Audiences often lose themselves in a great film or TV show. Filmmakers take audiences on a journey through outer space or to a mythical city hidden in the mountains. However, often these classic films or television shows are shot on a soundstage. Special effects and CGI are used to create a realistic environment. However, a great filmmaker loves to shoot on location. They travel all over the world looking for the perfect location to shoot their film. It goes beyond using only technology to create a movie. Several films and TV series feature breathtaking locations.
Movies and TV shows feature fictional towns, cities, and far away universes. It might come as a surprise to some fans to know that some of these magical locations actually exist. These incredible locations aren’t special effects or some kind of trick. It’s the real deal. The famous fictional places include real-life small towns, volcanic mountains, and stunning castles. In fact, fans from all over the world visit these incredible locations and have turned them into major tourist attractions. For some fans, it’s a dream come true to travel to one of these fictional locations. Here is a look at 20 Fictional Places People Did Not Know Existed (But They Do).
20 Dragonstone - Downhill Strand
Dragonstone is a volcanic island in the HBO series Game of Thrones. It's the ancestral seat of House Targaryen. It’s located in the Narrow Sea and is the site of Dragonstone Castle. The Mother of Dragons, The Unburnt and Breaker of Chains Queen Daenerys Targaryen has made Dragonstone her home before she takes the capital King’s Landing.
Dragonstone beach is the gorgeous Downhill Strand located in Northern Ireland. The scenic beach is one of the longest in Northern Ireland at 7 miles. It has been designated as an Area of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation. It’s near the small town of Castlerock and has become a popular tourist destination.
19 Sleeping Beauty's Castle - Neuschwanstein Castle
The 1959 animated film Sleeping Beauty is one of Disney’s most famous movies. It later inspired the 2014 dark fantasy Maleficent. Sleeping Beauty is known for featuring a marvelous castle that seems unreal. Sleeping Beauty’s Castle is also a main attraction of Disneyland. The fictional castle is actually based on a real-life castle.
In 1869, Ludwig II of Bavaria began construction on the Neuschwanstein Castle. It’s located in Bavaria, Germany and was completed after Ludwig’s death in 1886. The castle is a popular tourist attraction and is visited by 1.3 million people a year. It also served as the inspiration behind one of Disney’s most iconic castles.
18 Twin Peaks - Snoqualmie
Twin Peaks was a mystery horror series that aired from April 1990 to June 1991. In 2017, Twin Peaks: The Return aired as a limited edition series. The eerie town of Twin Peaks actually exists and is a small city near Seattle known as Snoqualmie.
A majority of Twin Peaks was shot in Snoqualmie as well as the nearby North Bend and Fall City. Several of the series locations were actual landmarks in the city. The Northern Hotel in the series is best known to locals as the Salish Lodge. Also, the Double R Diner is a popular restaurant located in North Bend known as Twede’s Café.
17 Winterfell - Castle Ward
The critically acclaimed Game of Thrones is considered one of the greatest shows of all time. The series takes places in two main continents of Westeros and Essos. Westeros is ruled by the Seven Kingdoms and stretches over a vast land. Winterfell is the ancestral home of House Stark. The Starks are prominently featured in the series.
Winterfell is located in the North but the castle is built over a hot spring. The 18th century Castle Ward is mainly used for filming Winterfell. The castle is located in Northern Ireland and features a 16th-century clock tower and country yard, which are prominently featured in the series as well.
16 Mordor - Tongariro National Park
The Lord of the Rings revolves around a hobbit named Frodo Baggins that goes on a journey to destroy the One ring to rule them all. He must travel to Mordor and destroy the ring in Mount Doom. Mordor is inspired by an area in England that was known as Black Country. During the Industrial Revolution, Black Country was a booming area for mining, brickworks and steel mills. The name Black Country comes from the black smoke that darkened the land, which inspired Mordor.
Tongariro National Park served as the setting for Mordor in the films. The volcanic mountains Mount Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro all depicted Mount Doom in the films as well. Fans from all over the world travel to Tongariro National Park in New Zealand to get a glimpse of the real-life Mordor and Mount Doom.
15 The Kingsroad - The Dark Hedges
In Game of Thrones, the Kingsroad is the longest highway in the Seven Kingdoms. It stretches from The Wall in the North all the way to King’s Landing in the South and ends a Storm’s End. The eerie and stunning fictional road is actually the real-life Dark Hedges. The Dark Hedges is an avenue in Northern Ireland. The unique road is known best for the beach trees that create a tunnel-like atmosphere.
In 1775, James Stuart built a mansion for his family and planted over 150 beach trees along the road entrance. The distinctive and unique road is an excellent filming location. Additionally, legend has it that the Dark Hedges is haunted by the spirit of James Stuart’s daughter. It has since become a popular tourist attraction.
14 Hall Of Justice - Cincinnati Union Terminal
The Super Friends was an animated series that revolved around Justice League of America. The series aired from 1973 to 1986 on ABC. The Super Friends often held meetings at their famous Hall of Justice. The Hall of Justice might seem like any other secret hideout but this one has a unique inspiration. Al Gmuer was the background supervisor for Hanna-Barbera and drew the Hall of Justice.
At the time, Hanna-Barbera’s parent company was based in Cincinnati, Ohio. They often used landmarks around the city as inspiration. Gmuer based the Hall of Justice on the art deco Union Terminal in Cincinnati. The train station has since shut down and has been converted into a museum.
13 Beyond The Wall - Grjótagjá Cave
Beyond The Wall is cold, mysterious and frightening. The Free Folk live beyond the wall and encounter all of the mythical beings. The season 3 Game of Thrones episode, “Kissed By Fire”, featured an intense intimate scene between Jon Snow and the Wildling Ygritte. The scene takes place in a dark and cold cave. The scenes were shot at the real-life lava cave Grjótagjá.
It’s located near Lake Mývatn in Iceland. In the 18th century, outlaw Jón Markússon lived in the cave and used it to bathe. The cave has a thermal spring inside and made the cave a popular bathing site until the 1970’s. The temperature dropped making it difficult to bathe in. However, it served as a great filming location for the series.
12 The Flintstones Home - William Nicholson Experiment
The Flintstones was a popular animated sitcom that aired from September 30, 1960, to April 1, 1966, on ABC. The series revolved around the Stone-Age Flintstone family. The family lived in a unique home that is straight out of the Stone Age. However, fans can still visit the famous residence. In 1976, architect William Nicholson experimented with a new design for the home. He used new building materials and domes to create the distinctive look. The home soon became known as The Flintstones home due to its similar appearance.
The home is best viewed from the Eugene A. Doran Memorial Bridge on Interstate 280. In the 2000’s, the home was painted orange and in 2017 three large steel dinosaur sculptures were installed.
11 The Shire - Hobbiton Movie Set
The Lord of the Rings trilogy received universal praise from fans and critics. The films are based on The Lord of the Rings novels written by J.R.R. Tolkien. The plot revolved around the most unlikely heroes in hobbits having to save the world. The hobbits live in a small little village known as the Shire.
Fans of the franchise can actually visit the real-life Shire in New Zealand. Parts of a 1,200-acre farm were converted into The Shire for the film. The location is now known as the Hobbiton Movie Set. It’s one of the most famous tourist destinations in the world. It features the home of Bag End and The Green Dragon Inn.
10 Hallelujah Mountains - Southern Sky Column
James Cameron’s Avatar is the highest grossing film of all time. It was released on December 18, 2009, and was an instant success. Avatar is known for its groundbreaking special effects. The film revolves around the fictional moon of Pandora. Humans on earth are fascinated and terrified by this mysterious moon and its inhabitants.
Pandora features the stunning and unique floating Hallelujah Mountains. The mountains were inspired by the real-life Southern Sky Column located at Zhangjiajie National Forrest Park in China. The mountains have since been renamed the Avatar Hallelujah Mountains to reflect the connection to the film.
9 The Kingdom Of Arandelle - Arendal, Norway
Frozen is the highest grossing animated film of all time. It was released on November 22, 2013, to universal praise. It featured the voices of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad and Jonathan Groff. The 53rd animated Disney feature film revolved around a young princess that sets out on a journey to save her sister, Elsa.
The film features the Kingdom of Arendelle, which is loosely based on a real-life location. Arendal is a city in southeastern Norway and served as the inspiration for Arendelle. The fictional kingdom also derived part of its name from the real-life Norwegian city.
8 The Canyon of Crescent Moon - Petra, Jordan
Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade was released on May 24, 1989, to rave reviews. It starred Harrison Ford and Sean Connery and followed their characters in their search for the Holy Grail. They end up at the mythical Canyon of the Crescent Moon. The magical location is actually the archaeological city Petra located in Jordan.
The entrance to the Crescent Moon is modeled on the eastern entrance to Petra. The historical city is known for the incredible architecture carved in the rocks. However, inside is not filled with traps and riddles as in the Last Crusade. Regardless, the location is breathtaking and a work of art.
7 Hogwarts - Alnwick Castle
The Harry Potter franchise is one of the highest grossing film series. It revolved around Harry Potter and his friends as they attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Hogwarts School is a magical place that is central to the films. The only way to get to Hogwarts is by taking the magical Hogwarts Express. The iconic location is actually easier to get to than some people think.
The exterior shots of Hogwarts were filmed at Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, England. Durham Cathedral was used for the wide exterior shots of the school and for some of the interiors. The famous Hogwarts Express platform is located at Kings Crossing station.
6 Arkham Asylum - Danvers State Hospital
Arkham Asylum appears in just about every Batman film, TV series, and animated series. The eerie and terrifying Arkham Asylum is where a majority of Batman’s enemies end up after he captures them. Of course, they easily escape and he’s tasked with tracking them down again. Dennis O’Neil and Irv Novick first introduced Arkham Asylum in 1974. They took inspiration from H.P. Lovecraft’s Arkham sanatorium.
Lovecraft took his inspiration from the real-life Danvers State Insane Asylum. It first opened its doors in 1878 but went through several changes throughout the years. In 2006, the Danvers Asylum was completely demolished and has been replaced by the Kirkbride apartment complex. The complex design is a throwback to the original Danvers State Hospital.
5 Paradise Falls - Angel Falls
The critically acclaimed 2009 animated film Up revolved around a widower, Carl, and a young boy that go on a journey to South America. Carl is fulfilling his late wife’s dream of seeing the incredible Paradise Falls. Paradise Falls is inspired by the real-life Angel Falls in Venezuela.
Angel Falls is the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall in the world. It has a height of 979 meters and a plunge of 807 meters. Angel Falls is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world but is a complicated journey to get there. Just look at what Carl went through. The creators of Up sent a team to study Angel Falls in order to get an accurate portrayal in the film.
4 King's Landing - Dubrovnik, Croatia
Game of Thrones is known for several locations that span the globe. King’s Landing is the capital of the Seven Kingdoms and the source of power. It’s one of the most important locations in the series. Additionally, the Iron Throne is located in King’s Landing, which only makes the city more significant. King’s Landing is actually the real-life city Dubrovnik, Croatia.
The real-life and fictional settings share several similarities, such as, the medieval feel, walled city, and gorgeous scenery. In fact, the walls are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and were built in the 12th and 16th centuries. It has become one of the top tourist destinations in the world.
3 Silent Hill - Centralia
The psychological film Silent Hill was released on April 21, 2006. It revolved around a mother who takes her adopted child to the abandoned town of Silent Hill. The real-life town of Centralia, Pennsylvania inspired the horrifying town of Silent Hill. Centralia is a near-ghost town that once had a population of 1,000. Since 1962 a coal mine fire has been burning beneath the town.
This resulted in the government buying up land from the residents and by 1990 the population was down to 63. Centralia’s ZIP code was discontinued in 1992. In 2013, the population had dwindled down to only seven. Those seven refuse to move and will live in Centralia for the rest of their lives.
2 Seahaven - Seaside
The 1998 film The Truman Show revolved around Truman Burbank who is adopted by a corporation and is unaware that his life is a reality show. The film starred Jim Carrey and was met with positive reviews. Truman’s life was fictional but the town of Seahaven isn’t as fictional as some thought.
In fact, Seahaven is the real-life master-planned community known as Seaside. Robert Davis designed the city and privately owns it. Professionals hold the architectural marvel in high regard. Seaside is often discussed in design schools and is featured in housing-industry magazines. In 2012, it was included on the Florida Architecture: 100 Years. 100 Places list.
1 Skywalker Homestead Tatooine - Hotel Sidi Driss
The Star Wars Saga is one of the most beloved franchises in cinema history. Luke Skywalker is the main protagonist of the original trilogy. Skywalker lived on the desert planet Tatooine. The planet is featured prominently in several installments. Filmmaker George Lucas scouted the earth searching for the perfect location for Luke’s home. They chose a small town in southern Tunisia known as Matmata.
The Hotel Sidi Driss located in Matmata was used as the Skywalker homestead. It’s now a popular tourist attraction for die-hard Star Wars fans. Additionally, a fisherman’s home was used as Obi Wan’s house, which is still standing as well.