Travel + Leisure
April 03, 2017 10:30 am
Getty Images/Richard Maschmeyer

Whether you are a fan of Disneyland, Disney World, Tokyo Disney Resort or one of his other attractions around the world, you know Walt Disney loved his castles.

But while wedging your way through the crowd towards Cinderella and Prince Charming, autograph book in hand, did you ever stop and wonder where the animation pioneer found his inspiration? Disney may arguably have had one of the most magical minds of all time, but even he based his creations off the real world (well, some of them, at least).

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Getty Images/Gene Duncan/Disney Parks

Enter Alcázar de Segovia, a castle in Segovia, a historic town in central Spain’s Castile and León region a little over an hour northwest of Madrid. Take one look at its blue-gray turrets, protruding fortress, and rocky cliff foundation, and just try not to have an Alan Menken score pop into your head.

It is said that Disney drew inspiration from this majestic site – along with Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany – when dreaming up Cinderella’s iconic castle, and the similarities are easy to spot.

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Alcázar de Segovia has a history far preceding the world of Disney, however – dating all the way back to the early 12th century – first as an Arab fort, then as a palace, housing many a king, then eventually a prison, and finally a military academy. Today it is a museum and archive open for the public to enjoy.

Getty Images/JTB Photo

Different tour options are available depending on how much time you have and what you want to spend, though all are reasonable. A full tour includes a visit to the palace, the artillery museum, and the Tower of San Juan II (8 euros), or you can do just the palace and museum (5.50 euros), or just the tower (2.50 euros).

One note: Climbing the Tower of San Juan II involves a 152-step spiral staircase, but if you can make it, the views are something out of a fairy tale.

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For castle hours and directions, you can visit its website. And if you really want to make it a Disney-themed experience, pack an outfit accordingly. (But please keep it discreet – Instagram gold or not, this isn’t a theme park.)

This article originally appeared in Travel & Leisure.

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