Real life Disney locations you can actually visit

You can actually visit the real life Disney locations of your favourite films and animations.

That’s right, you can live out all your fairytale dreams at Sleeping Beauty’s castle. Or learn the hula with Lilo and Stitch in their Hawaiian hometown.

This is a holiday hit list that will excite the kids, parents and Disney lovers in every family

The Little Mermaid: Chillon Castle, Switzerland

You would be forgiven for thinking that Chillon Castle was in fact 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
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Sleeping Beauty: Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

It’s easy to see why 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

Tangled: Mont Saint Michel, France

Let your (slightly shorter) hair down at Mont Saint Michel – the inspiration for Tangled’s Kingdom of Corona. The resemblance between the two is uncanny.

Both are unique islands that are cut of 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-life Disney 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
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Luca: Cinque Terre, Italy

Luca is a yet-to-be-released Disney movie set in a beautiful seaside town on the Italian Riviera.

It’s a coming-of-age story about two friends’ summer of unforgettable fun and their secret that they are sea monsters from another world.

From the trailer, we can see that the animators perfectly capture the collection of colourful houses in Cinque Terre.

real life Disney locations
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Moana: 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.

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Up: Angel Falls, Venezuela

Fans of the heartfelt 2009 film Up will recognise this spot as Paradise Falls. The real-life Disney 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
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Aladdin: Taj Mahal, 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.

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Beauty and the Beast: Chateau de Chambord and Riquewihr, 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
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The century-old coloured timbered houses of Riquewihr, France look straight out of a scene of the 1991 animated Beauty and 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.

© Disney © Iga Palacz on Unsplash

Lilo and Stitch: Kauai Hawaii

The island of Kauai is the home of the adorable Disney animation, Lilo and 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 and Stitch reference you’ll see is a painted mural on the empty Aloha Theatre.

real life disney locations
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Pinocchio: Rothenburg ob der Tauber, 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 from 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
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The Emperors New Groove: Machu Picchu, Peru

Kuzco’s empire was modelled after the landscapes of Machu Picchu, 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 under a royal magic spell for all you know.

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Mulan: Forbidden City, China

The Imperial Palace in Beijing’s Forbidden City was immortalised by the 1998 Disney animation.

The palace was considered “forbidden” because it was the residence of the emperor. So no one could enter or leave without his permission.

These days the Imperial Palace is open to tourists you can come and go as they please.

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Finding Nemo: Sydney and Great Barrier Reef

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
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While Sydney is 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.

Try your luck spotting Crush the sea turtle, Bruce the non-fish-eating shark or any of the colourful a-an-anemone.

real life Disney locations
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Frozen: Norway

Frozen’s kingdom of Arendelle is fictional but the team spent days in Norway looking for inspiration.

They soaked up the architecture, natural beauty and even visited a reindeer farm to accurately depict the snowy country. As for their vision of Norway they just couldn’t let it go.

The Borgund Stave Church in Norway is a dead ringer for the Arandelle Castle.

real life disney locations
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Princess and the Frog: New Orleans

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 real life 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.

real life disney location
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Hercules: 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 life Temple of Olympian Zeus is in ruins you can still visit the site in Athens.

© Disney © Marco Montero Pisani on Unsplash

Brave: Dunnottar 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. 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. Perfect for defence against medieval enemies.

Coco: Oaxaca, Mexico

Miguel is an aspiring musician who finds himself in the Land of the Dead.

While no such place exists, 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.

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Peter Pan: Big Ben, London

The well-known clock tower has 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.

Peter meets Ben, Big Ben that is when he teaches new friends to fly all over London. Knock this one of your real life Disney locations hit list on a walkabout around London.

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