5 Castles of Walt Disney World
In a recent issue of our free weekly email newsletter that we send out to subscribers with updates, news, and rumors (if this was forwarded to you by a friend, you can subscribe here…did we mention that it’s free?), we included a throwaway line about the ‘five castles’ at Walt Disney World. It was not meant to be trivia, but many of you were curious about this. We received a ton of email replies, tweets, and even comments on random, unrelated posts.
So, we figured we’d return this week to reveal the “answer” (and also test out exclusive or ‘early access’ content for subscribers). Since you subscribers are probably more diehard Disney fans than casual readers, we figured it’d be a good opportunity to geek out a bit and share a bit of info about each of these castles, including their real-world inspiration. In some cases, our travels have taken us to locations that inspired the castles, and we’ll share a bit of that, too.
We also want to note that some of you located castles that we didn’t even consider. Several readers guessed the castles at Winter Summerland (more than those of you who guessed #4 and #5 on here!). If we were to count those, it would also make sense to count the Sand Castle Pool’s main feature at Old Key West.
There are probably other small-scale castles we’re missing, so if you think of something, share it in the comments. Let’s steer clear of random models of Cinderella Castle, merchandise, or that sort of thing. That’s a slippery slope, as there are literally thousands of castles once we start wandering through gift shops. With that said, here’s the list…
1. Cinderella Castle, Magic Kingdom
The obvious one. The Walt Disney World castle that you probably stop in awe of every single trip, have photographed hundreds (or thousands) of times, etc. It really needs to further introduction.
In terms of inspiration, Cinderella Castle is a pastiche of European castles. Depending upon who you ask, you’ll receive a different answer about what inspired it. The castle we’ve visited that reminded me the most of Cinderella Castle was ChÃ¢teau de Chenonceau, which is my favorite castle in all of France.
2. Beast’s Castle, New Fantasyland
Okay, since this “toy castle” atop the rocks makes the list, perhaps all of that random merchandise in gift shops should, too? The difference here is that you can also dine “inside” of Beast’s Castle, and while the structure perched atop the rockwork is a weak example of forced perspective, it’s far from all there is to this particular castle.
Beast’s Castle in Beauty and the Beast is said to be inspired by Chateau De Chambord (see more from our visit to that castle) and the Palace of Versailles (see more from our visit there), both of which are in France. Honestly, neither of these castles reminded me of Beast’s Castle even the slightest. Perhaps the sprawling size and various interior components?
3. Prince Eric’s Castle, New Fantasyland
This is probably the “oh duh” castle on the list. It’s hiding in plain sight, easy to overlook as a castle. Nevertheless, Prince Eric’s Castle (or should it be Princess Ariel’s Castle now?) is a castle.
Prince Eric’s Castle is unique in that it clearly draws incorporates real-world designs–it’s a Mediterranean-style castle and features a Spanish-tile roof–but there are no obvious sources of inspiration. Perhaps an expert on castles in the Mediterranean can school me on this, but I can’t think of any locations that it was based upon. Parts of it are vaguely reminiscent of Chillon Castle (take a look at our visit to that castle), but that’s a castle in Switzerland.
4. Akershus Castle & Fortress, Norway Pavilion
Although not as regal as its Magic Kingdom counterpart, Akershus is Epcot’s “castle dining” option. This character meal began in 2005, before which the location was a straightforward restaurant serving traditional Norwegian cuisine. It was originally going to be one of two castles in the pavilion, with Egeskov Castle from Denmark being the other (when it was intended to be the Scandinavian pavilion, rather than just the Norway pavilion).
Akershus in Epcot is based on the real-life Akershus Castle and Fortress in Oslo, Norway. The real Akershus was built in 1299, when it served as a medieval castle and royal residence into being developed into a fortress in 1592. Today, Akershus Castle contains banquet halls (sound familiar?!), the Royal Mausoleum, and various reception rooms.
5. White Egret Castle, Japan Pavilion
The final castle on our list has a pretty interesting and relatively unknown history. Modeled after Himeji Castle in Japan (which we’ve visited several times–check out our post about it on TravelCaffeine), which is the most beautiful castle in Japan, the country’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, and an exemplar of Japanese fortification architecture.
Despite towering over the Japan pavilion when viewed from across World Showcase Lagoon, the castle is mostly obscured once you’re inside the pavilion. This probably explains why a lot of people missed it. Another reason you might’ve missed it is because it serves no functional purpose. Now, you might wonder why Epcot has such a large castle that is merely ornamentation, and the answer is…it was never meant to be ‘merely ornamentation.’
White Egret Castle was originally meant to house Meet the World, which was simultaneously being developed for Tomorrowland at Tokyo Disneyland. This was a four-act show in the style of Carousel of Progress that would’ve featured a hybrid of Audio Animatronics and film segments, inviting guests to “explore Japan’s heritage on an incredible time-travel adventure!”
The show was completed for Tokyo Disneyland and ran there from 1983 until 2002, but never debuted in EPCOT Center. This was despite the show being localized, a theme song recorded by the Sherman Brothers, and a show building even being built for it in EPCOT Center. (You can get a look at the blueprints here–the second image is the theater.)
Who knows…maybe someday White Egret Castle will serve as the pre-show for the long-rumored Mount Fuji coaster, or perhaps the Shinkansen Sightseeing Train?
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Which of Disney’s castles are your favorites? Can you name any other castles at Walt Disney World that we forgot? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
Beast’s castle really is a poor attempt at forced perspective… they couldn’t have done better than that?
So, would you include the Ice Castle and the Sand Castle-in the Winter Summerland Mini-Golf Course-Disney Castles that you COULD include??
Does anyone know why they closed the passway thru Cinderella castle?
I passed through it last week when I was there.
Hello, we are wondering why you are no longer permitted to pass thru the Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom?
You are permitted – just not at certain times of day (most of the middle) when they stage show is running or fireworks are about to happen.
Does anyone know why they closed stitches great escape at the magic kingdom, it was my son’s favorite ride.
I thought maybe it was some castle maybe being built in Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge. Perhaps Padme or Princess Leia castle of some sort would be cool.
You forgot the 6th caslte – part of the German Pavillion – and I believe part of the UK Pavillion has a castle based on the Gothic stylings in the UK, but it isn’t a specific castle so to speak.
Most of the Germany pavilion is modeled after Rothenburg (check out my photos from there here: http://www.travelcaffeine.com/rothenburg-ob-der-tauber-germany-tips/ ), and while the pavilion has a show building with castle-like artifice for the unbuilt Rhine River Cruise, I wouldn’t consider any of that to be an actual castle.
The structure at the UK Pavilion looks castle-like, but it’s actually the gatehouse of Hampton Court Palace, a lavish Tudor affair commissioned by Henry VIII for Cardinal Wolsey.
Of course… the White Egret Castle… I walked all around it and admired it (having visited castles in Japan) but never even thought of it in connection to your ‘5 castles’ comment. Talk about Eurocentric perceptions!!! Thanks for giving us the list.
Prince Eric’s castle was without a doubt an “oh duh” moment! It’s like you could read my mind!
I always thought the haunted house in Magic Kingdom was a castle?
I’ve always heard it called the Haunted Mansion, and I think it was supposed to simply be an American mansion rather than a castle.
On our last visit we were thrilled that I managed to score reservations for Be Our Guest and Cinderella’s Royal Table! Unfortunately, Hurricane Matthew blew into town on our Cinderella Castle day…sob…But, I was truly impressed by Prince Eric’s Castle! It had not showed up during my planning and research, so when we happened upon it we were amazed! I marveled that I didn’t know Prince Eric had it going on like that…lol…my husband remarked that Eric got it from his dad! I have vowed that when we return I will see inside Cinderella Castle! Can’t wait!
Yup, I immediately went “Oh, duh” when I saw Prince Eric’s castle. And then read it. lol!!
I forgot about Prince Eric’s castle. I assumed the 5th was Germany in Epcot!
Thank you for satisfying our curiosity! It is such a treat to see real trivia vs. “Did you know there are tunnels under the MK?!” I had never heard about the intention of Meet the World there.
I always thought that was Osaka Castle in Epcot’s Japan– or is that another name for the one you’re talking about? I’m not that current on Japanese landmarks, except that Osaka Castle is always on the destruction list in Kaiju movies.
Nope, it’s not Osaka Castle. They are (sorta) near one another, but Himeji is far more impressive. Honestly, though, many of the castles in Japan look very similar to one another, so you could say it’s almost any of them.
A lot of the original castles were also destroyed (some many times over) over the centuries, too. In fact, one of the most common lines I find when reading the history of any location in Japan is, “X was destroyed by fire in [year], rebuilt, destroyed again in [year], and rebuilt.”
Don’t forget Rapunzel’s Tower (sort of a castle type building). It’s the restroom theme area between fantasyland and liberty square.
Unless I’m missing something, Mother Gothel isn’t royalty, so the tower where she holds Rapunzel captive is not part of a castle or chateau. It definitely looks nice, but to my knowledge is not part of a castle.
And now I want to ride “meet the world” …
You and me both. As much as I enjoy Monsters, Inc. Ride & Go Seek at Tokyo Disneyland, I really wish I had the chance to experience Meet the World. They even had headsets with the English audio for the show, making it even more remarkable that this show never made it to Epcot.
It was done and ready, the building was built…but it was never installed. So odd.
Does Elsa’s ice castle on the frozen ride count?
I mean, there aren’t any real “rules” to this–I’m just making it up as I go. I personally wouldn’t count it, but more power to you if you want to do so!