Real Life Places That Inspired Disney Movies


Have you ever secretly wanted to visit Cinderella’s castle? Or maybe explore the African Safaris from The Lion King? Did you know that those magical movie moments were inspired by real-life places? And best of all- you can actually go visit them!

Here are the Top Ten Real-Life Places That Inspired Disney Movies:

1. Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany 

The castle that started it all. This 19th-century Bavarian castle inspired Walt Disney behind the creation of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. We couldn’t think of a more trademark feature for Disney! If you care to visit the real-life castle, it’s just a quick day-trip outside of Munich, Germany.

2. Mont-Saint Michel, Normandy, France

Inspiring Tangled’s Kingdom of Corona, this tidal island in Normandy, France dates back as early as the 400s.

3. Alsace, France

Inspiring Belle’s ‘provincial life’ in Beauty and the Beast, this quaint french village is like something out of a fairytale.

4. Hotel De Glace, Quebec City, Canada

Elsa’s ice palace from Frozen was actually inspired by Hotel De Glace in Quebec City, Canada. The hotel is literally made of ice! Every winter, architects add a new look or change to the structure, spicing things up every season.

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5. Chillon Castle, Switzerland 

When Ariel traded her voice for legs, she reached Prince Eric’s castle. But did you know that The Little Mermaid’s castle was inspired by the real-life Chillon Castle in Switzerland? It rests right beside the beautiful Lake Geneva, framed by snowcapped peaks of the Alps. What a tough view!

6. Alcázar of Segovia, Spain

In Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the evil queen’s castle was inspired by the Spanish fortress Alcázar of Segovia, which overlooks the top of a rocky crag and two rivers.

7. Taj Mahal, India 

Did you know the Taj Mahal inspired the Sultan’s Palace from Aladdin? Animators found the Taj Mahal’s colossal structure to be the perfect influence behind the architecture for their fictional kingdom, Agrabah.

8. Amboseli National Park, Kenya

Most of the landscape animation behind The Lion King was inspired by Kenya’s Amboseli National Park. During the opening number of the “Circle of Life,” there’s an uncanny resemblance between the two images.

9. St. Olaf’s Church, Balestrand, Norway

Norway’s St. Olaf’s Church inspired Elsa’s coronation from Frozen. Its Scandinavian architecture and water-front location was the perfect model for Disney animators.

10. U-Drop Inn, Shamrock, Texas, U.S.A.

Yes, that gas station from Cars is based on a real place. Make sure to check out the U-Drop Inn if you’re ever in Shamrock, Texas. After Route 66 was decommissioned, the inn closed down and fell into despair. Now, thanks to Disney’s Cars, it’s become a bustling tourist attraction. Thanks Disney!

If you’re interested in traveling to any of these destinations, check out the video below!