6 splendid storybook destinations
Blend fantasy with reality when you take the kids to visit places featured in or inspired by your favourite classic tales. A trip to one of the following storybook destinations—perfect for family holidays or breaks with a literary twist—is guaranteed to bring some of the world’s best-loved stories alive.
Colmar, Alsace, France
Looking like something straight out of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, this town in eastern France feels lost in time, with half-timbered buildings lining cobblestoned medieval streets and tranquil canals, horse-drawn carriage rides, and quaint chocolate shops. In real life, it was the birthplace of Statue of Liberty designer Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, whose former home you can visit. But the most enchanting sight is Le Musée du Jouet, a collection of antique and modern toys including vintage teddies and miniature trains. Housed in a former cinema, it also has giant board games to play and puppet shows to watch.
Kensington Gardens, London, UK
Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie lived opposite this historic royal park, and it’s here that he found inspiration for his timeless 1906 tale of the boy who never grows up. Make a stick-boat to sail on the Round Pond just like David, hero of the very first story, Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. Then pay homage at the bronze Peter Pan Statue decorated with fairies and woodland creatures. Barrie got himself into hot water by having it secretly installed in the park in the middle of the night! And don’t miss an afternoon at the Diana Memorial Playground commemorating the Princess of Wales, who lived in Kensington Palace on the southern edge of the park. Its Peter Pan–themed offerings include an almost-life-size pirate ship, teepees, and a beach cove with a stone crocodile.
Collodi, Tuscany, Italy
It was in this quaint village near Pistoia that the tale of Pinocchio, the wooden puppet who dreams of becoming a real boy, took seed. Florence-based writer Carlo Lorenzini took the name Carlo Collodi from his mother’s native village. As well as exploring the cobbled streets of the village itself, pay homage at the fully outdoor Pinocchio Park. Populated by bronze sculptures from the book, including the fairy with turquoise hair and the great dogfish shark that swallows Pinocchio’s father, it was built in the 1950s and has a charming retro vibe. Don’t miss the traditional carousel, the puppet theatre, or the maze.
Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany
Built as a retreat by King Ludwig II in 1868, this most dramatic of castles boasts flamboyant medieval styling and an enchanting setting on a hilltop with mountain views. It’s said to have been one of the inspirations for the Sleeping Beauty castles at Disneyland Park in California and Disneyland Paris as well as for Cinderella’s Castle at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Inside, many of the rooms in the Bavarian castle were inspired by characters from Wagner operas, of which Ludwig II was a great fan. Despite the otherworldly feel, you’re just a 10-minute drive from the delightful town of Füssen and two hours southwest of the lively regional capital, Munich.
Alcázar of Segovia, Castile and León, Spain
Another inspiration for Disney’s Cinderella’s Castle, this castle with its distinctive ship’s-bow shape and positioned atop a rocky crag has a fascinating history as a one-time fortress, royal palace, prison, and military academy. Now a museum, its splendid interiors are crammed with delicate 14th-century traceries and ornaments in the Alhambra style, plus a frieze depicting all the Spanish kings and queens. Make time to explore the rest of the ancient city of Segovia—on the plains of Old Castile an hour from Madrid, it’s UNESCO World Heritage listed for its stunning architecture, which as well as the castle includes a Roman aqueduct and the old Jewish Quarter.
Christ Church College, Oxford University, UK
The Great Hall of this eminent seat of learning inspired filmmakers to build a replica in the London studios where J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels were adapted for the silver screen. Completed in the 1520s, the Hall is still in use, with visitors allowed in when college members aren’t dining. Don’t miss the hammerbeam ceiling by Henry VIII’s chief carpenter Humphrey Coke—or the stained glass window depicting details from Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland. Author Lewis Carroll, who resided at the college from 1851 until his death in 1898, was inspired by the Hall when writing the book’s Mad Hatter’s tea party scene.