A good movie or TV show can sweep you off your feet, transport you to a land of imagination, and inspire you to expand your traveling horizons. It’s natural to want to visit the real-life filming locations or settings of your favorite entertainment.
In fact, this drive to explore the beloved settings of fictional stories has in many cases inspired waves of tourism across Europe. From Ireland’s remote Skellig Michael to Norway’s dramatic Trolltunga Promontory, here are five locations (in five different European countries) that have seen massive increases in popularity from TV shows or films:
Croatia: Game of Thrones Brought Fans to Dubrovnik
In Game of Thrones, King’s Landing is the site of drama, betrayal, and the Iron Throne itself. Many fans of the show are familiar with the narrow, winding streets of the capital city, through which a major character took a famous Walk of Shame in a recent season. These streets feature heavily in the HBO series Game of Thrones, but are actually found in real-life St. Dominika Street in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Games of Thrones is an epic fantasy series, featuring dragons, ice-monsters, royal feuds, romance, and intrigue. And its popularity has led to a tourism boom in Dubrovnik, where the once-quiet streets are now crowded with visitors eager to find the sites from their favorite show. Incredibly, this Croatian citadel, which houses only 2,500 people, now sees 2,000 tourists flocking in daily to check out the “jewel of the Adriatic.” This reflects a 6 percent increase in the number of tourists in Dubrovnik, according to VOA News.
But this citadel is so much more than just a film site. Its key location on the Dalmatian coast has made it an historically important site since the 13th century. Now, it’s famed for its beautiful mixture of architecture: Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque masterpieces still standing the test of time in the heart of this coastal city.
England: Hogwarts Fans Flocked to Alnwick Castle in Northumberland
Who hasn’t heard of the cultural phenomenon of Harry Potter? This coming-of-age story is based on the young wizard Harry Potter and his fight against the evil Lord Voldemort. J.K. Rowling’s famous serious has been conjuring up die-hard fans for decades now. And what would Harry Potter be without its most famous location, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry — where Harry meets his friends and begins his adventures?
In the first two films of the Harry Potter franchise, many Hogwarts scenes are filmed in Northumberland’s Alnwick Castle. Those familiar will the films will recognize Alnwick Castle’s outer bailey as the setting for Harry’s first flying lessons. The inner bailey of the castle stands out as the spot where Harry and Ron crash their magic car in The Chamber of Secrets.
The young wizards also entered and exited Alnwick Castle’s Lion Arch on the way to Hagrid’s cottage, and the courtyards of the Castle feature heavily in scenes where Hogwarts students are walking from class to class.
Alnwick Castle, located in Northumberland in England, experienced a staggering increase in tourism following the films. In fact, from 2011 to 2013, tourism numbers jumped 230% based on the films’ popularity.
Scotland: Outlander Brings Fans to the Countryside
Outlander, a Starz show based on Diana Gabaldon’s series of fantasy novels, has captured many viewers’ imaginations with its combination of time-travel and romance. It stars Claire Randall, a WWII nurse who finds herself transported back to Scotland in 1743. There, she meets a handsome warrior named Jamie Fraser, and they embark on a series of adventures (and romance) that intensify which each episode.
According to Herald Scotland, viewers aren’t just swept away by the romance and adventure of Outlander. They’re also enraptured with the Scottish landscape, a fact which has led to a huge surge of tourism since the show made its debut. Scotland’s official tourism site even offers a 12-day itinerary geared specifically towards Outlander fans. Some of the highlighted spots include the Bo’ness Station where Claire bids an emotional farewell to Frank. They also recommend the Hopetoun House, since the estate has featured in scenes in several seasons of Outlander.
By the way, this isn’t the first time Scotland has earned tourism from pop culture. Mel Gibson’s 1995 film Braveheart brought tourists flocking to the Wallace Monument in Starling — even though most of Braveheart was actually filmed in Ireland.
Norway: Frozen Brings Fans to the Fjords and the Trolltunga Promontory
The 2013 Disney animated film Frozen features two sisters, Elsa and Anna of Arendelle. Princess Elsa’s magical ice powers set the sisters off on a series of remarkable adventures, punctuated by the humor, mythology, and original songs that made the film such a hit. With actors Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel lending their voices to these spunky heroines, the film was a massive success and ushered in a whole era defined by the song “Let it Go.”
It also ushered in a surge of tourism for Norway, according to the Travel Market Report. Norway has been a hit with incoming United States visitors, with tourism numbers surging 36% in 2014 (the year after the film’s release). Incredibly, the tourist influx became so intense that Norway’s tourist board actually had to dial back its advertising efforts.
Frozen’s Arendelle owes a lot to Norway in its design, from its gorgeous fjords to specific sites that conjure the type of dramatic imagery associated with the films. When Frozen fans visit, they often trek out to see Trolltunga promontory, which has increased to seen increases from 1,000 tourists all the way up to 100,000. Trolltunga, the “Troll’s Tongue,” is a rock formation that overlooks the beautiful, placid Lake Ringedalsvatnet.
Ireland: The Force Awakens Brings People to Skellig Michael
In 2016, the number of visitors to Ireland increased by a substantial amount, with a 13% increase in visitors occurring in the first six months of the year. What was the reason for this surge in popularity? Tourism Ireland suggests it’s due to the fact that Star Wars: The Force Awakens, featured an incredible shot of the dramatic, romantic island of Skellig Michael, off the coast of Kerry.
In The Force Awakens, young heroine Rey joins a cast of actors that includes Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), and Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) in a new adventure in a galaxy far, far away. Though the island features more prominently in the subsequent film, The Last Jedi, there is an enticing shot of the beautiful island in The Force Awakens.
This magical-looking island, Skellig Michael, rises out of the ocean waves dramatically. The home of a 6th century monastery, you can still see ruins of the ancient settlement when visiting this gorgeous island. There’s also a wealth of eco-diversity, with the island playing home to a huge colony of gannets (a seabird).
Adventuring Through TV, Film, and Travel
When pop culture captures our imaginations — either through animated features like Frozen or atmospheric fantasy like Game of Thrones — we’re often inspired to explore new and beautiful sites. And it makes sense. Just like TV and film, travel allows us to escape from our everyday lives, connect with unique experiences, explore history, and find new adventures around every corner.