Scene stealers: 16 TV shows filmed in sensational global locations

Don't just watch these worldwide TV hits for the gripping storylines, dramatic plot twists and talented actors, watch for the wanderlust-inducing destinations stealing the show, too...

6 mins

Unsurprisingly, we’ve been watching a lot of TV recently, and not our usual sort of travel shows either. And while our binge-watching has threatened to spiral out of control, we’ve found ourselves drawn to some great destination-based series adding a number of great-looking locations to our travel wish list.

With the BBC currently screening quality dramas Twin and Normal People – filmed in the Lofotens and County Sligo respectively – the screen-based wanderlust keeps on coming.

Here’s a selection of brilliant shows (old and new) from around the world, that will not only while away a few hours of lockdown, but also fire up your imagination…

1. Copenhagen, Denmark in… Forbrydelsen (The Killing) (2007-12)

Amazing woolly jumpers weren’t the only thing popularised by Forbrydelsen. Fans of the show flocked to the Danish capital only to find that it wasn’t a gloomy, rain-splashed hive of historic and contemporary civic buildings, such as the ‘romantic’ City Hall and brutalist concrete Police HQ.

In fact, they found a compact cycle-some city of diverse districts, laying out a buffet of its grand past and that celebrated Scandi-chic.

Where to watch it: Stream on Netflix now

2. Washington State, USA in… Twin Peaks (1990-91)

The owls may not be what they seem in the dense forests of the Pacific Northwest, but everything else Iives up to your expectations, from the Snoqualmie Falls made famous from the show’s opening title sequence or the maintained trails going up Mount Si.

Interestingly, in reality, this peak doesn't have a twin - though you can treat yourself to a damn fine coffee and cherry pie at the Double R (or Twede’s Diner, as locals know it). Better yet, they’re all just a 45 minute drive out of Seattle.

Where to watch it: Buy or rent on Amazon Prime

3. Annecy, Haute-Savoie department in… Les Revenants (The Returned) (2012-15)

Thankfully, visitors to Annecy aren’t so likely to be bothered by the community’s hungry, deceased population. In reality, it's far more peaceful - this ‘pearl of the French Alps’ sits on the fringes of Lake Annecy, and is riven with canals as well as the Thiou River.

Filming of the zombie-drama took place in the suburb of Annecy-le-Vieux, and the nearby Menthon-Saint-Bernard and pretty lakeside Sévrier – although if you want to gawp at the series’ pivotal dam, you'll need to head two hours further east to the 180m Tignes Dam.

Where to watch it: Rent on YouTube now

4. The Scottish Highlands in… Outlander (2014-present)

For UK TV crews – and travellers – the Highlands is as spectacular as it is convenient, being used in everything from Bond to Harry Potter to TV like Hamish Macbeth and The Crown.

However, it's Outlander - the time-travelling fantasy and international hit - that gets everyone's fake kilts in a twist. A new wave of visitors have been encouraged to explore the region, thanks to a dramatic plot that’s nearly as romantically epic as the landscapes themselves.

Visit Scotland have even cannily created a whole site covering enough of the castles, lochs and vast, untamed wildernesses to sate any ardent fans suffering from ‘Droughtlander’.

Where to watch it: Stream on Amazon Prime now

Learn more about Outlander's Scottish filming locations

5. Montuak, NY State in… The Affair (2014-19)

“The end of the world?” Hardly. Despite what the characters of this Rashomon-like drama say, the farthest eastern reach of Long Island, New York, is a grand idea for anyone looking to ditch Manhattan for a direct commute to the seaside.

Visitors can enjoy the beaches, harbour and retro-tecture clapboard buildings, with a visit to the Montauk Point Light an essential stop - a version of this lighthouse has stood here for over 200 years.

And of course, you need to try the titular dish at the very real Lobster Roll diner (where central character Alison waitressed). Start an unhealthy relationship of your own.... just with fried seafood.

Where to watch it: Stream on Amazon Prime now

6. Medellín, Colombia, in… Narcos (2015-17)

Most Medellín locals are understandably touchy about the city’s central role in the life and bloody rooftop death of narco-kingpin Pablo Escobar.

However Netflix’s hit true-life drug war show has sparked a huge interest in the city, which ironically is now a relaxed, diverse world away from the one that once hid Escobar from the law.

The Medellín Museum of Modern Art (MAMM) and cable car rides up into the barrios are essential tickets, with the trails and flora viewing in Ecological Parque Arvi just a 15 minute ride away.

Where to watch it: Stream on Netflix now

7. The Lofoten Islands, Norway, in… Twin (2020-present)

Come for the slow, smouldering drama about a twin-swap, stay for those remarkable islands, stretching out into the Norwegian Sea from the country’s north-west shoulder.

Acting as a suitable metaphor for the show, the small island of Sakrisøy’s quiet Nordic domesticity – the fisherman’s cabins (rorbuer) here date back to the 19th century – is contrasted with the primal Lofoten mountains that loom threateningly over it from the other side of the Reinefjord’s water.

As the show points out, the Lofoten Islands also have the world’s most northerly surf school. We’d suggest bringing a wetsuit. A very thick wetsuit.

Where to watch it: Stream on BBC iPlayer now

8. Berlin, Germany in… Babylon Berlin (2017-present)

German TV’s most expensive show tried to save money in one place - the location. Some of the corrupt, partying 1930s Weimar Republic was recreated on the very streets where they took place, with the aid of some digital tinkering.

Fans of the Volker Kutscher adaptation will find themselves very much on familiar turf in Alexanderplatz, with the nearby Berlin and Tempelhof-Schöneberg city hall buildings – both recreated since being heavily bombed in World War II – doing grand stand-in work.

Where to watch it: Stream on Amazon Prime now

9. Tokyo, Japan in… Followers (2020-present)

The legendarily frenetic, bright Japanese capital becomes one of the main stars of this J-Drama about modern women working in Tokyo’s entertainment business.

Suitably, for a show about obsessions with social media, a list of artfully curated, beautifully shot locations turn up throughout the series, including the teamLab digital art exhibition in Odaiba, the Kawaii Monster Cafe in Harajuku and Shibuya’s Center-Gai – all worthy of any influencer’s Insta Story.

Where to watch it: Stream on Netflix now

10. Portland, Oregon, in… Portlandia (2011-18)

Plentiful cycling. Craft beers. Thinking local, eco and earnestly artisanal. Portland is very much a state of mind in this sketch show, that duly give the gloriously green city an affectionate hipster bashing as ‘the place young people go to retire’, right down to a splendidly whispy ‘Battle of the Gentle Bands’ music festival.

Filmed almost entirely on location, visitors will quickly find themselves pedalling – must be pedalling, of course – past familiar landmarks, whether that’s Powell's City of Books, the Eastbank Esplanade, the City Hall or any of the endless homespun coffee shops.

Where to watch it: Buy the DVDs on Amazon

11. North Gyeongsang Province, South Korea in… Mr Sunshine (2018)

A massive record-breaking hit back in South Korea, this historical drama explores the country’s push for independence in the early 20th century.

While neon-powered Seoul might look a lot different these days – and so needed to be recreated on a studio backlot – many of the locations used in the show are available to visit.

Try the more traditional, greener North Gyeongsang Province to the country’s east, which is home to the suitably scenic Manhyujeong Pavilion (with its pretty waterfall), the House of Unbo and Gosanjeong Pavilion, overlooking a river at the foot of the Cheongnyangsan Mountain.

Where to watch it: Stream on Netflix now

12. Sicily, Italy in… Inspector Montalbano (1999-present)

Okay, so the small town of Vigata might not exist, but fans of the Sicilian detective series can instead feast their eyes and senses on UNESCO-listed city Ragusa, which plays its part to perfection - the postcard ideal of what a classical hillside town should look like.

Anyone wanting to chase Montalbano around can start in the terrace outside the Santa Maria delle Scale Church before walking the steps below to the Piazza Duomo, being quietly judged by San Giorgio’s Cathedral looming over it.

Where to watch it: Buy or rent on YouTube

13. County Sligo, Ireland in… Normal People (2020)

Some watch for the searingly honest portrait of millennial life, and others just watch for the sex. We on the other hand caught the adaptation of Sally Rooney’s best-selling book only for that Wild Atlantic Way scenery. Honest.

County Sligo - and particularly the streets of Tobercurry – doubled up for the fictional town of Carricklea. Visitors can recreate Connell and Marianne’s soulful wanders along the beach at Streedagh Point, 45 mins from Tobercurry and just north of Sligo town. 

Where to watch it: Stream on BBC iPlayer now

14. Melbourne, Australia in… Kath & Kim (2002-2007)

“Look at moiiiiii!” And look at Melbourne too, with the ‘noiiiice’ suburbs of Patterson Lakes in south-east Melbourne standing in for the fictional Fountain Lakes dwellings of chardonnay-swilling divorcee Kath and her spoilt grown-up child Kim in this iconically Aussie comedy.

Of course, Melbourne’s ’burbs are already legend with UK visitors: tours have been pottering about Vermont South’s Pin Oak Court – or Ramsey Street as most Neighbours’ fans know it – for decades.

Those seeking less-refined settings can follow the air-trails of The Flying Doctors, and hop to the small towns, vineyards and creeks of Victoria’s northern Murray Region, where they can enjoy a glass of the local ‘kardonnay’ themselves.

Where to watch it: Stream on Netflix now

15. Northern Ireland in… Game Of Thrones (2011-2019)

A number of countries benefitted from the phenomenal Game Of Thrones travel bounce - Croatia, Iceland, Morocco – but none more than Northern Ireland, with the mammoth production basically using the country’s coastline as its own backlot.

Visitors can easily put together a lengthy road trip from Tollymore Forest Park in the south-east (used for the show’s ‘dead’ opening) all the way through to Mussenden Temple in the north-west (where Stannis Baratheon rejects the Seven Gods), and taking in any number of iconic scenes along the way, including Melisandre’s shadow baby birthing at Cushendun Caves.

Of course, one essential stop would have to be a tour of Belfast’s Linen Mills Studios, to see that iconic, bum-endangering Iron Throne for yourself.

Where to watch it: Stream on NowTV now

16. Cornwall, England in… Poldark (2015-19)

The local tourist office must have rubbed their hands with glee when the Poldark film crew rolled into town, especially once Aidan Turner whipped his shirt off. The pretty villages of Charlestown, Holywell Bay and Porthgwarra have all seen a big uptick in visitors.

Poldark, though, was just the latest show shining that big Sunday night TV light on the English countryside – other notable beneficiaries include Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey), Goathland (Heartbeat), Crich and Fritchley (Peak Practice) and of course Holmfirth (Last of the Summer Wine).

Where to watch it: Stream on Netflix now

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