With the U.S. premiere of Star Wars The Force Awakens just one week away, we felt it necessary to break out our old VHS tapes (and borrow a DVD set of the prequels) to revisit the enchanting and fabled lands that make up our childhood. Along the way, we couldn’t help but recognize a few of the settings and felt compelled to match them with their real-world counterparts. Unless you can find a backdoor in the Lucas and Abram’s film sets, here’s a one attraction from each film for you to visit.
Episode I The Phantom Menace: The Palace of Caserta, Italy
If you in or around Naples, you might opt for a daily excursion to the town of Caserta. Here you can enjoy a visit to the Royal Palace of Caserta – or, as it was called in The Phantom Menace, the Theed Royal Palace of Naboo and seat of power for Queen Amidala. Known as the Italian Versaile, it is Italy’s largest palace and former residence of the . Though at first exterior – composed of an expansive English Garden and Baroque architectural style – boasts little resemblance to Theed, the tan and regal interior fit in well for shots Amidala’s home. Just a few minutes walk from the train station, you can surely take a break from your time in Naples to catch a train to this gorgeous structure.
Fun Fact: Beyond Star Wars, the Palace starred in Mission Impossible III and the Dan Brown adaptation Angels and Demons.
Episode II Attack of the Clones: Plaza de Espana, Spain
Probably the most well known film site, the Renaissance architecture, tall columns, and soft pink coloring of the Plaza de Espana feels like it was plucked directly from Naboo. Set in the gorgeous city of Sevilla, the Plaza is a must see attraction on any tour of Spain. Open to the public, you can walk the same steps as Anakin and Padame – or, more importantly, R2D2. Alongside Attack of the Clones, the Plaza was used for exterior shots of the Theed Royale Palace in Phantom Menace. Combined with the Royal Palace of Caserta, you have a picturesque Star Wars’ city. Hop aboard an extended Spain tour to see more its iconic cities, join a one day Sevilla city tour from Madrid, or, if you’re already in the city, check out a classic tour of Sevilla.
Episode III Revenge of the Sith: Grindelwald, Switzerland
Tatooine and Endor are probably the most iconic planets in the Star War films, but Alderaan will always hold a special place in our hearts – mostly cause it doesn’t fill any actually space anymore. Destroyed partway through Star Wars The New Hope, Alderaan made its first appearance near the end of Revenge of the Sith. Though brief, the snow mountains of Alderaan set it apart from the other prequel films, which featured mainly desert and forested worlds, and gave it more personality than it had before its reveal – especially since its personality in the original trilogy was space dust. The design of Alderaan was taken from the Swiss Alps, particularly the mountains surrounding the village of Grindelwald. A perfect vacation spot, explore the wonderful mountains of Alderaan with a Swiss Ski Experience.
Episode IV A New Hope: Death Valley, United States
Though Tunisia offers the most picturesque visions of Tatooine, we thought we’d talk about somewhere a bit closer to our offices. Easily accessible from major West Coast cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and even Las Vegas, Death Valley National Park shares many obvious similarities with its Star Wars’ counterpart. An (almost) lifeless landscape, tall desert dunes, arched stone outcrops. The area screams Tusken Raider death trap.
Need we say more? Call shotgun on a jeep tour of Death Valley from Vegas to see it for yourself.
Fun Fact: The region was also used briefly in Return of the Jedi when R2D2 and C-3P0 set off for Jabba the Hutt’s Palace.
Episode V The Empire Strikes Back: Hardangerjokulen Glacier, Norway
No one can doubt the importance of Hoth in the Star Wars films, must less its role in film history. If the ending of Episode IV brought us new hope, then the stark, white opening to V brought us dread. With the Rebel Alliance on the defensive from start to finish, the film encapsulated an uphill struggle, and the frozen wastes of Hoth set this tone. Hardangerjokulen Glacier, its Norwegian counterpart, shares the icy exterior but stands as a gorgeous, snowy landscape before bright green fields. A visit here will put you in awe of the glacier’s breadth and serenity of the region.
Episode VI Return of the Jedi: Muir Woods, United States
Anyone who’s seen the breadth and majesty of a redwood tree up close can’t help but be reminded of the forest world of Endor and vice versa. Though there are a few private film sites for Return of the Jedi, the most accessible is Muir Woods in Northern California. Wandering through this national monument, the sun peaking through the mighty trees, the clean forest scent, all of it echos of the Battle of Endor. Any resident or visitor to San Francisco can enjoy a tour of Muir Woods.
Star Wars The Force Awakens
We couldn’t decide on one site to feature for The Force Awakens, so we decided to feature three! Since we have yet to receive our exclusive Blu-Ray copy of the film *coughcough*, we can’t confirm how all these sites connect with the film’s plot, but BBC, National Geographic, and CNN have reported that Krafla Volcano in Iceland, the Forest of Dean in England, and Skellig Michael in Ireland have all got starring roles in the film. So if you’re in their area make sure to give them a warm clap on the back for their success (or just take lots of photos).
An ancient caldera in northern Iceland, it is easily viewable on a day trip from Akuryeri.
Forest of Dean
Just nerd speculation, but my assumption is Kylo Ren will be fighting Finn or Rey in the Forest of Dean.
More nerd speculation, but there is a X-Wing battle in one of the trailers that features a sweeping ocean beside a green shore…