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Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany
Flickr/Maëlick/Neuschwanstein Castle

We all know that Cinderella Castle is the icon of Walt Disney World Resort and the symbol of fairytales. But did you know that artist Herbert Ryman, who Walt Disney commissioned to design both the castles in Orlando and Anaheim, drew inspiration from existing chateaux and palaces around the world? No one castle looks exactly like the storybook version you’ll find inside the theme parks, these European destinations are just as — if not more — magical.

Neuschwanstein Castle
This dreamy 19th century castle, set high up on a hill in Germany’s Bavaria, was the over-the-top creation of King Ludwig II. Welcoming more than 1.4 million visitors a year, it’s one of the most popular castles in Europe. €12 (around $13)


Chateau De Chaumont-Sur-Loire
The scandal-ridden history of this castle in France’s Loire Valley would never be fit for a Disney movie, but the drawbridge gate and wall walks might have inspired the kid-friendly version in Orlando. Queen Catherine de Medici bought it as a place to banish her late husband’s (Henry II) widow, Diane de Poitiers. While Diane refused to live in the palatial estate, the royal ownership was instrumental in altering the castle for the ambiance that is enjoyed today. €11


Chateau de Pierrefonds
Once a fortified residence in 1393, this stunning French castle was dismantled in the 17th century by Louis XIII, before it was purchased by Napoleon and eventually restored by Napoleon III. Today, it’s a showcase of architecture from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. €7.50

Chateau de Fontainebleau
This 1,500 room palace, located outside of Paris, has been the residence of French ruling dynasties for eight centuries. €11

Chateau Chenonceau
This 1513 chateau spans Cher River in France’s Loire Valley. Here, visitors can see the stained glass windows that inspired Cinderella Castle — and consider a romantic Night Walk for a different way of experiencing the estate’s fairytale charm. €12.50

Leonardo da Vinci is rumored to have been one of the artists behind this dramatic chateau built in Renaissance style. Though it’s the largest chateau in the Loire Valley, it was only intended to be a vacation getaway. €11

This castle with 99 towers in Opole, Poland has opened its doors as a hotel and restaurant, in addition to operating as a tourist attraction. Legend as it that the 365-room castle belonged to the Knights Templar in the Middle Ages. $2

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