Set in France in the turbulent years between 1815 and 1832, Les Misérables is an epic story of poverty, cruelty, love, revolution and redemption. So where was the BBC’s new adaptation of this classic Victor Hugo novel filmed?
Filming began in February 2018 and wrapped in June, with the majority of scenes shot on location in Belgium and Northern France.
In Belgium, producers found suitable period architecture in Brussels, as well as in Écaussinnes and Enghien within the province of Hainaut. Further filming took place in Namur, the capital of Wallonia.
In France meanwhile, the Les Misérables cast carried out extensive filming in and around Sedan in the Ardennes in north-eastern France. Limburg in The Netherlands was also used as a filming location.
Find out more about all the filming locations for Les Misérables below.
Where were the Paris scenes filmed?
Nineteenth century Paris was recreated with the help of the Belgian capital, Brussels. Some of the most memorable scenes in the drama were filmed around the Béguinage Church.
A flower market was created outside the church on the Place du Béguinage, and the surrounding streets were used to shoot the scene where Pontmercy tries to visit his son Marius, and where Fantine and her friends walk through the streets of of the capital.
Pontmercy’s father-in-law Monsieur Gillenormand lives in a grand apartment, which was filmed in an antiques shop called Costermans in Brussels.
Over in France itself (but near the border with Belgium), the small historic town of Sedan also stood in for 19th century Paris.
The production team spent three weeks filming here, including night shoots, and more than 70 extras were brought in to take part in the barricades scene for the 1832 June Rebellion.
According to local reports, electrical cables were transformed into clothes lines, and a kebab shop became an old clothing store.
“We visited 20, 30 cities in France and Belgium. When we arrived in Sedan, it was immediate. Everything here is a gift for production,” Chris Carey, principal producer of Les Misérables, told Estrepublican. During the first week, “we filmed at night, with guns, with a hundred people in the street at 5am.”
Filming for the Paris scenes also took place in Ghent, a historic port city in Belgium.
Where were the Luxembourg Gardens filmed?
These scenes were filmed in the Parc de Bruxelles (or ‘Warandepark’) in central Brussels. The park, which was created in the 18th century, is surrounded by important buildings and streets including the Place des Palais, the Rue Royale and the Rue de la Loi.
It also includes an ornate bandstand, constructed in 1841.
Where was Montreuil-sur-Mer filmed?
Montreuil is actually a real town in northern France, and was featured in Victor Hugo’s novel after the author spent several vacations there.
However, filming took place in eastern Belgium, in a town called Limbourg.
Where was the convent filmed?
Enghien Castle was used as the Paris convent, led by the the Abbess (Georgie Glen) and home to Sister Simplice (Natalie Simpson).
The Belgian château dates back to the 13th century, although what you can actually see today was build in 1913.
Where was the police station filmed?
The production team made good use of Enghien Castle, which stood in for a three things: the police station, the convent and a safe house.
Where were the prison quarry scenes filmed?
Sedan also provided Les Misérables with its rock quarry, where prisoner Jean Valjean (Dominic West) labours under the watchful eye of Inspector Javert (David Oyelowo). This was filmed just outside the town, again with the help of VFX.
Additional scenes were shot at the castle (the Château de Sedan), which served as the Toulon prison (or Bagne of Toulon) where Valjean spends 19 miserable years. Filming for prison scenes also took place in a former jail in Vilvoorde, north of Brussels.
Where does Jean Valjean meet the Bishop?
A turning point in Valjean’s life comes when he arrives at a French village, where he labours all day but only earns an ex-convict’s wage. Later that night, he meets the kind-hearted Bishop (Derek Jacobi).
These scenes were filmed in the small village of Marville in France, about an hour east of Sedan and six miles from the Belgian border.
Producer Carey told CN Traveller: “The fountain Valjean drinks from and the church in the square, even the bishop’s garden were real. All we did was put a bit of stuff down on the ground and remove some aerials in post-production.”
Where do Felix and Fantine go rowing on the lake?
Naive Fantine (Lily Collins) falls for love interest Felix’s (Johnny Flynn) charms during a ride in a rowboat. The scene was shot in the grounds of Solvay Castle, in La Hulpe – a small town on the southern outskirts of Brussels.
Where was the Thénardiers’ inn filmed?
The scheming and abusive Madame and Monsieur Thénardier (Olivia Colman and Adeel Akhtar) run an inn, with a pretty little square in front.
The exterior was shot at the Château de Meez riding school near Yvoir in Belgium, and the interiors were filmed inside the nearby castle, Château d’Ecaussines-Lalaing. That castle also doubled up as a courtroom for a later scene.
Where was the Battle of Waterloo filmed?
The BBC drama begins in the blood-soaked aftermath of the 1815 Battle of Waterloo, on a muddy field blanketed with slaughtered soldiers and dead horses. Thief and looter Thénardier (Adeel Akhtar) picks his way across the battlefield stealing wallets and watches. Then, suddenly, Pontmercy (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) regains consciousness.
With the help of VFX, the scene was filmed in a field in the village of Écaussinnes, south of Belgium and 16 miles from the spot where the Battle of Waterloo actually took place.
This article was originally published in December 2018
Les Misérables airs on Sundays at 9/8c on PBS Masterpiece