The stunning, historic city of Edinburgh has inspired many writers and artists over time so it shouldn’t be a surprise that it has also provided a backdrop to a number of famous films! Eurovision Song Contest: The Saga of Fire Saga (which inspired me to write this!) is half set in Edinburgh when Icelandic duo Fire Saga represent their home country at the Eurovision Song Contest which takes place in Edinburgh and shows some of Edinburgh’s most colourful spots. The romantic film One Day sees the main characters Dexter & Emma meet at Edinburgh University and takes in some of the capital’s most charming places. Gritty dark comedy Trainspotting has little filming actually in Edinburgh but the gothic streets provide a backdrop to its 2017 sequel T2.
If you’re a film fanatic then make sure you pay a visit to these famous Edinburgh film locations and snap a shot in your favourite scene! There’s always something quite exciting about seeing a somewhere you’ve seen on the big screen up close and in person 🎥
1. Arthur’s Seat
Featured in: One Day, T2: Trainspotting, The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby
Arthur’s Seat is in the heart of Edinburgh and sits in the middle of Holyrood Park and is actually an extinct volcano. Climbing up this rocky crag is a must and climbing up at sunrise is a rite of passage for Edinburgh students! Dexter and Emma in the romantic drama One Day meet whilst studying at the University and atop Arthur’s Seat they promise to meet every following year.
Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat also feature in the sequel to Trainspotting when a health conscious Renton takes Spike on a run which ends on top of the city’s hill with panoramic shots across the skyline.
2. Cockburn Street
Featured in: Avengers: Infinity War, One Day, T2 Trainspotting
Cockburn Street is a cobbled street that winds from the Royal Mile down to the Waverley Bridge (it was also where we’d go for alternative clothes and gifts growing up!). When the massive 2018 blockbuster Avengers movie was filming in Edinburgh it caused a big stir with a number of spots through the city used for filming and Hollywood A-listers spotted through the streets as well.
Fans of Avengers: Infinity War might recognise the distinctive shape of Miss Katie Cupcake which featured as a kebab shop that doubled as a hideout for two of the film’s heroes. In T2, Cockburn Street is part of a montage of shots where Renton makes a mad dash through the city centre streets to escape from a very angry Begbie.
At the bottom of Cockburn Street, you’ll recognise Warriston Close although the film edits manage to make it seem as though Dexter and Emma walk from Victoria Terrace down Warriston Close…impressive!
3. Princes St Gardens
Featured in: Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
The Ross Fountain in Princes Street Gardens first makes an appearance in Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga when Lars and Sigrit first arrive in the Scottish capital for Eurovision and are touring the streets. They roll around the fountain on segways which I must admit I’ve never seen before in Edinburgh!
Later in the film, Lars returns and sits contemplating events from the last few days and meets some American tourists that become very useful…
4. Victoria Street
Featured in: One Day, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Victoria Street is very distinct with its sweeping curve and brightly coloured shop fronts so it’s easy to spot in films! When Lars & Sigrit arrive in Edinburgh they drive down Victoria Street whilst Lars and the Americans come charging up here later on in the film. In One Day Dexter & Emma walk along here.
5. Calton Hill
Featured in: One Day, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, The Railway Man, Sunshine on Leith
Calton Hill has a striking view across Edinburgh’s skyline with the distinctive features of Edinburgh Castle, the Scott Monument, the Balmoral Hotel and St Columba’s church. It’s made many appearances as a sweeping city panoramic shot most notably in The Railway Man as a young Lomax returns from WWII and as an establishing shot for One Day.
In Sunshine on Leith, Davy takes Yvonne to Calton Hill for a romantic view over the city to try and win her over. Lars & Sigrit listen to a busker (who just happens to be Salvador Sobral – the competition’s winning 2017 artist from Portugal) in Eurovision Song Contest. A rather amazing view from Lemtov’s mansion means that his home must be situated on top of Calton Hill which is unfortunately impossible!
6. The Royal Mile
Featured in: Avengers: Infinity War, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, Fast & Furious 9
The Royal Mile is a straight stretch of road that cuts through Edinburgh’s Old Town from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace with the city’s distinctive gothic architecture and the enthralling (also gothic) St Giles Cathedral. It also seems to be a film producer’s favourite spot for some action!
Fast and Furious 9 is scheduled to come out later this year but filming on The Royal Mile was all over the internet
7. The Grassmarket
Featured in: T2 Trainspotting, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
8. Edinburgh Castle
Featured in: Burke and Hare, The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby
Walking up the Royal Mile and crossing the castle esplanade feels like taking a walk back in time as the imposing structure of Edinburgh Castle towers above you. It’s not a surprise that this historic building has been used for filming of the historical Scottish films Burke and Hare (with Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis) and the children’s film The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby.
Both of these films are based on legendary Edinburgh tales so it’s not a surprise that both glimpses of the ancient castle are featured as well as characters walking through the winding alleyways of the complex.
9. Greyfriars Kirkyard
Featured in: The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby
The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby is based on the true story of a Skye Terrier who became a well known face in Greyfriars Kirkyard when he kept watch over his master’s grave after he died. Of course the Kirkyard and the gravestones are involved in plenty of scenes.
Harry Potter fanatics should also make a stop here to seek out the gravestones that inspired JK Rowling’s fantastical characters including the villainous Tom Ridley.
10. Scott Monument (and Princes Street)
Featured in: Cloud Atlas, T2 Trainspotting
The Scott Monument is a major tourist attraction on Princes Street. It’s an impressive statue dedicated to Sir Walter Scott. You can buy a ticket to climb to the top of the tower for a spectacular view over the gardens and Edinburgh’s main shopping street. In Cloud Atlas, Frobisher says ‘I climb the steps of the Scott Monument every morning and all becomes clear’. Give it a try and maybe it will for you too!
Whilst a considerable amount of T2 Trainspotting was shot in the Scottish capital it is essentially only the start of the original Trainspotting was filmed in Edinburgh. It’s a pretty classic opening as Renton runs wildly down Princes St and through the city before being hit by a car.
11. The Shore
Featured in: Sunshine on Leith, The Princess Switch: Switched Again
Unsurprisingly the port area of Leith features very heavily in the musical film Sunshine on Leith which is inspired by the songs of The Proclaimers. Whilst the song Letter from America is mostly set at home between Liz and her Mum and Dad it does incorporate some walking montages which are down by The Shore.
It might not have been released yet but the hotly anticipated (although I’m not sure it’s because of its quality 😜) sequel to The Princess Switch, was seen being filmed in Leith earlier in 2020. Star Vanessa Hudgens was spotted filming outside Mimi’s bake house which is a great place for afternoon tea!
Which films have you seen?!
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