8 Disney Castles You Can Actually Visit in Real Life
Forget about Prince Charming and talking animals—we’re all about those Disney palaces (OK, and also the talking animals). While the stories themselves may be fairy tales, it turns out that some of cinema’s most iconic castles were inspired by real life buildings. Relive your childhood fantasies with these eight magical Disney castles that you can actually step into (dancing and singing, optional).
’SNOW WHITE’: ALCAZAR Castle, Spain
The evil queen’s castle in Disney’s first animated feature film is said to be based on this impressive fortress in Segovia that’s shaped like the bow of a ship. Built in the early 12th century, the striking building has been a royal palace, a prison, a college, a military academy and now a museum. (But we like it best for its role in the Disney classic.)
’Tangled’: Mont Saint-Michel, France
Based on the story of Rapunzel, this contemporary animation takes place in the Kingdom of Corona, an enchanted world inspired by the real-life Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy. Once one of Europe’s most famous pilgrimage destinations, the island is now a tourism hot spot for its old abbey, quaint streets and dramatic views. Oh, and how’s this for magic? Mont Saint-Michel Bay has the highest tides in Europe, which transform the island twice a day.
’Beauty and the Beast’: Chateau du Chambord, France
Fans of this Disney classic (and the recent Emma Watson version) can visit the real-life inspiration for the Beast’s castle in Loir-et-Cher, France. One of the film’s animators, Glen Keane, visited the château for research and knew right away that the “ominous, impressive place with all of these spires” was where the Beast lived. (Talking clocks and candlesticks not included.)
’The Little Mermaid’: Chillon Castle, Switzerland
Does this Lake Geneva château look familiar? It inspired Prince Eric’s castle. Travelers can visit the château on their own or with a guide, and it’s also possible to rent out the building for private events. How magical would be it to get married at a real-life Disney castle?
’Frozen’: Hotel de Glace, Canada
Elsa’s glittering ice palace was inspired by a hotel in Quebec, where guests can stay in an actual snow and ice castle. The movie’s director Chris Buck visited the hotel five years before the film was released to do some research, so you know it’s worth a visit. Just try not to belt out your rendition of “Let It Go” too loudly.
’Aladdin’: Taj Mahal, India
The white marble, the lush gardens, those fancy turrets—it’s easy to see how the Sultan’s palace was inspired by India’s most famous landmark. This Agra tourist attraction and UNESCO World Heritage site may look like a palace, but it’s actually a mausoleum commissioned by Emperor Shah Jahan in 1632 for his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal.
’Cinderella’: Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
Possibly the most famous Disney castle of them all, Prince Charming’s home was inspired by the Bavarian Neuschwanstein. This fairy-tale castle also inspired Sleeping Beauty’s abode (and the Disney theme park attraction). Visitors can tour the castle and learn about the “Mad King” Ludwig II of Bavaria, who built it in 1892 as a retreat for his favorite composer, Richard Wagner.
’Brave’: Dunnottar Castle, Scotland
It comes as no surprise that this family favorite about a rebellious Scottish princess takes its inspiration from the country’s landscape. The DunBroch family castle was based on Dunnottar, an imposing stone structure that’s steeped in history and sits dramatically on a cliff by the sea.