These Disney castles are based on real-life palaces


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Many of us grew up fantasizing about stepping foot in the magical world of Disney castles (Elsa’s castle may look cold, but the decor!). But your fantasies don’t have to stay in dreamland, as, lucky for us, many of Disney’s draw-droppingly stunning castles are inspired by real-life ones. Here are the inspirations of some of Disney’s most dreamy castles, most of which you can visit today.

Related: The most awe-inspiring churches & cathedrals in North America

Snow White
Disney / IMDB

1. Snow White

The Snow White castle is one of Disney’s most iconic ones, perhaps only second only to the Cinderella castle.

Alcazar Castle
Mmeee / iStock

The inspiration

It only makes sense that this famous Disney castle is based on yet another famous castle: Spain’s Álcazar of Segovia. The castle was built in the 12th century and served myriad functions: fortress, royal palace, state prison, and even the Royal College of Artillery and Military Historical Archive.

Disney / IMDB

2. Tangled

The castle of Corona in Disney’s Tangled had a fantastic view over the kingdom as it towered above beautiful, scenic water.

Mont Saint-Michel In France
ventdusud/ iStock

The inspiration

In real life, the Tangled castled most closely resembles France’s Mont Saint-Michel, which Disney has cited as the inspiration behind Tangled’s castle. Built between the 11th and 16th centuries, it’s a common pilgrimage for many Europeans.

Alice in Wonderland
Disney / IMDB

3. Alice in Wonderland

The Queen of Hearts famously plays flamingo croquet in her lavish, colorful Disney abode.

Windsor Castle
Vladislav Zolotov / iStock

The inspiration

U.K.’s Windsor Castle has a lot in common with that of its Disney-inspired equivalent. Besides the architecture, both castles also have a quite impression garden scene.


Disney / IMDB

4. Robinhood

Nottingham Castle in Robinhood is the center of much of this Disney classic’s action.

The Tower of London
Rabbit75_ist / iStock

The inspiration

The Tower of London served as the main inspiration for Robinhood’s medieval castle. Its jails especially look quite a bit like those found in the movie.

Disney-Pixar / IMDB

5. Brave

The Brave castle stands, well, bravely over the Scottish kingdom, with its magnificent green and nature-inspired designs.

Dunnottar Castle In Scotland
Iweta0077 / iStock

The inspiration

While Scotland is full of castles, Brave’s castle takes most of its inspiration from Dunnottar Castle, which you can still visit today.

Beauty and the Beast
Disney / IMDB

6. Beauty and the Beast

Many of us dreamed of dancing around the beast’s phenomenal ballroom or reading all the books in its luxury library.


Chateau Du Chambord In France
JoseIgnacioSoto / iStock

The inspiration

Not surprisingly, the Beauty and the Beast castle took much of its French inspiration from Chateau Du Chambord. Built in 1519, the castle was actually hardly used and sees much more visitors today. In fact, you can even honeymoon in it!

Disney / IMDB

7. Aladdin

Perhaps the most magical (literally!) of all Disney castles, the Aladdin palace is majestic, studded in gold and other lavish decors.

Taj Mahal In India
Roop_Dey / iStock

The inspiration

The Aladdin palace is modeled after one of the most recognizable buildings in the world: The Taj Mahal in India. In 1632, Emperor Shah Jahan had the building made for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal.


The Little Mermaid
Disney / IMDB

8. The Little Mermaid

Ariel desperately wanted to be part of this castle’s world (and so did we!). The castle is where Prince Eric calls home.

Chillon Castle In Switzerland
Emicristea / iStock

The inspiration

Prince Eric’s castle is based on Switzerland’s Chillon Castle, also. known as Château de Chillon. One very noticeable difference, of course, is that in The Little Mermaid, it sits on an ocean, whereas in real life it sat on a lake.

Disney / IMDB

9. Cinderella

Perhaps one of the most recognizable castles in all of the Disney universe, Cinderella’s castle holds a special, nostalgic part in many of our hearts.

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Neuschwanstein Castle In Germany
RudyBalasko / iStock

The inspiration

It only makes sense that this famous Disney castle is based on yet another famous castle: Germany’s Neuschwanstein Castle. Believe it or not, though, this castle is not nearly as old as many others on our list.  King Ludwig II of Bavaria had construction on the castle started in 1892. Sadly, he didn’t live to see it completed in 1892. Unsurprisingly, it’s one of the world’s most-visited castles today.

Disney / IMDB

10. Frozen

While Frozen has two fantastical castles, we decided to highlight the more magical one on this list: Elsa’s ice castle. Don’t lie: You sang along to “Let it Go” as she magically whipped up the castle in about three minutes!

Hotel De Glace In Canada

The inspiration

Sadly, Elsa’s magical home isn’t based on a real-life ice castle. But it is based on an ice hotel! Frozen director Chris Buck visited Quebec’s Hotel De Glace while doing research for the movie.

Disney / IMDB

11. Mulan

What do we want? A palace worth fighting for! And Mulan surely delivered.

The Imperial City in China
Zhaojiankang / iStock

The inspiration

Mulan’s palace most closely resembles The Forbidden City In China. In fact, Mulan even takes place in The Imperial City (sound familiar?). While the Forbidden Temple doesn’t look 100% like the Imperial Temple, it’s clear that the Mulan crew took inspiration from the real-life Forbidden City.

The Emperor’s New Groove
Disney / IMDB

12. The Emperor’s New Groove

We’d love to pull the lever and visit Cuzco’s palace! The stately, golden wonder is certainly different than the more girly, fairy-tale castles on this list.


Machu Picchu In Peru
Pawopa3336 / iStock

The inspiration

It only makes sense that this wonderful palace is based on one of the seven wonders of the world: Machu Picchu in Peru. But if you want to visit, be ready for a climb; it sits about 8,000 feet above sea level!

Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Disney / IMDB

13. Atlantis: The Lost Empire

As a kid, who didn’t dream of joining Milo’s crew on their journey to Atlantis?


Angkor Wat, Angkor, Cambodia
F9photos / iStock

The inspiration

The gorgeous design for the fictional city of Atlantis is based on the real-life Angkor Wat in Cambodia. It was initially a Hindu temple and was repurposed. as a Buddhist temple in the 12th century. It remains the largest religious monument in the world to this day.

The Hunchback Of Notre Dame
Disney / IMDB

14. The Hunchback Of Notre Dame

There’s no debate that the Hunchback lived in none other than the real Notre Dame (hence the name…). Disney animated the awe-inspiring building for the movie.

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France
Lsantilli / iStock

The inspiration

Of course, Notre Dame is the main architectural feature in the movie. Sadly, the building caught on fire in 2019 and remains closed as of publication. It’s estimated to reopen for visitors in 2024, which will be just in time for the Paris Olympic games.


Sleeping Beauty
Disney / IMDB

15. Sleeping Beauty

While many people may mostly remember Aurora’s castle from Sleeping Beauty, we’re more interested in a scarier but equally exquisite one: Maleficent’s castle in the Forbidden Mountain.

Fortress of Guaita in San Marino
KavalenkavaVolha / iStock

The inspiration

Maleficent’s creepily beautiful castle is based on San Marino’s Fortress of Guaita. The castle consists of three towers, one of which is the Fortress of Guaita, precariously placed atop the edge of a huge drop into the ocean. If you’re up for a rocky hike (and you’re not afraid of falling off the cliff!), you can visit the fortress today.

Vladimir Vladimirov

More travel budget tips

There are myriad ways to save big while traveling, such as taking advantage of free toiletries from hotels. You could also consider cutting costs, such as taking a road trip to avoid high airfare costs.

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Kaitlyn Farley

Kaitlyn is MediaFeed’s senior editor. She is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, specializing in social justice and investigative reporting. She has worked at various radio stations and newsrooms, covering higher-education, local politics, natural disasters and investigative and watchdog stories related to Title IX and transparency issues.