Incredible Real Life Disney Movie Locations You Can Vacation At

Aurora from 'Sleeping Beauty' and Princess Ariel from 'The Little Mermaid' in front of Chillon castle, Hell's Gate National Park, Samoa,
Edited by Disney Dining

Otherwise known as… some of our favorite Disney movie locations that were inspired by real-life wonders of our world.

One of the best parts of enjoying a Disney vacation is taking in the sights and sounds at any Disney Park anywhere in the world. Many fans particularly enjoy frequenting the Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort in Central Florida and Southern California in the United States. 

Both of these Disney Parks are renowned all over the world for the Disney experience they provide. Walt Disney Imagineering has gone above and beyond to bring to life the worlds from Disney movies at these parks. 

cinderella castle magic kingdom

Cinderella Castle, Magic Kingdom Park, Walt Disney World / Credit: Greg Park, Unsplash

Disney Imagineers work very hard to make sure that any ride and attraction at the parks, be that Walt Disney World or otherwise, perfectly reflect the Disney movie it’s inspired by. 

Whether it’s a ride that has been there since opening day, like The Haunted Mansion, or one that’s set to debut this year, like Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, guests can immerse themselves in the world that the Walt Disney Company’s imagineers have created. 

One thing, though, that’s worth considering when it comes to going to a Disney Resort is that it can be quite expensive to make the trip. Even for fans who are US-based, flights can be quite expensive, and let’s not forget the cost one racks up at a Disney Resort.

Annoying Disney Princesses

The Disney Princesses / Credit: Disney

Disney Vacations Can Extend Beyond the Disney Parks

Fans frequently debate whether the expense associated with visiting a Disney Park is justified when they could potentially explore another part of the world with a unique and special Disney connection.

It’s fascinating how numerous extraordinary places around the globe have served as inspiration for Disney movie settings and locales.

The world we live in is filled with awe-inspiring beauty, and Disney has a knack for selecting locations that capture that magic. In fact, their ability to draw inspiration from real-world sites is truly remarkable.

disneyland california sleeping beauty castle

Sleeping Beauty Castle, Disneyland Park, Disneyland Resort / Credit: Disney Parks

Today, we present our exclusive compilation of the Seven Wonders of Disney’s World—incredible destinations that have influenced some of the most memorable locations in beloved Disney movies.

These are not just ordinary places; they are the real-life backdrops that have sparked the imagination behind some of our most cherished Disney films.

Disney Princesses

The Disney Princesses / Credit: Disney

Real-Life Disney Movie Locations

In a world abundant with a diverse cultural tapestry and a rich historical legacy, it comes as no shock that there exists a vast wellspring of inspiration for creative minds from the Walt Disney Company to tap into. The cultural and historical significance of various places and landmarks serve as a fertile ground for storytellers seeking to weave magic into their narratives.

Disney, known for its prowess in storytelling and imagination, meticulously selects real-world locations to serve as the backdrop for its magical tales. Each site chosen reflects a blend of charm, history, and character that adds depth and authenticity to the fictional worlds it brings to life on the silver screen.

Disney animators and creatives exhibit an exceptional ability to discern the essence of these places and translate their allure seamlessly into their movies.

snow white singing to bluebird

A still from Snow White / Credit: Disney

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

The fortress that inspired the castle for the Evil Queen dates back to the 12th century. It was first mentioned in historical records in Christian writings dating back to the 1100s. The castle was initially built on top of a rock, which historians use to reinforce the military history of this monument.

The King of Castile, Alfonso VIII, used the fortress as a residence during his reign. In the 13th century, the castle then enjoyed a gothic overlay courtesy of the Spanish architects working for John II and Henry IV.

The castle stands at the confluence of the Eresma and Clamores rivers in the city of Segovia in central Spain.

The building has served as a prison, an artillery post, and a museum, and today, it is one of our recommended spots to visit, cementing its place as one of Disney’s Seven Wonders.

ariel and eric wedding

Ariel and Eric at their wedding in The Little Mermaid / Credit: Disney

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

Prince Eric’s castle is as iconic as the movie in which it was featured. The castle looks over the vast and beautiful sea, and its placement is symbolic of the two kingdoms coming together at the shore on which it’s constructed. 

If you were looking for the real-world equivalent of this stunning Disney location, you’d have to look no further than Chillon Castle or Château de Chillon in Lake Geneva, Switzerland. 

Parts of the castle are said to be over a thousand years old, making it a historical marvel and one of the most incredible places to visit for any Disney fan and history buff. The castle is the most visited historical building in Switzerland and served as the residence of Counts of Savoy for four centuries.

Over 400,000 guests visit the castle every year and can enjoy wall paintings from the 14th century, subterranean vaults, parade halls, and a bedroom that continues to be maintained in its original Bernese style.

simba, rafiki, nala

Mufasa, Rafiki, Simba, and Sarabi from The Lion King / Credit: Disney

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

As only the most devoted of Disney fans would know, the backdrop for the movie that defined an entire generation—The Lion King—was, in fact, based on a real location in the country Kenya in the African continent. Hell’s Gate National Park in Kenya was the inspiration for Pride Rock.

Hell’s Gate National Park is a part of the Great Rift Valley in Kenya and is a hotbed of fascinating geothermal activity. Namely, the park is home to towering cliffs, water-gouged gorges, stark rock towers,”

Disney animators are known to have visited the park prior to working on the movie to get a feel for the scenery and the location.

For any fans who want to visit the park, they can enjoy a wonderful safari during their visit as the park is also unique for being free from predators.

Sleeping beauty disney princess

Sleeping Beauty / Credit: Disney

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

Another great location that Disney guests can visit, especially those who have been around since the early days of Disney animation, is Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany. The story of this castle is as legendary as the castle itself. 

In a letter to Richard Wagner, then King Ludwig II of Bavaria intended for it to be rebuilt in the style of the German knights’ castles. Unfortunately, the king is known to have had unreasonable deadlines and was what we would term a “micro-manager” in modern parlance. 

As a consequence, the castle is said to have never been completed because the King always wanted to add more or change more for it to be absolutely perfect. It was even designed by a stage designer rather than an architect. Extravagant and whimsical, it’s no surprise that it was chosen as the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty Castle.

The castle is a day trip from Munich and is a must-visit.

tangled disney

Disney’s Tangled features Mandy Moore as Rapunzel and Zachary Levi as Flynn Rider / Credit: Walt Disney Animation

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

To learn more about the Kingdom of Corona in Tangled, one has to go across the channels to Normandy, France. And a little island here is our next recommendation on the list for Disney lovers who want to explore another real-life Disney location.

Situated on an island, much like the Kingdom of Corona, Mont Saint Michel is a three-hour journey from Paris. It’s cut off from the mainland because of tidal waters, which, back in the day, was the perfect natural defense for the inhabitants of the island.

The Disney movie location is a holy island as it’s home to a “gravity-defying abbey” which sits at its top, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Christian pilgrimage site dates back to the 8th century when bishop Aubert of a nearby town, Avranches, insisted that Archangel Michael himself came down and “pressured” him to build a church on the site.

maui, moana, hei-hei, and pua

Moana / Credit: Disney

Moana: Motunui—Samoa

Samoa is the island that birthed the idea of Motunui for Disney animators. These creatives reportedly traveled all over for location scouting before deciding that Samoa was the right island on which to base Motunui.

The lush green mountainside and pristine blue waters that fans loved in Moana and will love in the upcoming Moana 2 can be seen in real life in Samoa.

The island is also special because Moana star Dwayne Johnson is part Samoan through his mother.

Princess Jasmine in Disney's 'Aladdin' and her father the Sultan

Princess Jasmine in Disney’s Aladdin with her father the Sultan / Credit: Disney

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

Finally, our last Disney movie location, the Taj Mahal, is in Agra, India. The Taj Mahal is legendary for the love story that inspired it. The Mughal emperor Shah Jahan is said to have built the monument as a testament to his love for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. 

Even today, the monument is considered to be one of the most notable gestures and homages paid to love. Of course, it’s worth remembering that the Taj Mahal is not, in fact, a palace but a tomb.

Of course, while Aladdin is set in Jordan in the Middle East, the similarities between the Sultan’s palace and the Taj Mahal are striking, particularly with respect to the beauty and grandeur of both structures.

While these locations comprise some of our favorite spots for fans to enjoy, we would be remiss not to add some honorable mentions. The Cathedral of Notre Dame for The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The city of New Orleans for The Princess and the Frog. And last but not least, Big Ben in the city of London was pivotal to that lovely scene in Peter Pan

Which of these locations excites you the most? Let Disney Dining know in the comments! 

About Priyanka Kumar

Priyanka is a writer, artist, avid reader, and travel enthusiast based in Chicago. In her free time, she is probably walking by the lake, catching up on the latest releases on TV, or spending inordinate amounts of time rewatching Moana, Encanto, and her Disney Channel life-long favorites Zack and Cody wreak havoc on the Tipton.

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