One of the most iconic sitcoms ever, Friends ran from 1994 to 2004 on NBC. The series is still one of the most viewed show in history, thanks to countless reruns and streaming options. Let’s take a look at the places where the stories of Ross, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Phoebe, and Joey take place.
Warner Brothers Studios
Friends is set in Manhattan, but the entire series was filmed at the Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank, California. Like other sitcoms, Friends was filmed three-camera style in front of a live studio audience. The first season was filmed on stage 5. Once the show was a hit, production moved to stage 24, due to it’s larger size. When the series ended, Warner Bros. renamed it “The Friends Stage” in honour of the show.
Stage 5 is located in a different area of the Warner Bros. lot, and is the location where the first season of Friends was filmed.
Generally, once a show ends, they dismantle the set. In recent years, however, studios have started to realize the value in preserving the set. Warner Bros. decided to do something unique and include the Central Perk set as part of their studio tour. It was first set up in the props warehouse, where fans could sit on the iconic orange couch and take a photo.
Several years later, WB created Stage 48, a large interactive museum that was the finishing point of the tours. They moved the Central Perk set to be part of this experience. You can have a personal and professional photo taken on the set. They even give you the chance to participate in a recreation of a Friends scene.
The Warner Bros. Studios has various backlots that were used for filming Friends scenes that couldn’t be filmed indoors. Studios like Warner Bros. are experts in using the same location over and over. Using slight cosmetic alterations and different camera angles, you’d never know you are seeing the same sets over and over again.
Along Hennessy Street is a back alley that was the setting for a memorable scene. This is where Rachel and Monica hid while checking out Jean Claude Van Damme as he was filming a movie.
Warner Bros. has a small field which was used as a city park where Ross joins a game of Rugby. This location is now where the Friends fountain sits (see below).
There is also a small park with trees which was used in “The One Where Phoebe Runs.” These scenes feature Phoebe and Rachel going for a run in Central Park.
There are several houses located along Midwest Street, and one of them was used in a memorable episode of Friends. In “The One With The Prom Video” they flash back to home videos taken before Monica and Rachel’s prom. One of the home’s interiors was used for these home videos. The producers wanted to make it appear the video was taken in a real house as opposed to a set.
Another house on the backlot was used as Frank Jr’s house, where Phoebe first meets her brother, and has a run-in with a dog as well.
The Friends Fountain
Where in New York City is that fountain???
Tour guides in NYC love to point out the famous Friends fountain, used in the opening credits. Often, guides will direct you to the fountain at Lincoln Center, Washington Square Park, or Cherry Hill and Bethesda Terrace in Central Park. The only catch is, they are all wrong. They might be misleading you or just mistaken, but none of the fountains are from Friends.
The actual fountain used is located in Burbank, California, nowhere close to NYC. It was originally at the Warner Bros. Ranch, which is a separate location from the main Warner Bros. Studios. The Ranch is a small studio, opened in 1934. In the centre of the studio is a small park, where the fountain was located. Just across the street is a row of European style apartment buildings. The twinkling lights of the Manhattan skyline were added in post-production.
Unfortunately the Ranch is not open to the public, so getting a picture at the Friends fountain was almost impossible. The closest you can get is a peak in the gate. You can catch a glimpse of some of the buildings in the distance.
Here are a couple photos courtesy of ColumbiaRanch.net, which has lots of great history and information regarding the Ranch.
The Move to Warner Bros. Hollywood Lot
In 2019, due to the impending sale of the Ranch, Warner Bros. had the fountain dug up and moved to the main Warner Bros. Studios.
I have mixed feelings on the fountain being moved. On the one hand, it’s a shame that it was taken away from the spot where it sat for 70+ years. I also hate the idea of the Ranch possibly being destroyed. I would much prefer the Ranch be preserved and opened to the public for tours.
That being said, if the Ranch is going to disappear, it’s good that the fountain will be preserved for future generations of Friends fans and studio historians to visit.
The Fountain can now be seen by visitors to the Warner Bros. Hollywood Tour. It is located just off their Midwest Street backlot, and while the backdrop is different, it is the original Friends fountain.
Check out this video I put together about the location of the Friends fountain:
The Friends Building
New York City is home to the apartment building from Friends. It is located at the corner of Bedford and Grove Streets in Greenwich Village. The exterior of this building was used for establishing shots in almost every episode, and will be instantly recognizable. While the actors never filmed scenes there, the building is a bucket list location for any Friends fan.
Right across the street from the building is the apartment that originally belonged to Ugly Naked Guy, and then becomes Ross’s apartment in later seasons.
During the entire series, Phoebe lives in an apartment building located at 5 Morton Street. Despite Rachel telling Phoebe she lives far away, the apartment is only a few minutes walk from the main Friends building. Phoebe originally lived here with her grandmother, and then kept the apartment for herself when her grandmother passed away. Phoebe had a roommate, Denise, who she talked about all the time. Rachel also lived here briefly, and eventually Phoebe lived with her husband, Crap Bag.
Two different theatres are used for establishing shots. In the first season episode “The One With The Butt” we see Joey performing in a new musical “Freud!” The Cherry Lane Theatre, just 2 blocks from the Friends building in Greenwich Village, was used for establishing shots in this episode.
In season 3, the Lucille Lortel Theatre appeared in three episodes, as establishing shots for a Sci-fi romance play “Boxing Day” that Joey stars in. Like the Cherry Lane, this theatre is located just a block away from the Friends building.
In the first few seasons, Chandler works in statistical analysis and data reconfiguration as a “transponster”. We see his office a number of times. The building used for establishing shots is the Solow Building, located at 9 West 57th Street. It has a notable curved base, and has a combination of residential and office space.
Leo Carrillo Beach
In “The One With The Jellyfish”, we see Monica, Chandler, and Joey visiting the beach. This is where Joey digs his hole, and where Monica is stung by a jellyfish. These scenes were filmed at Leo Carrillo Beach in Malibu. This popular filming location was also used in The Karate Kid, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Grace and Frankie, The Good Place, Grease, and many others.
In “The One With Joey’s Big Break” we see Joey arriving at a movie set in the desert. Unfortunately for Joey, they shut down the production when they run out of money. Scenes for the movie set were filmed on locations at Vasquez Rocks, just outside Santa Clarita. This area is very popular for filming, and has been used many times in various Star Trek series and movies, as well as movies like The Grind and The Flintstones.
In the same episode, once the movie is shut down, Joey gets a job at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The gang then flies out to see Joey, and they stay at the casino hotel as well. While all the interior scenes were filmed on sets at Warner Bros, the show did use a shot of the hotel for an establishing shot.
When the gang traveled to London for Ross’s wedding to Emily, the show also went over to London. For the first and only time, the show was filmed in front of a studio audience outside of Warner Bros. The show filmed at the former Fountain Studios in Wembley. The site is now used as an event space, and is also home to the Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre.
A special edition book was released during the shows run, featuring the filming of the episodes in London. You can read more about this book on my filming locations books page.
The show did film at a number of locations around the city. These include the Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, and Big Ben, where Joey meets Sarah Ferguson.
If you have any questions or thoughts about Friends or the filming locations, please share with me in the comment section below.