We all have our absolute favourite, can’t-miss-it-each-week, don’t-tell-me-what-happened-if-I-haven’t-watched-the-episode-yet TV show – the one that makes your heart race, makes you cry, makes you laugh or makes you think. We connect with the characters, stay up on the storyline and find ourselves thinking about where all this TV magic is made.
Settings and filming locations for popular TV shows pepper the world, and in many cases, you can travel to see where some of the small screen’s most memorable moments have taken place.
We’ve rounded up our top 10 trips for TV lovers around the world.
Downton Abbey diehards can get a taste of Edwardian England at Highclere Castle, the majestic Victorian pile that stands on 1,000 acres of green and pleasant land. The international hit, which chronicles the fortunes of the Crawley family (and their servants) is shot on location at Highclere Castle and has generated international curiosity about the stately home.
Visitors can go inside the castle, explore the gardens, take a woodland walk or have a cuppa in the tearooms. Newbury offers plenty to see and do: historic homes, a bustling theatre scene, horse racing and nature reserves.
Keep in mind the castle is only open to the public during certain times and you need a ticket to enter, so check their website for availability and pricing before trekking out to Newbury.
Skinny tie-wearing Mad Men fanatics, Girls groupies and faithful Seinfeld re-run watchers can all come together in the city that never sleeps. New York City has been the backdrop for – and almost a character in – countless small-screen favourites, including past hits like Gossip Girl and The Sopranos.
So, whether you’d like to belly up to a 1960s-inspired bar à la Mad Men, taste a cupcake at Magnolia Bakery like the ladies of Sex and the City or see the bright lights of Broadway as captured in Smash, the Big Apple is the place for fans of shows past and present.
You can even make like a reality TV star by heading to the Fashion District where the contestants on Project Runway shack up, sew and shop for fabric. Those hooked on current series can reserve spots in a guided “Mad Men” tour, or explore Brooklyn’s Greenpoint and Bushwick neighbourhoods featured in Girls.
Thanks to TV tour companies like On Location Tours, visitors can hop around to filming locations from shows like Sex and the City and The Sopranos. Or, do your own research and scour New York to find the real-life versions of memorable on-screen sites.
Albuquerque, New Mexico, is the hot spot for Breaking Bad loyalists addicted to the story of Walter White, a chemistry teacher with terminal cancer who starts a meth lab with a former student as a means of making money for his family.
The TV series has sparked a spike in Albuquerque visitors itching to see filming locations such as Jesse Pinkman’s house, fast-food joint Twisters Grill (which doubles as Los Pollos Hermanos on the show) and the local Octopus car wash. Breaking Bad fans can get their fix with a limo, trolley or “Biking Bad” tour, each of which features visits to about a dozen locations from the show and views of the New Mexico landscape.
Beyond Breaking Bad locations, Albuquerque offers top-notch south-western food, plenty of arts and culture, and outdoor recreational activities. The city has embraced its newfound TV fame. Local businesses have taken everything from bath products to doughnuts and given them a BB twist. After you see the filming locations, hit up The Candy Lady in Old Town Albuquerque for a $1 bag of the blue ice candy featured on the show.
Creating the mythical continents of Westeros and Essos in Game of Thrones is, apparently, no small task.
After all, filming locations are everywhere from Iceland to Northern Ireland, and Morocco to Malta. But a trip to Croatia will send you straight to the earthly versions of some of the show’s key locations.
As of this summer, visitors to Dubrovnik can take a “Game of Thrones” walking tour through the historic city, led by a Dubrovnik local, who is also a huge fan of the show and even a former GoT extra.
Tourists will be guided through filming locations for scenes such as King Joffrey’s name day tournament, the Battle of Blackwater and the King’s Landing riot.
After trekking through the real locations of these on-screen sites in Dubrovnik, consider knocking a few other GoT destinations off your list; this fantasy series, the brainchild of George R. R. Martin, showcases some of the most stunning destinations around the world.
New England destinations have acted as the settings for shows ranging from the animated comedy Family Guy to classics from days gone by, like Cheers, which centred around a Boston bar and told the stories of its regular customers. Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, a former Rhode Island School of Design student, developed this popular series that follows a dysfunctional family living in the fictional Rhode Island town of Quahog.
The show’s characters regularly reference Rhode Island attractions, leading the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council to launch a Family Guy self-guided tour of Rhode Island in 2012. Tour highlights include a lookout point with a view of the Providence skyline and visits to places like Spooner Street and Del’s Lemonade.
On Location Tours also features a Boston TV and movie tour that takes visitors to landmarks from Boston Legal and Ally McBeal. Cheers was shot in Los Angeles, but the exterior shots of the bar were straight from Boston’s Bull & Finch Pub, which is now known as Cheers Beacon Hill and draws regular crowds of tourists. And who can forget the 1990s sitcom Wings based around a fictional airport on Nantucket Island off the coast of Massachusetts? The show offered up real exterior shots of Nantucket Memorial Airport.
Danish TV series The Killing follows detective Sarah Lund as she traverses Copenhagen trying to solve a murder case involving a student. One third of Denmark’s population reportedly watches the show, which has cast a spotlight on Danish culture and garnered viewers in 17 countries. Fans of The Killing can check out sites used in the show such as the building housing Sarah Lund’s apartment, the Danish Parliament and Pentecost Woods (depicted as a crime scene in the series).
You can even head to Gudrun & Gudrun to buy the star-patterned wool sweater made popular when Sarah Lund wore it on the show. In addition, successful Danish-Swedish crime show The Bridge revolves around a dead body found under the Øresund Bridge, which connects Denmark and Sweden (Europe’s longest bridge).
The show is filmed on location in Copenhagen and Malmö, and features shots of the 10-mile-long bridge. Peter and Ping Literary Walks offers guided tours of Copenhagen filming locations from The Killing and The Bridge.
The spectacular scenery of the Hawaiian Islands has made them irresistible as filming locations for countless films and plenty of television favourites too. Current series Hawaii Five-O, which follows members of a special task force (Five-O) as they tackle crime on the islands, is a revival of the original series that aired mostly in the 1960s and 1970s.
The show is filmed on location in Oahu and features picturesque places like Kualoa Ranch (which offers a film and TV tour), Ali’iolani Hale and the Hilton Hawaiian Village along Waikiki (the team sometimes meets for dinner at one of the hotel’s restaurants – Tropics Bar and Grill).
Lost was also shot in Oahu and racked up a long list of filming locations during its six-year run. Many of the Oahu locales were meant to replicate the scenery from the fictional tropical island in the show.
Toronto acts as the backdrop for a rather hefty (and growing) load of TV shows; episodes from more than 100 series were completed in Toronto in 2012 according to the city.
Often dubbed Hollywood North, Toronto even serves as the filming location for some TV shows that are set in American cities. Large stages with unobstructed skyline views have come to the outskirts of the city and convinced shows like Nikita, Covert Affairs and Suits (from American networks) to put down roots in Toronto. Police drama Rookie Blue, which chronicles the lives of cops who recently graduated from the police academy, is set in Toronto. The show’s characters reference some of the city’s iconic streets such as King Street and Yonge Street, and focus on the area covered by Toronto Police’s 51 Division (known as the 15 Division on the show).
The Pacific Northwest, USA
Seattle, Washington, and Portland, (Oregon) have raked in their fair share of tourists looking to catch a glimpse of various landmarks from hospital drama Grey’s Anatomy and sketch comedy Portlandia, respectively.
Heading into its 10th season, Grey’s Anatomy still holds onto a strong following of long-time watchers determined to see the story through. Many episodes open with impressive aerial shots of Seattle, and while the interior scenes are filmed in L.A., Seattle-goers looking for their fill of familiar Grey’s sites have a few stops to make. Head to the Queen Anne neighbourhood to find Meredith Grey’s house, then make your way to KOMO-TV’s headquarters – the station’s helipad doubles as the helipad on the roof of the show’s fictional Seattle Grace Hospital.
Portlandia pokes a little fun at Portland’s reputation as an extremely progressive city. Starring former Saturday Night Live cast member Fred Armisen, Portlandia is filmed on location in and around Portland, and features plenty of places for the show’s fans to see up close, including Gilt Club restaurant, Voodoo Doughnut, Wealth Underground Farm and Pier Park.
A world tour
Loyal fans of these reality TV series are treated to the stunning vistas and cultural details of exotic locales around the world – a weekly wanderlust-inducing experience for viewers. Bachelor and Bachelorette stars have travelled to countless destinations in their quest for true love, including Anguilla, St. Lucia, Tahiti, South Africa, Panama, Croatia, Belize, New Zealand, Bora Bora, Prague and Thailand.
Amazing Race contestants have navigated language barriers, tackled tough challenges tied to local cultures, and worked against the clock to destination hop around the world. Destinations in Alaska, Namibia, Amsterdam, Scotland, New Zealand, China and Italy are just a few of the stops these on-screen world travellers have made.
(Main image of the Dark Hedges in County Antrim, Ireland is by horslips)