The Valencian Community, science-fiction and tons of cinema

What do Uncharted, Tomorrowland, Doctor Who, Westworld, The Impossible, Money Heist and Game of Thrones have in common? Easy, they’ve all been set in the Valencian Community. 

This Mediterranean region has always had close ties to cinema. Its magical light has seduced directors and producers from all over the world to bring their works to life and give free rein to their imagination. 

Who doesn’t remember mythical series such as Reeds and Mud in La Albufera or the films of Luis García Berlanga that set in Peñíscola, Les Coves de Vinromà, Valencia, Utiel, Benicàssim, Oropesa, Requena, Altea, and Alboraya?

Precious few Valencians haven’t come across a film shoot at some point in their life. In fact, I still remember looking out from the balcony of my street in the neighbourhood of Benimaclet in Valencia one day and seeing Pedro Almodóvar and his crew getting ready to shoot a scene from Bad Education. I couldn’t resist asking the genius from La Mancha for an autograph, although he politely refused. 

But that’s another story for another day. Let’s focus on the one at hand.

Leaving aside the classics, recently the Valencian Community has been a hotbed for science-fiction productions. The avant-garde architecture of the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia as well as the possibilities offered by the City of Light in Alicante allow visitors to take a stroll through their favourite series and films. 

We Valencians have always been known for offering the possibility of turning fantasies into reality, which is why we’ve created a screen tourism route that will allow us to discover the most iconic places immortalized on the big screen and in the series that have kept us on glued to the sofa.

We invite you to stroll through places that have given life to real worlds, but also dystopian and utopian ones, taking a look at those memorable settings that have marked a turning point in the Valencian film industry. Grab your camera and get your film buff juices flowing, because this journey promises emotions that go far beyond the screen.


Valencia, a capital of other worlds

With its eclectic mix of the Gothic and the ultra-modern, Valencia has been a constant source of inspiration for the world of cinema. 

This city has not only been chosen as the backdrop for numerous films and series, but it has also seen the birth of talents that have enriched the industry. Actors and directors have found the muse for their creations throughout the city’s streets, crafting stories that transcend its architecture.

However, when it comes to science fiction, the opening of the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences designed by the ever-controversial Santiago Calatrava has marked a turning point.

The photogenic nature of the City of Arts and Sciences has attracted many filmmakers / Agatha Selgas

His project is perhaps Valencia’s greatest cinematic emblem, and it wasn’t long before it attracted the attention of several international blockbusters. 

Perhaps the starting gun was fired by Tomorrowland, a film starring George Clooney and Hugh Laurie that crafted a rather peculiar end of the world in a dystopian future. Calatrava’s futuristic curves were a perfect fit for this film that was released in 2015.

One of HBO’s flagship series a few years ago was Westworld. Although my blood still boils after its cancellation, I remember smiling when I saw the carpark of the Science Museum and L’Hemisféric in the third season of this spectacular American series. Every time I go there, I look to see if Evan Rachel Wood, Ed Harris or Anthony Hopkins are there.

The list of science fiction blockbusters continues to grow on this stage. The Star Wars universe landed in Valencia with the series Andor starring Mexican actor Diego Luna

The legendary BBC series Doctor Who also filmed one of its tenth season episodes in 2016 while Intergalactic took a look at the architectural complex designed by Santiago Calatrava to film a series set in the 23rd century. 

The adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s novel Brave New World has also passed through the capital along the Turia River.

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Valencia’s contributions to cinema span the years, with a diversity of productions ranging from historical dramas to contemporary comedies.

But beyond the City of Arts and Sciences, we recommend visiting other emblematic sites in the city such as the Town Hall Square and the Plaza de la Virgen, gazing at the Holy Grail in the cathedral of Valencia, climbing the Miguelete, visiting the World Heritage Site La Lonja de la Seda, and discovering the frescoes in the church of San Nicolás, known as the Valencian Sistine Chapel.

A visit to Valencia can’t be complete without tasting a typical paella, enjoying an opulent esmorzaret near the Central Market or tasting a horchata, perhaps at one of the street carts in the City of Arts and Sciences.

You can find more information on the official website of the Valencia Film Office.

The province of Valencia: a diverse backdrop for Spanish cinema

But Valencia is much more than its capital. The province unfolds like a cinematographic canvas, where its rich geography has served as a backdrop for various productions that have left their mark on the film industry. 

This land has seen the birth of prominent figures and set the stage for stories that have captivated global audiences.

Directors such as Toni Canet, who has explored Valencian identity through his documentaries, and the Ozores family, with deep roots in this region, have contributed to shaping the cinematographic character of the province of Valencia. Their works are unique expressions, impregnated with Mediterranean light and temperament.

The province has been the scene of notable films of all genres.

One of the most successful in recent years has been El embarcadero. As happened back in the day with Reeds and Mud, and more recently with Wetland by Iñaki Sánchez Arrieta, the Albufera Natural Park is a central feature in this series, which features such well-known faces as Álvaro Morte, Verónica Sánchez and Irene Arcos.

The Albufera Natural Park, the setting for well-known productions / Ana del Castillo

The Albufera Natural Park is a unique ecosystem and one of the most important wetlands in Spain. Here you can’t miss a boat trip in an albuferenca boat through water that is never deeper than one and a half metres and where it is easy to find flocks of green-necked ducks. You should cap off your visit at one of the many restaurants in El Palmar to try an authentic Valencian paella or all i pebre.

Icíar Bollaín fell in love with the province of Valencia during the filming of Rosa’s Wedding. Released in August 2020, this film starring Candela Peña, which garnered 8 nominations for the Goya Awards in 2021, used Valencian towns such as Alcàsser, Picassent, Catarroja, Silla, and Paterna to craft this lively feature film. 

Paterna also saw Pedro Almodóvar’s crew arrive to film several scenes of Pain and Glory.  The Local Government of Paterna organises free guided tours twice a month to show the Batán caves, an enclave that captivated the director from La Mancha.

Paco Plaza’s horror and mystery has also showcased the province of Valencia, specifically the Royal Monastery of Sant Jeroni de Cotalba in Gandia, which has served as the setting for the feature film Sister Death.

The Monastery of Sant Jeroni de Cotalba in Gandia / Pau García Solbes

In this imposing ecclesiastical building, founded in 1388, we can observe a diverse array of styles including Mudejar art, Valencian Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and, finally, Neoclassical.

María Enríquez de Luna, the Duchess of Gandía, widow of Duke Juan de Borja y Cattanei and daughter-in-law of Pope Alexander VI, enlarged the monastery in the 16th century and took it under her protection. Thanks to her patronage, this film location and its spectacular gardens are well worth visiting.

You can find more information on the official website of Film Valencia.

Alicante: the Mediterranean projection of cinema

The city of Alicante has been a focus of creativity and production for the Spanish film industry not only for its light and landscape, but also for being the birthplace of the Ciudad de la Luz, one of the most powerful film studios in the Mediterranean. 

It was precisely on this enormous film set that a large part of Juan Antonio Bayona’s The Impossible was shot. Although it is a film based on a true story, its spectacular and fast-paced narrative could have belonged to a science fiction blockbuster. 

Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts and Tom Holland, while still a child, were spotted while filming the movie in Alicante’s capital. 

Curiously, a grown-up Tom Holland is also the star of the science fiction film Uncharted based on the video game of the same name. This major production has some scenes filmed on the rugged coast of Alicante, specifically in Cova dels Orgues in Xàbia.

You may not know that several scenes from the last season of the series Money Heist were filmed in the port of Alicante. Productions such as Asterix at the Olympic Games, The Last Circus, Torrente 4 and Dracula versus Frankenstein have also been partially or entirely filmed in the city.

Panoramic view of Alicante with the castle of Santa Barbara in the background / Lunamarina

But if we have to talk about the latest major production shot in Alicante, it is Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant. Locations in Alicante, Elche, Novelda, Sax, Monforte del Cid, La Vila Joiosa, San Vicent del Raspeig, Crevillent, Xixona, and Albatera appear in the international blockbuster. 

Precisely one of its stars, Antony Starr, ended up in jail after an altercation in a party area in Alicante. I would have recommended to Homelander from The Boys to take a walk along the beaches of Alicante, go up to the castle of Santa Barbara, go sightseeing in the Old Quarter at sunset, or try the best rice dishes in the world instead of getting into trouble. 

You can find more information on the official website of the Alicante Film Office.

Benidorm: a film set bathed in Mediterranean sunshine

Benidorm, with its iconic skyline and sun-drenched Mediterranean beaches, has been a magnet for film and television. The town is not only famous for its tourist attractions, but also as a desired setting for film and television directors because of its light and climate.

The city has been the backdrop for numerous Spanish and international productions. Among them is Benidorm, a British television series which was filmed in the town and captured its festive and welcoming spirit. The series, which premiered in 2007, became a showcase in the UK and helped to reinforce the city’s image as a holiday destination par excellence.

The beautiful Poniente beach at sunset / Andre Van de Sande

Other productions shot entirely or partially in Benidorm include the series Fugitiva (2018), the film Golden Balls, with Javier Bardem and Maribel Verdú; and the series Alba (2022), starring Elena Rivera.

However, it was Isabel Coixet who paid tribute to the city with her film It Snows in Benidorm. The film immerses viewers in the Levante and Poniente beaches, the bars on Avenida Mallorca, the Balcón del Mediterráneo and the Torre Lugano.

You can find more information on the official website of the Benidorm Film Office.

Peñíscola, cinema between castles and cameras 

We couldn’t close out this film route through the Valencia Region without visiting Peñíscola. This town in Castellón is famous for its imposing castle that has witnessed and starred in numerous film productions. This historic enclave has captivated filmmakers from all over the world, making it a natural setting for films and series.

One of the most emblematic productions that featured Peñíscola as a setting was El Cid (1961), with Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren, which immortalized the city’s walls and passages on the big screen. This film put Peñíscola on the international film map and ever since then, its castle and surroundings have been chosen to evoke past eras.

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Another outstanding production is Calabuch (1956), directed by Luis García Berlanga. This filmmaker knew how to capture the essence of Mediterranean villages like few others, and he chose Peñíscola to tell the story of a welcoming and unique community.

On TV, Peñíscola achieved recent notoriety when its streets became the backdrop for the sixth season of Game of Thrones. This has inevitably attracted fans and tourists eager to walk the same cobblestones as their favourite characters from The Seven Kingdoms.

Artillery Park, the setting for Game of Thrones / Peñíscola Film Office

You can find more information on the official website of Peñíscola de Cine.

As you can surely imagine, the word “cut” has often been said in the Valencian Community. Directors, actors, actresses, and all the professionals involved in the film industry have been lucky enough to enjoy one of the most welcoming and multicultural lands of the Mediterranean after filming. Perhaps you don’t need to travel to other worlds to find happiness after all.

Por Pau Garcia Solbes (el Pachinko)

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