Real-Life Places that Inspired Your Favorite Disney Movies
If you're reading this, chances are Disney made up a significant portion of your childhood. You may have even dreamt of visiting Neverland, Atlantica, Pride Rock or any other of Disney's many magical worlds.
What if we were to tell you that you can totally see your favorite Disney movies brought to life without even visiting Disney World? Check out our list of real-life places that inspired these animated classics.
1. Sleeping Beauty – Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
Like something straight out of a fairytale, this 19th-century Bavarian castle was designed by the eccentric King Ludwig II with the help of a stage designer rather than an architect. Nowadays, it's an easy day trip from Munich.
Extravagantly whimsical, it's easy to see why Neuschwanstein was the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty's castle. If you're going to sleep for 100 years, you might as well do it in style!
2. Moana – Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Moana's home of Motunui, or "Big Island," can't be found on any map, but its real-life counterparts are certainly worth visiting. The filmmakers traveled to several jewels of the South Pacific, like Fiji and Samoa, in search of the perfect island—sounds like really tough gig.
Bora Bora's majestic Mount Otemanu is definitely emulated in the final design of the fictional Motunui. This French Polynesian paradise can certainly give you what you need, at least when it comes to luxury.
3. Beauty and the Beast – Riquewihr, France
The pretty provincial town of Riquewihr is considered one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France—that's one of "the most beautiful villages of France," if you forgot your high school French.
The town's centuries-old cobblestoned streets and colorful half-timbered houses were the perfect inspiration for the animators of 1991's Beauty and the Beast. Just be careful going down the street—you may bump into Belle walking with her nose stuck in a book.
4. Tangled – Mont Saint-Michel, France
The distinguished profile of Mont Saint-Michel is one of France's most recognizable landmarks. It has a history dating back to the 400s, since ever-changing tides provided its buildings and monastery with a perfect defense against enemies.
More recently, the island's silhouette inspired Rapunzel's home kingdom of Corona in the 2010 film Tangled. If you're looking for a place to really let your hair down, some of Normandy's most beautiful beaches are nearby.
5. Cars – Wigwam Motel, California
Of the kitschy attractions that line America's historic Route 66, the oversized teepees of the Wigwam Motel are some of the most famous. The three remaining locations of this motel chain are on the National Register of Historic Places.
The setting for Pixar's Cars, Radiator Springs, is based on various Route 66 landmarks. Look for the Cozy Cone Motel, with giant traffic cones instead of teepees.
6. The Little Mermaid – Chillon Castle, Switzerland
Parts of this lakeside castle are at least 1,000 years old. Framed by the snowcapped peaks of the Alps, it's a far cry from the sun-kissed shores of Prince Eric's kingdom in The Little Mermaid, but the resemblance is unmistakable.
Luckily, you don't have to be a mermaid to swim in Lake Geneva—just don't expect to encounter any singing lobsters.
7. Up – Angel Falls, Venezuela
Adventure really is out there. The tallest uninterrupted waterfall in the world, Angel Falls soars over 3,200 feet in height. Falling from the top of Auyán-tepui, the source of the cascade is actually just rainwater.
Fans of Pixar's 2009 film Up will recognize the spot as "Paradise Falls." The location a little hard to get to without a flying house, but it's worth the effort.
8. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – Alcázar of Segovia, Spain
This imposing fortress was built on top of a rocky crag overlooking two rivers. Its strategic position means it has played a huge role in Spanish history over the centuries.
It also resembles the Evil Queen's castle from Walt Disney's first ever animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, so you may want to avoid apple pies.
9. Aladdin – Taj Mahal, India
The world is filled with some pretty grand tombs (the Pyramids, anyone?), but few as magnificent and exquisite as the Taj Mahal. Completed in the mid-1600s, it was commissioned by an emperor after his favorite wife died in childbirth.
You may notice a resemblance to the Sultan's palace in Agrabah. The film may be set somewhere in the Middle East, but its design was inspired by Mughal architecture, seen in buildings from India to Persia. You may need a magic carpet to see them all.
10. Brave – Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland
This ancient castle in the Scottish highlands sits on a small island at the meeting of three lakes (or lochs). It is a popular filming location, appearing in everything from a James Bond film to the cult classic Highlander.
Its moody atmosphere and dramatic location made it the perfect inspiration for Castle DunBroch, home to the fierce and fiery Merida in Brave. Now there's a princess we wouldn't mind having on our pirate crew.
11. The Lion King – Amboseli National Park, Kenya
While inspiration for the landscapes of The Lion King came from several national parks in Kenya and Tanzania (including Hell's Gate and Serengeti), the magnificent shot of Mount Kilimanjaro in the film's opening number can be seen in person from Amboseli National Park.
The 2019 live-action version of The Lion King may look like it was filmed on location in Africa, but all of the landscapes were digitally constructed in Los Angeles—although you could have fooled us.