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BlogTravel buzz7 destinations that’ll whisk you to the world of “A Court of Thorns and Roses”
Travel buzz

7 destinations that’ll whisk you to the world of “A Court of Thorns and Roses”

Mar 26, 2024 by Alejandro López

The best works of fantasy have a habit of pulling you into their pages. They build worlds so enthralling that leaving them’s like breaking an enchantment—close to impossible if you don’t have the will. With millions of copies sold internationally and a burgeoning presence on social media, the A Court of Thorns and Roses series is one of those rare, spellbinding cases. And the best part is you don’t have to retreat into a book to envision its universe.

Fan theories speculating the real-world locations of Velaris, Adriata, and more of the novels’ iconic settings abound. We happen to have some, too—along with ways you can visit them. Ready to winnow over? Read on to see where we think the boundary between Earth and Prythian grows thinnest, and which of our tours we’d recommend taking to get there.

What exactly is *ACOTAR*?

Short for A Court of Thorns and Roses, the series tells the tale of Feyre Archeron, a human-turned-Fae who finds love, friendship, and her fair share of adventure in the magical land of Prythian. (We’d delve into further detail, but this writer isn’t a fan of accidental spoilers.) Its author, Sarah J. Maas, pulls inspiration from a breadth of storytelling traditions—from Scottish ballads to Russian folktales—to bring her characters to life. Her equally fantastic worldbuilding draws on sources a little closer to home—literally!

Prythian derives its name from ancient spellings of the word “Britain.” What’s more? The chart accompanying each printed edition shows it bears a striking resemblance to the British Isles, partitioned into seven state-like Courts: three Solar Courts, named after phases of the day, and four Seasonal Courts. If you have your maps ready, we’ll begin our journey in Prythian’s northern reaches, working our way down until we hit the invisible barrier separating the Fae realm from the Mortal Lands.

The Night Court: Switzerland

Home to Rhysand and his Inner Circle, the Night Court—in the eyes of most Fae—is a cruel, unforgiving place, punctuated by jagged peaks and populated by monstrous inhabitants. Behind that mask, though, lies Velaris. The “City of Starlight” gives us one of the most dazzling backdrops in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series: a quaint, hilly town split by the sapphire waters of the Sidra River and cradled by mountains. It’s a haven for artists and artisans, lending quarters like the Rainbow a distinctly bohemian feel.

So, what better comparison can we make than Zermatt? Part of the Swiss canton of Valais (notice any similarities?), this Alpine resort town makes its case with sprays of flowers and chalets around every corner. Mountains tower over its streets—none higher than the Matterhorn, itself the spitting image of Ramiel, the centerpiece of the Night Court’s insignia. There’s even a river, the Matter Vispa, that divides the village with its ice-white current.

Words can only give you an outline; it’s better to add some color yourself. Our Switzerland by Train: Lucerne to Zurich tour includes a multi-night stay in Zermatt, letting you explore Velaris to your heart’s content. You could even imagine yourself venturing through the rest of the Night Court. Trust us: The Swiss Alps are a great stand-in for the Illyrian Mountains. (Sadly, we can’t guarantee you’ll spot Azriel or Cassian soaring past the Matterhorn.)

Watch the City of Starlight twinkle

The Day Court: Greece

Readers of A Court of Thorns and Roses don’t get to spend much, if any, time in the second of the Solar Courts. That being said, we’re given three big hints. For starters, the Day Court was renowned as a place of learning: At its height, it counted 1,000 libraries within its borders, cataloging Fae knowledge with depth and precision. Second off, Helion Spell-Cleaver—the court’s erudite High Lord—owns the only pegasuses left in Prythian. Lastly, with a name like the Day Court, the weather must be pretty toasty.

Our history and mythology buffs probably know where this is going. Revered for its contributions to Western civilization, Greece—specifically age-old Athens—ticks each of those boxes. The legacies of leaders from Pericles to Aristotle can still be keenly felt, and the voices of ancient gods continue to echo in the venerable ruins of the city’s temples. Our A Week in Ancient Greece: Athens, Delphi & Olympia tour gives an excellent introduction to all of it—and if you’d like to do more research for your own fan theories, tack on the extension to visit Crete.

Soak up the sun in the Day Court

The Dawn Court: Portugal

Maas, ACOTAR’s author, spares less ink in describing the Dawn Court. Ruled by High Lord Thesan, the final Solar Court possesses a patchwork of villages and rivers that play out over an ever-lush countryside. It’s a place of light and dewy shine, illuminating red-roofed homes and setting them sparkling.

Our real-life Dawn Court: Portugal. And our Grand Tour of Portugal: From Porto to Lisbon showcases why. In the country’s capital, the terra-cotta shingles and stark-white structures of the Alfama neighborhood spill down a hill until they reach the shores of the Tagus. Farther up north, Porto watches the Douro snake past its UNESCO-recognized center and terraced vineyards. Embrace its humid Mediterranean climate and picture yourself heading to Thesan’s opulent, opalescent palace for a state visit.

Welcome a new day in the Dawn Court

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The Winter Court: Norway

Evergreen forests. Majestic palaces. Plenty of snow and ice. We don’t set foot in the Winter Court, reading more about the dynamic between its High Lord and Lady—Kallias and Viviane—and their relationships with Rhysand and Morrigan than we do of its terrain. However, using what we’re given, we can take a sound logical leap and land on a real-world equivalent: Norway.

The time-hewn landscapes and regal heritage of this Scandinavian jewel give our claim some weight; it isn’t hard to imagine Kallias manning the walls of Oslo’s Akershus Fortress, or the royal couple surveying their lands atop Tromsø’s Storsteinen mountain. Even the wildlife matches up, with reindeer and polar bears roaming the far northern reaches of the country. While we can’t guarantee any animal sightings, we can assure you that trips like our Northern Lights of Norway: Oslo to Tromsø tour will leave you charmed.

Enjoy the icy elegance of the Winter Court

The Autumn Court: Germany

Paused in a perennial autumn and painted in hues of red and yellow, the second of the Seasonal Courts boasts tremendous scenery—made all the more stunning by its dense woods and foliage. What it lacks in urban development, it more than makes up for in geographical diversity: It tallies valleys, foothills, farmland, and more in its domain, making it one of the more varied environments in the ACOTAR series.

The same could be said for Germany’s fabled Black Forest. Neat plots of land stitch together across rolling hills like a quilt, buffering settlements from the mythical woodlands beyond. Brooks dribble across the undulating terrain. And if you want to go beyond outward appearances, the region itself has borne countless fairytales over the centuries, penned by writers like the Brothers Grimm. Our Switzerland, Alsace & the Black Forest tour brings it all into focus. Take your trip during the German fall to sharpen your view even further.

Admire the ruddy scenery of the Autumn Court

The Summer Court: Croatia

Day-to-day life in the Summer Court wouldn’t look out of place on the shores of the Mediterranean. From a perch on one of his castle-city’s walls, the High Lord Tarquin might see boats bobbing atop sky-blue seas, or watch villagers savor an ocean breeze funneling between suntanned, stone buildings. His territory is summer made tangible, and nowhere is that more apparent than in its capital. Its name? Adriata. Our pick for its double? The Adriatic town of Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Famous for the medieval walls of its UNESCO-recognized Old Town, Dubrovnik is a detailed study of the Summer Court’s most important settlement. They share a climate, a moniker (we don’t think “Adriata” was a coincidence), and even a color palette, heavy on beige walls and red roofs. And who knows what other comparisons can be made in the rest of Croatia! Interested in finding out? Our Croatia & Slovenia: The Old-World Adriatic tour offers a great starting point.

Savor life in seaside Adriata

The Spring Court: The United Kingdom

Never mind that Tamlin, one of the main figures of A Court of Thorns and Roses, takes his name straight from a Scottish legend—the Spring Court deserves to be known by more than its High Lord. Luckily, Prythian’s southernmost Fae realm encompasses landscapes akin to the finest the United Kingdom has to offer. Gently sloping hills draped in an assortment of emerald shades? Check. Lakes filled with waters as clear as a looking glass? Check. From the Scottish Highlands to the British Cotswolds, new parallels emerge with each blink of an eye.

The same goes at Ashridge House—or, as we like to call it, Tamlin’s Manor. Standing amid acres of meadowland and gardens, built from rare stone and dressed with fine masonry, this country estate has all the trappings of Spring Court royalty, including an elegant rosarium. Live it up for a day on our new Highlights of Southern England: London, Bath & Oxford tour. The itinerary includes a one-night stay on its grounds.

Smell the roses in the Spring Court

Ready to find your very own Velaris? Browse our Europe tours and take A Court of Thorns and Roses on the road.


About the author | Alejandro López
Alejandro thinks some of life’s enduring moments begin with travel—whether that’s slurping water from a falling brook on the Schlossberg in Freiburg, Germany, or taking silly Polaroid selfies with his wife on a six-hour train to Budapest. Beyond the keyboard, he loves a lunch-break soccer game; at home, he enjoys throwing on some lo-fi beats and cuddling with his six-year-old Wheaten Terrier, Piper.

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