When it's time to get away for a vacation, how do you make your choice? Some people like exotic food, others enjoy history or architecture. Movie tourism is also becoming more popular. Cities that have been used as sets for iconic films are using their time on the big screen to bring in more tourists. Several locations in New Zealand that were used as part of the Lord of the Rings sets are famous examples, but that's a whole region and only one film.
The focus here is on individual cities, and we're also including famous television shows. Here are some of the best cities worldwide for movie tourism (you're sure to recognize them from many of your favorite films). All of these cities know this movie tourism market and are cashing in on it, with everything from a simple two-hour walking tour to package deals that include weeks exploring different sets.
Vancouver is a Canadian location that often stands in for another city and completely flies under the radar. Just a few of the iconic shows that have been filmed here include both Deadpool movies, The Grey, Tron Legacy and the entire Fifty Shades of Grey and Scary Movie franchises.
You could spend weeks exploring the various famous sets in Vancouver and the surrounding region, and many people do, both independently and with tours. Vancouver is great for walking and public transit, so don't be nervous about striking out with little more than a map and your phone. The suburbs of Cloverdale and Burnaby are the real-life Smallville, and several locations throughout the town hosted the first six seasons of The X-Files.
Occasionally other cities fill in for New York, so don't be fooled by some movies that claim to take place in the Big Apple. The city itself is such a domineering presence that movies filmed here shamelessly integrate famous locations, in order to give iconic New York a leading role.
Where would movies like The Ghostbusters, When Harry Met Sally or The Fisher King be without that famous skyline in the background? This is the city where Superman and Seinfeld live. It doesn't get much better than that. Movie tours of virtually any kind are easy to find here, and some overlap into nearby cities like Boston or various suburbs, such as New Jersey.
As the headquarters of some of the biggest names in movies and TV, this is an obvious choice. Movie tourism came here a long time ago. Not only can you visit numerous studios, but you can choose from a myriad of different film location tours too.
Like New York, movies that take place here are always about the city as well, to some degree. Falling Down, The Big Lebowski and the first two Terminator movies were filmed here on location, and the mix of careless wealth, middle-class frustration and crowded cityscape fit all three films perfectly.
This may seem like a strange choice, but like Vancouver, there are tax breaks to be had and the expenses stay low. Sometimes the setting is part of the story, such as the thrilling opening scene from Spectre or covert, like the chase scene through the subway in the original Total Recall. Recent hits like Roma have opened up Mexico City to be its own entity in films, on the level of New York or Rome.
Mexico is familiar with the tourist industry, and although there has been a lot of recent expansion, movie tourism isn't new. Thanks to an amazing public transit system, a "hop on hop off" system of sightseeing buses and free WiFi in every public space, all you need is a map and an internet connection to find your favorite movie sets. For a more comprehensive experience, take a tour that includes travel to other cities like Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta.
Movies as we now know them didn't get their start in the United States. It's true that Hollywood took the art to the next level, but if you're into the history of cinema then you have to see Rome. The ancient people of this area knew about mass media, and that knowledge holds fast right up to Federico Fellini himself.
While you're enjoying reliving scenes from the cheerful Roman Holiday, Eat Pray Love or the more somber Rome, Open City, you can also take in the many coliseums, theaters and other examples of ancient entertainment throughout town. In a similar vein to Mexico, Italy knows how to handle tourism, integrating movie tours to Rome with trips to nearby attractions and other famous cities.
The term "Hollywood North" started with Toronto, a cheaper and cleaner alternative to New York. If you were watching a movie in the 1980s or 1990s that took place in a big American city, then dollars to maple glazed donuts you were actually looking at Toronto.
The daring miniseries Queer as Folk took place in Pittsburgh but was actually filmed in Vancouver, similar to standing for Detriot in the original Robocop. Toronto is known for more experimental cinema. The chilling Cube, an infamous horror flick that would make Jigsaw fans cry, got its start here. Once in a while, Toronto appears as itself, such as in Canadian Bacon when the plot comes to a head at the base of the CN Tower.
It might not come to mind immediately, but you'll be surprised at how many movies this city has hosted since the earliest days of filmmaking. Of course, there were famous early films like Lawrence of Arabia and more recent examples include John Wick: Parabellum. The list includes various Bond films, The Mummy, Gladiator, Jewel of the Nile and Sex and the City 2.
This city has had a long time to perfect the art of movie tourism, and it shows. When you visit movie sets in Morocco, you also get to visit distinctive and memorable places from history along with famous movie sets. You can also visit the Atlas Film Studio on the outskirts of town.
It's about the characters and stories in London, as much as it is about the sets and film locations. Famous literary characters who have made their way to the silver screen call London home. Fans of Sherlock Holmes visit Baker Street to see the actual home of the legendary detective, and other local haunts that writers like Charles Dickens made famous.
The tour operators in London are familiar with such demands and there are many options to choose from, whether you want to explore on your own or join a package deal that includes both famous movie sets and landmarks. At the moment, of course, tours with Harry Potter themes are all the rage.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off and The Blues Brothers are examples of classic films that proudly show off their host city, Chicago. During his "day off" Ferris and his friends visit many of the city's more famous and iconic landmarks.
Fans of the John Hughes comedy put the Art Institute of Chicago on their bucket list. During the infamous car chase scene that concludes The Blues Brothers, Jake and Elwood calmly note landmarks and directions. Tours often include famous movie sets along with landmarks like Wrigleyville and Lincoln Park.
Paris can be compared to other recognizable cities that take on a role of their own on film. It's such a distinctive place and just oozes character and romance, it's no wonder film-makers are drawn to its power. You can choose from tours that feature ghosts, art, and food in Paris, so why not films?
There are several guided tours available, which include not only famous filming locations but the swanky haunts of the world's most famous stars, producers and creators. A multi-hour tour of the Montmartre neighborhood features a history lesson that explains the popularity of the area, along with the movies that were filmed there.