Even better than a trip to Disney World? Visiting the actual places that inspired your favorite animated films.

By Diana Pearl
Updated January 20, 2017
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This article originally appeared on People.



Hotel De Glace, Quebec City, Canada: Frozen: At Quebec’s famed Hotel de Glace, guests can sleep on an ice bed, sip hot chocolate while sitting on ice benches and even say “I do” in an ice chapel—sounds like the perfect home for a princess with the power to freeze things, no? In fact, Frozen directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee did indeed visit the hotel while coming up with the design for Else’a Ice Palace. Now, there are even Frozen ice and snow sculptures in the hotel—including one of Olaf!


Wonder why Emperor Kuzco thought Pacha’s hilltop village was the ideal spot for his elaborate summer vacation home Kuzcotopia? Perhaps because it was inspired by Machu Picchu, an ancient Incan city situated atop a similarly pointed mountain. The emperor’s name is also no coincidence: Machu Picchu is located in Peru’s Cusco region.
| Credit: DISNEY; GETTY


Machu Picchu, Peru: The Emperor’s New Groove: Wonder why Emperor Kuzco thought Pacha’s hilltop village was the ideal spot for his elaborate summer vacation home Kuzcotopia? Perhaps because it was inspired by Machu Picchu, an ancient Incan city situated atop a similarly pointed mountain. The emperor’s name is also no coincidence: Machu Picchu is located in Peru’s Cusco region.

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Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France: Tangled: Corona, the island castle home of Rapunzel’s parents in Tangled, seems too magical to be real, but according to Disney art director Laurent Ben-Mimoun, it’s based on Mont Saint-Michel, a seaside castle in Normandy, France. We’ll assume you don’t have to climb a pile of hair to reach the towers.

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Angel’s Falls, Venezuela: Up: While Paradise Falls, Carl Fredrickson’s dream destination, may not exist in real life, Up fans can experience a real-life fantasy by visiting Venezuela’s Angel Falls, which boasts the tallest waterfall in the world. The stunning view is well worth dreaming a lifetime about.

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Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany: Sleeping Beauty: Recognize those spires and turrets? Once the residence of King Ludwig II, Neuschwanstein is now better known as the home of the fictional Princess Aurora. In fact, the iconic structure, which Walt Disney himself toured during a trip to Bavaria, is often referred to by visitors as the “Sleeping Beauty” castle. The actual interior, however, is far more elaborate than what Disney’s animators dreamed up.

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Chateau De Chambord, Loire Valley, France: Beauty and the Beast: If you have to be locked away with a (lovable) beast, it might as well be here! The creature’s elaborate, cursed hideaway is modeled after this stunning French Renaissance-style castle, the Chateau de Chambord, in France’s Loire Valley. And just like in Beauty and the Beast, the castle is surrounded by a dense, tree-filled forest—the biggest in Europe. Perfect for keeping out all outsiders—except ones with the power to break a curse, non?

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Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland: Brave: With its lush greenery and imposing stone, the 13th-century Eilean Donan Castle, nestled between the Scottish Highlands and the Loch Duich, looks like something out of a fable—which is why it was the perfect model for Brave’s DunBroch Castle, home to red-haired heroine Princess Merida. Legend has it that the grand table the young royal dined at with her family was based on the one found in the Banqueting Hall at Eilean Donan.

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Forbidden City, Beijing, China: Mulan: Built in 1420, the imperial palace was immortalized on film in Disney’s 1998 movie set during the Han Dynasty. Still following us? Good. The structure, which served as the home of the Emperor in the animated tale, is now a museum, where visitors can view over 5,000 years of Chinese art and artifacts—and act out the Emperor’s famous “thank you” to Mulan on the structure’s steps.

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Chateau De Chillon, Lake Geneva, Switzerland: The Little Mermaid: Situated on the shores of Lake Geneva, the castle is so close to the water that you might be lucky enough to meet a mermaid. There’s even a private beach you can rent for weddings—and then sail off into the sunset a la The Little Mermaid’s Ariel and Eric. Yes, you can be part of that world!

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Taj Majal, India: Aladdin: If you thought the imposing domes looked familiar, it’s because the home of Aladdin’s Princess Jasmine and Rajah the tiger was actually inspired by the world-famous mausoleum. While you won’t find any genies at the massive UNESCO World Heritage site, the white marble structure and elaborate detailing hold plenty of magic.