Not sure where to travel next? Just follow the signs!
Hollywood… the world’s most recognisable sign
Check out our pick of the best, from the world-renowned one in Hollywood to a controversial one in Paris.
Hollywood, California, USA
Probably the world’s most recognisable sign, it was first erected as Hollywoodland in 1923 to promote a property development – basically, it was a sheet metal billboard with 3,750 lights, 30ft letters and cost $21,000, around $330,000 today.
It was only intended to be on the hillside for 18 months but as the movie industry in the area grew, it became synonymous with the place and was left there (tragically, a young actress jumped to her death from the sign in 1932).
After years of neglect and two patch-ups, the land was removed in 1949 and it was repaired again.
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By the late 1970s, it was extremely dilapidated and a public campaign to restore it was kickstarted by Playboy magazine owner Hugh Hefner, supported by stars such as Andy Williams, Alice Cooper and commercial interests including Warner Bros Records and the Hollywood Independent newspaper.
The revamped sign was unveiled with new 45ft letters and, after spruce-ups in 2003 and 2013, it is getting ready for its centenary. It truly is a 450ft-long sign of the times.
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Like Hollywood, oh so recognisable.
This 25ft tall beauty has been welcoming people to fabulous Sin City since 1959.
Around 5.6 million international visitors a year normally head to Vegas and for the first-timers (and many returnees) it’s obligatory to grab a selfie here.
Fabulous Vegas: A mandatory stop for a snap
The sign has its own website, though it’s pretty limited.
P.S. Don’t miss the Neon Museum in Downtown Vegas, home to many classic old signs
Land’s End, Cornwall
Dating from the 1950s, what may be Britain’s most photographed signpost marks the starting or finishing point for 874-mile John O’Groats End-to-Enders.
It is part of a heavily commercialised tourist attraction and a local photography company owns the sign, so if you want a picture by it you need to dig out your wallet or purse.
Want a picture at Land’s End? Be ready to pay
Nonetheless, it is worth seeing at least, and the scenery is spectacular.
Penny Lane, Liverpool
A simple street sign in the blue suburban skies of Liverpool, yet of global musical significance thanks to the genius of John Lennon and Paul McCartney in 1967.
Beatles fans flock here for photo opportunities and on tours and, inevitably, there have been signs pilfered and graffiti daubed on.
The city council invested in a “theft-proof” sign but of course the determined souvenir hunters said ”we can work it out… of the wall”.
The one for John Lennon and Paul McCartney fans
(Declaration of interest: my Mum lived on Penny Lane for a time and married my Dad at St Barnabas Church, also on Penny Lane. She assures me she’s never nicked a sign.)
Platform 9 3/4, King’s Cross station, London
The fictional movie sign from the Harry Potter series has been recreated at the station and is a huge crowd-puller.
Turn up at almost any time and you find a queue for the essential running-at-the-wall-with-the-luggage-trolley shot.
A professional photographer is on hand between 9am and 9pm daily, but you can do your own wizarding world snaps for free.
A must for Harry Potter lovers
A simple but brilliant tourist attraction.
Marbella Arch, Spain
It’s a striking concrete arch with ‘Marbella’ written at the top, sitting astride the N-340 road heading from the east into the Costa del Sol resort.
Illuminated at night and dating from 1992, it’s a nice photo opportunity and popular for selfies.
A grand entry… Marbella Arch
Underwhelmingly, it’s flanked by petrol stations.
London Underground roundel
Much more than a public transport sign, the roundel has evolved over more than 150 years into a symbol for the capital itself and is now a globally known icon found on everything from T-shirts to drinks mats via tattoos and lights.
The fabled roundel was first a solid disc then, in 1913, London Underground publicity manager Frank Pick met calligrapher Edward Johnston and commissioned a new company typeface.
By 1917 Johnston had reworked the solid roundel to suit the new lettering, redesigning it as the hollow ring with a blue bar that is used today.
London’s unmistakable tube sign
The derivatives of Johnson’s new typeface are still in use today and renowned for their clarity and readability.
Mind the gap!
Route 66, California, USA
While you can still find a few signs for the fabled 2,400-mile Mother Road along the old route from Chicago to the Pacific Ocean at Los Angeles, the one of choice has to be at Santa Monica Pier, which announces you are at The End Of The Trail.
If you see this sign, you made it!
Take it all in, then head to the end of the pier to gaze over the Pacific and contemplate the next land you’d arrive at would be Japan… 5,500 miles away.
Moulin Rouge, Paris
The cabaret home of the can-can has been in the Pigalle area of the French capital since 1899, with the current building dating from 1921.
There is of course a red windmill and two lettering signs, one white and one red and yellow.
It has survived scandal, fire and a haze of cigarette smoke and absinthe – and the venue remains a popular tourist attraction today.
Paris, Paris… The Moulin Rouge is just as popular today as it was in 1899
Celebrated stars include Mistinguett, the 1920s actress and singer who at one time was the highest-paid female entertainer in the world, and Le Pétomane, the pre-First World War ”fartiste” who entertained with flatulent routines such as playing La Marseillaise and blowing out candles.
Literally, the butt of many jokes.
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