31 real Disney movie locations you can visit with kids

From castles and villages to waterfalls and iconic landmarks, these are the real-life locations that inspired or appeared in Disney’s most beloved films. 

In 2023, the Walt Disney Company celebrated its 100th anniversary – a century of making films and animations that have defined the childhood of multiple generations. Whether Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella or Mulan was your favourite, or The Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo, Frozen or Coco were on replay during your childhood, these movies spirited children away to fairytale castles, idyllic villages and fantasy forests that surprised, delighted and inspired young minds. To celebrate the milestone birthday, the Walt Disney Company released a list of little-known locations that starred in their films – or inspired key elements of them – from around the world. Together with our definitive guide to the real Disney movie locations around the globe, we’ve pulled together the ultimate guide to finding Disney’s dream realms in the real world. 

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Snow White’s castle = Alcázar of Segovia, Spain

Once a royal palace and fortress for Castilian monarchs, Alcázar of Segovia is a grand white castle on a crag in the city of Segovia in central Spain. With turrets, spires and dramatic towers, it served as the model on which the castle for Disney’s original Evil Queen was built. Dating back to the 12th century, it’s been a prison, an artillery college and museum, and is now one of the prettiest real Disney movie locations you can visit with kids.

Alcázar of Segovia
Alcázar of Segovia © Adobe Stock

The Little Mermaid: Prince Eric’s Castle = Chillon Castle, Lake Geneva, Switzerland

You would be forgiven for thinking that Chillon Castle was Prince Eric’s castle. Parts of the real-life lakeside chateau are at least 1000 years old. Its position right on the shores of Lake Geneva makes it a dead ringer for the Little Mermaid castle. You don’t have to be a mermaid to swim in Lake Geneva. In fact, access is free to most public beaches. Be warned, it is Switzerland so it might be a bit frostier than the sun-soaked waters of Prince Eric’s kingdom.

real life Disney locations
© Commonswikimedia © Disney

The Lion King: Pride Rock = Hell’s Gate National Park in Kenya, East Africa

The Lion King was a movie that defined a generation. Since its original release in 1994, Mufasa, Simba, Timon and Pumba have continued to enthral audiences, with a live-action remake released in 2019. Few are aware, however, that Pride Rock is a real place in Hell’s Gate National Park in Kenya. Disney’s animators visited the park before crafting the original to gain inspiration for the movie. The park is unique in that it is free from predators, making it the perfect opportunity to not only visit a real Disney movie location but go on a safari, as well!

Hell's Gate National Park
Hell’s Gate National Park © Adobe Stock

Sleeping Beauty: Aurora’s Castle = Neuschwanstein Castle, Schwangau, Germany

It’s easy to see why Germany’s Neuschwanstein was the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle. The real-life Disney location is extravagant and whimsical. The Bavarian castle was designed by the eccentric King Ludwig II in 1892 with the help of a stage designer instead of an architect. These days the castle is an easy day trip from Munich, about an hour and a half drive.

Neuschwanstein Castle and Sleeping Beauty

Cars: Radiator Springs = Route 66, USA

There are a few real Disney movie locations you can visit for Cars. A large yellow sign in Radiator Springs says ‘Here It Is’, identical to a sign found five miles west of Joseph City in Arizona. The Cadillac Range mountains in Cars is a creative take on Cadillac Ranch, an art project in Texas. Sally’s Cozy Cone motel bears a striking resemblance to the Wigwam Motel teepees in Holbrook, Arizona and San Bernardino, California. Meanwhile, Ramone’s House of Body Art is almost identical to U-Drop Inn in Shamrock, Texas.

Cadillac ranch on route 66
Cadillac Ranch © Adobe Stock/Anton Sokolov
Wigwam motel on route 66
Wigwam motel on Route 66 © Adobe Stock

Tangled: Kingdom of Corona = Mont Saint Michel, Normandy, France

Let your (slightly shorter) hair down at Mont Saint Michel, the real Disney movie location that inspired Tangled’s Kingdom of Corona. The resemblance between the two is uncanny. Both are unique islands that are cut off from the mainland because of tidal waters. Back in the day, this provided Mont Saint Michel with a perfect defence against enemies. If this is on your list of real Disney movie locations to visit, prepare to climb a lot of stairs on your way uphill. It’s a three-hour train journey from Paris.

real life disney locations
© Bas can Breukelen on Unsplash © Disney

The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Notre Dame Cathedral = Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France

The 1996 film tells the tale of Quasimodo, a hunchback bell-ringer who lives in the tower of Notre Dame. The film was adapted from the 1831 French gothic novel by Victor Hugo and takes viewers on a journey through 15th-century Paris, where we meet Esmerelda, a gypsy girl who requires help. Those who loved the movie will be able to visit Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris in 2024, as its reopening is planned for later this year.

notre dame cathedral
Notre Dame Cathedral © Adobe Stock

Moana: Motunui  = Samoa

The makers of the Moana travelled to many island gems to find inspiration for Moana’s home, Motunui or “Big Island”. Filmmakers went to great lengths to make sure the Disney movie was as true to the South Pacific as possible. They travelled to places such as Fiji, Tongoa and Samoa. Sounds like a tough gig I know. The onscreen home of the Polynesian princess is a replica of Samoa’s lush green mountainsides and pristine blue waters.

© @CharlesNetzler repost @samoatourism © Disney

Winnie the Pooh: Hundred Acre Wood = Ashdown Forest, Sussex, England

Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Rabbit, Eeyore and Tigger can be found in the Hundred Acre Wood, a fictional place created by author A.A. Milne in his Winnie the Pooh books, which were later animated by Disney. Visitors to Ashdown Forest can have the full Pooh experience by following the signs to the Pooh Walk, The Enchanted Place, the Sandy Pit, Eeyore’s Sad and Gloomy Place or Pooh Sticks Bridge. The bridge was built in 1907 and local historians believe it’s where Milne and Christoper first played the game. It’s one of the most authentic Disney movie locations you can visit.

Pook Sticks Bridge in Ashdown Forest
Pooh Sticks Bridge © Adobe Stock

Up: Paradise Falls = Angel Falls, Bolívar, Venezuela

Fans of the heartfelt 2009 film Up will recognise this spot as Paradise Falls. The real Disney movie location is known as Angel Falls or Auyán-tepui.  Angel Falls soars at 979 metres, making it one of the world’s highest waterfalls. We admit it will be a little hard to get there without the help of a floating house with balloons. In real life visiting Angel Falls will mean flying to the town of Canaima and taking part in a moderate hiking tour.

real life disney locations
© Commonswikimedia © Disney

101 Dalmations: Outer Circle in Regent’s Park = Primrose Hill, London, England

Those familiar with the 1961 animated film will recognise the delightfully coloured houses that lined the street of Regent’s Park, where Pongo and Perdita live with their humans, Anita and Roger. These postcard-perfect streets are said to be lookalikes of London’s Primrose Hill area which is known for its Victorian homes that overlook Regency Park. Visit Albert Terrace and keep an eye out for a pale pink 1980s four-storey English townhouse – it’s believed to be the property that inspired author Dodie Smith, who wrote the original The Hundred and One Dalmatians book.

Colourful houses in Primrose Hill
Primrose Hill © Adobe Stock

Aladdin: Sultan’s Palace = Taj Mahal, Agra, India

While the city of Agrabah is meant to be in Jordan, The Sultan’s Palace in Aladdin is strikingly similar to India’s Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal is not a palace but rather a tomb designed by Emperor Shah Jahan for his late wife in 1632. This is another similarity as the Sultan of Agrabah is himself a widower. The main likeness between the two structures is their grandeur and beauty.

© Canva © Disney

Ratatouille: Gusteau’s = La Tour d’Argent, Paris, France

Unfortunately, Gusteau’s isn’t a real restaurant where a rat whips up culinary masterpieces. However, Ratatouille fans will be delighted to learn there is a location that looks almost identical to the location in the animation. La Tour d’Argent is a historic, Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris on the banks of the River Seine.

Tour d'Argent
Tour d’Argent © Adobe Stock/HJBC

Beauty & the Beast: Beasts castle = Chateau de Chambord, Loire Valley, France

Beauty and the Beast gives us not one but two real life Disney locations. Fans can live out all their Disney dreams at The Chateau de Chambord. It inspired both the 1991 cartoon and the 2017 live-action film. When designing the set of the 2017 film, Oscar-nominated designer Sarah Greenwood visited the 426-room chateau to take detailed notes on the architecture and interior design. The enormous castle was never fully furnished with speaking or non-speaking furniture.

real life Disney locations
© Disney © Valtentin on Unsplash

Beauty & the Beast: Villeneuve = Riquewihr, Alsace, France

The century-old coloured timbered houses of Riquewihr in France look straight out of a scene of the 1991 animated Beauty & the Beast. Get lost in the streets of the pretty provincial town. Be careful not trip over the cobblestones or run into Belle who is probably walking with her nose stuck in a book. While Riquewihr hasn’t officially been confirmed at the real Disney movie location for Beauty & the Beast, Adventures by Disney has included Riquewihr on its Disney Adventures Rhine River Cruise in the past. Riquewihr is a 45-minute drive from the Strasbourg Airport.

© Disney © Iga Palacz on Unsplash

Frozen: Arendelle = Hallstat, Austria

Although the art director of Frozen has confirmed the Disney teams spent time in Norway and Canada to find inspiration for the fictional town of Arendelle, Hallstat, a lakeside village at the base of the Austrian Alps, looks suspiciously like the infamous home of our favourite icy princess.

Hallstatt, Austria in the snow
Hallstatt © Adobe Stock

Frozen: the coronation chapel = St. Olaf’s Church, Balestrand, Norway

While Halltsta might resemble the Arendelle we know and love, the architecture of Norway is what mostly informed the aesthetic of this animation. St. Olaf’s Church in Balestrand looks exactly to the coronation chapel we see when Elsa is crowned Queen of Arendelle, while the Borgund Stave Church is a dead ringer for the Arendelle Castle.

real life disney locations
© Stephen Roth on Unsplash © Disney

Brave: DunBroch Castle = Dunnottar Castle and Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland

Castle DunBroch is home to Princess Merida and the rest of the DunBroch clan in Brave. Animators originally wanted to set the family castle against a loch in the Highlands. The animators took inspiration from Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness and Dun Carloway broch on the Isle of Lewis, but after seeing Dunnottar Castle they decided to imitate its seaside location in the film. The design of both the DunBroch and Dunnottar castles is more simple and down-to-earth than most Disney castles. It’s one of the best real Disney movie locations to visit with kids.

However, the interior of Merida’s castle is largely shaped after the famous Eilean Donan Castle on Scotland’s west coast. In fact, Merida’s family gatherings take place around a table that closely resembles Clan MacRae’s grand table at the centre of the Banqueting Hall in Eilean Donan.

Disney and Pixar’s animation team have also reportedly claimed the Calanais Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis were a key inspiration for the movie.

Eilean Donan Castle

Pinocchio: Collodi = Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Bavaria, Germany

While Collodi in Tuscany, Italy is the hometown of Pinocchio, the Disney animation is influenced by the streets of Germany. Walt Disney took inspiration from sketches he had seen of the medieval town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. The likeness is striking. Picture-book perfect coloured timber houses line cobblestoned pathways.

real life disney locations
© Corinne Kutz on Unsplash © Disney

Avengers Endgame: New Asgard = St. Abbs Village, Scotland

Located on the Berwickshire coast in the south of Scotland, St. Abbs is a picturesque fishing village that inspired the fictional New Asgard where Thor and the remaining Asgardians resided after the war.

ST. Abbs fishing village
The harbour at St Abbs, a pretty fishing village near Eyemouth on the east coast of Scotland

The Emperors New Groove: Kuzco = Machu Picchu, Andes Mountains, Peru

Kuzco’s empire was modelled after the landscapes of real Disney movie location Machu Picchu in Peru. The real-life Disney location is an Incan citadel that you’ll find 2,430 metres up in the mountains of Peru. Be nice to any roaming llamas around, they could be a royal under a magic spell, for all you know.

© Wells Baum on Unsplash © Disney

Mulan: Imperial City = Forbidden City, Beijing, China

The Imperial Palace in Beijing’s Forbidden City was immortalised by the 1998 Disney animation Mulan. The palace was considered ‘forbidden’ because it was the residence of the emperor, and no one could enter or leave without his permission. These days, the Forbidden City is open to tourists who can come and go as they please.

real life Disney locations
© Ling Tang on Unsplash © Disney

Luca: Portorosso = Cinque Terre, Liguria, Italy

Luca is a Disney movie set in a beautiful seaside town on the Italian Riviera. It’s a coming-of-age story about two friends who share a summer of unforgettable fun and their secret that they are sea monsters from another world. The animators perfectly capture the collection of colourful houses in Cinque Terre.

real life Disney locations
© Disney © Aleksandra Zelena on Unsplash

Finding Nemo: Sydney Harbour, Australia

Remember when Dory actually remembered the address of P. Sherman at 42 Wallaby Way Sydney? Finding Nemo animators took audiences on a tour of Sydney’s Harbour without actually going there. A hint for anyone looking: 42 Wallaby Way isn’t a real address in Sydney.

real life Disney locations
© Canva © Disney

Finding Nemo: sea turtle highway = Eastern Australian Current in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia

While Sydney is a very real Disney movie location central to the plot of Finding Nemo, don’t miss out on visiting the home of Marlin and his clownfish son. The Great Barrier Reef is their home in the 2003 movie and in the 2016 sequel Finding Dory. Crush, the surfer-dude sea turtle, rides a very real current that occurs each year in Australia. The Eastern Australian Current in the Great Barrier Reef flows southward, sometimes at a faster pace the adjacent bodies of water, and fish really have been spotted ‘hitching a ride’ just like Crush, Nemo and Dory. 

real life Disney locations
© Francesco Ungaro on Unsplash © Disney

Princess and the Frog: New Orleans = New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Tiana, the Disney film’s protagonist is a hard-working waitress who hails from New Orleans, Louisiana. The Disney animation does such a good at capturing the destination that the local tourism board promotes a Princess Tiana itinerary. Take a streetcar ride through New Orleans, get some gumbo at Dooky Chase restaurant or visit the Bayou at this real Disney movie location in the USA.

real life disney location
© Chelsea Audibert on Unsplash © Disney

Lilo & Stitch: Kokaua = Kauai, Hawaii, USA

Kokaua Town on the island of Kauai in Hawaii is the home of the adorable Disney animation Lilo & Stitch. Hanapepe, Kauai is a sleepy town that is free from tourist crowds. It’s one of a few real-life Disney locations that keeps its lowkey charm by not overcapitalising on its Disney tag. The only Lilo & Stitch reference you’ll see is a painted mural on the empty Aloha Theatre.

real life disney locations
© Disney © gogoninja on flickr

Hercules: Temple of Zeus = The Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens, Greece

Disney gave us their version of Greek mythology when they released Hercules. Thankfully, Disney chose to leave the details of Zeus’ affairs out of the 1997 animation. The film revolves around Hercules’ struggle with his mortality. He travels to the Temple of Zeus where he prays for guidance. While the real Temple of Olympian Zeus is in ruins, you can still visit the site in Athens.

© Disney © Marco Montero Pisani on Unsplash

Coco: Santa Cecilia = Oaxaca, Mexico

Miguel is an aspiring musician in the town of Santa Cecilia who finds himself in the Land of the Dead. While no such place exists, Disney created a visual kaleidoscope by taking inspiration from the spirited city of Oaxaca. The city’s rich foods, lively music and brightly patterned folk art informed the vibrant culture we see in the movie Coco.

real life Disney locations
© ethanjsample repost @oaxtravel © Disney

Peter Pan: flying over London = Elizabeth Tower, London, England

The well-known clock tower has been featured in a collection of films including 102 Dalmatians, The Parent Trap and Cars 2. Its most memorable appearance on the big screen is in Peter Pan. The movie is based on a boy who can fly and never wants to grow up. He finds himself trying to save other kids from growing up too. Elizabeth Tower, more commonly known as Big Ben (which is technically the bell) makes an appearance when Peter Pan teaches his new friends how to fly over London. Knock this one of your real life Disney movie locations hit list on a walkabout around London.

real life Disney locations
© Canva © Disney

Alice in Wonderland: The Labyrinth = Great Fosters Manor, England

While Lewis Carroll didn’t take inspiration from the Great Fosters manor house when writing his book, it was adapted into an animation by Walt Disney who visited the property in 1935. The Walt Disney Company suggests it’s likely that Walt fondly remembered the topiary maze of the English manor, and drew inspiration from it for the film.

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