The magic of Disney movies extended beyond the characters and the larger than life tales. Simply put, a fairytale wouldn’t be a fairytale without an incredible setting. We all remember Sleeping Beauty’s castle and the sultan’s palace in Aladdin — but did you know that those locations and more were inspired by real places?
Below are 18 incredible Disney locations that you can actually visit in real life. The images we saw in Disney films were inspired by places around the world that actually exist, and you’ll be mind-blown when you see how similar the real places are to those in the magical realm. The real version the Evil Queen’s castle from Snow White is absolutely stunning.
Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany
The Royal Castle in Sleeping Beauty was inspired by Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany. It’s known as the fairytale castle, and was built by Ludwig II of Bavaria. It certainly looks like something out oif a fairytale, doesn’t it?
This small village square in Beauty And The Beast was inspired by Alsace, an area of North-West France. The architecture there is primarily German, and the blend of German and French cultures in Alsace reflects in the food and people as well.
Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
The Kingdom of Corona in Disney’s Tangled was inspired by this beautiful place. The island was temporarily cut off from tidal waters, making it an easily defensible place in case of a threat. Today, the spot is wildly popular with tourists — and not just Disney fans.
Angel Falls, Venezuela
Paradise Falls in Up was inspired by Angel Falls in Venezuela. It’s 3,212 feet high, making it the world’s highest waterfall. Part of what makes Angel Falls so striking is the flat table-top of it’s peak.
Taj Mahal, Agra,
India The Sultan’s Palace in Aladdin was inspired by the Taj Mahal. The Taj isn’t actually a castle, though: It’s the tomb of Emperor Shah Jahan’s wife Mumtaz, built in 1632.
Machu Picchu, Cusco, Peru
Pacha’s village In The Emperor’s New Groove was inspired by Machu Picchu. Snuggled up in the mountains, the site is thought to have been the residence of Pachacuti, an Incan emperor. After the Spanish conquest, Machu Picchu remained unseen by the outside world until 1911.
Forbidden City, Beijing, China
The Emperor’s home in Mulan was inspired by the Forbidden City. The palace was considered “Forbidden” because it was the residence of the emperor, and no one could enter or leave without his permission. Now, the area is open to tourist — but there are still strict rules about how you can act while you’re there.
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France
The cathedral in The Hunchback Of Notre Dame was inspired by the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. It took almost 200 years to complete, and is famous in the architectural world for being one of the first buildings to use flying buttresses. Inside, there is a chapel and several tombs.
Chateau De Chillon, Lake Geneva, Switzerland
Prince Eric’s castle in The Little Mermaid was inspired by Chateau De Chillon on Lake Geneva in Switzerland. The property was once used to guard a road through the Alps. Today, the place has been updated and is popular with tourists.
Grand Central Terminal, New York City, USA
Game Central Station in Wreck-It Ralph was inspired by Grand Central Terminal in New York City. The terminal was torn down and rebuilt in its current style in 1913.
Chateau De Chambord, Loir-Et-Cher, France
The Beast’s castle in Beauty and the Beast was inspired by Chateau De Chambord. Strangely enough, the immaculate estate was built in 1547 to be used as King Francis’ hunting lodge. The most remarkable thing about the property is the roof, which has many peculiar spires at different heights.
St. Olaf’s Church, Balestrand, Norway
The Chapel in Frozen was inspired by St. Olaf’s Church. Here’s the story behind the amazing property: Construction was begun by Margaret Green, an Englishwoman who lived in the nearby mountains. She lived with a Norwegian named Knut Kvikne. Though she stayed there with him, she was also very pious, and began building the church with him to be able to practice her Anglican faith. Unfortunately, she died before it was completed.
Louisiana bayous, USA
Recognize these bayous from The Princess And The Frog? They were inspired by the real life Louisiana bayous, home to alligators, catfish, and turtles.
Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland, UK
The Royal Castle in Disney’s Brave was inspired by Eilean Donan Castle. The site housed a monastery in the 6th and 7th century, then a castle for a famous Scottish family, the Mackenzies. It was reconstructed in 1932, and that’s how it stands today.
U-Drop Inn, Shamrock, Texas
Ramone’s House of Body Art in Disney’s Cars was inspired by U-Drop Inn in Shamrock, Texas. The curious inn was actually inspired by nail stuck in the soil. When Route 66 through Texas closed down, the inn did as well. Now, it stands as an art-deco shrine.
Angkor Wat, Angkor, Cambodia
The city of Atlantis in Disney’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire was inspired by Angkor Wat. Of course, Atlantis was underwater, but Angkor Wat rests high above the clouds. It began as a Hindu temple, the later was repurposed by the Buddhists. It’s the largest standing religious monument in the world.
Hotel De Glace, Quebec City, Canada
Another important site in Frozen, Elsa’s castle, was inspired by Hotel De Glace. The hotel is constructed from bricks of ice, and the design of the building varies from year to year.
Segovia Castle, Spain
The Evil Queen’s castle in Snow White was inspired by the Alcazar of Segovia. For centuries, it was lived in by Spanish monarchs until a fire damaged it in 1862. It’s placed precariously on a cliff between two rivers.