Bollywood has a Long-standing affair with Europe, with various picturesque cities forming the backdrop for some of the most iconic Bollywood blockbusters. Bollywood’s association with Europe began long before Shahrukh Khan first grabbed his ladylove Kajol’s hand while perched aboard the Eurostar train at King’s Cross railway station in London. In fact, the first Bollywood movie to be shot abroad was Raj Kapoor’s Sangam, which introduced Indian audiences to various locations in London, Paris, Rome, Venice, Switzerland and even the Vatican City on celluloid for the very first time.
Bollywood’s tryst with Europe was further cemented by Yash Chopra, whose movies did a lot to boost the local tourism industries of Switzerland and the Netherlands. While Bollywood may not always come away with top honors when it comes to logic (miniskirt-clad actresses dancing on the snowy Alps anyone?) it still serves as an excellent way to explore and plan your next European holiday. And when you’re finally ready to turn those fantasies into reality, there’s always Musafir.com, India’s most trusted portal for the very best Europe holiday packages.
That said, here are some of Bollywood’s favorite European destinations that definitely warrant a visit for Bollywood buffs of all ages.
The capital city of the Netherlands, Amsterdam is also the country’s most populous municipality as well as its financial, cultural and creative hub. Amsterdam was first established as a small fishing village in the 12th Century, gaining prominence only 500 years later when it emerged as one of the most important trading centers in the world. However, it isn’t for its commercial significance alone that Amsterdam receives upwards of 7 million international travellers every year. The city is known for its stunning locals, which combine old-world charm with just about every conceivable 21st century comfort.
Amsterdam cherishes its medieval past, as is evident in the picturesque canals that intersect the city and lend it its moniker of Venice of the North. It is embellished with beautiful architecture and latticed with more than 1,500 bridges. There’s something for visitors of just about every age and preference here, with the old-world charm of the city making way for its vibrant nightlife in the after hours. And it is this gorgeous duality of Amsterdam that has captured the imagination of Bollywood for several years now.
Amsterdam made its Bollywood debut with the 2004 movie ‘Hum Tum’ starring Saif Ali Khan and Rani Mukherjee. Various scenes were shot at the Royal Palace, Hard Rock Café and Museumplein, while the song ‘Ladki Kyun’ showcases the city’s windmills and canals. More recently, one of the most beloved songs from the Kangana Ranaut blockbuster ‘Queen’ called ‘Hungama Ho Gaya’ saw Kangana let her hair down in an Amsterdam club called NL. The movie, and subsequently the song, became so popular that the club hosted a wild Bollywood party for the very first time.
Tucked away in the north of Belgium, Bruges is a cosmopolitan city that offers visitors a unique view of life in pre-motorized Europe. The city is exceptionally pretty, almost fairytale perfect, with old-fashioned cobblestone lanes and gorgeous canals that frame Instagram-worthy market squares and medieval buildings. Bruges is especially popular with tourists, who throng to the city’s center that has several historic churches and whitewashed almshouses. And then, there are the daffodils that make their appearance every spring in the courtyard of the quiet Begijnhof convent. The first and only Bollywood to be shot in Bruges so far is 2014’s PK. The song ‘Char Kadam’ features some of Bruges’s best known landmarks, including the Market Square, Sint-Jorisstraat Street that runs from Vlamingstraat to Vlamingdam, the Beguinage convent and the canals.
- Corsica Island
In 2015, the Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone-starrer ‘Tamasha’ forever changed the way Indian audiences perceived France, by introducing them to the first French Bollywood location that was not Paris. A beautiful island that wears its feisty motto of ‘often conquered, never subdued’ on its sleeve, Corsica Island is located to the southeast of the French mainland. The island is best loved for its sandy beaches, which offer excellent snorkeling, scuba-diving and sunbathing experiences. The island has several walking trails, the longest of which will take you roughly 17 days and is undoubtedly one of the best ways to take in Corsica Island’s several sights and sounds.
- Spain (almost all of the country!)
Zoya Akhtar’s directorial masterpiece ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’ was shot almost entirely in Spain. The movie depicts three friends setting out on a European road trip that began in Barcelona, inspiring several footloose and fancy-free young Indians to follow suit. The movie traces the exploits of the trio as they frolicked on the sun-kissed beaches of the Costa Brava, which is to the north of Barcelona. Several scenes were also filmed in the stunning coastal town of Lloret de Mar and is one of the most popular resorts in the Costa Brava. The trio then headed to Valencia, a charming old city that is the birthplace of paella and is also home to the internationally-acclaimed and visually stunning City of Arts and Sciences, where they participated in the La Tomatina festival. Going forth, the trio stopped by a bull race at Pamplona, which was popularized by the Nobel Prize-winning writer Earnest Hemmingway through his work. The movie culminates in Seville, one of Spain’s most important cities, which is located on the banks of the Guadalquivir River. Here, they indulge in a spot of flamenco dancing, with the city’s gorgeous architecture serving as the perfect backdrop to the graceful moves of the dancers.
Bollywood movies are notorious for arbitrarily swapping cities with other more accessible alternatives, with little regard to what the actual storyline states. Take for example, the second half of the Sanjay Leela Bhansali smash hit ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’ which was purportedly located in Italy but was actually shot in Budapest, Hungary. 2011’s ‘Rockstar’ however, was a refreshing move away from this trend, with director Imtiaz Ali paying close attention to depicting Czech traditions and culture the way they really are instead of a rough approximation. The movie captures some of Prague’s most noteworthy landmarks, including Maltézské náměstí – a historic square that dates back to the 12th Century, Charles Bridge that crosses the Vtlava River, the ‘secret’ baroque Vrtbov Garden that was built in 1720 for the Earl of Vrtba and even the stately interiors of the Státní Opera. Regardless of whether or not you were a fan of the movie, the beautiful if slightly quirky city is definitely worth a visit, at least once in your lifetime. If that isn’t enticing enough, consider this: one of the most popular activities in Prague involves escaping a room in 60 minutes, by locating hidden keys and clues. If you’ve ever wanted to play an amateur sleuth, Prague is probably one of the only places in the world you can do so at your own convenience and in a safe, cont rolled environment.
Thanks to the far-reaching influence of Bollywood, Europe is rapidly becoming one of the most preferred destinations for Indian travelers. If you’re eager to explore the actual sites where these movies were actually filmed, make sure to check out Musafir.com for the best and most attractively-priced holiday packages online.