We Were Here: 12 Places Where Tourists Can Leave Their Mark

As 2 American tourists recently learned, you can get in trouble for carving your initials into the wall of the Colosseum in Rome. There are places, however, where you are allowed to leave your mark as you travel. So get a pen, some spray paint and even your chewed gum ready when you visit these tourist spots.
By: Hannah Prince
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Cadillac Ranch (Amarillo, TX)

As you take your road trip along historic Route 66, pick up a can of spray paint and stop at Cadillac Ranch. It’s just off the highway and features 10 half-buried cars whose exposed trunks have been thoroughly graffitied. Pick your spot and leave your message, but make sure to take a picture of it — the site has become so popular that by the time you swing back through Amarillo, your mark will probably be painted over.

Great Wall of China

The administrators of Mutianyu, a famous section of the wall in the Huairou district, 40 miles from Beijing, fought for years to discourage tourists from writing on or carving into the stone. When none of that worked, they decided to try a different strategy: In 2014, they established a free “graffiti zone” on one of the wall’s fighting towers in hopes of containing visitors’ marks. Two more zones are planned, so leave messages until your heart’s content.

Fat Smitty's Restaurant (Port Townsend, WA)

This burger joint on Discovery Bay, near Seattle, isn’t made of money, but it sure looks that way inside. Over the years, dollar bills with patrons’ signatures and messages have covered the walls and ceiling. There are many restaurants across the country with this tradition, but Fat Smitty’s set itself apart in 2012, when its owner had all $10,316 removed from the walls and donated it to charity. So at least you know that dollar you’re hanging up will eventually go to a good cause!

Lennon Wall (Prague)

This landmark originated in 1980, when, upon John Lennon’s murder, an artist painted the musician’s portrait and some Beatles lyrics on the wall. Since then, it has served as a canvas for everything from graffiti art to political messages. In November 2014, a group of students anonymously covered over the wall with white paint to make room so a new generation of artists — and tourists! — could leave its mark.

Gum Wall (Seattle)

Many Seattle tourists make their way to Pike Place Market to sample local food, shop for souvenirs and visit the original Starbucks. After your coffee, pop in a stick of gum and start chewing as you head over to Post Alley, where there’s a wall covered in layers and layers of colorful, gooey wads. Add yours in a simple blob, or get creative and shape your gum into letters or even a sticky little sculpture. 

Guinness Storehouse (Dublin)

The home of Ireland’s most famous beer has gone high-tech. In 2012, the Guinness Storehouse upgraded its popular message wall from a collection of handwritten postcards to a digital exhibit where visitors can post comments and link to their own Facebook pages. Instead of pens and paper, guests use iPads to craft their messages, which then live on the large digital board.

Juliet’s House (Verona, Italy)

Casa di Giulietta, or Juliet’s House, has become a mecca for romantic tourists wanting to leave notes and questions for Shakespeare’s fictional heroine. But after too many people attached those pleas to the stone wall using gum or sticky notes and graffitied the courtyard’s entrance, Verona cracked down on the practice. Now, visitors can leave their messages on special removable panels. The best part? Volunteers in the Juliet Club answer each letter.

Gino’s East (Chicago)

You have to stop for a slice of the Windy City’s iconic deep-dish pizza anyway, right? So you might as well do it at this Chicago institution, which now has several locations in the area. Head over to the original on Superior Street, Sharpie marker in hand, and leave your signature and doodles on the restaurant walls.

Charlie’s Bar (San Nicolas, Aruba)

This little Caribbean hole-in-the-wall may not look all that special from the outside, but inside, patrons will find a treasure trove of artifacts from around the world. Every square inch is covered with an eclectic mix of old license plates, flags, musical instruments, ship parts, stuffed animals and countless other trinkets. Make sure your home state or country is represented by bringing something of your own to add to the décor.

Western Wall (Jerusalem, Israel)

The most sacred Jewish site attracts millions of worshippers each year, and many leave their marks in the form of written prayers or wishes wedged into the cracks between the stones. Twice a year, the papers are removed to make room for new ones. They aren’t read, since they are notes to God, but instead packed up in bags and buried on the Mount of Olives. Can’t make it to Jerusalem? There are services that let you submit a prayer or wish online to be tucked into the wall.

Blarney Stone (Cork, Ireland)

You may not be leaving a visible mark when you kiss the Blarney Stone (unless you happen to be wearing a lot of red lipstick), but you’ll leave your microscopic imprint on what TripAdvisor has called the germiest tourist attraction in the world. Don’t worry, though: You probably won’t be thinking about all the germs as you cling to iron railings and bend over backward to reach the right spot with your lips in hopes of receiving the gift of eloquence.

Pont des Arts (Paris)

The tradition of attaching “love locks” to bridges didn’t start in Paris, but the city’s romantic reputation made it the most popular spot. So many couples made their declarations on the Pont des Arts, in fact, that part of its railing collapsed under the locks' weight in June 2014. After unsuccessful attempts to discourage the practice, city authorities decided a year later to remove the locks and replace the railings with solid panels. Other bridges over the Seine are likely to be their next targets. That means couples wanting to secure their devotion will have to take their keys elsewhere.