Paddington Bear has been charming young and old since his first appearance in 1958. Created by Michael Bond, the immigrant bear has featured in over 20 books, several TV series and two hugely popular feature films (a third is on the way). Paddington 2 recently displaced Citizen Kane as the best-reviewed movie of all time, according to aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.
Although originally from Peru, Paddington quickly establishes himself as a Londoner. The city shines brightly throughout all the books and films, and families can spend a rewarding day exploring the locations from the tales. Here, we highlight just a few of the key sites
Paddington Station Statue
The first stop for any Paddington fan must be the station after which he is named (he does have another name - a bear name - but you wouldn’t be able to pronounce it). The station contains numerous nods to our fellow. You’ll find a Paddington Bear shop on the ground level, stuffed with toy bears, DVDs, mugs and other paraphernalia. Upstairs is the ‘Mad Bishop and Bear’ pub, a family-friendly venue that’s half named after the famous ursine (while the ‘mad bishop’ was a local freeholder who didn’t realise how valuable his land was). Best of all is the Paddington statue. It’s located over on Platform 1 at the very spot where Paddington first meets the Brown family in the recent film adaptation. A nearby plaque records the same meeting, as written by Paddington creator Michael Bond in 1958. Meanwhile, an adjacent bench painted with the bear’s likeness is a popular spot for a photograph.
Paddington Green Statue, With Michael Bond
Bond and his bear are also commemorated a short walk away on Paddington Green. Their two-dimensional statue is one of a trio marking local heroes. The other two are codebreaker and computer pioneer Alan Turing, and nurse Mary Seacole. The statue was placed here by cycling charity Sustrans, who have installed similar likenesses all over the country. While walking here, look out for colourful fibreglass statues of the bear, leftovers from a Paddington Trail that filled the area with bears in 2016.
Leicester Square Statue
Yet another statue of Paddington can be found seated on a bench in Leicester Square. You might have to join a queue to get a photograph of the fellow - he’s very popular with families (I got this snap on a rainy, between-lockdowns day). Paddington is one of about a dozen statues in the square celebrating characters from film. Look out for Mary Poppins, Harry Potter, Wonder Woman and Batman, among others.
The Browns’ House In Primrose Hill
As any Paddington fan knows, the Brown family and their ursine lodger live at 32 Windsor Gardens. This fictional street won’t be found on any street map (there is a Windsor Gardens in Westbourne Park, not too far from Paddington station, but it is a short stump with no houses), but you can still pay a visit to the street used in the film versions. The colourfully painted houses are immediately recognisable as Chalcot Crescent in Primrose Hill. The street is a short walk from Camden Town station. It’s an easy detour to make if you’re heading to London Zoo, where you can see two statues devoted to another local bear of note - the original Winnie the Pooh.
The Browns’ Local Tube Station
One of the more memorable scenes from the first film sees Paddington catch the tube for the first time, with chaos and confusion the inevitable result. The Browns’ local station is badged up as Westbourne Oak station - a fictitious combination of two nearby real-life stations, Westbourne Park and Royal Oak. However, the distinctive mosaic roundel inside the ticket hall gives away (to tube geeks like me) that Maida Vale station was used for the filming. If you look closely, and freeze-frame, you can even see the words ‘Maida Vale’ written on the side of the station.
Mr Gruber’s Shop
The friendly antique dealer’s shop plays an important role in both films, and is also a mainstay of the original books. The shop’s bright red facade is easy to track down in Notting Hill at 86 Portobello Road where, in real life, it trades as Alice’s antiques.
London is as much a star of the two Paddington films as the bear himself. Numerous other locations can be spotted in the movies, including most of the famous landmarks like St Paul’s and Tower Bridge. Perhaps the most prominent is the Natural History Museum, scene of the climax to the first film. Watch out, too, for the Regent’s Canal tow path at Camden Lock and Little Venice in the second film, as Paddington chases after the book thief on the back of a dog. The Geographers’ Guild is, in reality, the Reform Club of Pall Mall - notable as the place from which Phileas Fogg begins his journey in Around the World in 80 Days.
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