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Saturday July 21st 2018

The Princess Diaries | 2001

The Princess Diaries location: Brazil Avenue, San Francisco
The Princess Diaries location: the home of Mia Thermopolis and her mother: Brazil Avenue, Excelsior District, San Francisco

Garry Marshall transplants Meg Cabot’s teen fantasy from New York to San Francisco, where Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway) lives with her artist mom in a former firehouse at 724 Brazil Avenue at Athens Street, in the Excelsior District quite a way to the south of the city.

The Princess Diaries filming location: Lyon Street, Marina District, San Francisco
The Princess Diaries location: Mia attends 'Grove High School': Lyon Street, Marina District, San Francisco

So it’s quite some scooter ride for her to get to school. The frontage of ‘Anthony R Grove High School’, is 2601 Lyon Street, at Green Street, in the upmarket Marina District, north of the city (about a six mile ride, in fact). It's not a school at all but a very imposing private residence.

Altogether, three different buildings are stitched together to complete the school. The rooftop basketball court, where Mia and best pal Lilly (Heather Matarazzo) fall out and make up, is atop a school a few blocks to the east. We’ve been asked, in order to discourage trespassers, not to publicise details of the school. I'm sure nobody objects to visitors looking and taking a photo of public places but, as ever, please remember to respect private property.

The school interior and grounds, though, are even further away – near Los Angeles. It’s Alverno High School, 200 North Michillinda Avenue in Sierra Madre, east of Pasadena. The campus is no stranger to film, having appeared in Legally Blonde and A Walk In The Clouds, among other productions.

‘Rocks Around The Clock’, the climbing school in which Mia works part time after school, and where she learns that her grandma is arriving from ‘Genovia’, seems to be on San Francisco’s Embarcadero but, again, it’s Los Angeles. It’s Hangar 18 (previously the L.A. Rock Gym), 4926 West Rosecrans Avenue, down in Hawthorne, south of the city.

The Princess Diaries location: Doheny Mansion, Chester Place, downtown Los Angeles
The Princess Diaries location: The ‘Consulate of Genovia’: Doheny Mansion, Chester Place, Los Angeles | Photograph: Big Orange Landmarks / Floyd B Bariscale

Still in Los Angeles, the ‘Consulate of Genovia’ is the Doheny Mansion, 8 Chester Place, downtown. You might recognise its striking frontage and its lavish rotunda from Sam Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell and Spider-Man 3, as well as Brian Helgeland’s Payback, with Mel Gibson.

The Princess Diaries location: Phoenix Terrace, San Francisco
The Princess Diaries location: The home of Lilly and Michael Moscowitz: Phoenix Terrace, San Francisco

Returning to the real San Francisco, Mia's schoolmates Lilly and Michael are collected in the limo from their home at 15 Phoenix Terrace, a tiny cul-de-sac which you’ll find tucked away on Pacific Avenue between Jones and Taylor Streets just north of Nob Hill.

When Queen Clarisse (Julie Andrews) and Mia take a day off to enjoy the city they drive east over the Golden Gate Bridge, for no other reason than visual effect. The exhibition of old penny arcade machines they visit was in the opposite direction, on San Francisco’s western shore. The museum was then housed in the basement of the old Cliff House, at 1090 Point Lobos Avenue.

If you want to explore this fascinating collection of what arcade games were like in the pre-electronic age (though it now contains classic video games), you’ll now find the Musée Mécanique at Fisherman’s Wharf, on Pier 45 at the foot of Taylor Street.

The Cliff House, perched on the headland above the cliffs north of Ocean Beach, overlooks the abandoned ruins of the former Sutro Baths, now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. You might remember the Sutro Baths site from 1971 cult comedy Harold and Maude.

One of the screen perils of driving around San Francisco is the accident with a cable car. Mia has a bit of a shunt at the intersection of ‘Rose and Branch’, an address invented so that Queen Clarisse can be inspired to invent the ‘Genovian Order of the Rose’. This is really the corner of Taylor Street and Broadway, southeast of Russian Hill. It's a supremely photogenic spot seen also in Bullitt and The Pursuit Of Happyness.

Back in southern California, he ‘Baker Beach’ bash, where Mia is set up as press fodder by her schoolmates, is Zuma Beach in Malibu.

The Princess Diaries location: Longford Castle, Bodenham, Wiltshire
The Princess Diaries location: The ‘Castle of Genovia’: Longford Castle, Bodenham, Wiltshire | Photograph: wikimedia / Peter

And away from California completely, the castle of ‘Genovia’ seen in the aerial shot at the end of the film, is Longford Castle, Longford Park, Bodenham, south of Salisbury in Wiltshire, southwest England. It”s a private home, though occasionally open to the public on pre-booked tours.