Film is a great way to discover new places to add to your list of dream destinations, and to catch an incurable case of wanderlust.

I’ve written before about how movies have inspired Laura and I to travel, providing a first fleeting exposure to ideas and places we wouldn’t otherwise be aware of. Nowhere is that more true than in Europe, the setting of seemingly innumerable memorable movies.

So here are a few of my favorites. In the interest of brevity, I’ve included only films that have genuinely inspired me to travel and in which the setting functions as a kind of character in itself. And I’ll be doing future posts with more cities. But for now, here we go:

Vienna: Before Sunrise

The film that kicked off Richard Linklater’s stunning “Before” triology, Before Sunrise is as perfect a statement about youthful travel and fleeting love as they come. It tells the story of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Céline (Julie Delpy) as they wander and talk over the course of one night in Vienna. It’s a beautifully simple premise that never ceases to please.

Rome: Roman Holiday

Roman Holiday is famous for its scooter scene, in which Audrey Hepburn attempts to drive a Vespa around the busy streets of the Italian capital. It’s an iconic scene from an iconic movie. The story follows American journalist Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck) as he shows Princess Ann (Hepburn) around Rome. Both actors, and the city, are at their most charming throughout.

Bruges: In Bruges

In Bruges is a gangster flick; it tells the story of a couple of criminals hiding out in the Belgian city. It’s a clever film; much of the discussion between characters is about Bruges itself and how its a quaint, but perhaps boring-for-a-gangster, city. There are some digs at American tourists along the way as well. But in any case, it was ultimately such a fun film that after seeing it I ended up going to Bruges.

Related reading: 

Five movies about crime and driving in Los Angeles

Six films that will inspire you to visit Paris

— Jim Dalrymple II


Written by Jim Dalrymple II

Urbanism and travel writer. Also a journalist covering the news.

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