Fairytale journeys: 20 real places to experience Disney fairy tales

Who wouldn’t want to take a nap in Sleeping Beauty’s castle or fly over Big Ben with Peter Pan? Disney movies are part of our collective imagination and are also a reference when we travel the world, especially with children. You don’t have to go very far to experience REALLY the fairy tale: for example in Spain there is a Disney castle that you may not know yet…

And if the Covid lockdown still do not allow you to travel abroad… dreaming is never forbidden, Disney taught us! In the meantime fill your wishlist and maybe take advantage of the offers on flights and hotels (always with cancellation!).

Meanwhile, while organizing your trips thinking about Disney characters or maybe just a trip to one of the parks, Disneyland Paris has launched a totally free platform “Disneyland Paris at home” where you can find many activities for young and old.
Games, videos, recipes and many other interactive activities: to spend time at home using imagination, imagination and creativity. You can learn how to draw Mickey Mouse or dance like Pumba and Timon or learn how to cook the legendary carrot cake… and there are also backgrounds for video conferencing!

“Beauty and the Beast”

Alsace is a picturesque region in northwestern France, with many villages that with their typical architecture would be the perfect setting for any classic tale. In this case, for the animation “Beauty and the Beast” (1991) and also for the live action version, with Emma Watson and Dan Stevens, let’s take a trip to Riquewihr, one of the most beautiful villages in France with a German past and where you can taste some of the best wines in the world.

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

Built in 1866 by King Louis II of Bavaria, its ruler could not have imagined that his castle of Neuschwanstein in German Bavaria would become the home of Princess Aurora from “The Sleeping Beauty” (1959) and the logo of one of the most important companies in the world. Louis II was actually a “cursed” king, who had no descendants and was unable to govern because of his eccentricities, but which left a great artistic legacy and the most visited monument in Germany, with 1.4 million annual visitors.

Big Ben, London

Neverland was on the second star right from the London sky. ‘Peter Pan’ (1953), Wendy and the children flew to land on the hands of the world’s most famous clock, Big Ben, built in 1858 near the Palace of Westminster. A must to see in London and a nice reference to give to our children.

Alcazar de Segovia, Spain

The Alcanzar de Segovia was originally built as a fortress, but was later used as a royal palace, state prison, artillery center, military academy and museum… and as a model for designing Queen Grimilde’s castle in “Snow White” (1937). Its bow shape of a ship on an imposing hill is recognizable from afar.

Auyantepui, Venezuela

At the top, until they reach Paradise Falls, the place Carl and Ellie dream of reaching in “Up” (2009). We fly to Venezuela, in the Canaima National Park, to visit the Auantepui, the largest tepuy in the country. From there fall the Angel Falls, the most spectacular waterfalls in the world with a height of 979 m (807 m of uninterrupted fall). A natural paradise that also inspired James Cameron during the creation of Pandora in the movie “Avatar”.

Taj Majal, India

What does the Sultan’s Palace where Princess Jasmine lived remind you of? Undoubtedly the famous Taj Mahal of the Indian city of Agra. On the other hand, the city of ‘Aladdin’ (1992) is very similar to the ancient city of Baghdad. About 3,290 kilometers between Agra and Baghdad combined with the magic of Disney and the top speed of a flying carpet.

Mont Saint-Michel, France

Disney artistic director Laurent Bern-Mimoun confessed that he relied on this peculiar building to create the palace for the film “Rapunzel: The Weaving of the Tower” (2010). This small mountain is surrounded by sea water on one side and land on the other, although sometimes it is completely covered by the tide and becomes an island with a special charm. Victor Hugo himself said of him: “Mont Saint-Michel is for France what the Great Pyramid is to Egypt.”

Sydney, Australia

“Keep swimming, keep swimming”… and we arrive in Sydney, the city that appears in “Finding Nemo” (2003). And all thanks to East Australia Current, a true sea “highway” through which millions of fish arrive on Australian shores every summer from the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef that can also be seen from space.

Dunnottar Castle, Scotland

Disney sometimes also uses more places, mixes them up and creates new ones. It was the case of the medieval castle of Merida and his family in “Rebel” (2012). Several Scottish castles, such as Eilean Donan Castle or Dunnottar Castle, serve as an example. Impressive landscapes filled with puzzles you can traverse with animators along with the red-haired heroine, where you can also enjoy the haggis and demonstrate your archery skills in the iconic Highland Games.

Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

If we talk about Africa and Disney, of course we refer to “The Lion King” (1994). With the first agreements of “The Cycle of Life” we can glimpse Kilimanjaro (Tanzania), which is actually composed of three inactive volcanoes: the Shira, the Mawenzi and the Kibo, whose summit, Uhuru, is the highest point from Africa. Victoria Falls, located on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, also appear.

Grand Central Station, New York

If you’ve ever visited New York, you’ll definitely recognize Grand Central Station. Created a century ago, criticized for its exaggerated size, it now welcomes more than 82 million travelers a year. In “Ralph Breaker” (2012) he transforms into the central game station, where all the characters meet as in real life. Grand Central is almost a movie legend with films like Hitchcock’s “International Intrigue” (1959), Hitchcock’s “Superman” (1978), “The Untouchables” (1987), or completely destroyed in “The Avengers” (2012).

Chillon Castle, Switzerland

If there was the beautiful Prince Eric of “The Little Mermaid” (1989), he would certainly not mind living in Chillon Castle, perched on a rock on the shores of Lake Geneva (where no sirens have yet been detected). The castle is visited every year by more than 350,000 people, being one of the main attractions in Switzerland, and you can see 13th-century frescoes, underground vaults, rooms and bedrooms preserved with original decorations from the times of the Bernese domain.

Kilauea Lighthouse, Hawaii

The entire film of ‘Lilo & Stitch’ (2003) is a true tribute to the Hawaiian Islands (and elvis Presley’s music), so there are numerous places that we find between its frames. Kilauea Lighthouse is reflected in the northernmost tip of Kauai Island: it was built in 1913 as a ship guide and is now one of Kauai’s most visited attractions for its magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean.

St. Olaf’s Church in Balestrand, Norway

Singing “Let It Go” we go to Norway, in the town of Balestrand, only 1,300 inhabitants that achieved great fame thanks to the phenomenon “Frozen” (2013). St Olaf Kyrkje, the real name of the temple, was built in 1897 and inspired the creation of the Arendelle chapel in which Elsa is crowned.

French neighborhood in New Orleans, United States

We put Louis Armstrong on the playlist to visit the streets of the Vieux Carré, known as the French neighborhood, the tourist epicenter of the city of New Orleans. The Mardi Grass, steamboats on the Mississippi, jazz … To do justice in New Orleans, the creators of “The Princess and the Frog” (2009) spent several months in the city and took more than 50,000 photos to use it as graphic material for the film.

Motel Wigwam, USA

One of the children’s favorite films, “Cars” (2006), has numerous locations on the legendary Route 66 that runs through the United States. For example, the Cozy Cone Motel was designed with the Wigwam Motel in mind, where its rooms emulate the “teepee” of Indians.

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

Once again France, this time Paris and one of its most famous cathedrals, that of Notre Dame, recreated in detail to protect “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1996) in the classic version of Victor Hugo. After the fire on April 15, 2019, one more reason to see the Disney movie with the kids!

Machu Picchu, Peru

The creative team of “The Emperor’s Fools” (2000) traveled to Peru in 1996 to observe the artistic and cultural treasures of the ancient Incas. For ten days they visited places like the city of Machu Pichu and walked to the city of Cuzco, which gives the name to the protagonist of the film. The color of its landscape and the verticality of its mountains are reflected throughout the film.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

How to represent a mythological city that no one has ever known? Disney creatives have envisioned “Atlantis : The Lost Empire” (2001) as the Angkor Wat temple complex, located in today’s Siem Reap (Cambodia). Considered the largest religious structure ever built, the jungle hid the site until a French named Henri Mouhot discovered the temple and, through the publication of his travel notebooks, the place was made known in the West.

Forbidden City of Beijing, China

There is no doubt that Disney designers are passionate travelers: they went all the way to the Far East with “Mulan” (1998). It was only the American giant’s first approach to the Asian market, which took shape then in 2016 with the opening of the first Disney theme park in Shanghai, where, of course, Princess Mulan is the undisputed queen.

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