Go behind the filming locations of some of the most popular TV series at the moment and discover everything from striking nature spots to thrilling city life
TV productions are currently experiencing a golden age. Whether you’re into fantasy, history or crime, there’s a TV series to tune into every week. But what is it that makes us come back? Perhaps the captivating storytelling, the fleshed out characters that we love (or love to hate) and the true to life settings. You’d be surprised how many TV creators choose to go on location, rather than a studio, which means that you can actually go and see the places for yourself.
Here’s our guide to the filming locations of some of the year’s most popular TV series.
Narcos – Medellín, Colombia
In 2015, Netflix released Narcos, a 10-episode exclusive about the rise and fall of Colombian cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar. The TV series chronicles Escobar’s life from the late 1970s, with the second season focusing on the drug war raging through the country. Narcos garnered a lot of positive reviews and became a worldwide hit, not least due to its compelling visuals.
After decades of civil war, Colombia has improved tourist security significantly and welcomes around 2.5 million visitors every year. Medellín has left its crime-plagued past behind and is turning into an innovative urban development hub. Innovations such as the zen-inspired public park Parque de los Pies Descalzos (Barefoot Park), where children and adults are encouraged to walk around barefoot on different surfaces, or the eco-tree, a high-tech tree-looking structure that purifies the air, are just a few of the unique sights to take in here.
Curious about the neighbourhood Escobar used to run his “business” from? Take the cable-car to Comuna 1, a working-class suburb that is now home to arts and community centre Parque Biblioteca España – comprised of three buildings that resemble massive black rocks.
Top of the Lake – Glenorchy, New Zealand
When Top of the Lake came out in 2013, it swept up several awards and garnered reviews such as “masterfully made”, “riveting”, “a masterpiece”. Jane Campion’s seven-episode drama centres on detective Robin Griffin, who, upon return to her remote New Zealand hometown Laketop, starts investigating the disappearance of a 12-year-old pregnant girl.
Kiwi-born Campion filmed the miniseries on location, and picked the isolated settlement of Glenorchy to stand in for the fictional Laketop. Located an hour’s drive from Queenstown, Glenorchy sits on the northern tip of Lake Wakatipu and thanks to its undisputed beauty, several filming crews have been through it, among them The Lord of the Rings crew.
Glenorchy caters to various types of visitors; if you’re looking for a peaceful spot to contemplate nature, you’ll be in your element here. Swimming in the Glenorchy Lagoon, fishing on Lake Wakatipu or long hiking trips are just a few of the things to do around here. For the adrenaline-seeking visitors, there’s paragliding, wind surfing and skydiving.
Read more: Discover some of New Zealand’s hidden spots
Westworld – Utah, USA
HBO’s newest TV series, Westworld, is a remake of the 1973 film of the same name that tells the story of a Western-themed amusement park populated by human-looking robots with no control over their own lives and over that of real humans. While the all-round feel of the series is dark and gloomy, the beauty of the cinematography has left most viewers in awe.
Creator Jonathan Noland went for the “classic John Ford Western” that he found in the dramatic landscapes of Utah, places he calls “exquisitely, exclusively American”.
The rugged mountains and rock formations of Castle Valley and Fisher Valley in eastern Utah feature heavily. Both locations are in close proximity to the city of Moab, a perfect spot for exploring the Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Some of the most impressive sandstone towers, colourful mesas and natural arches are to be found here – creating eerie and magical landscapes difficult to find anywhere else. The beauty of these geological marvels translates in their poetic monikers: Devil’s Garden, The Three Gossips, Dead Horse Point to name a few.
Read more: Road trip through canyon country
Game of Thrones – Croatia, Ireland, Iceland, Morocco
G.R.R. Martin’s juggernaut fantasy masterpiece A Song of Ice and Fire became a global sensation when HBO decided to bring the world of Westeros to the small screen in 2011. Set in a fictional world resembling the Middle Ages, the TV series follows various noble families fighting for the Iron Throne, the highest position of power.
Game of Thrones spans a fantastical world with various climates and cultures, and in order to translate them on screen, the creators filmed everything in multiple locations – mainly Iceland, Croatia, Morocco and Northern Ireland.
Whether you choose to walk a mile in Jon Snow’s shoes and discover Iceland’s famous Ring Road or take a tour through dragon country aka the Moroccan cities Essaouira and Ait-Ben-Haddou, you’re nothing short of an adventure. Step into a world of power struggles and conspiracies in the Westerosi capital King’s Landing also known as Croatia’s walled medieval city Dubrovnik. Walk around the narrow marble streets of The Old City, enjoy the spectacular views of the Adriatic Sea and gaze at the centuries-old architecture.
Were you mesmerised by the long row of imposing trees of the Kingsroad? Take the trip to Northern Ireland‘s Dark Hedges and walk side by side with 200-year-old beech trees.
Atlanta – Atlanta, GA, USA
One of 2016’s most critically acclaimed TV series, Atlanta, follows Earn – played by creator, musician and actor Donald Glover – a college dropout who takes on the role of manager to his rapper cousin Paper Boi. Glover has created a visual narrative of the rap music scene, race, celebrity culture and not least the city of Atlanta. Not surprisingly, the TV series was shot on location.
Atlanta, Georgia’s most populous city, was crowned by The New York Times as “hip-hop’s centre of gravity”, and it sure lives up to it. With multi-platinum artists Outkast, T.I., Ciara, Cee Lo Green and Usher hailing from Atlanta, this city doesn’t have a shortage of great places to take in the music, may it be hip hop, R&B, jazz or indie rock. Try the Drunken Unicorn, Apache Cafe or Smith’s Olde Bar.
Atlanta’s not just about the music. There’s plenty of history, culture and cuisine to cut your teeth on. Visit Martin Luther King’s preserved childhood home, followed by art-gazing at the Atlanta BeltLine, a former railway corridor transformed into a multi-purpose public space, and finish with a Southern-style dinner at South City Kitchen.
The Bridge – Denmark and Sweden
When Danish-Swedish crime thriller Broen/Bron (The Bridge) was released in 2013, it quickly proved to be another Scandi success. The TV series follows two police detectives from each side of the Sound (the strait connecting Denmark and Sweden) as they investigate murders that cross the borders between the two countries.
The series was filmed in Copenhagen and Malmö, with the Øresund Bridge as the connecting element. An eight-kilometre combined railway and motorway bridge connecting Copenhagen and Malmö, the Øresund Bridge is the longest of its kind in Europe. You can cross it by car or train, or you can opt to bicycle to Lernacken, an excellent viewpoint of the bridge located south-west of Malmö.
Among the more prominent filming locations sits Blågårdsgade, a pedestrian street located in the heart of Nørrebro – Copenhagen’s most ethnically diverse neighbourhood. The street is brimming with life at every hour of the day – may it be students drinking coffee during the day, locals doing some shopping at the greengrocer or professionals calling in for a nightcap after work.
Looking to immerse yourself in the world of Scandi TV shows? Nordic Noir Tours run specialised tours in Copenhagen and Malmö.
Peaky Blinders – Liverpool, UK
BBC’s gangster drama Peaky Blinders, set in Birmingham during the years following World War One, follows the activities of the gang with the same name. Since shooting required period locations, filming was mostly done in Liverpool. Due to its towering buildings and striking architecture, Liverpool provided some of the most pivotal outdoor locations.
Wander through Rodney Street and gaze at the Georgian architecture, or walk down Powis Street and try to imagine how the derelict houses come to life embodying lawless neighbourhoods. 16th-century country estate Croxteth Hall also makes an appearance in the TV series. One of Liverpool’s most important heritage sites, the estate houses a working farm, a Victorian garden and a nature reserve – all open to the public and perfect for a day escaping the city.
Girls – New York City, NY, USA
Lena Dunham’s New York-based dramedy focuses on a group of four twentysomething young women who navigate jobs, boyfriends, parties, friendships and challenges arising from living in New York. Once the sixth season airs in 2017, we’ll say goodbye to Hannah, Shoshanna, Marnie and Jessa. You’ll be quick to place Girls in the same universe as Sex and the City, yet the women of Girls don’t lead the luxurious lives paraded by the ladies of the late ’90s TV series. Nowhere is it more visible than in the locations they move between.
The four lead characters live and mostly move around Brooklyn, and with the entire series shot on location, you can actually find most of the places. Savour a creamy latte at Café Grumpy in Greenpoint – the workplace of various characters. Brooklyn-based independent bookshops Book Thug Nation and Spoonbill & Sugartown also make appearances on screen. Keen on finding Bushwick’s “best party ever”? Keep an eye on the Bushwick Daily.
The characters do occasionally move outside Brooklyn’s borders and hit Manhattan’s bars and arts venues, such as cocktail joint Tom & Jerry’s 288 Bar, art gallery Lehmann Maupin and interactive theatre Sleep No More.