ABBA inspired musical Mamma Mia! is perhaps the greatest example of escapist wish fulfilment cinema. The 2008 movie, starring Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgård, and Colin Firth is bursting with ‘location porn’.
In fact, the beautiful backdrops featured in the film are credited with having prompted a sharp increase in tourists travelling to those locations. The 2018 sequel/prequel Here We Go Again! also boasts fantastically gorgeous scenery, though it was filmed in a completely different part of the world.
The films are mostly set in the fictional Greek island of Kalokairi, where Donna (Streep) owns a hotel. The first film explores the mystery of Donna’s daughter Sophie’s (Seyfried) parentage - as three men Sam (Brosnan) Bill (Skarsgård) and Harry (Firth) could be her father.
In the sequel we learn how a young Donna (played by Lily James) came to live in Greece through flashbacks, whilst also following Amanda as she prepares for a grand re-opening of the hotel back in the present.
But the plot really plays second fiddle to the setting, as both movies offer a glimpse at what it could be like to live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. This is everything you need to know about where the Mamma Mia! movies were filmed:
Where was Mamma Mia! filmed?
Production on the first film took place in the summer of 2007, with the majority of outdoor scenes filmed on location on the beautiful Greek island of Skopelos, though production took place on the island for only one week. Just 5,000 people live on the island which is less than 100 square km in size, but around 50,000 tourists visit it each year.
Tourism to Skopelos, which is now known to many visitors at ‘Mamma Mia island’, increased markedly since its appearance in the film. Skopelos provides the backdrop to most of the scenes in the movie, and appears as a dream place to live, so it’s not hard to see why tourists flock there each year.
Specific sites which feature in the film include the stunning Kastani Beach, where producers erected a beach bar and jetty, and the Agios Ioannis Chapel, where the wedding procession takes place.
Skiathos, another popular Greek island also features in the film, with filming taking place there over three days. Aerial views of the island appear at the start of the movie. A scene featuring Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgård, and Colin Firth waiting for a ferry was also filmed at the Old Port. Despite being half the size of its eastern neighbour, Skopelos, Skiathos sees around eight times as many tourists visit each year, likely because the island has its own airport.
The cast and crew then headed to Pelion on the coast of the Greek mainland, for five days. The scene where Meryl Streep sings Dancing Queen was filmed at the beautiful harbour at the port of Damouhari.
But it wasn’t just in Greece that production for the film took place - in fact the shoot actually took place over three continents. Some beach scenes were reportedly shot at Laguna Coast in California. Marrakech, Morocco also appears briefly in the film as Bill races through the city before making his way to Greece.
However, the majority of the shooting period actually took place in the UK, which will come as a surprise to many fans because the film is so visually Greek. Much of the filming took place at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire. A set of Donna’s villa was constructed on stage there.
Additionally, shots of Harry’s home were filmed in West London, whilst scenes featuring Sam’s trendy ‘Manhattan’ office were actually shot at the Lloyds Building in the City of London.
Where was Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! filmed?
Even though the sequel was still largely set on Kalokairi, none of the movie was actually filmed in Greece. This time around production mostly took place in Vis a small island in Croatia with a population of around 4,000. Locations in Vis that pop up in the film include the Jastozera Restaurant, which stands in for the Taverna, the Church of St. Jeronim, and scenes set at the jetty were filmed at Barjaci.
The film tells a dual narrative, of a young Donna who dreams of moving to Greece and starting a life for herself there, and of her daughter, decades later who prepares for the reopening of the hotel in the wake of her mother’s death. Before Donna moves to Greece she studies at Oxford University, and the graduation scenes were shot on location at New College, Oxford. Godstow Nunnery, Queen's Lane, and Wytham, Oxfordshire both feature as well.
Like the first film, much of Here We Go Again! was filmed on soundstages in a studio. This time production moved to Shepperton Studios in Surrey.
Other picturesque UK locations include Hampton Court Palace in Surrey, Southborough House - a Georgian manor house the interior of which stands in for a Paris hotel lobby.
Back on the continent, brief scenes were shot at Place de la Bourse, a grand 18th century square in Bordeaux, France. Stockholm, Sweden also makes an appearance in a scene where Bill is receiving an award.