Glamorous locations pepper the new James Bond movie, Spectre, like bullets from 007’s Walther PPK. But these breathtaking places aren’t guarded secrets and you don’t have to be licensed to kill to visit them. There’s no need to worry, either, that in travelling like Bond you will be plagued by evil villains – you will only find, upon reaching these destinations, scintillating scenery, grand architecture, atmospheric dining, and ready-made memories as vivid as anything on the big screen.
Mexico City, Mexico: Zócalo Square
In the breathlessly dramatic opening sequence of Spectre, James Bond chases white-suited villain Marco Sciarra through central Mexico City, struggling to make his way through streets jammed with people dressed as the deceased. This ghoulish scene of skulls and skeletons, ominous with the ever-present threat of death, is a representation of the Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead), an annual event which usually takes place in early November. The scene is filmed in the streets around the enormous Zócalo Square, where Sciarra attempts an airborne escape by helicopter.
Also known formally as Plaza de la Constitución, Zócalo Square has been a gathering place for Mexicans since Aztec times and lies at the heart of Mexico City’s Historic Centre. This UNESCO World Heritage site extends from the Square in all directions, seducing sightseers with museums, cafes, restaurants, the National Palace, the largest cathedral in the Americas, the remains of an Aztec temple, and more than 1500 other buildings of historical importance. Here, too, is the Gran Hotel Ciudad de México, another Spectrelocation, with its fabulously lavish Art Nouveau interior.
Sölden, Austria: Ice Q
Ice Q, a modernist three-storey glass-and-steel restaurant perched on a snowy crag above the Austrian ski resort of Sölden, is likely to become Spectre’s iconic location. This building doubles in Spectre as a private medical clinic and the lair of Bond’s nemesis, Blofeld. At 3048 metres above sea level, it is reached by the cable car which features in one of the movie’s major action sequences.
From the stunning stone and oak dining room at Ice Q you look out through walls of sheer glass at the jagged white peaks of the Tyrolean Mountains. Sölden boasts three summits, each reaching above 3000 metres, with 90 miles of ski runs. Tucked into the Őtzal valley, 60 miles south-west of Innsbruck, the town has one five-star hotel, Das Central, where the Spectre stars stayed.
Tangier, Morocco: the medina
Bond’s mission takes him from the swirling snow of the Austrian Alps to the searing heat of North Africa. Accompanied by colleague Dr Madeleine Swann, he is seen hurrying through the tangled streets of a high-walled medina, before taking a train that heads into the desert.
The town is Tangiers, scandalous in the 1920s as the haunt of free-thinking artists and writers, and now at last being rescued by state investment from decades of decay. The Tangier Inn, recently renovated, was the shabby hangout of Beat generation writers such as Jack Kerouac, and the Grand Hotel Villa de France keeps a room frozen in time in honour of artist Henri Matisse, but it’s the El Minzah Hotel where Bond author Ian Fleming checked-in, in 1957, and where Blofeld actor Christoph Waltz chose to stay during the filming ofSpectre.
The train is the privately-run Oriental Desert Express, which will convey you in old-fashioned style on the 190-mile journey from Oujda near Morocco’s north-eastern border to the desert city of Bouarfa. During this 12-hour trip the locomotives halt several times for sightseeing and photo opportunities, punctuating the leisurely progress past the Sahara’s high dunes and encampments, scrubs and sands.
London, England: Rules restaurant
On a rainy night in London, Bond’s boss M pauses outside a restaurant to shake water from his umbrella before slipping through its door. At a table in the sumptuous interior, he joins MI6 colleagues Q and Miss Moneypenny. They have chosen to meet here, rather than at the office, to hide away from prying eyes – but you can find this place easily enough, at 34-35 Maiden Lane in Covent Garden. Its name, Rules, is proudly embossed in gold on two maroon canopies overhanging the big Georgian windows.
Established in 1798 and claimed to be the oldest restaurant in London, Rules has been frequented over the years by many notable artists, writers and actors, and appears in novels by, among others, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, and John Le Carré. As you might expect, the food is of a high standard and traditionally British, the menu tempting with such delights as game, oysters, pies, and hearty puddings. What you might not expect, because of the restaurant’s central location and glamorous associations, are the prices, which won’t leave you shaken or stirred.
Rome, Italy: Vatican City
During a night-time car chase through the narrow alleyways, slippery cobbled streets, and grand squares of Rome, James Bond in his Aston Martin and henchman Mr Hinx in his Jaguar play a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse which comes to a spectacular end. At a less frenetic pace, and in daytime, there is much to be enjoyed by taking the same route on foot.
The Rome car chase hurries through the Piazza Navona, built on the site of a stadium where the ancient Romans watched games; speeds under the Passeto wall, which runs from San Pietro to Castel Sant’Angelo and was reserved, just in case, as an escape route for Popes; slides along the cobbled roads on the Via Panisperna in Rome’s cool Monti neighbourhood with its bohemian bars, fashion shops, and restaurants; blasts through St. Peter’s Square, overlooked by the world’s most famous example of Renaissance architecture, St. Peter’s Basilica; clatters down the wide steps of the Scalo De Pinedo to the edge of the River Tiber; then rushes perilously along the embankment pathway right beside the Tiber’s grasping waters. A hop-on, hop-off cruise along the Tiber is a calming way of reaching the Vatican City and the Colosseum while also taking a breather from the Eternal City’s hustle and bustle.