (above) are the twentysomethings who meet by chance, then hang out for a day, hopping between the likes of Rye Lane Market (complete with a moonwalking cowboy) and the lilac-painted Peckhamplex cinema. Retrace their adventures with stops at some key locations, starting at the hip Peckham Levels, the car park-turned cultural hub where Yas and Dom first meet. Snap a selfie on its colour-block stairwell, then head on up for DJ sessions, street-food eats and Frank’s, an arty rooftop café-bar that’s open May to September. Elsewhere, check out the vinyl at Peckham Soul, where Yas hunts for her favourite record, sip orange-flower tea at Persepolis, or hop on the train to Herne Hill and Brockwell Park’s charming walled gardens. For dinner, head to time-warp Italian Il Giardino, with its lemon-yellow façade – just learn from Dom’s mistakes, and don’t ask your smug ex along.

Still from 28 Days Later on Westminster Bridge

Westminster Bridge

There’s no missing this impressive, seven-arch bridge, whose paintwork matches the green leather seats in the neighbouring Houses of Parliament. Wordsworth, for one, was bowled over by its views, penning a sonnet in their honour in 1802. (It’s helpfully inscribed on a plaque on the bridge.) What struck him was the profound silence of the early morning – “All that mighty heart is lying still!” – which found an unexpected echo 200 years later, in Danny Boyle’s zombie flick 28 Days Later. In the scene everyone remembers, Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up alone in St Thomas’ Hospital, then wanders across a bridge devoid of people and cars (above). How was it shot? By filming in midsummer, the moment dawn broke, with police shooing away passers-by. Recreate Jim’s route across the bridge and into central London, along Whitehall and Horse Guards Parade to Piccadilly Circus – minus, of course, the overturned bus and lurking undead. If you are keen for a zombie sighting, try the nearby Prince Charles Cinema, whose all-night movie marathons are sometimes horror themed.

HLD 5 24 London Film Locations 04B Old Royal Naval College Credit Hugh Fox

The Old Royal Naval College

Masterminded by Sir Christopher Wren, this imposing Baroque complex overlooks the river in Greenwich. Built on the site of an old Tudor Palace, it once housed naval veterans, before becoming the Royal Naval College. Now, it’s the grandest of visitor attractions, whose handsome, colonnaded courtyards often spark a sense of déjà vu. That’s hardly surprising. It’s one of the most popular filming locations in the country, for everything from intergalactic battles, such as Thor: The Dark World (above), to swashbuckling capers (as Captain Jack Sparrow, a scowling Johnny Depp was dragged through the extraordinary Painted Hall – opening image). More recently, it scored a starring role in Ridley Scott’s Napoleon, playing revolutionary Paris. The Painted Hall stood in for the soaring Château de Saint-Cloud; the upper square a cannon-blasted boulevard. It’s all quite ironic, given the connection to Napoleon’s nemesis. After the Battle of Trafalgar, Lord Nelson’s body lay in state here in a small chamber off the Painted Hall, now called the Nelson Room. Keen to get the inside scoop on the college’s cinematic history? Sign up for the behind-the-scenes blockbuster film tour.

HLD 5 24 London Film Locations 05B Italian Gardens E8X13K

The Italian Gardens

Towards the northern edge of Kensington Gardens, this ornamental water garden couldn’t be more delightful. There’s nothing else quite like it in London’s Royal Parks, with its dreamy water lilies, swan-carved urns and ornate marble fountains, all commissioned by Prince Albert as a gift for Queen Victoria. It’s a place where life proceeds at a sedate pace, soundtracked by the sound of the water and rustle of the rushes. A dropped ice cream or scuffle between ducks is the height of drama here, though all that changed in 2003, when a certain film crew rocked up. It’s here that a suited Mark Darcy chases Daniel Cleaver in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, with both eventually grappling in a fountain (above) – an unseemly skirmish that would not have amused Victoria. After a stroll around the gardens (please, do behave), rewind the beginning of the scene with a visit to the nearby Serpentine Galleries, where the altercation began. Its two gallery spaces host some of London’s boldest art exhibitions, while its space-age restaurant – a Zaha Hadid design – is just the spot for lunch.