Since I was little, I have dreamed of traveling outside of the U.S. I was always fascinated by other cultures and wanted nothing more than to explore the wonders of the world. I decorated my room to look like Paris and obsessed over Italian food and fashion. However, as an Iowa kid, opportunities for world travel did not grow on trees. Aside from a highly-Americanized week in Mexico, I have never left the U.S. So, this fall, I am diving into the deep end with a semester in London.
With my limited travel experience, I often imagined traveling across the world growing up, which led me to fall in love with movies. Good, bad, or mediocre movies let me explore other places from my own home. My favorite movies were always set in exciting places or interesting times from history. So, in preparing to travel to London this fall, I’ve revisited my favorite movies set in London to inspire my travel bucket list.
Below are four London locations from some of my favorite British films. While there are many film location tours in London, there’s more to do in these locations than take photos, so you can make a longer visit to that place. Also, I just love the idea of visiting these locations and feeling like a character in the movies I’ve always dreamed of living in.
Huntsman & Sons Ltd., Savile Row (Kingsman: Secret Service)
The recent Kingsman series is a London-centric trilogy about modern-day spies, characterized by their manners and polite way of killing their opponents. The main character, Eggsy, is recruited by the spies known as Kingsmen. He is first brought to a store and tailoring house in London to purchase a suit. The store, however, is just a front for the Kingsman headquarters. The trilogy’s filmmakers have said that Huntsman on Savile Row inspired the location from the first film, and was actually used as a set on the second two films. Huntsman embraces its reputation from the films, and has often displayed suits inspired by costumes from the films. While I don’t have much use for a lavish bespoke suit, I look forward to visiting Huntsman while on Savile Row, and getting to feel like a suave spy for a moment just looking in the window.
Notting Hill District, West London (Notting Hill)
The iconic romantic comedy Notting Hill is one of my favorite movies. Not only is the love story sweet and interesting, but the movie seems to be a love letter to its setting, the West London neighborhood of Notting Hill. Hugh Grant’s character, Will, owns a travel bookshop in Notting Hill, where some of the most memorable scenes between him and Anna take place (including the ever-quoted, “I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her” moment). In real life, Notting Hill is a colorful district that hosts a popular street market on Portobello Road, which is featured often in the film, and has become a sort of tribute to the film that made it so well-known.
National Gallery, Westminster (Skyfall)
Back again with a spy movie, but one from a very specific moment. Skyfall, the first James Bond movie I got to see in theaters, is set in different cities across the world; however, one of my favorite scenes takes place in the National Gallery in London. Bond meets the new MI6 quartermaster, a.k.a. Q, while sitting in the National Gallery. Bond and Q meet while admiring J.M.W. Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire. The Turner painting is still featured in the National Gallery, giving visitors the opportunity to sit exactly where the actors did during the filming of the scene. I look forward to visiting the gallery - I enjoy art museums and seeing paintings, though, once again, I think it would also be fun to feel like a suave undercover spy.
King’s Cross Station, Camden (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone)
No list of popular UK films would be complete without the Harry Potter series. Most of the first film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or the Philosopher’s Stone, as released in the UK), takes place at Hogwarts, but one memorable scene takes place in London. Harry boards the Hogwarts Express at King’s Cross Station at Platform 9¾, where a hidden doorway in a brick wall gives students access to the train. Today, King’s Cross Station has a fake Platform 9¾ for visitors to take photos. The station also houses the Harry Potter Shop, a gift shop for the film series modeled after Ollivander’s Wand Emporium, another memorable location from the films. While taking a photo seems like a fun tourist-y activity, I especially look forward to exploring the Harry Potter Shop and feeling the excitement of walking through the station, on my way to the many other incredible places and adventures London has to offer.
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Hello! My name is Emma Hughes, and I'm a junior studying Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Iowa. I'm visiting London to study public relations and explore the arts and theatre communities in the UK. I love theatre, creative writing, game nights, and movies. This fall, I hope to have lots of new and exciting experiences in London, and that sharing them with you helps you get the most out of your time abroad!