Places to visit around the world for all LOTR fans!
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The Lord of the Rings
When I was 13, I watched Lord of the Rings for the first time and fell in love…
The second time I watched Return of the King (after the initial WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN???? viewing), we came to the scene of the cozy Green Dragon in Hobbiton at the end, and I thought, “I want to go there.”
Thus was born my desire to travel.
And my desire for all things Lord of the Rings.
If you love LOTR (and travel) as much as I do, you will want to visit all of these places! Some are places where LOTR was filmed. Some are places that inspired Tolkien to write his incredible stories. And some are places where he just hung out (and you can too!).
What’s in this Article?
Although he is of English ancestry, and spent most of his life in England, Tolkien was actually born in South Africa, where he lived for the first three years of his life (and maybe got the idea of giant spiders…)
Bloemfontein, South Africa
If you visit the city of Bloemfontein, you can see the church where he was baptised, the grave of Tolkien’s father, and stay at the Hobbit Boutique Hotel, near the place where Tolkien was born.
There really aren’t too many “Tolkien” related things to see and do in this South African city. Here are some articles from people who have visited to help you get an idea of what you can do:
2013 article from The Guardian
2017 article from a fan’s visit to the city
When Tolkien was 3 years old he moved back from South Africa to England. As a child he lived in Birmingham, before going to Oxford to study and later teach.
He spent most of his adult life in Oxford, but eventually retired in the coastal village of Bournemouth.
Tolkien grew up in the Birmingham area. He often played with his brother at Sarehole Mill, which inspired the mill in Hobbiton. It is widely speculated that the juxtaposition of the clean countryside around the mill and the smoky industrial city of Birmingham inspired the shire vs. Mordor.
Perrot’s Folly is another Birmingham site that inspired Tolkien. The tall thin tower was probably an inspiration for one of the two towers of Orthanc and Cirith Ungol in the second Lord of the Rings book. It is possible that the nearby Edgbaston Waterworks was inspiration for the other tower.
If you’re visiting Birmingham, be sure to check out the Cadbury Chocolate Factory too!
As his home for most of his life, Oxford has the most Tolkien things to see (as well as other famous authors, such as C.S. Lewis and Lewis Carroll).
You can visit Tolkien’s home (it’s a private residence with just a plaque outside for you to see), or the grave of both him and his wife, marked with the names Beren & Luthien. Spend some time in the Oxford Botanic Gardens, just as the author used to (although his favorite tree was cut down in 2014). Hang out in the very same pubs (The Eagle & Child and The Lamb & Flag) where Tolkien, Lewis and their Inkling society met (note: The Eagle & Child Pub remains closed for renovations. The Lamb and Flag is newly reopened).
The Bodleian Library in Oxford is also worth a visit, not only for its Tolkien connection, but for the incredible Gothic architecture (not to mention it’s a filming location for Harry Potter). The Radcliffe Camera is supposed to be an inspiration for the temple Sauron built to Morgoth on Numenor.
And of course, there is Merton College, where Tolkien taught, along with lots of other famous colleges to visit.
There are several LOTR sites to see in the beautiful Cotsowlds villages.
The Bell Inn in Moreton-in-Marsh, just 30 minutes from Oxford by train, was often frequented by Tolkien, who came to the village to visit his brother. It is said to be the inspiration for The Prancing Pony in The Fellowship of the Ring.
Not far from there is the St. Edward’s Church door, which if you’ve been on social media, you’ve seen it (if not, here is a picture).
The famous door in Stow-on-the-Wold stands between two tall trees, and definitely looks like a piece of Elven handiwork.
The Four Shire Stone marks where the boundaries between 4 different counties meet. It is widely accepted that the stone is the inspiration for the Three Farthing Stone in the Lord of the Rings.
Plus, it’s also called “shire” so, win-win.
Tolkien and Edith retired in Bournemouth, on the southern coast of England, to escape the crowds of adoring fans who knew his address (and telephone number!) in Oxford. They had often come here on holidays before retirement, so you too should come on holiday here!
Although Tolkien returned to Oxford after his wife’s death, he continued to frequently visit Bournemouth, and actually passed away while there. As mentioned above, however, both Edith and Tolkien are buried in Oxford.
Tolkien visited Switzerland when he was 19 years old and became enamored with the country. He confirmed that his time there inspired the Misty Mountains, and Bilbo’s journey in The Hobbit.
I cannot wait to go to the Lauterbrunnen Valley in Switzerland!
If you’re unfamiliar with this area, just Google it. You’ll recognize it. Trust me.
The picturesque village set in the heart of a gorgeous valley is believed to be the inspiration for Rivendell in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
If you’ve seen pictures of Zermatt, then you’ve seen pictures of the Lonely Mountain.
In other words, the Matterhorn. I don’t know for sure that it inspired the Lonely Mountain, but I do know for sure that Tolkien drew inspiration for the Misty Mountains from Switzerland, and I mean, look at it! It is absolutely Lake Town and the Lonely Mountain!
Unless it’s Christmas time, in which case it is Whoville.
Tolkien visited France when he served in the army in WWI. It is possible that he drew inspiration from the area for some of the architecture in the Lord of the Rings.
Either way, the filmmakers who worked on LOTR definitely drew inspiration from France for the grand halls of Minis Tirith.
Mont Saint-Michel Abbey
I wanted to visit Mont Saint-Michel because it is the inspiration for one of my favorite Disney movies, Tangled!
But now I want to visit it even more (and I just can’t wait!), because I found out it is also the inspiration for Minis Tirith in The Lord of the Rings!!!
You can see Minis Tirith in the way the city rises up level after level, all the way to the beautiful Medieval abbey at the very top. Then take a peak inside the abbey, and see it looks almost exactly like Lord Denethor’s hall.
LOTR may be set in an old England, but New Zealand really is Middle Earth incarnate.
Especially since they filmed the movies here. And Hobbiton exists here. Literally.
The country is worth a visit in its own right, but for any Lord of the Rings fan, New Zealand is a MUST.
Our trip to New Zealand was just lacking one thing—a visit to the Weta Workshop in the capital city of Wellington!
If you’ve watched any bonus features on LOTR, you know the Weta Workshop made all of the props and did all the special effects for the movies. You can visit the workshop to see some of these iconic props and costumes, or you can even sign up for a workshop and make some of your own movie magic!
A lot of scenes from the movies were shot in Queenstown, New Zealand. We visited here in 2017 and did a LOTR tour around the area with Nomad Safaris.
It was my absolute favorite thing we did in New Zealand! I highly recommend this tour.
Of course you can’t go to New Zealand without visiting Hobbiton. This is the NUMBER ONE reason Lord of the Rings fans come to New Zealand (that, and it’s freakin’ gorgeous!).
Is Hobbiton crowded and touristy? YES.
But is it worth it because it’s Hobbiton? YES.
LOTR tour of New Zealand:
We visited Hobbiton through Red Carpet Tours, and really enjoyed them. They offer 6-day and 14-day LOTR tours across all the sites in New Zealand (AKA: Middle Earth).
Surprise! The US is not somewhere I usually think of when I hear LOTR.
But we here in the US love Middle Earth as much as the next guy, so we have (or had…) our own special tributes.
And we have boats that look like they belong to Galadriel. So there’s that.
The Swan Boats in Boston
If you’ve ever dreamed of riding in a swan boat down the river just like Galadriel does in Fellowship of the Ring, here’s your chance!
Take a ride on the swan boats in the Boston Commons, the huge park in the center of the city (and one of my favorite places in the world!). Take note that the boats are only open mid-April through the beginning of September.
Hobbiton USA was the corniest (and most quintessentially American) road side attraction built in the seventies. Unfortunately it has not stood the test of time, but you might still be able to see the remnants of what was once a classic tourist stop (plus, California is just cool, so it’s worth the road trip).
Most of my ideas of comic con come from The Big Bang Theory (which Sean Astin also [guest] stars in!). I mostly thought it was for comic book nerds, but actually it’s for nerds of all kinds!
There are versions of comic con all over the US, as well as international comi cons.
Basically what happens is a BUNCH of stars from a bunch of different genres all come to the same place for a day, and then you pay lots of money and wait in lots of lines to meet them. And you dress up.
We got to meet ALL FOUR hobbits at Steel City Con in Pittsburgh, and it was awesome! Here are some tips if you want to go to a comicon and meet some of the LOTR actors:
You get more time to interact with the actors if you get an autograph vs. a photograph.
Sometimes they’ll let you take a selfie, or you might have to pay more if you also want a selfie when you get your autograph.
Think of what you want to say to them ahead of time.
They will totally talk to you if you start a conversation, but knowing what to say is the difference between getting Sean Astin to do a happy dance because he found out you drove 3 hrs. to see him and your entire conversation with Billy being “Hi. Hi. Hi. Sorry. Bye.” Clearly I made a memorable impression…
Basically comic con is waiting in line.
The one we went to was super disorganized and no one had any idea what was going on. We waited outside (in December!) for almost 2 hrs. before we got called inside to wait in more lines. I was a pretty grumpy hobbit, until we walked into the room where Sean, Elijah, Dom & Billy were. That made everything worth it.
You can bring in your own food and water
(at least at the Pittsburgh comic con). So be sure to bring snacks for all of the line waiting you’re going to do.
They tried to take credit cards, but couldn’t always get the wifi to work to read the credit cards. So just bring cash (also get screenshots of your tickets, in case you can’t get a signal).
You do not have to dress up, so you won’t feel out of place if that’s not your thing. But you also won’t feel out of place if that is your thing! It’s also totally acceptable to walk up to the Witch King of Angmar and ask for a photo!
Have any more Lord of the Rings places to visit?
Be sure to share them in the comments below (maybe you’ve stayed in one of the many hobbit hole themed vacation rentals around the world)!
Planning a LOTR pilgrimage around the world?
Save this pin for future trip planning: