Many places that were once virtually unknown are now some of the most popular tourist attractions in the world. And while most destinations have become known through word-of-mouth, others have movie and TV sets to thank for their sudden fame.
Some films and shows are set in locations that are already popular to begin with, such as French Kiss set in Paris (naturellement), Only You in Rome, and let’s not count how many hundreds of movies and series are set in New York City. But every once in a while, producers look for a remote or little-known location to film their projects, taking pains to film in these places rather than just build the location on-set, all for the sake of authenticity. And luckily (or sometimes, unluckily) for these locations, they experience an influx of tourism as a consequence of the film or show. These sites are instantly catapulted to fame and commercialization.
Petra (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade)
If one of the most popular movie franchises in the world films a scene in a location near you, rest assured your area will be swarmed with hordes of tourists from the time the movie hits the big screen. Who can forget the climax of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, when Indiana Jones (played by Harrison Ford) and his father had to bring their Nazi “friends” to the location of the Holy Grail in their quest for eternal life? The Treasury in the Rose City of Petra, Jordan stood in as the temple where the Grail was hidden. Since the film’s release, Petra has seen a rise in the number of tourists from a few thousand to a million a year. It’s also been named a Wonder of the Modern World.
Doune Castle (Monty Python and the Holy Grail)
Comedy group Monty Python created for itself quite a cult following back in its heyday in the 70s and 80s. One of its most popular films was Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which spoofs King Arthur and his knights’ quest for the elusive Cup of Jesus. The movie was filmed in Scotland and producers chose Doune Castle as the setting for several of its scenes. The areas of the castle that were used were the Great Hall, which was supposed to be Camelot and the east wall during the start of the film, among others. Fans still visit the castle to this day.
Angkor Wat (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider)
We all know Angelina Jolie’s eldest child, Maddox, was adopted in Cambodia. But not too many know that her reason for adopting from this third world country was because she had spent a good amount of time in Angkor, Cambodia, filming Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. And the movie certainly put this war-torn, seemingly far-flung country on the map. A highlight of the film was shot in Angkor Wat, a beautiful cluster of temples that is breathtaking to behold especially at sunrise. Because of the movie, Cambodia has gone from being isolated to becoming one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in Asia.
Chatsworth House (Pride and Prejudice, 2005)
What makes the English countryside so picturesque is its unending rolling green pastures and the stately country homes that dot its horizon. One such place is Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, a grand estate belonging to the Duke of Devonshire. It was not only used as a backdrop for many films, but it’s also been mentioned in Jane Austen’s celebrated novel, Pride and Prejudice. Perhaps in honor of this mention, the film version done in 2005 decided on Chatsworth as the setting for Pemberley, the elegant home of Mr. Darcy. Tours are offered for the fans, who are more than happy to drink in the history and culture that Chatsworth House so thoroughly offers.
Steps in front of Philadelphia Museum of Art (Rocky)
The once sleepy town of Philadelphia now sees many tourists, who visit it to view the “Rocky Steps,” made famous by Oscar-winning film, Rocky. The Rocky Steps are actually found in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and in the film, Rocky Balboa, played by Sylvester Stallone, runs up the steps to the song, “Gonna Fly Now.” The 72 stone steps have become so famous because of the movie, that a bronze statue of Rocky was placed in a grassy area near the foot of the steps.
Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey)
The producers, crew, and cast of British period drama, Downton Abbey never expected it to reach the corners of the earth in what’s considered a British phenomenon. But reach far and wide it did and it’s but natural that the fans have taken an interest in the main star of the show: the house. In real life, Downton Abbey is actually Highclere Castle, an estate belonging to the Earl of Carnarvon in Hampshire, England. The owners of the house accept tours and there are certainly many who make the trip to the estate to get their taste of their favorite fictional aristocratic family.
New Zealand (Lord of the Rings films)
Once known as the sparsely populated neighbor of Australia with more cattle than people, New Zealand has director Peter Jackson to thank for being put on the map. The director and his crew chose New Zealand as the primary location for filming the Lord of the Rings series of movies to be able to capture middle-earth. Various locations in New Zealand are seen in the films, such as Otaki Gorge Road for The Shire, Harcourt Park in Upper Hutt as the Gardens of Isengard, and Kaitoke Regional Park used as the setting for Rivendell. To capitalize on the country’s newfound popularity, a Lord of the Rings tour was established and many of the franchise’s fans flock to New Zealand to take part in it.
Alnwick Castle (Harry Potter films)
With a little computer graphics and amazing cinematography, Alnwick Castle was transformed into Hogwarts, the famous wizardry school from the Harry Potter films. Located at Northumberland, the original structure was built in 1096 and has since been receiving 800,000 visitors a year, thanks to Harry Potter. Both the castle’s interior and exterior serve as Hogwarts and it’s the epitome of what English castles truly looked like back in the day.
Salzburg (The Sound of Music)
It can very well be the place where music thrives to the fullest. Yes, it’s known as the birthplace of Mozart, but the little town of Salzburg in Austria is more popularly known as the setting for one of the most famous movie musicals of all time: The Sound of Music. The producers of the movie used some of the most beautiful locations of Salzburg as backdrops for the story and of course, the music. The Mirabell Gardens and fountain have become iconic as the areas where Maria and the Von Trapp children sang “Do-Re-Mi.” And several castles were used as interiors of the Von Trapp house. Because of all the tourists wanting to see the sites of the movie, Sound of Music tour groups have sprouted like mushrooms and cater to thousands of folk every year.
Forks, Washington (Twilight series)
To those not familiar with the Twilight saga, Forks, Washington is indeed a real town. Though Forks is the main setting of the movies, they weren’t actually filmed there. Still, fans are familiar with the landmarks because they resemble the locations in the books and films. It’s still a tiny town with a population of less than 4,000, but due to the films’ immense popularity, the town now sees more tourists than townsfolk annually, fans who want to see the forests, beaches, rivers, and other locations featured in Edward Cullen land. Year-round tour groups are available, as well as souvenir shops selling Twilight memorabilia and merchandise.