Take A Trip To An Iconic Filming Location At This Stunning Canadian Castle

If you've ever dreamed of being a mutant with superpowers — and visiting the Great White North — head to Hatley Castle. This 115-year-old castle in Victoria, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, has beckoned superheroes of the big and small screen for more than two and a half decades. However, it's the castle's recurring appearance in the "X-Men" movie franchise that will likely interest travelers who grew up fantasizing about mutants with claws and tails.

You may know Hatley Castle by a different name: the X-Mansion, or Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. In the "X-Men" movies, it was first used as a filming location for the 2003 sequel "X2: X-Men United," where Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) flew into a berserker rage defending its students from a black ops attack at night. Twenty years later, the castle is still associated with a school, the real-life Royal Roads University, where it serves as an administrative building and draws visitors for guided walking tours. Over the years, the castle has also functioned as a military college and the family estate of James Dunsmuir, who commissioned its construction in 1908 and whose father, Robert Dunsmuir, was once British Columbia's wealthiest man.

X-fans may further recognize Hatley Castle from "X-Men: The Last Stand," "Deadpool," "Deadpool 2," or even the 1996 TV movie "Generation X," which predates all of these films. 2023 marks a first for the castle, being open for winter tours on select days in December, so don a stocking cap and get ready to pretend you're an X-Man.

Visit Hatley Castle for an X-Men-inspired travel adventure

Hatley Castle opens in the spring for regular guided tours, but currently, it also has tickets available online through Royal Roads University for winter tours. In these tours, on Sunday, December 3, 10, and 17, 2023, you can see holiday decorations and parts of the castle that you wouldn't normally see during the spring and summer. The fireplace will be going, and you'll be able to look out from atop the grand staircase. It might have you feeling like a kid at heart, or, if you're a big enough nerd, it might have you feeling like the young Kitty Pryde from the classic Christmas issue of the original "Uncanny X-Men" comic.

Being in the real X-Mansion could certainly give new meaning to the idea of "X-Mas." However, there's more to Hatley Castle than just its "X-Men" movie connections. Here, you can also see 250-year-old trees and lovely formal gardens, open daily for free. At one time, the castle, which occupies a 650-acre National Historic Site, even had its own Chinatown, which housed as many as 120 gardeners. The surrounding Hatley Park offers views of the Olympic Mountains in Washington state, and when touring the grounds outside of the castle (you can stroll the park grounds year-round), you can admire its 82-foot turret and Gothic Revival architecture. If you're up for more travel, you could cross the border to Washington and hit three stunning national parks in one road trip.

Indigenous history and other movie and TV appearances

Beyond the "X-Men" franchise, Hatley Castle has appeared in many other movies and TV shows, including Disney's "Descendants," AMC's "The Killing" (set in Seattle), and the old "MacGyver" series. Vancouver, just three hours away, has been called "Hollywood North," and it's Canada's most-filmed city. Before the first "X-Men" movie, Professor X himself, Patrick Stewart, happened to star in an action comedy called "Masterminds," shot at Hatley Castle.

The castle has also shown up in horror films like "The Boy," "Poltergeist: The Legacy," and "The Changeling." Though it might sound like a horror trope, it really is built on an ancient Indian burial ground. Needless to say, the famous totem poles of Stanley Park aren't the only link to Indigenous history in the Vancouver region. Royal Roads University occupies the traditional Lands of the Lekwungen-speaking Peoples, the Esquimalt and Songhees Nations. You can see Dunsmuir family artifacts and learn about the castle site's history as a Coastal Salish Indian burial ground at its free museum.

Oddly enough, Professor X wasn't the last bald character in the superhero genre to inhabit Hatley Castle, either. The show "Smallville" also used the castle as a filming location for Luthor Mansion, home of the Superman villain Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum). In "Arrow," the castle again appeared as Queen Mansion, home of another DC Comics character, Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell). All that really remains to be seen at Hatley Castle is the adventure your own travels will write.