If you take our Alchemy & Mysteries of Prague Castle tour, your guide may point out to you a particular location in the castle area that was featured in quite a famous Hollywood blockbuster, and often on our tours we pass areas marked off with no parking signs ‘Mimo Film’, which means only the film crews are allowed to park there, showing that Prague is about to become the backdrop for another production. So although it’s not really a ghostly topic, we thought it might be interesting to see what other movie locations you can look out for as you go on our tours.
Prague has always been a hub for the movie industry, both for foreign productions and for Czech films. The most famous studios are located in Barrandov to the south of the city, and a lot of famous movies were shot there, including Johnny Depp’s From Hell and parts of Daniel Craig’s Casino Royale. But the city itself, with its wealth of architectural styles and historic streets, has been the backdrop to many famous movies. Particularly on the Alchemy & Mysteries of Prague Castle tour and the new Mystery River Cruise tour, though, you’ll be able to walk in the footsteps of the stars, as having gone through the list of films shot here in the city, it’s amazing how the same places turn up in different guises!
Be warned though, we’ve tried to keep spoilers to a minimum, but a few minor ones might have slipped through. We’ve kept the images quite small to save space, but click on each one for a larger version.
First off, Immortal Beloved, starring Gary Oldman. This is a historical drama about the life of composer Ludwig van Beethoven, but although the majority of the film is set in Vienna, it was mostly filmed in Prague. The very first scenes of the film depict the composer’s funeral, but where is the coffin carried out of?
If you go on our Alchemy & Mysteries of Prague Castle tour, you might recognise the lovely sgraffito work on the façade of the Schwarzenberg Palace on Hradčanské Náměstí (Castle Square).
Later on, crowds are flocking to hear the performance of one of Beethoven’s symphonies, but if you’ve been on the Ghosts and Legends of the Old Town tour you should know where they’re going.
This is the Estates Theatre at the end of Ovocny Trh street in the Old Town. You’ll hear a bit about the theatre’s history and get to stroll along this street if you join us for Ghosts and Legends.
Sticking with the famous composers, parts of Milos Foreman’s Amadeus were also filmed here in Prague, again posing as Vienna (although Mozart was also heavily connected with the city and stayed for some time in the Mala Strana. Coincidentally, his opera Don Giovanni had its world premiere at the Estates Theatre, which we just saw).
Mozart’s house in the film is actually in Hradcany. The building opposite it with the sgraffito work is quite distinctive. It’s the Martinic Palace, which was built in 1541 to replace several houses destroyed by the fire that devastated the castle area at the time. It once belonged, in fact, to Jiři Bořita of Martinic, who was a governor for the Emperor Ferdinand II. When the people of Prague heard of some plans by Ferdinand to divert funds away from Protestant churches that were under construction, they went to Bořita in protest at Prague Castle, and when they didn’t like his answer, he and another councillor were thrown from the window into the Deer Moat. This was one of the famous Prague defenestrations).
The Martinic palace and the house opposite appear again, this time as 19th Century Paris, in the 1998 film Les Misérables, starring Liam Neeson, Uma Thurman and Geoffrey Rush (not to be confused with the Hugh Jackman musical that’s just coming to Prague’s cinemas!) In this movie the house belongs to Jean Valjean and his adopted daughter Cosette, and appears several times throughout the second half of the film.
Later, a large part of the action concerns the iconic student revolt and barricades. In the film version, this is sparked off by protests at the funeral of General Lamarque, and here is the funeral procession, making its way down Hradčanské Náměstí past the Schwarzenberg Palace, which we saw earlier (if they keeps going, they’ll end up at Valjean’s house in fact!) but what’s really interesting is that the filmmakers edited out St Vitus’ Cathedral, replacing it with something presumably supposed to be Notre Dame.
However, once the fighting starts, either it was too difficult to edit the shots or they forgot, but there is St Vitus back again!
And here’s the Martinic Palace once more, but apparently this time it’s in Denmark! This is from the 2004 film The Prince & Me, starring Julia Stiles, Luke Mabley and Miranda Richardson.
Prague would be forgiven for being a little confused as to what country it’s in. Here’s another example, this time from the 2002 blockbuster The Bourne Identity. Here, Matt Damon is supposedly in Zurich, being questioned by the Swiss police.
Only have a look at the background. You’ll be able to see this building from a distance on our Alchemy & Mysteries of Prague Castle tour too, in some of the nice views of the city. This is the National Theatre, on Národní Třída, first opened in 1881.
So Bourne is actually down and out on a bench somewhere on Kampa Island by the looks of it (you can visit Kampa on our Mystery River Cruise & Walk tour if you want to learn more about it, or get a spooky view of Charles Bridge).
Sticking with the big action blockbusters, one of the few films to actually use Prague as Prague was xXx in , also released in 2002, starring Vin Diesel, Marton Csokas and Samuel L Jackson. The plot revolves around an anarchist, terrorist group in Eastern Europe, whom Vin Diesel is sent to infiltrate. The opening scenes of the film involve an American agent meeting a sticky end at the hands of these bad guys, and was filmed right on the Old Town Square. In fact you might recognise this little lane – this is Týnská, just a few steps from our office, and you’ll walk down this on our tours!
Another example of Prague actually being itself was the first Mission Impossible movie starring Tom Cruise, which used several different locations across the city. Their scenes in the American Embassy were actually shot in the National Museum at the top of Wenceslas Square (now unfortunately closed to the public) and the bad guy’s lair was actually the interior of the Europa Hotel, also on Wenceslas Square, and itself a wonderful example of Art Nouveau architecture and art. Several scenes were also filmed on Charles Bridge, and the Old Town Square.
However, here is Tom Cruise once again, this time in the latest of the Mission Impossible franchise, Ghost Protocol.
He and Simon Pegg are, in this scene, trying to infiltrate the Kremlin in Moscow. However, the background looks a little familiar! In the wide shot it’s easier to see.
They’re actually walking through the second courtyard of Prague Castle.
A few films have also tried to disguise their locations with a bit of technical trickery and CGI. Here’s a couple of pictures from the 2004 Hugh Jackman film Van Helsing, and right at the beginning, he’s hunting Mr Hyde through the streets of Paris, ending up in a confrontation at the top of Notre Dame cathedral. Hyde dangles Van Helsing over the edge, there’s some fighting, swinging about and other very clever effects, before Hyde finally takes the plunge. But as he falls to earth, we spotted a very familiar set of Renaissance arches below him, as well as the pattern on the cobbles.
To get the panoramic view from the top of the ‘cathedral’, the film makers used the view from the top of the Old Town Hall tower, then tweaked it with CGI to take out the obvious landmarks like the Tyn Church. But the buildings directly in front of the Tyn Church, which are Renaissance and actually conceal the entrance to the church, are still very recognisable.
Later there’s people running to see what’s happened, and the view is a little clearer.
Later in that same film, Van Helsing heads to Transylvania to deal with Dracula.
Transylvania also looks a lot like Prague, in particular, it looks like Kampa Island and the area beneath the Charles Bridge.
Another giveaway is, yet again, the National Theatre there in the background.
So how about some vampire brides leaping around Charles Bridge?
This one is harder to spot, but it’s another CGI-disguised shot. This is from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and it’s supposed to be the Reform Club in London (famous as the place where Phileas Fogg started his journey in Around the World in 80 Days).
Again though, if you’ve been on the Alchemy & Mysteries of Prague Castle tour, you should know this building. This is the Rudolfinum concert hall on the banks of the Vltava.
The composite shot has edited out the river, Manes Bridge and Prague Castle, making it look as if the street continues, but then they use the actual building a few shots later.
So if you go on the Castle Tour and stop to have a look at the Rudolfinum, you could be standing on the exact same spot as Sean Connery!
The same kind of thing has happened here, and this is perhaps less obvious, but this is again supposed to be London and is from the 2008 film The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.
The building with the arcade on the left hand side of the picture gave it away, as this is at the top of Kaprova Street, just across the road from the Rudolfinum on 17 Listopadu Street, and is actually the Philosophy School of Charles University. If you do go on the Prague Castle tour, this is where you have to wait for the pedestrian crossing before heading over to the concert hall. You can also just make out the lamps of the Rudolfinum in the right of the shot.
Sticking with fantasy for a moment, this one isn’t strictly speaking about Prague, but it’s quite cool nonetheless. This is from the 2000 film Dungeons and Dragons starring Jeremy Irons.
Some scenes from the film were shot in Prague, and some in Barrandov Studios, but Jeremy Irons’ evil lair is actually the famous ‘bone church’ of Sedlec, which a lot of people visit whilst in Prague.
It is only an hour away from the city, and if you fancy a visit, see our staff at the office as we do offer excursions through our sister company Prague Trips & Tickets.
The same crypt appears again, this time in the historical epic The Affair of the Necklace, starring Hilary Swank. Here Christoper Walken and Jonathan Pryce hold court in the bone church.
The film is supposed to be set in revolutionary France, but again, the Charles Bridge makes a brief appearance.
And, since we are the ghost tour company, we’ll end with a horror movie. The 2006 remake of the classic horror The Omen follows the plot of the original almost to the letter. An American diplomat in London, Robert Thorn (whose wife, incidentally, was played by Julia Stiles, who also visited Prague to film The Prince & Me) starts to suspect that his child is actually the son of Satan. Veteran British actor Pete Posthlethwaite plays the part of Father Brennan, a priest who tries to warn Thorn about the child, and they meet in a dismal location, which a street sign identifies as ‘Grange Road’ in W1, London. Looks kind of like the underside of Charles Bridge again though…
So whether if you’ve been on one of our tours already, you know what to look out for now, and if you’re planning on coming to visit us, you can go for a spooky walk through one of the world’s most popular film sets! You can also visit all of the sites mentioned in this post on our sister company, Prague Trips & Ticket’s All-Inclusive Tour.
For information on any of our tours, check out our website or our Facebook page, or if you’re in Prague, visit our office, and if you do spot Prague in any other movies, drop us a note either in the comments here or on Facebook!