Set jetting is hardly a novel concept. Classics such as Out of Africa lure travellers to the continent with romantic notions of Kenya, James Bond fans make the From Russia With Love pilgrimage to Istanbul’s eerie Basilica Cistern, or backpackers trace Leonardo DiCaprio’s footprints in the sand to Thailand’s not-so-secret beach. But a recent batch of cult series has been garnished with an irresistible sprinkle of wanderlust, where the location is tightly woven into the story and the cinematography gives travel documentaries a run for their money.
Forbes has cited TV shows and films as being responsible for 96 per cent of travel decisions, while Expedia’s research puts streamed films and tv shows in top position for travel inspiration, overriding the influence of social media. What’s more, Rebecca Masri, founder of private members luxury travel app Little Emperors, noticed a surge in Sicily bookings with 2022’s ‘White Lotus Effect’. While it may not be a series, Death on the Nile has seen The Ultimate Travel Company’s luxury Egypt bookings surge by a staggering 40 per cent.
Then there’s Emily in Paris, a boon for the City of Light’s tourism, where viewers drunk on romanticised idylls of French chefs and Haussmann symmetry whizz into the capital for snaps in the Tuileries and Montmartre’s cobbled streets. From the Roys’ scenic drives through the Norwegian Fjords in Succession, to the Bridgerton family’s promenading around the ton (Bath), here are the set-jetting contenders for 2023, along with recommended stays.
Succession (Series 4)
Succession’s Italian showcase, courtesy of Bellini Travel’s Emily Fitzroy pinning the two Dolce Vita chapter of Series 3 on the impossibly handsome Villa La Foce and Villa Cetinale, brought into focus the region’s sun-soaked charms and noble villas blistered by the centuries. So strong is the Succession set-jetting trend, that the intrepid travel group and purveyors of three family-owned Norwegian hotels 62ºNORD have adapted its popular Drive the Fjords itinerary to retrace the car tracks of the Roy family, winding through the magnificent, wintery landscape of West Norway in series 4.
Their high-horsepower engines rasp into the group’s elegantly understated properties, which also feature on the six-day itinerary. This involves purring through the Sunnmøre Alps in a Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo, helicoptering over the fjords to the base of the Troll-wall, and lunching at the outer-lying islands of Kami Skotholmen with food whipped up by world-class chefs. Guests can cosy up in many of the hotels featured in series three, such as the family-owned, rustic-luxe Storfjord Hotel and the recently spruced-up Hotel Union Øye. This whispers tales of old Norway and speaks the sort of old money language Lady Caroline (the Roy children’s estranged English mother) is fluent in.
Junior suites at Hotel Union Øye start from approx. £416 per night based on two people sharing, including breakfast. unionoye.no
Superior Deluxe rooms (forest view) at Storfjord Hotel start from approx. £347 per night based on two sharing a including breakfast. storfjordhotel.com
Emily in Paris
Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris
It may be performed through wince-worthy clichés and rampant stereotyping, but the macaroon and Tour Eiffel clichés American tourists pine after are amusingly accurate (I add this as a Francophile who has lived and loved in Paris). The show has done wonders for the city, serving up a mix of the big ticket tourist spots (the Sacré Coeur) and grande dame hotels, as well as the lesser-known spots such as Musée de La Vie Romantique in Montmartre and Terra Nera in the bookish Sorbonne neighbourhood (the set location for Gabriel’s restaurant).
The main two hotels featured in the series show contrasting sides to Paris. The first, Four Seasons Hotel George V (From £1,025 per night, fourseasons.com) where Emily’s Chicago boss Madeline is staying on business, is Parisian classicism at its best. It is a clever nod to the hotel’s heritage as a swish stay for Americans chugging into Europe on the transatlantic ocean liners at the turn of the 20th century. Just off the Champs-Élysées and with vast sweeping ceilings, wood panelling and large windows framing views of the Eiffel Tower, George V epitomises the French fancy American travellers long for.
Hôtel Molitor (from £287 per night, molitorparis.com) is perhaps its antithesis — a kooky Art Deco complex on the western fringes of the city, whose bright yellow and blue painted rooms coalesce around a swimming pool in almost cruise-ship formation. It’s at this heritage site that Mindy and Emily recline on sun loungers as guests of an LVMH-style scion, and where Emily persuades the DJ to play a track co-written by Mindy and her musician squeeze, Benoit. In similar fashion, Paris’ beau monde would hobnob in swimwear here in the 1930s, long before artists reclaimed its interiors and Clarins moved in on its spa.
The White Lotus
Four Seasons San Domenico Palace, Taormina, Sicily
HBO’s 2021 hit, The White Lotus, relocated its dark and addictive drama from Hawaii to Sicily’s grand coastline for season two. The cult series was set in Taormina’s sprawling San Domenico Palace, A Four Seasons Hotel, against the mystical backdrop of Mount Etna and overlooking one of Sicily’s most photogenic stretches of coastline from clifftop balconies flanked by swirly wrought iron railings. It’s here that the gilded cage of the elite is scrutinised through dark humoured lenses — where offbeat behaviour is rarely held to account.
The hotel is surely no stranger to the peculiar capers of the elite, with stars from the golden age of film, royals, literary grandees and well-heeled types gracing its marble rooms and beckoning sommeliers for well over a century. In a previous life, the palace was a princely residence, as the soaring arches, antique profusion and gargoyles inside would attest, and prior to this, a Catholic convent. Like much of the region’s palaces, palmettos and various landmarks, its history runs deep and reflects Sicily’s cultural melting pot as a vulnerable, frequently invaded island.
Beyond its sun-bleached walls lies Taormina, an Amalfi-style playground for wealthy Americans, where swish restaurants such as Otto Geleng at Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo warrant a visit. But edge a little south west towards the foot of Mount Etna, and her fertile vineyards unfurl, with daily tastings and horse riding through citrus groves and along slopes carpeted in wild herbs.
From £1,889 per night, fourseasons.com
Bridgerton (Series 2)
‘Dear reader, let it be known that if there is a scandal, I shall uncover it. And share every last detail.’ Lady Bridgerton’s gossip guarantee feeds the ton (Georgian high-society London) in the Netflix smash-hit Bridgerton series. During filming, this was disseminated throughout the sweeping crescents and light-filled drawing rooms of England’s only Unesco World Heritage city, Bath. The city’s perfectly proportioned Palladian architecture and rolling parks set an ideal stage for the ton’s social chess games — all bonnets, banal exchanges and horse-drawn carriages.
The city’s iconic Royal Crescent (from £140 per night, royalcrescent.co.uk) features in both seasons, with its distinctive curved row of handsome Regency houses peering down their nose over a manicured lawn and platitudes unfolding on the pavement just before it. Here, the Featherington’s London address is set in no.1 Royal Crescent, whose imposing facade is separated from the curve. At the very beginning of Series 2, Kate and Edwina Sharma are introduced by their mother to Lady Danbury, in her palatial London home (the Holburne Museum) which is well worth a visit for its architectural oomph alone, nevermind its superb arts exhibitions, events, and modernist cafe.
While Bath’s hotels are yet to be offered a starring role in Bridgerton, the unapologetically traditional Royal Crescent comes as close to anything worthy of the ton’s country relatives’ travel trunks (think lavishly cushioned headboards, orchids and afternoon tea). However, we’d like to think the series’ lovers would stow away in No.15 by GuestHouse, Bath’s whimsically romantic rooms, whose mix of antiquity and modern art is a refreshing antidote to Bath’s Austin overkill (From £162 per night, guesthousehotels.co.uk)
This German period drama delves into the Machivellian power moves of the Habsburg dynasty and the Imperial court, as well as the feverish love story of Empress Elisabeth von Wittelbach (Sissi) and Emperor Franz Joseph of the Austrian Empire. It also showcases Bavaria’s magnificent countryside dotted with various castles and palaces. This is where Elisabeth was raised, away from the fanfare of Vienna and largely bare foot or on horseback, galloping through the Bavarian mountains.
While Elisabeth and Franz were married in Vienna, the filming location used is Bamberg Cathedral, where she is dressed in thick lace and diamonds, then paraded in a glass carriage for the crowds to marvel at. This northern Bavarian town and Unesco World Heritage Site is well worth visiting for its lively beer halls and gardens, particularly for its historic Schlenkerla brewery’s smoked beer, but also for its medieval architecture — the most famous being the rickety Altes Rathaus suspended over the river Regnitz with its intricate Rococo interior.
A key filming location, Schloss Weißenstein is one of Germany’s most resplendent baroque buildings that faces proudly on to landscaped gardens outside the Bavarian city of Pommersfelden. Its richly furnished interior, photogenic three-floor staircase and portrait galleries (including Van Dyck and Rubens) draw in the culture crowds throughout the year; along with keen cyclists who skirt the banks of the Danube, pulling up at shaded beer gardens or scrambling up hills to visit Medieval castles.
To soak in the bucolic Bavarian countryside Elizabeth grew up in, check into Schloss Elmau (From £176 per night, schloss-elmau.de) — a fairytale castle lording over its own velvety valley and wildflower meadows at the foot of the Bavarian Alps. Alternatively, for some Hapsburg oomph with a smooth, modern twist, drop your cases at Rosewood’s new Viennese outpost (From £259 per night, rosewoodhotels.com), whose palatial bones have been given the group’s signature classical-contemporary treatment.
The Cotswolds, Oxfordshire
While Jeremy Clarkson embodies the very definition of a marmite character, his Amazon Prime series Clarkson’s Farm has reportedly done more to raise awareness of agricultural hardship than any alliance, union, or indeed, Countryfile. It has also drawn attention to the raw beauty of the Cotswolds countryside, where his 1,000-acre farm, Diddly Squat, sits on the edge of the Notting Hillite-heavy Chipping Norton. Here, he and his trusty agri-associate Kaleb tirelessly plough the fields, harvest the crops and retrieve mischievous cows that have escaped into nearby farms.
‘Cheerful Charlie’ (Clarkson’s land agent and adviser) regularly dispenses invariably uncheery news around figures, highlighting just how little farmers earn, despite their honourable efforts in all forms of weather and a growing need for local produce. Clarkson and his ex-model girlfriend Lisa (not afraid of cow muck herself) occasionally pause to take in the surrounding beauty — particularly the yolky Oxfordshire sunsets, so generously drawn out over the flat landscape, and on summer days as their fields are doused in golden light.
While the series may fail to encourage its audience into farming, having witnessed the laborious, pitifully unrewarding graft it truly is, it certainly shows off this pretty corner of the Cotswolds, luring Londoners out of the big smoke and into its honey-hued clutch. Soho Farmhouse is close, yet its posh-Centre-Parcs-for-clean-welly-urbanites fails to capture the countryside spirit of Diddly Squat. Bruern Cottages (From £630 per night, bruern-holiday-cottages.co.uk) would be a more fitting stay, a string of dainty (and luxxy) self-catered cottages scattered in the grounds of Lady Astor’s Bruern Abbey. Children dart around rose gardens on bikes and peddle cars like free-range chucks. Meanwhile, breakfast and lunch hampers champion local Cotswoldian fare, best enjoyed by a crackling fire after a long romp through the meadows.