Set Jetting: Study Reveals the Most Cinematic Cities in Europe

The places we see on screen can spark wanderlust and inspire our travel choices. And Europe is a hotspot for film and TV production.

European cities play host to thousands of productions a year, from low budget indie films to blockbuster Hollywood franchises. Their romantic charm, rich history and iconic landmarks make them a favourite among filmmakers all over the world, as well as their state-of-the-art studios.

But which cities are the most cinematic in Europe? To find out, the travel experts at luggage storage network Stasher have analysed how many film and TV series have been shot in 50 major European cities.

London takes the Oscar for the most cinematic city in Europe, ranking in first place in the study. The city’s impressive skyline blending old and new, atmospheric streets and royal palaces are a filmmaker’s dream.

According to IMDb records, the UK’s capital has hosted 72,744 productions, with the most common genres being drama, action and adventure.

Productions include blockbuster franchises like James Bond, Paddington and Harry Potter, to the more recent Netflix phenomenon Bridgerton and the Apple TV+ hit, Ted Lasso, following the story of an American coach out of his depth in the British football world.

England’s second-largest city, Manchester, makes a surprise appearance in second place, featuring in 21,886 films and TV series – most often drama and crime genres.

But all is not as it seems. Locations within the city are regularly transformed to trick audiences into thinking they were filmed elsewhere. Manchester has become New York during filming for The Crown, the back streets of Birmingham for Peaky Blinders, and the Houses of Parliament for the World War Two epic Darkest Hour.

While Manchester has a long history of hosting British-made films and TV series like 28 Days Later, East Is East, Shameless and the longstanding soap Coronation Street, the city has in recent years positioned itself as a global filming destination.

It’s clear the UK is benefitting from investment from Hollywood and international productions thanks to its attractive 25% tax rebate, alongside its growing skilled workforce and studio infrastructure.
The third most cinematic city in Europe is Madrid, Spain. The capital city features in 16,135 productions to date, including Netflix’s crime thriller Money Heist which became the most-watched show of all time.

Madrid has a longstanding reputation as a first-class filming location, becoming Hollywood’s favourite film set in the 1950s and 1960s. The city and surrounding areas are also renowned for their role in launching and popularising the ‘spaghetti western’.

More recently, international action sagas including The Bourne Ultimatum, Terminator: Dark Fate and Hong Kong’s Line Walker: Invisible Spy have all set their scenes in the city of Madrid.

Paris, France comes in fourth place in the study, featuring in 14,398 titles to date. Despite its reputation as the romantic capital of the world, the most common genres of film and TV series set there are drama and action, from Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending Inception to
Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Killing Eve.

The final European city to appear in the top five most cinematic is Stockholm, hosting 11,274 productions. The Swedish capital boasts many different types of districts each with their own unique characteristics, including corners that look like New York, Paris, Oslo and Copenhagen.

Perhaps one of the best-known films set in the city is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, based on the book by Swedish author Stieg Larsson. Stockholm is also the backdrop of the vampire horror TV series Let the Right One In.

Other European cities in the top 10 in the study include Birmingham (10,955), Berlin (10,638), Rome (7,049), Hamburg (6,481) and Barcelona (6,136).

The study also reveals which European cities have become more popular over time to find the most ‘up and coming’ cinematic locations.

By analysing the top 50 most popular productions filmed in each European city, the researchers found Budapest is the most up and coming, with an average release date of 2017.

Budapest in recent years has been coined the ‘Hollywood of Europe’, with producers around the world discovering the allure of its architecture, ambience and ability to stand in for other cities like Berlin in Atomic Blonde and Moscow in A Good Day to Die Hard. The city also hosted Ridley Scott’s epic Blade Runner 2049 which was almost exclusively filmed in Hungary.

Sofia (2016), Tirana, Bucharest and Oslo also feature in the top five – all with average release dates of 2013.

By comparison, Geneva has the lowest average release date (1991) for its 50 most popular film and TV productions. Munich and Milan closely follow with an average release date of 1993.

Jacob Wedderburn-Day, CEO of Stasher commented on the study:

“There’s something quite glamorous about seeing somewhere you know in a Hollywood blockbuster or visiting a set in real life for yourself. And it’s clear from the study that European cities are a magnet for film and TV producers around the world.

“It’s interesting to see three UK cities – London, Manchester and Birmingham – make the top 10 for their cinematic settings alongside the likes of the Paris, Berlin and Rome. This is great for tourism too, with the rise in ‘set-jetting’ taking off following the pandemic when people could only travel through their screens.”