You may not be travelling much at the moment thanks to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but ITV’s reboot of classic detective drama Van Der Valk – airing on Sunday evenings on PBS Masterpiece in the US – is keen to take you on a trip to Amsterdam.
From the canals of the old city centre to the grittier and cooler neighbourhoods in the north and the Dutch capital’s most famous museum, here are the locations you’ll see on screen:
How was Van Der Valk filmed at the Rijksmuseum?
For episode one, the producers of Van Der Valk pulled off quite a coup: they secured permission to film inside the Rijksmuseum. This national museum features Dutch art and history from the Middle Ages to the present day, and receives millions of visitors each year.
“Well, we were pleasantly surprised,” says writer Chris Murray. “It’s one of those things you kind of put in a script, and hope… I remember thinking, ‘Ah someone at some point is going to ask me to change this, because there’s no way we’ll get to go to the Rikjsmuseum.’ But we just asked and they said yes!”
So, after as the museum was closed for the day, the team brought in a camera crew and quickly filmed the scene.
In the episode, Commissaris Van Der Valk (Marc Warren) visits the Rikjsmuseum after-hours to speak with one of the museum’s bosses, Therese Ramecker (Vineeta Rishi), who also happens to be the the mother of a missing young man. He notices that she’s absorbed in a specific painting by Vermeer: could that be significant?
“It was funny, Marc Warren was saying that when he went in there, he was just a few feet away from The Night Watch, which is more famous,” Murray says. “Although I love the painting that we did feature – but if I’d known we could have embellished it!”
Where was the canal chase scene filmed?
As soon as the first episode begins, you know exactly where you are. Van Der Valk and his team are chasing a baddie through the streets and canals of Amsterdam, speeding on bicycles around the canal belt area in the old city centre. You can spot the famous tall 17th century houses with their big windows, and the bridges, and the water that makes up so much of the Dutch capital.
And if the streets of Amsterdam seem uncharacteristically empty in these scenes, that’s because they were filmed very, very early in the morning while most of the tourists and locals were still tucked up in bed. Still, there were plenty of challenges.
“The streets are quite narrow and if you think of a film crew, usually it’s like the circus coming to town,” Murray tells us. “And normally you’d have trucks and equipment and vans and winnebagos, and you just can’t do that… but also one of the reasons everyone goes on bikes is because actually to go by car is really quite slow around that canal belt area, because the roads are one way and they can get very blocked up.”
Thankfully, the all-Dutch crew were already used to filming in Amsterdam, and brought in “a slightly more fleet-of-foot way than you would normally film.”
How did they film Van Der Valk’s boat?
In this reboot of Van Der Valk, the police detective actually lives on a boat. And it’s not a canal boat, either; it’s a proper old boat with sails, which he takes out on the water at the end of episode one.
In real life, producers rented the boat from “a typical sea dog character” with “a couple of dogs who got in the way a bit.” They dressed up the “wooden, very characterful, very cluttered” interior with its desk and cabin bed, and brought in the actors and a film crew.
“It was a key part of his character,” Murray explains. “We really liked the idea of the boat. He’s a loner but he’s in the middle of the city… And that’s very him. Even though it’s a sound effect you can hear it creaking in one of the scenes as if the ropes are creaking whilst he’s looking at a picture of the Vermeer. And it just had a sort of character-fulness and an authenticity to it that we really liked.
“It was tricky to take it out for the final scene when we took it out on the water – there’s an awful lot of people off camera! So that was a bit of a palaver. But worth it.”
Where was Eva’s house filmed?
The house where Eva Meisner (Stephanie Leonidas) hosts her costume party is right in the centre of Amsterdam. The exterior shots were filmed using a private house on the Achtergracht canal, while interiors were filmed elsewhere.
Where were the industrial areas filmed in Amsterdam?
The production team made good use of a wharf to the north of the city in episode one – an Amsterdam location which might be less immediately-recognisable to viewers.
“The first body, there’s the scene down by the water’s edge, and it’s a wharf,” Murray says. “It’s called the NDSM, and it’s a really funky area generally… originally it was a shipping yard, and 20-odd years ago a bunch of artists took over an area of it, and then that slowly got encouraged by the city to move people north, and it’s been redeveloped and it’s now, some of the funkiest bars and there’s some brilliant warehouse office areas that are all very sort of contemporary and progressive.”
Aside from the dead body scene, this area was used for Van Der Valk’s ill-fated date at a Chinese restaurant – and for a scene involving a warehouse later in the episode.
“We very much consciously wanted to get a blend,” Murray explains. “On the one hand we felt we had to tick canals, bikes – that’s why we opened with a canal, bike chase. But also show different areas, and it’s something over the course of the series we try to do.
“So hopefully by the end of those three episodes, and if there are any more we do, people on the one hand are getting a familiar hit of a city they may know or may want to know – but equally they’re seeing different sides to it. I mean, there is such an amazing mixture of old and new, and contemporary architecture, contemporary hip places, but also this history.
“So it’s a great place to film, and you’ve got everything really. And it was nice to be able to try and capture that.”
Where are episodes two and three filmed?
Van Der Valk consists of three feature-length episodes – and each episode introduces us to a whole load of new locations.
“Yeah I did a first research trip and we have a fantastic art director, who even from that early stage, he sort of took me on a tour, and all of the crew are Dutch,” Murray tells us. “So it was a really nice vibe of, they wanted us to represent their city in a real way, rather than in a stereotypical way… that people normally perceive it. Because it’s a really vibrant city, it’s really different to what people think. So through him and then subsequent visits, that became apparent as I got to know the city more and more, and it threw up stories. Most of the stories came out of things we saw in the city.”
He reveals: “The second episode is about a battle between a mystical library and museum, and a rather clinical addiction clinic. There is for real the museum and library in Amsterdam which I’d visited and in fact I did some writing there, because it was such a lovely place. But it sort of sparked off a story.”
Then there’s episode three, which is set in the world of fashion. “That came about because on the very first day I went round with the art director, he took me to this old shipyard area which was where you had this amazing juxtaposition of on the one hand old hundred years old trawlers, and then a brand new tower block which was the Tommy Hilfiger HQ for Europe, and it had been built in the shape of a ship. So you’ve got this weird clash of very new maritime imagery, and very old maritime imagery, sort of cheek by jowl.”
The writer adds: “In episode three, the climax is shot at this amazing – it’s what used to be an oil rig that’s been converted into a French restaurant, and we have a shootout.
“That came from, again that first boat trip saying, that oil rig used to be a restaurant, and me six months later coming to episode three, and thinking where would be good to have a shootout? And thinking, no way will we get that…”
Van Der Valk airs on Sundays at 9/8c on PBS Masterpiece in the US