I love travel- and writing an article called ‘Real Cities & Towns that will inspire any fantasy writer’ was a no-brainer. Look, I love the fantasy genre. I’ve read Harry Potter, The Night Circus and of course, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Yet I’ve thought for a while that the scope of locations were limited. Because of that, I want a break from London and New York. There’s more to the world and the fantasy genre than those two cities.
I find that the real world that we exist in can be magical. Just as Bilbo Baggins couldn’t stay in The Shire forever, we must appreciate the vast globe around us. Because of that, I’ve written a list of the real places that will inspire any fantasy writer. Enjoy!
Giethoorn, The Netherlands
Mostly car-free? Check. Boat-filled waterways? Check. Fantasy inspiration? Double check. This dreamy location in Holland is the stuff of dreams. You’ll think you are living in a crossover between the Dutch countryside and Venice. With it’s peaceful appearance, strong interest from tourists- you could craft a romantic story with speculative elements. I love this place- it encourages my imagination.
Tokyo is a city where robots serve in hotels and restaurants, neon lights adorn the signs and red light districts, people go on Mario Kart adventures on the street, cherry blossoms sprout in Spring, subways get packed and people have the most unique and creative sense of fashion. Inspired yet? Tokyo is proof that keeping things simple is boring. However, Tokyo does not shine in Western media, despite being the largest city in the world. This city is worth your time and understanding. It represents our past, present and future. Plus, Sailor Moon, Hello Kitty, Pokemon, Studio Ghibli… shall I go on?
Chernobyl represents a real-world disaster, and for the fantasy writer who seeks to represent the more darker and traumatic side of history, this city is an opportunity. It’s also heavily polluted, a ghost city and can give lethal doses of radiation. Still, tours have been offered in this haunted city. Perhaps in your next fantasy story, you can dance with the ghosts of the past and add a unique dimension to the genre.
Might better suit a fantasy story with a strong science fiction slant, however.
UNESCO-listed, Guanajuato offers any fantasy writer the chance to be inspired by vast, bright colours. On a weekday, check out the Guanajuato Mummy Museum for complete weirdness. Enjoy the tree-filled plazas, theatres and marketplaces- Guanajuato, Mexico is an experience like no other. This city will help bring colours and light into your fantasy story.
The stunning Mosques, the grand markets and halls, the many people, the vast cuisines.. Istanbul reads like a child’s adventure story, but exists as one of the most jaw-dropping places on Earth. Stock up on the history books- because Istanbul drips with history. Let Turkey captivate you when you write fantasy- you’ll appreciate it.
Putting your characters in a setting with an active volcano will stir up emotions in your story. When she erupts, she changes the weather. “frosts in Italy in June and snows in Virginia in July, and the failure of crops in immense swaths across Europe and the America.” Damn. This is a perfect location for those who like dragons, in particular.
Lake Natron, Tanzania
A terrifying lake that kills any animals that swim in it, and turns them into statues. Yikes! Not one of the faint of heart, but for those who want to add something creepy and unsettling to their fantasy stories.
Of course- a place that is beautiful (and has no scientific explanation) will inspire any fantasy writer. Not only is the Rainbow Mountain proof that sometimes, fantasy exists in the real world, but it’s also an argument for the world being beautiful. Getting from a Peru city to these mountains is a trek- but it would be worth it.
Add some sun and surf to your fantasy, and Australia will smile on. As an Australian myself, I am floored by the natural beauty that exists in my country. Cairns is a highlight- rainforests, cable cars, flora, and fauna. It’s best enjoyed outdoors, on a summery Australian day. I think fantasy writers should visit Australia, explore the Outback, look at the Sydney Harbour, visit a lavendar farm in Tasmania…. we are not a country that is often associated with the fantasy genre, but I think we are pretty magical.
Prague, Czech Republic
I visited Prague in late 2017 around Christmas. This imperial city screams fairytale, and if you haven’t seen the Astronomical Clock- which WILL inspire your writing- you are missing out. Prague is a city full of character, and if you are writing a novel inspired by Prague, I’d suggest visiting it first so you can pick up on the nuances and charms of this great city.
So there you have it! Ten cities & towns that could inspire your next fantasy story. What do you think? Any places you’d suggest? Comment below!