You won’t be surprised to learn that the majority of Hollywood film locations in Poland are utilised for films about World War II and/or the Holocaust. When I wrote about the Hollywood filming locations in Thailand, it quickly became evident that most of the films featured Thai boxing, beach resorts, war or drugs. Very cliché Thai themes from a Westerner’s point of view. Unfortunately, American films set in foreign countries tend to be type-cast and Poland has also been type-cast as the ‘holocaust’ country. Which, for a large country which such a diverse history, is quite redundant.
However, the majority of the films about the Holocaust are utterly outstanding films. And there are also a few fantasy and thriller films shot in Poland, too. Let’s check out all the best Hollywood film locations in Poland!
Hollywood Film Locations in Poland
1. Auschwitz-Birkenau as seen on Triumph of the Spirit (1989)
Where: Więźniów Oświęcimia 20, 32-603 Oświęcim
The first film on my list of Hollywood film locations in Poland is not the best film about the Holocaust. But it’s a fairly groundbreaking one. Yes, you read the filming location correctly. Triumph of the Spirit starring Willem Dafoe was the first major film to be granted access to shoot in Auschwitz, the infamous former Nazi concentration camp.
The film is based on true events that happened within the walls of the concentration camp in World War II. Jewish-Greek boxer Salamo Arouch is forced to fight other captured Jews to the death for the entertainment of the Nazi guards. The film’s reception a bit mixed, but you’ve got to admit that their filming location had incredible historical authenticity.
2. Straszewskiego 7 as seen on Schindler’s List (1993)
Where: Straszewskiego 7 Apartment Building, 33-332 Kraków
Arguably, this is the best film about the Holocaust. Steven Spielberg’s epic Schindler’s List features some of the most well-known Hollywood film locations in Poland. The film follows the true story of Oscar Schindler who employed Jewish people in his factory. He keeps his workers protected from the concentration camps in order to keep his factory going and, in doing so, saves their lives.
Most of the filming locations were as authentic as possible. I would expect nothing less from Mr Speilberg! Filming locations took place in Kraków and a little in Jerusalem. There is a truckload of filming locations in Kraków I could mention. However, I’m focusing on Straszewskiego 7, a nondescript apartment building next to Wawel Royal Castle. This is not only where Liam Neeson’s Oscar Schindler lives (or at least, the apartment’s exterior) but where the real Oscar Schindler lived on the third floor. A tip of the proverbial cap to you, Steven.
3. Piotrków Trybunalski Ghetto as seen on Jakob The Liar (1999)
Where: Piotrków Trybunalski and Łódź
Another Holocaust-set, Hollywood film set in Poland that didn’t do great with critics or at the box office is Jakob The Liar. Starring Robin Williams, Jakob is a Polish-Jewish shopkeeper who pretends to hear positive and optimistic news via his secret radio to keep up the spirits of his Jewish community.
The film was shot in Budapest, Hungary as well as the Polish cities of Piotrków Trybunalski and Łódź. Piotrków Trybunalski, in particular, is a historic and accurate city to choose as a filming location for this film. The Piotrków Trybunalski Ghetto was the very first Jewish ghetto in Nazi-occupied Europe. So, if you’ve seen the film, you’ll know how poignant that is. However, it’s unlikely the same location the book/film was based on as the film is set in 1944, which is almost at the end of World War II.
4. Umschlagplatz as seen on The Pianist (2002)
Where: Corner ul. Stawki and ul. Dzika, Warsaw
Award-winning film The Pianist is one of the most revered Hollywood films about World War II and the Holocaust. You know, after Schindler’s List. Directed by Roman Polanski, The Pianist follows a Jewish musician named Władysław Szpilman (played by Adrian Brody) who has to keep himself and his family alive living in a Warsaw ghetto. The film shot in Studio Babelsberg in Germany but mostly shot on location around the city of Warsaw which is Poland’s capital city.
One of the most notable filming locations in The Pianist is the Umschlagplatz in Warsaw. In real life and in the film, this is where all the captured Jews would be rounded up before being deported to the concentration camps via train, including Szpilman before he’s separated from his family. The authentic location was used in the film and today it’s an important historical structure to remember the Jewish people that were once herded there like cattle.
5. Dunajec River Gorge as seen on The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)
Where: Pieniny Mountains, Western Beskids
Although most of the film was shot in New Zealand, it was South Poland’s mountain ranges that were deemed magical enough to stand in for Narnia’s vast mountainous regions in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The classic children’s tale follows four children who are evacuated from London to the countryside during World War II (oh look, even this film is set in World War II!). They stumble upon an enchanting wardrobe which leads them to the magical land of Narnia.
6. Rubinstein Suite at the Hotel Grand as seen on Inland Empire (2006)
Where: Piotrkowska 72, 90-102 Łódź
Even Poland didn’t escape the unique creative vision of David Lynch when he chose Polish cities Łódź and Warsaw as film locations for his most recent feature film, along with Los Angeles.
Does anyone really know what Inland Empire is about? Do the actors even know? Well anyway, the film was primarily shot in Łódź and the scenes in a hotel take place in the Rubinstein Suite of the Hotel Grand. Scenes were also shot at the Manufaktura Shopping Centre and the Spinning Mill on Ogrodowa Street which I now believe is a hotel called Vienna House Andel’s.
7. Majdanek Concentration Camp as seen on The Reader (2008)
Where: Państwowe Muzeum na Majdanku ul Droga Męczenników Majdanka 67 20-325, Lublin
Though it’s the events of World War II are relevant to this film, it’s set a little later in the 1950s/1960s. The Reader is almost exclusively set and shot in Germany, but there is one Polish filming location in the film. The film follows Michael Berg (David Kross) and Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslet), two Germans who began an illicit affair and meet again by chance years later.
The one filming location set in Poland is via flashback to the Majdanek Concentration Camp just outside of Lublin, Poland. Though not as popular to visit as Auschwitz, it is still open to visitors.
8. Stołowe Mountains as seen on The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008)
Where: Góry Stołowe 57-350 Kudowa-Zdrój
The sequel to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian also used the exact same filming locations as the first film. Dunajec River Gorge was utilised again, as well as the Stołowe Mountains (otherwise known as the Table Mountains), Siemianówka Lake and the Tatra Mountains. Whereas Dunajec River Gorge bordered Poland and Slovakia, the Stołowe Mountain National Park borders Poland and the Czech Republic.
The last film in the trilogy, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010) didn’t reuse any of these Polish filming locations and was shot almost entirely in Australia. Maybe that’s why it killed off the series, eh?
9. Gdańsk-Wrzeszcz Air Base as seen on Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
Where: Aleja Jana Pawła II 1B 72, 80-462 Gdańsk, Poland
This filming location caused a bit of controversy during filming as the Gdańsk locals were outrages their peaceful city was chosen as the location of a secret CIA detention centre. Zero Dark Thirty followed the CIA operation to assassinate Osama Bin Laden. The Gdańsk-Wrzeszcz air base, just outside of the Polish city, is where a Human Rights Group accuse the CIA of transporting al Qaeda suspects.
You might be able to visit this location, though the air base is no longer operational.
10. Kraków as seen on The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Where: General Kraków skyline
This Hollywood film location in Poland is a *bit* of a cop-out. But considering The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of my favourite films and it has a teeny tiny Polish filming location, I had to include it. Wes Anderson’s Central Europe-set film was shot almost entirely in Germany except from this one location. The film follows the life of a hotel over several years in the fictional country of Zubrowka, which is really the simplest explanation I can give to such a multi-faceted film.
The cemetery at the beginning of the film was shot in Görlitz, Germany (I’m talking about that huge brick wall with ‘Old Lutz Cemetery’ written across). But the beautiful snowy landscape in the background of the cemetery was added in postproduction.
And that is Kraków in Poland… Please don’t digitally ‘boo’ me off the stage. I know it’s a tenuous Polish filming location at best.
11. Kurkowa and Ptasia Streets as seen on The Bridge of Spies (2015)
Where: Kurkowa, 53-110 Wrocław
Yay, we’ve arrived at the Hollywood film location in Poland I’ve actually visited! I returned from Wrocław, a beautiful city in Southeast Poland last week and it makes total sense for Bridge of Spies to choose this place as a filming location. Directed by Steven Spielberg, Bridge of Spies is set in 1950s Cold War. Tom Hanks plays a lawyer who negotiates the trade of a captured Russian spy with an American one. The trade takes place in Berlin.
Now, Berlin today sure as heck doesn’t look like it did in the 1950s (and thank goodness for that). So, a slightly dilapidated part of Wrocław easily stood in for East Berlin. You know, once they built a lifesize wall and added a few other extra bits and pieces. The streets specifically chosen as filming locations are Kurkowa which leads onto Ptasia.
And those are all the best Hollywood film locations in Poland! Have you visited any of these Polish filming locations or watched any of the films? Let me know in the comments below!