From ‘Sex and the City’ to ‘Emily in Paris’, how TV and cinema mark cities


One of the most interesting phenomena that pop culture provides is the alteration of our perception of reality. Movies, series and soap operas have the ability to incorporate real locations into their narratives to the point of transforming them into characters.

Take, for example, the Cetenco Plaza building, on Avenida Paulista, between Frei Caneca and Ministro Rocha Azevedo streets. It became known as the Sucata building, the fictional lambateria of the Rede Globo soap opera “Rainha da Sucata”, from 1990. It was from there that Laurinha Figueiroa, played by Glória Menezes, threw herself and became a newspaper headline.

The same fact is repeated on the facade of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, in the United States, now known only as “the stairs of `Rocky Balboa” due to the iconic scene in which the fictional boxer played by Sylvester Stallone trains followed by a crowd in the film. Oscar winner in 1977. The statue of Rocky, made of bronze and previously positioned at the top of the stairs, was transplanted to the left side of the building, at street level, as it stole the show. Tourists, however, continue to imitate the character’s triumphant ascent to the film’s theme song.

Few enter the museum, as very few had the opportunity to see Sylvester Stallone there. The rare case happened on December 16, 2019, when the stairs were closed for the recording of a commercial, according to local security. What no one knew was that the star of the advertisement was Rocky Balboa himself, who after the recording went to his statue and took pictures with the fans.

Also in that same year of 2019, more specifically on February 15, another tourist spot became a movie set. The Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC became the stage for the series “The Handmaid’s Tale” in broad daylight. A group of Brazilians who arrived at the place witnessed the filming, although few could identify the production, which had not yet burst in Brazil.

There are even more curious cases, such as the effect of the 1989 soap opera “Vale Tudo”, in Cuba. The protagonist Raquel Acioly — paradoxically, played by Regina Duarte, anti-communist — owned a restaurant chain called “Paladar”. The resounding success of the telenovela in the land of Fidel Castro made the private restaurants all named “Paladares”.

But when it comes to cities like London, New York, Los Angeles, Paris, which have been used as a backdrop in so many productions, there is a mix of characters. New York, land of “The Wolf of Wall Street” and the “Gangs of New York”, during the early 2000s became the city of Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda, the muses of the HBO series “Sex and the City”. “.

It is now known that little of that so-called glamor filled with brands really exists. Real-life New York is filthy, littered with rubbish in busy areas like Broadway and Times Square, and even has floodwaters that flood subway stations in the rainy season. An almost unthinkable scenario to walk around with the iconic Manolo Blahnik sandals that Carrie, the role of Sarah Jessica Parker, so venerated.

The inconsistencies between the Paris of “Emily in Paris”, a hit on Netflix, in relation to the real Paris – also crammed with dirt, garbage and homeless people – became controversial among the fierce French, who, although they claim to hate the program, demonstrate a deep knowledge of the discrepancies he presents in his criticisms.

Controversies aside, however, a survey commissioned by Netflix showed that people who watch productions that take place in certain cities are 2.4 times more likely to say that that country is their number one travel destination. Also, 24% of respondents said that, because of these programs, they are more interested in visiting tourist spots that feature in the stories, learning more about local history (25%) and also about the language (24%). This is all due, according to the platform, to the increase in the ratings of non-English language programs.

That’s why, last July, the company, in partnership with a European tourism company, promoted free tours in London, Paris and Madrid, showing the locations where their series are filmed.

THE Sheet accompanied the tour of London, which goes through locations of at least four productions of the streaming: “The Crown”, “Sex Education”, “Enola Holmes” and “Bridgerton”. And the first thing that was discovered was that some of these locations have little to do with the actual location they represent on screen.

The main example of this is obviously Buckingham Palace, the official residence of the English monarchy, which constantly appears in the series “The Crown”. According to the guide, there are several locations that are used as representations of the palace. One of them is not far from Buckingham, opposite Saint James Park, and is called Lancaster House.

Lancaster House serves as a location for the British royal palace because both were built at the same time and have the same architectural style. Even so, it is only available during the weekends. Another famous Netflix series is set there—”Bridgerton,” specifically the scene in which Queen Charlotte, played by Golda Rosheuvel, welcomes Bridgerton’s Viscount Jonathan Bailey for tea.

A smaller-scale controversy involves the series “The Crown”, more specifically the scene in which Princess Diana, played by Emma Corrin, decides to surprise Prince Charles, Josh O’Connor, with a performance of “Uptown Girl”.

The fact really happened when the two occupied the royal box of the Royal Opera House, the most traditional opera and ballet house in the United Kingdom, opened by Queen Victoria in 1858. It all happened in 1985, during a private event for friends of the Royal Ballet, in which Diana shared the stage with dancer Wayne Sleep. The scene, however, was not filmed at the Royal Opera House. The rumor is that Netflix did not want to pay the price demanded by the theater, and decided to film it in another location.

And the scene in which Camila Parker-Bowles, played by Emerald Fennel, invites Diana to lunch at the “Ménage à Trois” restaurant was actually filmed at the Australia House, the last stop on the tour. The restaurant with its suggestive name, however, existed, as well as the infamous lunch.

The tour was not limited to Netflix productions, however. One of the must-see sights in London is Leicester Square, which would be a mix of Times Square in New York and Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. This is where the premieres of films released in London take place and where there are statues of famous characters from the British fictional universe, such as Harry Potter, Mr. Bean and Mary Poppins, although at the top of the cine Odeon is an out-of-place Batman — who is British with only one of his interpreters, Christian Bale.

Another example of this appears at the end of the tour. It’s the Strand tube station, which was part of the Piccadilly line, the line connecting central London to Heathrow airport. Closed in 1994, the station adjacent to the campus of King’s College London, one of the largest universities in the United Kingdom, serves as a location for all other stations on the network. There, among others, the movie “V for Vendetta” was filmed.

Netflix does not think about investing in tourism. The free tours, offered for just one week in English and Spanish, were just an action to bring to life that feeling that the public who watches their programs have when traveling. Even so, anyone with a cell phone with internet can explore the routes of London, Paris and Madrid on their own. See the tour itineraries below.


  • Start your tour in the Luxembourg Gardens, the scene of the scene in which several drivers end up in the same place thanks to a ruse by Assane Diop in “Lupin”. It took two days to film, and required the presence of more than 50 people, including extras and stuntmen.
  • Head to the Latin Quarter and stop at Place de l’Estrapade, where Emily Cooper’s apartment in “Emily in Paris” is located
  • Continue to the Panthéon, in the fifth arrondissement, a monument used as a backdrop for several films and series — including, of course, “Emily in Paris”
  • Stop by Le Champo cinema, frequented by notable figures in the history of French cinema. That’s where Emily and Luc watch “Jules et Jim – A Woman for Two”, François Truffaut’s classic
  • Head to Place Saint-Michel, key to the fashion industry
  • Cross the Pont Saint-Michel to the Île de la Cité, across the River Seine, and admire the Notre-Dame cathedral, whose recent fire is the subject of the documentary “Notre-Dame – Cathedral on Fire”
  • Walk along the bank of the Seine to see two of the most photographed bridges in Paris, Pont Neuf and Pont des Arts
  • Finish the tour at Place de Valois, site of the fictional Savoir agency, where Emily lives


  • Start the tour at Plaza de España
  • From there, head to the terrace of the Riu Hotel, which served as the setting for iconic scenes from the series “Valéria” and “Elite” and the movie “Fomos Canções”
  • Then go to Gran Vía and head to Plaza del Callao, where the thieves from “A Casa de Papel” made it rain money
  • Returning to Gran Vía, find the old telephone company building, where “As Telefonistas” takes place.
  • Head to Plaza de Chueca, portrayed in several films by Pedro Almodóvar
  • Finish the tour at Plaza de la Memoria Trans, in the heart of Chueca, and eat at Valeria’s favorite café

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