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Fairytale Palaces that Inspired the World’s Favorite Animated Films

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of one of the world’s most iconic fairytale resorts, we are sharing stunning stays near six real-life places that served as the inspiration for some of the most cherished and beloved animated films of all time. From turreted castles to ancient palaces, these architectural landmarks are sure to bring out the inner princess in every traveler - also ideal for the 40%* of global travelers that say they pick a destination based on a movie or TV show. With more and more travel restrictions being lifted and the world starting to open up again, the once-upon-a-time is right for a little magic and adventure.

Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany

The historic 19th-century Neuschwanstein Castle in the Bavarian Alps is not only one of the most photographed in the world, it also served as the inspiration for the centerpiece of Florida’s most famous fairytale park. It’s many turrets and spires also influenced the castle in the classic 1959 animated retelling of the fairytale about an ill-fated princess, doomed to sleep for a hundred years after pricking her finger on the spindle of an enchanted spinning wheel.

Where to stayLocated in Hohenschwangau, directly below the world-famous Neuschwanstein Castle, Hotel Alpenstuben is a traditional, family-run hotel surrounded by picturesque mountain peaks and towering pine trees. After a relaxing breakfast, guests can explore the forest by foot or visit the castle, which is only a 20-minute walk away.


Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France

For those who love the animated version of the fairytale about a princess with magical long blonde hair who dreams of escaping her secluded tower, the monolithic Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy will look incredibly familiar. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of France’s most gorgeous sights, periodically cut off from the mainland by tidal waters that enterprising travelers can traverse at low tide. When the tides rise, the rocky outcrop becomes surrounded by water and turns into a mystical island, which is especially photogenic at sunrise.

Where to stay: A renovated Breton-style house in Beauvoir, Chambres d'Hôtes Les Vieilles Digues is less than 2 miles away from Mont-Saint-Michel, which dominates the horizon. The property’s beautiful garden is perfect to relax on a sunny day, before taking a walk along Le Couesnon River.

Alcázar de Segovia, Spain

The sturdy fortress of Alcázar de Segovia is believed to be the real-life inspiration for the evil queen’s castle in the world’s very first animated feature length film in color and with sound. Released in 1937, this groundbreaking work retells the story of a beautiful young princess who escapes the clutches of her murderous stepmother to live in a cottage in the forest with seven friendly dwarves. About an hour and a half north of Madrid, this royal residence is one of Spain’s most visited historical sites thanks to its imposing position atop a rocky outcrop.

Where to stay:On the Plaza Mayor, opposite Segovia Cathedral,
Hotel Infanta Isabel is perfectly located to explore all the city’s historic sites, including medieval fortifications, ornate churches and an ancient Roman aqueduct with more than 160 arches.

Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland, UK

One of the most photographed places in Scotland, Eilean Donan Castle served as inspiration for the Highland home of the fiery heroine in the recent computer-animated story about a young Scottish princess determined to make her own path in life. The rugged landscapes that surround this majestic 13th-century castle are sure to transport travelers to another place and time.

Where to stay: Located in Letterfearn, just a 25-minute drive from Eilean Donan Castle,
Toads Croak is a cozy Bed and Breakfast overlooking the Five Sisters of Kintail Mountains, Loch Duich and Eilean Donan Castle. Guests can stroll along the beach and if they are lucky enough they might see an otter or golden eagle. For hiking lovers, there are woodland and hill walks to enjoy just steps away from the property’s front door.

Château de Chillon, Lake Geneva, Switzerland

The Château de Chillon is on an island near the shore of Lake Geneva and the inspiration for the prince’s castle in the 1989 animated retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s story about a young mermaid who gives up her voice to become human and be with her beloved prince. Surrounded by a natural moat, the chateau is open to the public, where visitors can learn more about its long history and enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding Alps.

Where to stay: Overlooking Lake Geneva,
Swiss Historic Hotel Masson is one of the oldest hotels in the area. Surrounded by a large garden with century-old trees, this elegant Belle Epoque-style building dates back to 1829 and features oak-wood floors and original 19th-century paintings and furniture. Guests should not miss the imposing dining room offering beautiful lake views, a large tiled stove and original Viennese chairs.


The Forbidden City, Beijing, China

Built in 1420 by the third emperor of the Ming dynasty, The Forbidden City is a palace complex at the heart of the Imperial City of Beijing. This same imperial palace is featured in the animated musical adventure from 1998 about a young Chinese girl who disguises herself as a man to take her father’s spot in the army. The Forbidden City that was once the imperial palace for two Chinese dynasties, the Ming and the Qing, is today a museum for historic Chinese artwork.

Where to stayAdjacent to the famous Jingshan Park, the Jingshan Garden Hotel is a cultural oasis of tranquility in the center of Beijing. Within walking distance of The Forbidden City, this beautiful property offers a variety of programs highlighting Chinese art, culture and traditions in its open-air courtyard and public spaces, including authentic Chinese musical performances, Chinese tea tasting, art exhibits, Chinese calligraphy classes, as well as special cooking classes of Chinese heritage foods.


*Research commissioned by and independently conducted among a sample of 47,728 respondents across 28 markets (1,997 from USA, 1,987 from Canada, 1,999 from Mexico, 2,003 from Colombia, 1,996 from Brazil, 2,002 from Argentina, 1,994 from Australia, 985 from New Zealand, 1,993 from Spain, 1,993 from Italy, 1,993 from France, 1,984 from UK, 1,989 from Germany, 1,977 from Netherlands, 983 from Denmark, 986 from Sweden, 998 from Croatia, 1,997 from Russia, 999 from Israel, 1,997 from India, 1,992 from China, 991 from Hong Kong, 1,991 from Thailand, 1,977 from Singapore, 998 from Taiwan, 953 from Vietnam, 1,990 from South Korea, 1,987 from Japan). In order to participate in this survey, respondents had to be 18 years of age or older, had to have traveled at least once in the past 12 months and be either the primary decision maker or involved in the decision making of their travel. The survey was taken online and took place in November 2020.