Your mission, 007… Visit these James Bond locations around the world. From St James to Jamaica, so much of Bond is about escaping to the planet’s most gorgeous corners
The view from the private balcony of The Duke of Clarence Suite at DUKES Hotel offers Green Park so close up that you could throw a stone, or exploding wrist watch, onto the royal land. From here, Ian Fleming would turn martinis into empty martini glasses in the 1950s. The hotel isn’t allowed to say that the term “shaken not stirred” was dreamt up on the premises, but Fleming-inspired martinis, the best of which is the Vesper, are each proudly displayed on the bar menu with the prominence of school portraits on a family wall.
Barely anything has changed in the original DUKES bar since Fleming frequented it seventy-ish years ago. Imagining the author propped up at the bar is as easy as hitting an unobstructed target for an agent with a licence to kill. The bar top was a foot further back 70 years ago, head mixologist Alessandro Palazzi tells me, as if such a disturbance would let me down. Standing in front of me, Palazzi dramatically sheds a lemon of its skin, slicing with the calm precision of a predator working on its prey. Not a table is free and it’s early on a weeknight. The barman free pours and, admittedly, the rhythmic glug of 125mls of straight liquor is off putting, but the approachable flavour – and yes, texture – of this exquisite booze is proof that, as Bond knows so well, a mixer is absolutely never required. The hotel isn’t a James Bond location as such, but without it, Bond wouldn’t have existed. Read more about DUKES in this full review, but I can’t stay long. I must pack. Moneypenny’s got a new mission for me.
Travel is as closely-attached to Bond as his holstered Walther PPK. Over 60 years of Bond on screen, 007 has worn resplendent suits to check into some of the world’s most resplendent hotels. He’s touched down in Japan, Austria, America, Italy, Switzerland, India and China. But it all began at Ocho Rios in Jamaica. Bond is the only person who could wake up looking rested after a night spent sleeping on a tropical beach, and that’s exactly what he did in the establishing scene with Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder in 1962’s Dr. No. Emerging from the ocean carrying conch shells, Andress sings a Monty Norman penned ditty as Bond remarks: “I must be dreaming.” Could it be anymore 1960s?
These days, Laughing Waters beach in Jamaica is staggeringly the same as it was sixty years ago. The waterfall Bond escaped up hand-in-hand with Andress to get one over Dr. No’s henchmen bubbles sustainably on, looking as impossibly postcard-pretty as it did back then. Tropical storms have eroded the sand bank where Bond, Quarrel and Honey hid from gunfire, but squint and it’s easy to imagine where Andress would have emerged from the ocean. Laughing Waters is privately bookable to visit by contacting the Jamaican tourist board. Dunn’s River Falls, closeby, is also worth a trip. Fleming’s Jamaican escape, Goldeneye, where he wrote most of the Bond books and escaped to from Britain during the cold winter months, is a twenty minute drive east from Ocho Rios. Here he’d snorkel, finding inspiration for villains and heroes in the shapes conjured by the weeds and sea life. Then, he’d return to the villa to write up to 2,000 words per day.
Goldeneye is now a hotel, and The Fleming Villa itself is privately bookable. For upwards of £9,000 per night it’s a serious splash, but for those that venture there, Fleming’s original writing desk awaits poseurs. An amble through the villa’s garden leads down to the private beach where Fleming swam. It’s arresting to stand for a minute on the beach and imagine how he married both worlds of Bond in his writing: the frenetic passages about cars speeding through Whitehall and the exotic enclaves of Jamaica. Trip up to The Jamaica Inn, which, high in the mountains, offers cascading views towards the coast where Fleming lived. At the Inn, they’re less afraid of staking the claim that Fleming devised “shaken, not stirred” here. Perhaps when he did he was a few drinks down with his expat crowd of the time which included Roald Dahl and Noel Coward. The crocodile farm from Live And Let Die was filmed at an actual crocodile farm in Jamaica too and the original boat used by Roger Moore in the film is still there, tossed out the back of a visitor hut near the lake the scene was shot on.
The dense tropical air, as thick with humidity as jeopardy, excites Bond as it did his author. But after weeks on a tropical beach you’ll want some out and out hedonism. In Diamonds Are Forever, Connery’s final turn in the tux, the crew filmed in Las Vegas. Seventies Vegas was a far less expansive but equally flashy version of what lays in the Nevada desert today. In the movie, Bond girl Jill St John recovers South African diamonds hidden at the Circus Circus hotel. Today, little has changed at Circus Circus: in fact, it is a little creepy seeing the ageing clown imagery everywhere, but all the original fixtures mean the hotel retains its soul, and it should never change. There are still free live circus shows every half-hour throughout the day as there always has been, and there are cheaper beers than pretty well anywhere else on The Strip. Don’t miss a visit to Westgate hotel either, another Bond location in Vegas, to gawp at the brilliant chandeliers in the foyer which date back to the hotel opening in 1969. In fact, most of the Westgate’s lobby is a time capsule for when St John’s Tiffany Case character hurriedly rushed through here in the 1971 film. There’s a total of 68,000 crystals in the chandeliers. “But I doubt anyone’s ever gonna count,” a rep says as we walk through.
Not every mission can, or should, take weeks, and thankfully, some James Bond locations are closer to home. Bond visited a futuristic clinic in Austria in Spectre, set in a stunning glass building on top of a mountain 3,048 metres above sea level. In real life this clinic is Ice Q, Austria’s highest gourmet restaurant where the shutters are sometimes pulled part of the way down to protect diners from sun blinding, but from here it feels as if any ailment – mental or physical – could be cured by a quick look at the view. Dishes are small but arrive in a constant stream; local game is incredible, everything’s local, and one speciality I particularly loved was the mulled wine sour cocktail: an unusual spin on the sour using local grapes. Down the cable car at the Das Central hotel in Solden, roaring fires and mod-cons in the rooms express something about old and new Austria rolled into one.
In Switzerland, the winding Furka Pass is where Sean Connery famously pursues Goldfinger in a shimmering Aston Martin DB5. Stop here and recreate the photo of Connery leaning carefree against the side of the car before driving on and spending the night at the Bürgenstock hotel, the Grand Dame of Lake Lucerne where Audrey Hepburn once married. Here, there’s an infinity pool and spa overhanging the lake and guests are chauffeured between seemingly infinite sections of the hotel by blacked-out 4x4s. It’s the ideal way to feel as if you are Bond himself. The crew of Goldfinger, including Connery, spent a month here during filming.
It’s a two-hour hop back to Britain, and such an endurance surely calls for a stiff drink. Knock back the world’s best martini at The Connaught hotel. It’s the sort of place where everyone looks like extras from a sixties-era Bond, and it’s thrilling to be around such a theatrical crowd. Not a James Bond location as such, perhaps even better: Fleming used to throw Bond scripts around here with director Terence Young. Who knows – have a couple and you might feel inspired yourself.
Read our full review of the DUKES hotel in St James, a James Bond location on your doorstep. For more Bond travel, Black Tomato has partnered with EON Productions to launch the first ever tailored Bond excursions. Launching in March 2023, they will take in filming locations around the world