A tour of Provence’s cult series shooting locations
Magnificent seaside villas, ancient towns and sun-soaked vineyards… Provence is a cameraman’s dream, unveiling its charms in many international cult series.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape et Gigondas
Stage 1Villa Rocabella in Le PradetThe refined decor of Downton Abbey
After 6 hit seasons on Netflix, the series Downton Abbey made a memorable comeback in 2022, this time in the shape of a feature film: Downton Abbey: A New Era. In this sequel to the adventures of the 1920s British aristocratic Crawley family, the dowager (Maggie Smith), inherits a house in the South of France. Located in Le Pradet, near Toulon, Villa Rocabella was chosen as the backdrop to the plot. This sumptuous Belle Epoque villa, complete with grounds and direct access to the sea, was built in the late 19th century by Hans-Georg Tersling. His neoclassical and romantic architecture, complete with mouldings, woven tapestries, original furniture and, especially, a vast marble staircase, is typical of the Napoleon era. If you’re a Downton Abbey fan and would like to get to know Villa Rocabella better, you can rent out the property for a short stay, seminar or photo shoot.
Stage 2MarseilleCity of the Transatlantic Just
In this 2023 historic drama, also shown on Netflix and based on a true story, Marseille provides the stage for a little-known chapter in the story of the Resistance. In 1940-1941, an underground network of freedom-fighters, fronted by journalist Varian Fry (Cory Michael Smith) and heiress Mary Jane Gold (Gillian Jacobs), helped Jewish intellectuals, artists and militants flee to the United-States. The producer, Anna Winger, wanted all the scenes to be shot on location: fans can admire the shores of Marseille, Calanques coastal fjords, lanes of the Panier quarter and, in the distance, the Vieille Charité and Saint Victor Abbey. At the time, Varian Fry set up home at the Hôtel Splendide on Boulevard d’Athènes (1st arrondissement). Today, the building houses administrative offices, but it was magicked back into a hotel for the series. Marseille forms the beating heart of the very-successful series Pax Massilia too, portraying a group of police officers determined to bring down a dealer from the city’s northern quarters.
Stage 3Martigues and ProvenceIn post-apocalyptic mode in The Walking Dead
Deserted and desolate… A version of Provence you’re never likely to see in real life! Provence is featured in the fifth spin-off of the 11-season series The Walking Dead, dedicated to the character Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), who wakes up in a post-apocalyptic Provence without knowing how or why he got there. We can see him roaming along the city’s railway tracks, with the word “Marseille” written in the background in ravaged white letters. Next up is Martigues, on the Côte Bleue coast. This time, it’s the “Miroir aux Oiseaux” and Quai Brescon that have been annihilated. Another scene from the spin-off was shot in Arles, where Daryl Dixon takes refuge in Montmajour Abbey. Two additional scenes depict the devastated village of Les Baux-de-Provence and the Pont du Gard Roman aqueduct.
Stage 4A chic stop-off in the LuberonWith Emily in Paris
It’s time for a change of scenery with Emily in Paris in Vaucluse! Episode 6 of season 3 was filmed here in the gorgeous landscapes of Provence. Emily (Lily Collins), a young American girl who comes to Paris to work in marketing, is staying in the Luberon. The episode features a sumptuous lavender field in the village of Buoux, home to the Distillerie des Agnels, converted into a perfume maker for the occasion. Another star of the episode is the hilltop village of Gordes, a proud holder of the “France’s Most Beautiful Villages” label. Several aerial views of the village are featured in the trailer. Chef Jean-François Piège‘s restaurant Clover Gordes, at La Maison des Airelles, opened its magnificent terrace and panoramic vistas to the camera crew too. On screen, you can also glimpse a room at the Hôtel Le Couvent, located in the centre of Apt, and the picturesque lanes of Bonnieux.
Stage 5The vines of Vaucluse, Orange and AvignonThe stage for Drops of God
Adapted from the cult manga of the same name written by Tadashi Agi, Drops of God is an American-French-Japanese co-production shown on Apple TV+ in 2023, set in a world of upmarket vintage, wine connoisseurs and business chicanery. The daughter of a recently-deceased French wine critic based in Tokyo, Camille Léger (Fleur Geffrier) has to beat her father’s protégé Tomine Issei (Tomohisa Yamashita) in a series of nearly impossible tests devised by Léger in order to decide who shall inherit his estate. Of course, a story about wine had to be set in a winegrowing terroir par excellence: the vines and landscapes of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas were chosen as the backdrop for the series, in which you can also catch glimpses of Orange and Avignon. Most of the scenes were shot at Château de Beaucastel in Courthézon: a 16th-century estate where the Perrin family have been producing AOC Côtes-du-Rhône and Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines for five generations.