T2: Trainspotting Filming Locations Revisit a Modern Edinburgh

Going into a wider release in the U.S. this weekend was director Danny Boyle’s reunion of the beloved characters from Trainspotting. In T2: Trainspotting, Renton, played by Ewan McGregor, returns to the scene of the action in Edinburgh, Scotland.

It’s been twenty years since Renton and Spud ran down Princes Street, the city’s main shopping area. Now, it’s filled with Boots drug stores, Orange Wireless, Costa Coffee, H&M and a Build-a -Bear workshop. Strikingly enough, as Renton discovers, a modern tram system whizzes through the cobblestone streets now.

While the original, like the Irving Welsh novel, was set in Edinburgh, the movie was mostly filmed on sound stages and locations in Glasgow. The sequel makes better use of the main city to show how much has changed.

The iconic Arthur’s Seat, the flattop hill that overlooks the city, is used prominently in the scene where Spud and Renton sit at the apex to discuss how to channel their drug addiction into something else. For Renton, it’s physical fitness.

The plot of the film revolves around Renton and Simon (aka Sickboy) starting a brothel. To get funds for what they call a “bed & breakfast,” they petition the local government to give them funds. This scenes takes place at the modernist Scottish Parliament building located at the end of the Royal Mile just before you get to Holyrood Palace. The Parliament was designed by Enric Miralles and it’s one of the most striking designs you’ll see in all of the city. Most of the designs were inspired by Gaudi’s work in Barcelona.

For more modern interiors, the scene where Renton recites an updated “Choose Life” monologue takes place at the Harvey Nichols department store’s Forth Floor restaurant. While he chooses life, he can also choose from pan-fried chicken breasts, roasted cod rib-eye steak.

The nightclub scene where Renton and Simon belt out Queen’s “Radio Ga Ga” takes place at the long-running nightclub The Cav. Eventually, Begbie finds Renton in the bathroom and chases him out onto the streets of Edinburgh for more familiar surroundings. It acts like a review of all the places to visit in town like The Royal Mile, the Greenmarket and Cockburn Street.

More of the grittier scenes in slums and council housing was filmed in Glasgow. The main location of Simon’s bar, Port Sunshine, was the Douglas Hotel in Clydebank area of the city. The funniest scene in the more, which I won’t spoil, happens in The Orb, which is located east of the city in the town of Bellshill.

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