Scandal is supposed to take place in Washington, D.C.
But that's not where it's filmed.
Don't let the occasional establishing shot of the real D.C. fool you.
Scandal is filmed almost exclusively in the greater Los Angeles region.
Let's start with the show's most familiar location, the one that pops up in every episode:
the ornate exterior of Olivia's crisis-management firm, Olivia Pope & Associates:
The building with those familiar arching windows is actually the top floors of the Palace Theatre,
located at 630 S. Broadway, in the old theatre district of downtown Los Angeles.
That's on the east side of Broadway, between 6th & 7th Streets.
(In the screencap above, the camera is looking south/southeast.)
Here is a Google StreetView Panorama showing what the building looks like in real life:
As you can see, they cheated a bit. There is actually a vertical sign reading "Palace",
running down that corner, and the left (north) side of the building is actually windowless.
They removed the sign (perhaps digitally), and then used PhotoShop to copy part of
the front of the theatre, and digitally pasted it onto the side of the building.
The Palace Theatre was built in 1911 as a vaudeville house (first called The Orpheum),
and its stage saw performers such as W.C. Fields, the Marx Brothers, Al Jolson,
Bob Hope, Will Rogers and Houdini. It was turned into a movie theatre in the 1940s.
The Palace was also recently seen in the 2013 movie "Hitchcock"
(starring Anthony Hopkins), as the theatre hosting the premiere of Hitchcock's "Psycho"
Here is an aerial photo of the building.
The interior scenes of Olivia's agency are shot on a set, inside a sound stage at
Sunset-Gower Studios, the same studio where they shoot Dexter.
The studio is located (as its name suggests) at the corner of Sunset Blvd & Gower Street, in Hollywood.
Another location seen frequently on the show is the White House gate,
where Olivia negotiates with the security man in the guard house, to get inside.
Although we seem to see the White House just beyond these gates, don't believe it.
These scenes were actually shot at the famous Huntington Library, in San Marino, CA.
But it's a spot that most visitors to the Huntington never see. Located outside of the
main entrance, just west of the entrance drive, there is a smaller road which runs
to the west and leads to the white, marble mausoleum of Henry Huntington.
The gates you see in the screencap above are actually at the very start of that road,
its east end. They added the fake guard booth, and green-screened in the White House.
(What you would really see, if you looked down that road is rows of large trees on both sides.)
The mausoleum itself was used in another scene, in Episode 2 (seen below) in which Abby
approaches a former prostitute (Inez Parks) while she is in the park with her children,
tells her that she knows she used to work for a madam, and asks about another hooker.
The marble mausoleum itself, built in the style of a Greek temple, would fit well into the
landscape of Washington D.C. In fact, it somewhat resembles a small version of the
Jefferson Memorial - except that it was actually built before the Jefferson.
Here is an aerial photo of the mausoleum, with the location of the gates marked.
And speaking of the White House and Hollywood fakery, here's another example:
These scenes, with Olivia talking to the President's Chief of Staff (Cyrus Beene), show what is
supposed to be Lafayette Square Park, with the White House seen in the background.
But these shots were actually filmed in the Rose Garden at Exposition Park, in Los Angeles.
The address is 701 State Drive, just across Exposition Blvd from (south of) the USC campus.
The garden lies east of the Natural History Museum, and west of the Science Center.
The brick wall you see below surrounds the garden. They green-screened in the White House.
I believe the camera is near the central fountain, looking south towards State Street
and the Science Center (which has been digitally erased and replaced by the White House).
Here is an aerial photo of that path and those steps.
( You can see a photo of that distinctive brick wall here. )
Interestingly enough, the popular TV show "Bones" also uses this same Rose Garden, for its shots of
the fictitious Jeffersonian Institute, which (like "Scandal") is also supposed to be in Washington, DC.
[ There have been a number of rose garden scenes during the series. It should be noted that there
is also a large rose garden at The Huntington. Since we know that Scandal filmed several other
scenes at The Huntington, it's possible that some garden scenes were shot there as well. ]
And speaking of the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum...
The whale skeleton you see above, which appeared in the first episode (in a scene where Abby
was grilling Paige's friend, Arial Masse) is housed at the same Natural History Museum.
Here is an aerial photo of the museum and the rose garden.
(For the record, that's a Humboldt fin whale; it measures 63-feet long and weighs 7,000 pounds.)
In Episode 4, Olivia goes to the house of Cyrus Beene, the President's Chief of Staff.
She's met by his gay lover, and tells Cyrus that Amanda Tanner is pregnant.
Cyrus's house shows up a few more times on the show. Whenever Olivia (or anyone else)
goes there, they always seem to find Cyrus out in the back, tending to his flower garden.
This "Washington DC" colonial is actually located at 5133 Louise Ave, in Encino, CA.
That's in the San Fernando Valley, just south of the 105 Freeway.
( It's also just a block north of the Encino Courtyard shopping center
where Steve Carrell's character worked in "The 40 Year-Old Virgin".)
Here is a photo of the house, from a MLS listing:
And here is an aerial view of the house.
[Warning: This is a private home. Do not trespass on their property,
knock on their door, or do anything else that might disturb the residents.]
That restaurant scene from the first episode, where Olivia talks Stephen into proposing to his girlfriend?
That was filmed at the Cicada Club, at 617 S. Olive Street,
(in the 1928 Art Deco Oviatt Building) in downtown L.A.
Read more about it at cicadaclub.com.
In Episode 3, Olivia attends a White House ball in west wing, where she is prevented
from meeting with the President by his Chief of Staff, Cyrus, who has her thrown out.
This scene was shot at the Crystal Ballroom of the Biltmore Hotel,
at 506 S. Grand Ave, in downtown L.A.
Here is a photo of the ballroom from the Biltmore website:
The Biltmore, built in 1923, has long been a favorite location for Hollywood, and has
appeared in countless movies and TV shows, including "Vertigo", "The Sting", "Fight Club",
"Beverly Hills Cop", "Splash", "Chinatown" and "The Poseidon Adventure".
In fact, Scandal shot a lot of their third episode at the Biltmore, including the scene below, where
Quinn meets a pesky reporter at a swanky bar, to try to talk him into remaining quiet.
That is the Gallery Bar, at the Biltmore, located just off the lobby.
And that early scene in Episode 3, where Olivia wakes up a naked guy in a hotel to get him
to go to court? That was the Biltmore too. The shot where Harrison escorts the guy's
girlfriend past the press was shot in the Rendezvous Court of the Biltmore.