"Life is short, the world is wide. I want to make some memories."
The secret's out, you guys. We have fallen in love with Donna Sheridan, the adventurous heroine of the Mamma Mia films who's responsible for that quote. It's not just that she has gorgeous Goldilocks hair and killer vintage style. It's not even that she's played by BOTH Meryl Streep and Lily James. What makes us admire this daring songstress is her passionate ambition to travel the world.
If you're inspired to follow in her sandy footsteps, too, we are pleased to inform you that a Donna-esque trip across the world is yours to take at any time. All you need is her signature courage, positivity, and an optional set of overalls. We've lined up 22 of the most ABBA-solutely gorgeous locations for you to explore on adventures of your very own.
The first half of our list features places where characters supposedly visit in Mamma Mia and its gleeful sequel. The top ten are places that were actually used for filming the series. Even though most of the films take place on the island of Kalikieri, no such place actually exists! Don’t worry: careful research has identified the real places used to create this fictional paradise.
Location scouts pieced together areas of Greece, Croatia, and other Mediterranean dream destinations to make the world of Mamma Mia! You’ll be able to sense the series’ signature sunny vibes in plenty of places – if you know where to look. Start here:
22 22. Oxfordshire, England
At the beginning of Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again, young Donna (played by the stunningly beautiful Lily James) is graduating from Oxford University. This is an uber-prestigious school in the county of Oxford within England, UK. She shocks the class when her valedictorian speech turns into a wild performance of "When I Kissed the Teacher."
The class follows Donna through Oxford on bicycles until they get to the Oxford Canal, where 'Donna and the Dynamos' perform on (and jump off of) a dock. This scene offers a peek at Oxford University's gorgeous and historic campus, along with the sweet town surrounding it. Consider it as the perfect romantic getaway town for Anglophiles and history buffs.
21 21. Tokyo, Japan
When Harry (Colin Firth's character) has a revelation during an important business meeting in Mamma Mia 2, the camera offers a glimpse of a conference room view from Tokyo's Conrad Hilton Hotel and Resort. Harry is in Tokyo to hammer out the details of some important contract, but as he walks around the conference room, he decides that going to Greece is more worthwhile.
If we were staying at the Conrad Tokyo, we wouldn't be so quick to leave. It's a gorgeous luxury accommodation famous for its artistic interiors and the major masterpieces displayed within. If you're an artsy person at heart like sweet Harry, the Conrad Hilton is the perfect backdrop for much more than just a business meeting.
20 20. New York City, USA
Another rare occasion when a Mamma Mia character is shown outside the Mediterranean is when Sky, Sophie's boyfriend played by Dominic Cooper, is in NYC. He's shown lounging around his Manhattan apartment singing One of Us about Sophie. He croons about "waiting for a call" and "wishing he had never left at all."
There are plenty of reasons to love NYC. We can see why Sky would choose to leave quaint Kalokairi for the hustle, bustle, arts, and culture of New York City. If NYC isn't on your bucket list, you're missing out in a big way. Live luxe in the city by planning your trip with our help.
19 19. Las Vegas, Nevada
In Mamma Mia 2, we finally meet Sophie's grandma, Cher! Or, er...'Ruby Sheridan.' But we all know that she's really Cher, basically playing herself. The character flies into Greece from Vegas at the end of the movie. She's supposed to be a rock star with some kind of Las Vegas performance residency.
Cher definitely has that authentic rock star presence, and there's no more glamorous place to live out a music career than in fabulous Las Vegas. If it was good enough for Elvis, it's good enough for everyone! If you've yet to live it up in Vegas on a girls' trip or honeymoon, start planning ASAP.
18 18. Stockholm, Sweden
In Mamma Mia 2, Bill (Stellan Skarsgard) has been named "World’s Greatest Swede, or whatever," and so is receiving an award when Sophie has requested that he come back to Greece. It's a made-up award that never really gets clarified, but considering Bill is a writer and the award is both important and Swedish, it's safe to say that he's winning something inspired by the Nobel Prize for literature.
In the real world, that Nobel Prize is awarded in Stockholm, Sweden. There's also an amazingly charming ABBA Museum in Stockholm that promises you'll "walk in, dance out." (ABBA is Swedish, after all!) Any true ABBA or Mamma Mia fan needs to pay this world-class city a visit at least once.
17 17. Glasgow, Scotland
Glasgow is a culturally rich major city a few hours south of Edinburgh (the Scottish capital). It's colorful, loud, industrial, and historic. The city makes an appearance in the song "Super Trouper," sung pretty much the entire cast at the end of Mamma Mia 2.
In "Super Trooper," Cher sings "I was sick and tired of everything, when I called you last night from Glasgow." Only a jet-setting superstar could ever get tired of such a fun and vibrant cosmopolitan city. If you plan to visit Glasgow, don't miss your chance of staying at the Carlton George Hotel or Hotel du Vin Glasgow for the ultimate star treatment.
16 16. Waterloo, Belgium
“My my! At Waterloo Napoleon did surrender…” In those days (ahem, 1815) the city of Waterloo was technically a part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. Today, the site of the battle and the entire city of Waterloo are located in present-day Belgium. As young Harry Bright (Hugh Skinner) sings, this was the site of Napoleon's final battle.
Today, Waterloo holds strong to its spectacular history with numerous monuments and sites where tourists can take a step back in time. It's also got thoroughly modern accommodations, many within historic buildings themselves. Visit Martin's Grande Hotel for a taste of luxury within walking distance of 'The Lion's Mound,' a major statue-topped monument to the Battle of Waterloo.
15 15. Paris, France
"Waterloo" is the big song that young Harry sings while hanging out with young Donna in Paris in Mamma Mia 2. In this film, we see them meet at a little boutique hotel in downtown Paris. In the first film, older Harry reminisces about his time in Paris with Donna in the song "Our Last Summer:"
“Walks along the Seine, laughing in the rain,
Our last summer. Memories that remain.
In the tourist jam, round the Notre Dame,
Our last summer, walking hand in hand."
14 14. Mexico City, Mexico
"Do you still recall the frightful night we crossed the Rio Grande?" Cher asks Andy Garcia in Mamma Mia 2.
The song "Fernando" is all about a dude who fought for Mexico in the Mexican-American War of the 1840s. If you didn't already know: the Rio Grande is the river that separates Texas from Mexico.
A true Mexican revolutionary like ABBA's Fernando would absolutely spend time in Mexico City. The Mexican-American War saw Mexico City being captured and occupied by Americans, so it's where a huge portion of the fighting went down. Visit Mexico City to find your own Fernando, or opt for a spot on the Texan side. We recommend La Borde House in Rio Grande City.
13 13. London, England
A lot of the interior scenes in the first Mamma Mia movie were filmed on sound stages in London. That's appropriate considering how many members of the cast and crew are British. Harry Bright, Colin Firth's character, is even said to spend most of his time in the English capital.
If you ever venture overseas to the British Isles, London is your main must-see city. You can check out handy guides to its top sites and tastes easily. As a bonus, the Mamma Mia musical premiered in London's West End, and still sometimes plays there! If you're lucky you might be able to catch your fave songs and romances lived out live.
12 12. Rome, Italy
We're getting so close to the glorious Grecian Mamma Mia settings! Rome is culturally rich and romantic (duh) but it makes this list just because of one Mamma Mia feature: Aphrodite's Fountain.
Do you remember the plot point in the first film about Aphrodite's long-lost fountain? It had dried up long ago, only to spring back into life when love bloomed between Donna and Sam once more. In the real world, you can visit the fountains that inspired these scenes right in the heart of Rome. Visit the Fountain of the Naiads in Piazza Della Repubblica to see reclining love nymphs in all their glory, or the Trevi Fountain in central Rome. Both are swimming in ancient love mythology!
11 11. Athens, Greece
If you really want to dive into the ancient Greek mythology that drives the Mamma Mia series' biggest themes, you'll need to visit the heart of Greece itself! Athens is worth a visit for its culture and scenery alone, but Mamma Mia fans will love the totally unique history this part of the world has to offer.
To get to the top 10 places on our list, your best bet is flying into Athens. It's where most of the movie stars flew into in preparation for filming, and it's the biggest and bustling Greek city of all. This gives it loads of luxury 5-star hotel options largely unavailable in the country's other coastal towns.
10 10. Agios Ioannis Church, Kastri, Greece
Not all the places seen in Mamma Mia exist in the real world, but the church used for its wedding and baptism scenes absolutely is! It's located on the tip top of Agios Ioannis mountain, a high peak overlooking Grecian waters and small coastal towns of Kastri below.
You can even say "I do, I do, I do, I do, I do, I do" for yourself in this gorgeous whitewashed chapel. Book your own wedding or baptism service here to live your real Sophie or Donna Sheridan fantasy life! Just make sure your guests are willing to trek up that massive mountainside first.
9 9. Damouchari Pelion, Greece
Damouchari is a sweet city located on the eastern coast of Greece, approximately 30 minutes from Volos and directly north of Athens. This is the city where most of the crew stayed throughout the filming of the first Mamma Mia film. Some key movie footage was also filmed along the beautiful crystalline shores of Damouchari.
At the beginning of Mamma Mia, Rosie (Julie Walters) and Tanya (Christine Baranski) run to meet, hug, and secret-handshake with Donna on a Damoucheri dock. Lots of that film's beach scenes were filmed on the town's "Blue Beach," too. Lay all your love on Damouchari with rooms starting at $70!
8 8. Nisi Glysteri, Greece
Nisi Glysteri is part of a Greek peninsula used a lot in the filming for the first Mamma Mia. You can catch its pristine waters and rugged beaches in the background while the cast sings "Dancing Queen" and "Our Last Summer." A cliff near the top of the peninsula is where Sophie, Bill, Harry, and Sam jump from the rocks into the water after a particularly heartwarming "Our Last Summer" verse!
Whether or not you're lucky enough to have three (famous) dads, you can enjoy the shores of Nisi Glysteri for yourself. We've heard that this peak of Greece offers amazing sunset views, enjoyed by the cast and crew who spent long days and nights filming there. Beautiful!
7 7. Kastani Beach
Kastani Beach plays a big role in setting the scene for Mediterranean Mamma Mia fun in the first film. It's the bright and sandy backdrop of scenes like Tanya's big song "Does Your Mother Know" and Sophie's "I Have a Dream." It would be hard to stand with your toes in its soft sand looking out over the turquoise waters without getting a little sentimental.
During filming, the crew built a long pier on Kastani beach, but this has since been taken down. The beach bar where Sky's young friend Pepper works was also a fabrication, but after filming the beach authorities decided to build their own in its place. Check out Kastani Beach Bar and live your own gorgeous Grecian dreams!
6 6. Skiathos Old Town, Greece
The first Mamma Mia movie showed us a charming, colorful, musical, and even magical version of small-town Greece. Those vibes really do exist in the lovely old town of Skiathos, where many of the film's village scenes were filmed. This area offers you a boldly-colored and ABBA-soundtracked version of Greece's past.
In the movies, Sophie's three fathers meet for the first time at a Skiathos port, all of them on their way to the tiny fictional island of Kalokairi. The delightful cobblestoned area around the old St. Nikolaos Bell Tower was where Sophie mailed her fateful first letters. view. If you want to experience Mamma Mia's Skiathos for yourself, consider the special Mamma Mia Cruise it hosts! So fun.
5 5. Princess and Palace Hotels, Skiathos Greece
The cast and crew members who decided to stay in Skiathos during the filming of Mamma Mia stayed mainly at the region's Princess Hotel or Palace Hotel. These are super luxurious resorts with delicate upscale interiors matched in splendor by the natural beauty of their surrounding landscapes.
They both feature fabulous terraces and multiple pools for you to chill with friends or soak up the sun all alone ("when the pretty birds have flown..."). They're also close enough to the old town to offer quick jaunts to 5-star Skiathos restaurants including Asprolithos, Polikratis, and the family-run, almost perfectly-named Sophia's House.
4 4. Skopelos Villas, Greece
Most of the A-list cast members of the first Mamma Mia film stayed at luxury accommodations on the island of Skopelos, a bigger and more modern island neighboring Skiathos. Both islands offer similar stunning views of the Aegean Sea off the coast of Greece, but Skopelos has plenty of great accommodations available in a wide price range.
We recommend making a Skopelos villa hotel your home base for any Mamma Mia-themed trip. The Telegraph reported that cast members stayed at the Skopelos Village Hotel, the Prince Stafylos Hotel, and the Adrina Hotel. Be sure to eat where the stars did, too: dish up at Agioli, Tis Annas, and Agnanti. It doesn't get more authentically Greek.
3 3. Komiza Village, Vis, Croatia
Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again saw the same characters return to Kalokairi, but only savvy travelers could recognize a major change in the setting. The Kalokairi of this movie was filmed all in Croatia instead of Greece! Reportedly to save money, filmmakers decided to do most of the movie's outdoor shots on the Croatian island of Vis on the Dalmatia Coast.
Donna finds her true love, new home, and trademark pair of overalls in the real picture-perfect fishing village of Komiza, Vis. The best news: you can follow in her footsteps and fly there from Paris for under 100 Euro! Hotel rooms can be rented there for as little as 200 Euro per WEEK. Get on it!