Who doesn’t love Disney
stories? Even as adults, we like to get lost, from time to time, in the amazing
fairy-tale world created by Walt Disney. Whether it’s “Cinderella”, “Beauty and
the Beast”, “Pocahontas”, or “Frozen”, these stories give us pleasure, hope,
and enchant our souls, even as grown-ups.
Not only do we love the
characters that made our childhood a beautiful one, but we also admire the
amazing landscapes and buildings illustrated in each story. Little do we know
that some of these places are actually real!
From castles to
churches, to islands and ports…if we love Disney adventures (and who
doesn’t?!), we can get closer to their universe by travelling and visiting the
amazing places which inspired the creators of these productions and led to an
exquisite fairy-tale experience.
“The Little Mermaid” – Chillon Castle,
Geneva lake shores, Switzerland
Château de Chillon is a
castle placed on a small island, on top of Geneva lake; it is the most visited
historical building in Switzerland, and it actually represents a medieval
fortress that, almost for 400 years, served as residence for the counts of
Savoy. It was built in the thirteenth century, on the place of another ancient
castle, that dated back to the ninth century.
The actual state of the
castle is the result of several adaptations, renovations and restorations, held
throughout the centuries. Historians believe that it previously served as a
strategic point for the Roman soldiers, at the beginning of the Middle Ages,
holding, at the same time, a natural protection against attacks.
“Mulan” – The Forbidden City, China
The Forbidden City
served as the imperial palace, from the beginning of the Ming dynasty, until
the end of the Qing dynasty – from 1420 until 1912. It now houses the Palace
Museum, in the center of the Chinese capital, Beijing.
The palace complex
consists of 980 buildings, covering over 180 acres. Its architecture evokes the
traditional Chinese architectural style, and it influenced cultural and
architectural developments in Eastern Asia and other parts of the world. Part
of the museum’s former collection is now held by the Taipei National Palace
Museum, although both museums descend from the same institution (they were split
after the Chinese Civil War, around 1950).
The Forbidden City is
part of the UNESCO patrimony since 1987, and hosts around 15 million visitors
“Finding Nemo” – Sydney Opera House,
The Sydney Opera House
is a multi-venue performing arts center, the most visited destinations in
Australia, and one of the busiest performing arts center in the world. It hosts
more than 8.2 million visitors annually, and it holds more than 2000 shows, 363
days a year, for 1.5 million spectators.
The Sydney Opera House
is one of the most important cultural centers in the world, and one of the most
famous and distinctive buildings from the 20th century.
construction began in 1954, and the building was inaugurated in 1973. UNESCO
had described it as one of the “indisputable masterpieces of human creativity –
not only in the 20th century, but in the entire history of humanity”.
“Peter Pan” – Big Ben, London
Ben is one of the most important British cultural icons, known worldwide,
representing parliamentary democracy and the United Kingdom itself. Big Ben is
the nickname given to the Great Bell from the inside of the tower clock, at the
north end of the Westminster Palace in London.
official name of the tower is Elizabeth Tower, renamed in 2012 to celebrate the
Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. Before that, it was simply the Clock
Ben is the largest of five bells in the tower, weighing over 13 tons; it has
been the largest bell in the United Kingdom for 23 years. It appears that the
name might come from Sir Benjamin Hall, the supervisor of its installation, or
Benjamin Caunt, the boxing heavyweight champion.
hour of the quadrant’s clock has 312 glass pieces, and the tower looks even
more spectacular at night, when all four faces of the clock are lighted.
Another special light is placed on the quadrant when the Parliament is in a
Big Ben clock has almost never stopped. Even after a bomb has destroyed the
House of Commons during the Second World War, the Clock Tower survived, and Big
Ben continued to announce the exact hour.
clock is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987, and it still uses
its original Victorian mechanism!
“Tangled” – Mont
Le Mont Saint-Michel is a small commune on an island
in Normandy, placed at almost one kilometer off the north-western coast of
France, at the mouth of Couesnon river. It has a surface of only 100 hectares
and a population of…44 people!
Ever since the Antiquity, the island served as a
strategic fortification, and in the seventh century, it became a monastery – from
where its name comes from.
It is one of the most popular sites and landmarks in
France, 3 million tourists visiting it every year. Mont Saint-Michel and its
harbor are part of the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites, and more than 60 of
the commune buildings are protected by the French government, because of their
status of important historical monuments.
“Snow white and the seven dwarfs” – Alcázar of Segovia
Fortress, Sevilla, Spain
UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Alcázar of Segovia Fortress is built on a rocky
crag, at the confluence of two rivers, next to mount Guadarrama.
is one of the most distinctive castles in Spain, due to his ship-like shape. It
was previously built to serve as a fortress, but it has also been a royal
palace, prison, royal artillery college, and military academy. Today, it is
used as a museum and military archives building.
“Frozen” – Saint Olaf’s
Saint Olaf’s Church is an Anglican church in
Balestrand, in the Sogn og Fjordane county in Norway. It was built in
1897, as an imitation of a medieval stave wooden church, having only 95 seats.
Balestrand was a very popular tourist site in the
later half of the 19th century, especially among British visitors.
Saint Olaf’s Church became very popular after the release of the Disney
animation “Frozen”, and it represents the inspiration not only for Elsa’s
coronation scene, but also for the little snowman’s name, Olaf.
There are still religious services from time to time,
in English, especially on weekends, and the church runs economically on tourist
“The Hunchback of
Notre-Dame” – Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris
Notre-Dame Cathedral, Notre-Dame de Paris, or simply
Notre-Dame, is one of the reference sites, that every tourist should visit when
travelling to Paris. It has been the source of inspiration for Victor Hugo’s
novel, which led to the creation of one of Disney’s most popular stories. It is
among the largest and best-known churches in the Catholic Church in France, and
in the entire world.
de Paris is a medieval Catholic cathedral, in Paris’ fourth arrondissement, on île
de la Cité. It is considered to be one of the finest examples of French gothic
architecture, and one of the best-known churches in the world.
early Romanesque architecture creates a contrast with the naturalism of the
sculptures and glass decorations, leading to a truly astounding effect.
Notre-Dame Cathedral is the most visited monument in Paris, with over 13
million tourists annually, surpassing even the Eiffel Tower!
“Aladdin” – Taj-Mahal,
The exciting adventures of Aladdin take place in a
city where one of the most astounding human creations is located – the Taj-Mahal,
meaning “Crown of the Palace”, is a white marble mausoleum, built on the shore
of Yamuna river, in the Indian city Agra.
The building has been ordered in 1632 by emperor Shah
Jahan, as a tomb for his favorite, most beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The tomb is
the central piece of a 17 hectares complex, which includes a mosque, a guest
house, being surrounded by huge gardens on three of his sides.
Taj-Mahal is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites
list since 1983, and experts describe it as “the jewelry of the Muslim art in
India, and one of the universal masterpieces of world culture”. The costs for
this building are estimated around 827 million dollars, the project involving
about 20.000 artisans. It attracts annually around 7-8 million visitors, and in
2007 has been added to the list of the 7 New Wonders of the World.
The Nobel Prize winning Indian poet, Tagore, has
described the Taj-Mahal as “the tear-drop on the cheek of time”.
10. “Sleeping Beauty” – Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
Neuschwanstein Castle, or “New Swanstone Castle” in Hohenschwangau, southwestern Bavaria,
Germany, is a Roman architecture palace, built in the 19th century. It
was ordered by Ludwig II of Bavaria, to serve as an homage for composer Richard
Wagner, and also as a retreat.
Neuschwanstein Castle also served as a home for the
king, until his death in 1886 – Ludwig paid for the construction of the castle
using his own funds, and not the Bavarian public funds.
Shortly after King Ludwig II’s death, the castle
became a museum, and it was opened for the public to visit. Since then, 61
million tourists came to see the building, 1,3 million visiting every year.
The palace has been depicted not only in the Disney animated
movie “Sleeping Beauty”, but also in other films, such as “Chitty Chitty Bang
Bang”, or “The Great Escape”.
After all…life beats the movie, and fairy tales are
inspired from reality! Which one of these amazing places would you visit?