6 Incredible Historical Locations from the James Bond Films | Historical Landmarks | History Hit

6 Incredible Historical Locations from the James Bond Films

Put yourself in the shoes of the world’s most famous spy with our guide to some of the most glamorous and unique locations used in James Bond films over the years.

Tristan Parker

21 Sep 2021

There are various things you can guarantee in a James Bond film, including car chases, martinis, gadgets and pithy one-liners.

Another is that Bond will never stay in one place for too long. In fact, Ian Fleming’s fictional intelligence officer must surely be MI6’s most well-travelled agent, hopping halfway across the globe at any and every opportunity. As such, filming for any Bond production is often a multinational affair.

We’ve picked some of the most dramatic and memorable spots that have played host to 007 over the years.

Image Credit: Svetlana Gumerova on Unsplash

1. Himeji Castle

A striking 17th century castle in Japan, Himeji dates back to 1609, although a fortification of some form was first built on the site in the 14th century. Himeji was recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1993.

Himeji Castle featured as a particularly eye-catching location in the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice, starring Sean Connery as Ian Fleming’s famous spy. In the film, Himeji is portrayed as a ninja training school led by Tiger Tanaka (played by actor Tetsuro Tamba), the head of the Japanese Secret Service. Bond visits Himeji to receive training, in order to infiltrate the island where his nemesis, Ernst Blofeld, is hiding out.

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Image Credit: Shutterstock

2. Schilthorn Mountain

Schilthorn is a mountain in the Bernese Oberland, part of the canton of Bern, Switzerland. As well as being one of the tallest mountains in the Bernese Alps, Schilthorn became famous for a different reason when it was used as a key location in the 1969 James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, starring George Lazenby and based on Ian Fleming’s 1963 novel of the same name.

The film’s arch-villain, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, bases his lair in the mountain, which is the setting for a significant portion of the film after Bond travels, undercover, to the lair to try and foil Blofeld’s plans. The name that Ian Fleming gave to Blofeld’s lair in his novel was Piz Gloria, which has been retained by the revolving restaurant that currently sits at the top of the mountain’s cable car station complex.

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Image Credit: Alexandre Rotenberg / Shutterstock

3. Hotel Palácio Estoril

Hotel Palácio Estoril is a luxury five-star hotel on the west coast of Portugal with a private golf course and an attached spa. Built in a formerly rural area in 1930, the hotel became a popular spot for royal European visitors during World War Two. The hotel may have also played host to various spies and intelligence officials during the war. One such official turned out to be Ian Fleming, who served as a British Naval Intelligence Officer and stayed at the hotel in 1941.

That wasn’t the only role of the hotel in the James Bond saga, however. More than two decades later, Hotel Palácio Estoril was used as a filming location for 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the sixth film in the Bond series. Not only does Estoril feature as Bond’s hotel in the film, but members of the cast and crew stayed there during filming in 1968, including George Lazenby, who played Bond.

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4. Taj Lake Palace

Taj Lake Palace is an 18th-century former royal abode on Lake Pichola in Udaipur, India. The palace was built for Maharana Jagat Singh II between 1743 and 1746. In the 1960s Maharana Bhagwat Singh turned the structure into a luxury hotel. During its tenure as a royal palace, the building hosted various famous guests, including Jacqueline Kennedy, Queen Elizabeth and British actor Vivien Leigh.

The palace’s most famous time in the limelight, however, occurred in 1983, when it was used in the James Bond film Octopussy, based on British author Ian Fleming’s iconic spy series. The palace interior was used as the home of the title character, Octopussy, played by Swedish actor Maud Adams.

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5. Villa del Balbianello

Villa del Balbianello is grand private property on Lake Como in the Italian town of Lenno. The villa was built for Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini in 1787 on the site of a 13th century Franciscan monastery. After being passed on to a number of owners over the following centuries, the villa was sold in 1974 to Guido Monzino, an adventurer who led the first Italian expedition to Everest in 1973.

In 2006 Villa del Balbianello was used to film several scenes of Casino Royale, starring Daniel Craig as James Bond. The villa is portrayed as a private hospital where Bond recovers after being tortured. One scene features Bond’s former friend and colleague Mathias, whom Bond believes to be a traitor, being taken away by MI6 agents. Another scene features Bond revealing the password to a bank account holding the $115 million winnings from a poker game earlier in the film.

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Image Credit: Smuconlaw/Wikimedia Commons

6. The Old War Office

A Grade II-Listed building in the Whitehall area of London, England, The Old War Office (OWO) was completed and opened in 1906. It served as the main base for British military operations until 1964. Various senior British political figures have been based in the building, including Winston Churchill, David Lloyd George, Herbert Asquith and Lord Kitchener.

The office was also the workplace of Ian Fleming while he was a British Naval Intelligence Officer. It’s thought that Fleming came up with the idea for Bond during his time at the office. The OWO building has also been featured in a grand total of five James Bond films – more than any other venue – as the headquarters of MI6, Bond’s employer. In chronological order, these appearances of the OWO are: Octopussy (1983), A View to a Kill (1985), Licence to Kill (1989), Skyfall (2002) and Spectre (2015).

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