Where in the world: Pinning down the 108 scenes in ‘Sense8’ intro

Iceland's Gullfoss waterfall, shown during the opening credits in "Sense8." | Photos courtesy Netflix

Few TV shows’ title sequences are as mesmerizing as the one in “Sense8,” with its colorful barrage of exotic images culled from eight countries.

The nearly 2-minute-long clip — set to atmospheric music by “Sense8” director Tom Tykwer (“Run Lola Run”) and his Pale 3 bandmate Johnny Klimek — sets the tone for Netflix’s wanderlusty thriller about global connectivity.

More than 100 scenes went into it, most of them shot by Karin Winslow, who’s married to “Sense8” co-creator Lana Wachowski. While Lana and her team filmed the 12-episode season last year on location, Winslow ventured off in a rental car with a camera assistant, scouring the surroundings for interesting faces and places.

“My directive from Lana was to go out and describe each country by what you see; find the nuances, find the food, find what people are doing, get a feel for the place,” Winslow said in a phone interview from her San Francisco home. “It was one of the funnest things I’ve ever done in my life.”

Here’s a breakdown of where each of these 108 slices of life comes from. Read it while you watch the opening credits roll. The images are fast and fleeting, so unless you’re Evelyn Wood, be prepared to give that pause button a workout:

1-9. The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco at sunrise kicks off a string of mostly aerial footage of Chicago (2), Iceland (3), London (4), Berlin’s domed Bode Museum along River Spree (5), Nairobi, Kenya (6), Mexico City (7), Seoul, South Korea (8) and the Bandra-Worli sea link bridge in Mumbai, India (9).

10. Rainbow over Gullfoss waterfall in Iceland.

11. Neon sign of Twin Peaks Tavern, a gay bar in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco.

12. Baby elephants nuzzling at an elephant orphanage in Nairobi. “They rescue these orphans whose moms had gotten poached or killed in some way,” said Winslow, who gave me behind-the-scenes anecdotes about many of the scenes she shot. “You can watch them get fed with these big bottles. It’s heartbreaking but sweet.”

13. Afternoon tea at London’s Haymarket Hotel.

14. A man at Mumbai’s laundromat, Dhobi Ghat. “That guy was just sleeping on a desk. It was powerful.”

15. Arch of the Revolution in Mexico City’s Plaza de la Republica.

16. Monroe Street in the Wachowski siblings’ native Chicago, a city Winslow spends a lot of time in. She filmed this scene from the Renzo Piano-designed pedestrian bridge connecting the Art Institute’s Modern Wing with Millennium Park. “I stood there forever to get the two L trains and the bus. It was not kismet.”

17. Hangang Bridge over the Han River in Seoul.

Hangang Bridge in Seoul. | Netflix

Hangang Bridge in Seoul. | Netflix

18. Giraffe in Nairobi. “There’s a nature park that goes through Nairobi and the animals migrate through there. I went there at sunrise to get this shot and it was the cloudiest, most overcast day.”

19. Religious trinkets and memorabilia for sale at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.

20. Giant Buddha statue at Bongeunsa Temple in Seoul.

21. Berlin’s Molecule Man sculpture by American sculptor Jonathan Borofsky.

22. Pyramid of the Sun at the ancient ruins of Teotihuacán, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in Mexico. The once-thriving city is believed to date back to 100 BC. (An earlier version of this story erroneously attributed the ruins to the Aztecs. An astute reader pointed out my mistake.)

23. Cloud Gate — better known in Chicago as “The Bean” — by Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor.

24. Icelandic horses.

READ MORE: Hollywood isn’t the only one seduced by Iceland’s charms

25. London cab crosses the Thames River on Tower Bridge.

26. Mumbai’s 19th century train station, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

27. Lighthouse in southwest Iceland.

28. Seoul’s spaceship-like Dongdaemun Design Plaza, billed as the world’s largest three-dimensional amorphous architectural structure. Built without any straight walls or lines to evoke flowing water, the DDP was designed by Zaha Hadid, an Iraqi-born architect based in Britain.

29. Dusty streets of Nairobi.

30. Old Royal Library on the Bebelplatz during Berlin’s annual Festival of Lights in October.

31. Lincoln Park Zoo’s honeycomb-like pavilion on the nature boardwalk in Chicago.

Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo. | Netflix

Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo. | Netflix

32. N Seoul Tower, a k a Namsan Tower.

33. Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

34. Cottage in Iceland. “What you would see if there wasn’t cloud coverage behind it is a massive glacier. I probably drove six hours total to get a shot of the ocean, this green hill and the glacier behind it, but of course the clouds are blocking the glacier.”

35. Buckingham Fountain in Chicago.

36. Haji Ali Dargah, a mosque and the tomb on an islet off the coast of Worli in Mumbai.

37. Tower Bridge in London.

38. Cricket game in Mumbai.

39. Fruit stall in Nairobi.

40. Sheep in Iceland.

41. Sausages grilling during Berlin’s Oktoberfest celebration in Alexanderplatz.

42. Street art in Berlin’s colorful Hackescher Markt. “It’s just a cool, weird, beautiful Berlin place” in the Mitte borough.

43. London Tube.

44. Street scene in Nairobi, shot from the roof of a transient hotel.

45. Chowpatty Beach in Mumbai.

46. Cable car in front of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.

47. Houses of Parliament in London.

48. Lava erupts from Iceland’s Bardarbunga volcano. “It was the coolest thing I think I’ve ever seen. I had to pinch myself.”

Aerial view of an eruption at Iceland's Bardarbunga volcano. | Netflix

Aerial view of an eruption at Iceland’s Bardarbunga volcano. | Netflix

49. Mexico City’s Angel of Independence, built in 1910 to commemorate the centennial of the start of Mexico’s War of Independence.

50. Zebras in a Nairobi nature park. “I saw this group of zebras and all of a sudden two of them started fighting. It was pure luck that I got that shot.”

51. L stop in Chicago.

52. Waves crashing on the southwest tip of Iceland. “That was a dangerous shot to get because the tide was coming in. Those waves were probably 40 feet high. It was so incredibly beautiful and violent.”

53. Angel statute at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.

54. Traffic in Mumbai. “This spot is interesting; it’s where the tuk tuks and the taxis meet. One part of the city only has tuk tuks and one part has taxis. Here’s one of the rare places where you see them both is one spot.”

55. Woman working on a tea plantation in Nairobi.

Tea plantation in Nairobi, Kenya. | Netflix

Tea plantation in Nairobi, Kenya. | Netflix

56. Huntress Diana Fountain in a roundabout at Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City.

57. “That’s a geothermal plant. They were kind of all over the place in Iceland. This was one I saw randomly in the middle of nowhere and I just thought it was so beautiful.”

58. Gangnam district in Seoul.

59. Brandenburg Gate in Berlin during the lights festival.

60. San Francisco’s Castro, the most famous gay neighborhood in the United States.

61. Pedestrians in Seoul cross the street, Gangnam-style. “This is, like, 9 o’clock at night on a weekday. The mass of people there is incredible.”

62. Kids in Nairobi. (Winslow only spent a few days in Nairobi; some of the Kenyan footage was shot by Tykwer and his team.)

63. The al fresco Dhobi Ghat laundromat in Mumbai. “It’s this incredible place where people rent a cleaning area for something like $9 a month and bring their laundry there to clean it.”

Dhobi Ghat open-air laundromat in Mumbai. | Netflix

Dhobi Ghat open-air laundromat in Mumbai. | Netflix

64. Beer bike in Berlin.

65. Skeleton faces decorated for Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).

66. Statue of poet, philosopher and historian Friedrich Schiller in front of the concert hall in Berlin’s Gendarmenmarkt.

67. Clark the Cub mascot at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

68. Soccer in Nairobi.

69. A street performer in Mexico City painting a portrait of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

70. Little girl dancing at the Reykjavik Culture Night festival in Iceland.

71. Woman selling bubble blowers in Mumbai.

72. Bridge leading to St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. “Those people in the yellow vests, they were doing the British version of that monthly bike ride, Critical Mass.”

73. Two guys sharing an ice cream cone in San Francisco during Pride weekend.

74. Navy Pier Ferris Wheel in Chicago.

75. An “elf expert” in Iceland. Many Icelanders — like Riley in “Sense8” — believe in elves called Huldufolk (Icelandic for “hidden folk”). “This woman is an expert on the hidden people and she took us on a tour and we filmed her for a little documentary.”

76. Mexico City’s main plaza, the Zocalo, formally known as Plaza de la Constitucion. The giant Mexican flag is ceremonially raised and lowered each day by Mexican soldiers.

Mexico City's massive Zocalo. | Netflix

Mexico City’s massive Zocalo. | Netflix

77. Girls in Nairobi.

78. An erupting geyser on the popular Golden Circle route in Iceland.

79. Harpa, the modern-looking concert hall and conference center in Reykjavik, Iceland.

80. Mariachi band in Xochimilcho, a popular spot to take a ride on festive boats on canals located on the outskirts of Mexico City.

81. Culture Night festival in Reykjavik. (And no, that woman with the orange hair is not Lana Wachowski.)

82. Men dressed up as Vikings in Reykjavik.

83. Uniformed school boys in Nairobi.

84. Man at Haji Ali Dargah mosque in Mumbai. “That guy was funny. He came up to me and asked to take my picture. I was like, ‘Sure, if I can take yours.’”

85. Winslow’s Berlin-based friend from Italy who was showing her around the city.

86. Street market in Seoul.

87. Flower stall vendor in Mumbai.

88. Muslims in Nairobi.

89. Motorcycle bikers in Reykjavik.

90. Random man in Mexico City. “I just happened to be driving by and this guy had this headdress on and a hotdog T-shirt.”

91. Wedding party in Chicago. “That was part of a really long time-lapse I did. I was next to Navy Pier by the water treatment plant on a sunny June weekend. I sat there for about an hour and saw probably 10 groups of wedding parties getting their photos taken.”

92. Dolores Park in San Francisco.

93. Gateway of India in Mumbai. “This couple was doing a photo shoot for their wedding.”

94. Carousel at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.

Carousel in front of Berlin's Brandenburg Gate. | Netflix

Carousel in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate. | Netflix

95. Carousel in Nairobi.

96. Women dancing in Mumbai.

97. People walking in Reykjavik.

98. Performers in Mexico City dangle from ropes during a Danza de los Voladores (Dance of the Flyers) ritual.

99. Geena Rocero, a transgender model, activist and founder of Gender Proud. “She did a TED talk on trans issues. We were shooting at Pink Saturday in Dolores Park during Pride weekend and she was about to go on stage.”

100. Kids playing in a fountain in Seoul.

101. Ganesha Festival in Mumbai. The annual Hindu celebration honors the elephant-headed god Ganesha.

102. Orange flags of protestors who flooded Mexico City’s main plaza on behalf of the 43 student teachers who disappeared in southern Mexico in late September. “It was incredible. The protestors took over the square.”

103. Buskers in San Francisco.

104. Street art in London’s Spitalfields Market.

105. Ganesha Festival in Mumbai.

106. More protestors in Mexico City (see No. 102).

107. Crowds celebrating the Ganesha Festival in Mumbai.

108. Fog rolling in off the hills in San Francisco.

READ MORE: Binge on new Netflix series ‘Sense8,’ a feast for the eyes


  • Daiyu Hurst says:

    The use of oversaturated colors made the intro very trippy to watch. Kudos!

  • G. W. says:

    Did Winslow and Wachowski edit the Opening Titles?

  • Arturo Magidin says:

    Teotihuacan is not an Aztec ruin; Teotihuacan had been abandoned by the 10th century, and the aztecs did not arise until the 12th or 13th centuries. Teotihuacan was likely a zapotec or mixtec ruin.

    • Lori Rackl says:

      You’re right. The name Teotihuacan is Aztec, not the ruins themselves. Thanks for pointing that out. I’ll make the fix in the story.

      • Arturo Magidin says:

        Cool; and thanks for this list. It was great an exactly what I was looking for after watching a few episodes!

    • Eliabeth Owen says:

      Thank you for pointing this out. As a graduate of Pre-Columbian and early colonial Aztec Art, I was excited when I saw the intro to see the Pyramid of the Sun shown for a brief second. I get picky with my Mesoamerican art and architecture. I would have done the same!!!

    • Eliabeth Owen says:

      Thanks for correctly pointing out that the Pyramid of the Sun is NOT Aztec. It was indeed a City populated by various Pre-Columbian people and cultures.

  • Heath Albertson says:

    What stunning footage of culturally rich and diverse locales! Gratitude and kudos to Wislow and the team! I couldn’t continue watching the show until I’d found this information. Thank you for the post!

    Two very small cultural critiques:
    #54 – In Bombay/Mumbai, tuk tuks are called auto rickshaws, autos, or ricks. They’re not allowed in South Bombay but taxis are allowed all over the city.
    #63 – The men who wash clothes at Dhobi Ghat do this full-time as an occupation and take great pride in their work.

    Thanks, again!

  • Angela says:

    I didn’t expect to find an answer to my google search but I guess miracles can happen! When I took the time to watch the opening sequence (rather than blow pass it ‘cos Netflix binging needs) I was blown away by the number of places around the world they were showing. <3 Thank you!

  • Alex says:

    Cool! But not of all of there are correct.
    I’m Dutch and see at least four images Dutch images (and can only speak for these images I recognise of course).
    1) The image following the ostrich (which I do not see mentioned) is of the Amsterdam canals (Brouwersgracht to be exact)
    2) The herring eater is probably Dutch 😉
    3) The houses on 1:25 can be found in Amsterdam
    4) no. 66 is 100% the Statue of Rembrandt and part his most famous painting The Nightwatch (Rembrandt Square, Amsterdam).

  • Bastian says:

    Thanks much for this, I love this opening!

    Two corrections regarding Nairobi though:
    – There are no tea fields directly in Nairobi. The closest ones are about 30km out of town.
    – The park is called “Nairobi National Park”, not “Nairobi Nature Park”.

    As an anecdote, that street scene #44 is Latema Road, one of the main matatu termini. The small stall on the island at the end of the road is a smoker’s room. These exist because smoking cigarettes on the streets is forbidden in Nairobi.

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