8 Bogus Tourist Attractions People Believe Are Real

PHOTO: PATRICK FRILET/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK.
It seems ironic that in a world where there is such a strong focus on the "authentic," there are so many attractions that are anything but. Their claims to fame are based on shaky ground, and they were created to attract tourists and make money — historical facts be damned.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t visit. The key is going into these experiences with your eyes wide open — and with an ability to set aside inconvenient truths. With that in mind, we've identified eight well-known tourist spots with origins that range from suspect to just plain fraudulent. Travelers beware.
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Juliet’s Balcony in Verona, Italy
Each year, thousands of fans captivated by Shakespeare’s legendary tale about star-crossed lovers flock to the balcony where Romeo and Juliet supposedly confessed their undying love. The trouble is, it isn’t the same balcony. (And in fact, there technically was no balcony in the play, because balconies did not exist in Shakespeare's time.) This one came much later, in the 17th century, and was built because visitors to Verona wanted it to exist. Maybe worse, there’s no evidence that the house where it’s located even belonged to Juliet or her family. Still, tourists continue to visit the site and use chewing gum to stick love notes to the walls.
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Photo: NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock.
House of the Virgin Mary, Ephesus, Turkey
If you ask the pilgrims who come regularly to Mount Koressos (also called Nightingale Mountain), this small stone house is a holy place where the Virgin Mary lived the last years of her life — though there’s nothing definitive to back up those claims. Even the Catholic Church itself has never verified them. Part of the problem is that the house was discovered in 1881, thanks to the ambiguous ramblings of a German nun who, while in a trance, described it. The Vatican has nevertheless allowed it to be designated as a "holy site."
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The Sherlock Holmes Museum, 221B Baker Street, London
In theory, this museum is located at one of the most famous addresses in literature — 221B Baker Street. But the facts don’t back that up. That address didn’t exist when Sherlock Holmes and John Watson supposedly lived there, from 1881 to 1904. And it still doesn’t exist today. If facts were relevant, the actual street address for this attraction would be 239 Baker Street. Of course, why not have a fictional address for a fictional character?
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Photo: Patrick Frilet/REX/Shutterstock.
The Prehistoric Wall (Mural de la Prehistoria), near Pinar del Rio, Cuba
Americans are on the cusp of being able to visit Cuba without any red tape, but they should go armed with the knowledge that there are also several tourist traps on the island. One of the most notorious is the Prehistoric Wall. It’s a popular stop for sightseeing buses doing day trips in the mountains of Vinales, and visitors must pay an admission charge (of about $15) to see the garish mural. The only problem? It was painted in 1961, so there's nothing prehistoric about it.
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Photo: Gilbert M. Grosvenor/Getty Images.
Hans Brinker tourism, Netherlands
Mark Twain once remarked, “Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story.” So he would likely be okay with the slew of tourist attractions that have sprung up around Holland to honor Hans Brinker, the fictional character created by American author Mary Mapes Dodge in her 1865 book of the same name (also called The Silver Skates). In the book, Dodge wrote about a Dutch kid who stuck his finger in a leaking dike to prevent his town from being destroyed by a flood. Americans were enchanted and sought to visit sites connected to the character. But they didn’t exist. To appease curious tourists, statues of Hans were erected in cities such as Spaarndam and Harlingen. In Amsterdam, a plaque marks the spot where the mythical boy was born, even giving him a birth date (August 27, 1799).
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Photo: David Bagnall/REX/Shutterstock.
Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin, Germany
The famous border-crossing between East and West Germany ceased operation in 1990 with the unification of Germany. Previously, it was the site of dark moments in history. Many people died there as East Germans tried to escape communist rule into West Germany. It was the only spot where the U.S. and Soviet armies faced off during the Cold War in 1961. But the original guard shack and other buildings were eventually demolished or moved. What stands there now are very loose interpretations of what once existed. Fake soldiers charge tourists a real fee to take their photos, and vendors sell homemade chunks of the Berlin Wall, touted as authentic. There’s even a McDonald’s and fast food carts offering Checkpoint curry sausage. It all amounts to a sad scene at a historically significant place.
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Photo: Arcaid/REX/Shutterstock.
Plymouth Rock, Plymouth, Massachusetts
It may be the most famous rock in American history. The story goes that the pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock — a stepping stone to a new, undiscovered land — in 1620. But there’s a lack of facts to support that story. It was 121 years after that event when a local man identified a 10-ton boulder as the precise site of the pilgrims’ arrival. He claimed his father told him that some original passengers of the Mayflower told him that the rock was the real deal. This shaky oral history was good enough to latch onto, and, almost four centuries later, we’re still buying into the idea that Plymouth Rock is authentic, despite the lack of any hard evidence.
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Photo: Michael Fresco/REX/Shutterstock.
Bridge on the River Kwai, Kanchanaburi, Thailand
The local community had a problem on its hands after the release of director David Lean’s movie, Bridge over the River Kwai, in 1957. Specifically: There was no bridge. It was fiction. There was a bridge built by POWs during the Second World War under brutal conditions imposed by the Japanese, but it was over the Mae Khlaung river. Not wanting to disappoint tourists, they simply renamed it Kwae Yai to get the bridge that could be turned into a tourist attraction. For the movie, the small village of Kitulgala, Ceylon (now called Sri Lanka), was the actual setting for the famous scene in which POWs blow up the bridge.
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