The real star of Netflix’s new romantic comedy? Dunedin.
Netflix’s latest romantic comedy film The Royal Treatment is set in the fictional country of Lavania. Never heard of it? Put your atlas away. Presumably Lavania borders Montenaro and Aldovia (settings of fellow Netflix royal romances The Princess Switch and A Christmas Prince) on the wall map of fictional realms, but Lavania is by far the best fictional country of them all. That’s because Lavania is actually Dunedin.
Filming for The Royal Treatment took place in Otago in February and March last year, with various streets around Dunedin and Oamaru being transformed into New York City and Lavania. The best city in the south has metamorphosed like a commoner about to marry her prince, bringing the Otago region to a global audience of thirsty rom-com fans.
The story follows New York hairdresser Izzy (Laura Marano, star of Disney Channel fave Austin & Ally), who after an unlikely mix-up is hired to do the hair for an upcoming royal wedding. Handsome groom Prince Thomas (Aladdin’s Mena Massoud) is preparing to marry American heiress Lauren, but once Izzy and her two best friends travel to Lavania, things don’t run quite to plan.
We all know how this goes, right? Izzy and Thomas have an instant connection. She treats him like a normal person, he encourages her to follow her dreams. They fall in love, but his wicked parents need him to marry well to protect the crown. What’s a prince to do?
Don’t let the stereotype of a Hallmark-style rom-com put you off The Royal Treatment. It’s predictable, yes. Silly, definitely. But it’s also a delightful watch, full of energy and humour and New Zealand acting talent, and it’s a modern take on a classic fairytale. In fact, this is me now, driving in my royal car along my royal road, thinking about when I can watch The Royal Treatment again:
At the very least, you can watch to spy some of Otago’s most well-known landmarks. Here are some of the more recognisable places that pop up during The Royal Treatment.
Here, Vogel Street is transformed into urban New York with a few magical touches. All of the New York hairdressing scenes were filmed around Vogel Street and the Warehouse Precinct, which shows that when you chuck a digitally enhanced train and a yellow school bus into the background, Dunedin is basically the same as the Big Apple.
This is where Isabella goes to cut the prince’s hair for the first time. Fable Dunedin boasts “high speed WiFi” and a “selection of exquisite Pure Leaf Single Origin teas”, which I hope the prince got to enjoy.
Camp Estate at Larnach Castle
This country house at Larnach Castle on the Otago Peninsula became the prince’s glamorous hotel suite. It’s here that Izzy refuses to cut Prince Thomas’s hair when he doesn’t defend his staff, and where bride-to-be Lauren hangs out with her scheming parents. Good news, you can book to stay at Camp Estate and live out your own marrying-a-royal fantasy in your own time.
Welcome to the Lavanian coast, famous for its big trees, long grass and warmish waters.
It’s New Zealand’s only castle, but now old mate Larnach’s big house will be recognised around the world as the royal residence of Lavania. This is where Izzy and her hairdresser BFFs spend weeks preparing for the royal wedding, getting drunk in the kitchen with the servants and having a wonderful time at the expense of the poor Lavanian taxpayer. Great views, great hedges.
The historic home in Dunedin is now a palace fit for a prince with a good suit and a bad fringe. It’s where Izzy and her friends Destiny and Lola are terrified by real-life Lotto presenter (and sometime Spinoff contributor) Sonia Gray, who gives a memorable performance as Madame Fabre, a French hairdresser with a disturbing perfectionist streak.
Inside Larnach Castle
Like Olveston, it seems little needed to be changed inside Larnach Castle to give off a suitably regal bedroom vibe. Those eiderdowns just scream “royalty”, and those lamps? Pretty sure I saw them in The Crown.
It seems there are only two streets in Lavania, and this is one of them. Parts of Otago University around the Registry Building (also known as the Clocktower Building) were converted into the town market, which Izzy visits on her first day in Lavania. It’s like O Week, but without the vomit.
The Victorian quarter, Oamaru
When Izzy wanders down an alleyway and crosses the train tracks, she finds herself in Uber de Gleise, a lively part of town with a bad reputation. It’s here Izzy finds the true purpose in her life. Last time I visited Oamaru’s Victorian quarter I found a free macracon, so we are basically the same person.
Vogel Street, again
It’s Pretty Woman all over again, except this time the heroine has already rescued herself and the prince just bought his horse along for the ride. It’s the happy ending that both Lavania and Dunedin deserves.
The Royal Treatment is available now on Netflix.