Where was BBC1’s World on Fire filmed?

Spoiler: scenes set in Berlin, Paris and Warsaw weren't actually filmed on location

World On Fire

World on Fire is not lacking in scope. Rather than following characters from one town or country, the seven-part BBC series reaches across Europe to tell the epic story of the conflict’s first year.


From the outbreak of war in 1939, to the Dunkirk evacuation in June 1940, Peter Bowker’s drama delves into the love triangles, hardships, forbidden loves and bravery of characters from Poland, Germany, France and the UK.

But with scenes taking place across the continent you’re probably asking one big question: where was the series actually filmed? Here’s all you need to know…

Where was World on Fire filmed?

The BBC series was filmed in two main locations: Manchester and Prague.

As you probably suspected, many of the scenes set in Manchester were actually filmed in the city. However, as Adam Smith, director of the series’ first two episodes, told RadioTimes.com, parts of Wigan also doubled for the city.

What about the scenes set in Poland, Berlin and Paris circa 1939? All of these were filmed in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. Well, almost all. “We also pretended parts of Manchester were Warsaw,” Smith told us. “And parts of Wigan were Paris. It was a really confusing shoot!”

Kasia Tomaszeski (Zofia Wichlaz)
Kasia Tomaszeski (Zofia Wichlaz)

Scenes of war-torn Warsaw were also filmed in Prague. “We found this amazing location just outside the site, this devastated factory,” explained Helen Ziegler, executive producer. “It looked like it had been bombed [it had actually been half-demolished] and it had this eerie beauty to it.”

Smith added: “Obviously there’s a lot of CGI in the show, but we tried to use as many real things as possible and augment, rather than create, so it felt truthful and realistic.”

Later in the series, you might also recognise the beaches of Blackpool masquerading as the shores of Dunkirk. Specifically, the staging of the famous evacuation, which takes place in episode five, was filmed on St Anne’s Beach, close to the town’s airport.

This article was originally published in autumn 2019

If you’d like more, why not meet the full cast of World on Fire, find out whether World on Fire is based on a real story and what we know about series two of World on Fire.


World on Fire starts on PBS Masterpiece in the US on Sunday 4th April 2021 at 10/9c and episodes air weekly