How many Disney castles are there, and what makes each unique?
Close your eyes and think of Disney World. What’s the first image your brain conjures up? Twenty Disney dollars says it’s Cinderella Castle. Cinderella Castle is the icon of Walt Disney World, that beautiful piece of architecture that lures you down Main Street, U.S.A., and into the lands of Magic Kingdom.
Just as Disney World has Cinderella Castle, the other five Disney Parks around the world have their own royal residences as well. In this article, we’ll discuss how many Disney castles there are, tales from their construction, when the Disney castles were built, and even what’s inside (or underneath!) them.
How Many Disney Castles Are There?
Wondering how many Disney castles there are around the world? There are six Disney castles in total, one at each of the resorts globally:
- Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Resort
- Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World Resort
- Cinderella Castle at Tokyo Disneyland
- Le Château de la Belle au Bois dormant at Disneyland Paris
- Castle of Magical Dreams at Hong Kong Disneyland
- Enchanted Storybook Castle at Shanghai Disney Resort
Note: Beast’s Castle now resides at Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland; however, they are not the main castle and are thus not included in the final count.
Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Resort
Believe it or not, the first Disney castle was not the famous Cinderella Castle that likely comes to mind if you live in the eastern half of the United States. More than a decade and a half before Cinderella Castle sprung from the swampy grounds of Orlando, Walt Disney himself oversaw the construction of Sleeping Beauty Castle in Anaheim at Disneyland Resort.
Fast Facts about Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Resort
- 🔨 Built: 1955
- 🏰 Inspired by: Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria and Chenonceau Castle in France
- 📏 Height: 77 feet
- 👷 Construction notes: Sleeping Beauty Castle was originally supposed to face the other way, but when Disney Legend Herb Ryman turned the model around, Walt saw it and lit up. “Oh!” Walt said. “I like that better.”
- 💡 Fun fact: Sleeping Beauty was not out when Disneyland opened. Walt chose Sleeping Beauty as his princess for Disneyland to promote the film. Genius!
What’s Inside Sleeping Beauty Castle?
Sleeping Beauty Castle is now a walk-through attraction, though it didn’t become one until 1957. But beware: The passages can be quite narrow, which isn’t great if you are claustrophobic.
Did You Know? The drawbridge of Sleeping Beauty Castle is functional, but it’s only been lowered twice: once on opening day in 1955 and once more when Disneyland rededicated Fantasyland in 1983.
Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World Resort
Easily the most iconic Disney Castle, this staple of Magic Kingdom is significantly larger than its Sleeping Beauty predecessor at Disneyland. Despite being much larger than Sleeping Beauty Castle, Cinderella Castle still uses forced perspective to appear even larger.
Over the years, Cinderella Castle has seen several temporary and longer-lasting makeovers. Iconic makeovers include the 25th-anniversary birthday cake design, the Stitch TPing incident, and the 50th anniversary design.
Fast Facts about Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World Resort
- 🔨 Built: 1971
- 🏰 Inspired by: Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria
- 📏 Height: 189 feet
- 👷 Construction notes: It took 18 months to construct Cinderella Castle, which is made of steel and concrete.
- 💡 Fun fact: Original plans for Cinderella Castle included 29 turrets, but when Imagineers realized you wouldn’t be able to see turrets 13 and 27 from anywhere in the park, they figured, “Why bother?” But, charmingly, the turrets are still numbered 1-29.
What’s Inside Cinderella Castle?
There’s a whole lot to explore inside Cinderella Castle:
- An invitation-only Cinderella Suite
- Cinderella’s Royal Table restaurant
- Handcrafted glass mosaics depicting the story of Cinderella
- Bibbidy Bobbidy Boutique, a children’s salon
Did You Know? Despite its 189-foot height, Cinderella Castle is not the tallest structure at Walt Disney World. That record belongs to Animal Kingdom’s Forbidden Mountain of Expedition Everest at 199.5 feet. (That’s half a foot taller than the Hollywood Tower Hotel in Hollywood Studios.)
Cinderella Castle at Tokyo Disneyland
Having seen the success of the Disney model in the US, Oriental Land Company approached Disney to build a similar theme park experience in Tokyo Bay.
But forget the concept of a unique castle after another princess (sorry, Snow White); they wanted a copycat of the majestic Cinderella Castle. This proved to be a good thing for Disney, as the timing coincided with the construction of EPCOT.
Fast Facts about Cinderella Castle at Tokyo Disney Resort
- 🔨 Built: 1983
- 🏰 Inspired by: Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria (and Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom, of course)
- 📏 Height: 168 feet
- 👷 Construction notes: Herb Ryman led the charge over in Japan, but the construction team only spoke Japanese while Herb spoke English. Instead, they collaborated through sketches.
- 💡 Fun fact: From 1986 to 2006, guests could experience the Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour, which featured the Disney Villains, including the Horned King of the oft-forgotten (for good reason?) The Black Cauldron, Disney’s most notorious animated classic.
What’s Inside Cinderella Castle?
Step inside Cinderella’s Fairy Tale Hall in Cinderella Castle at Tokyo Disneyland. This unique walk-through attraction includes artwork that tells the story of Cinderella; you can even see her royal throne.
Did You Know? Tokyo Disneyland actually has two castles. Beast’s Castle opened in September of 2020. This amazing castle stands at 108 feet tall.
Le Château de la Belle au Bois dormant at Disneyland Paris
France had roughly 45,000 castles before the opening of Disneyland Paris (then Euro Disney), so Disney had some big glass slippers to fill when building its first European castle.
The name of the castle translates to “the castle of the beauty in the sleeping woods.” Calling it “Cinderella Castle” certainly would’ve been less of a mouthful (and Cinderella’s French!), but the French folks in the focus group loved the long name, so the castle became Sleeping Beauty’s second. Tie ball game!
- 🔨 Built: 1992
- 🏰 Inspired by: Castles and chateaus of Loire Valley, France; cubist artwork for Sleeping Beauty of Eyvind Earle; and elements of all Disney animated castles to date
- 📏 Height: 167 feet
- 👷 Construction notes: A French master stained-glass window maker (Paul Chapman) who worked on Notre Dame (the real one, not the animated one that Quasimodo inhabits) came out of retirement to help with Le Château de la Belle au Bois dormant’s stained glass.
- 💡 Fun fact: Look closely at one of the turrets. In a nod to French culture, you’ll notice an abundance of escargot shells. Yum!
What’s Underneath Le Château de la Belle au Bois dormant at Disneyland Paris?
It’s not what’s inside Le Château de la Belle au Bois dormant at Disneyland Paris that is noteworthy; it’s what lurks beneath.
Travel down into the depths of the castle to discover a sleeping dragon Animatronic! Learn all about it in our Halloween issue of the magazine (available in our shop now as a collectible issue or as part of your exclusive online access as a digital subscriber).
Sleeping Beauty Castle and Castle of Magical Dreams Hong Kong Disneyland
Tokyo was not alone in pining for the Cinderella Castle of Magic Kingdom. Hong Kong designers also wanted to get their hands on this iconic castle design.
But what they got? A replica of the original Sleeping Beauty Castle in Anaheim.
- 🔨 Built: 2005
- 🏰 Inspired by: Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria and Chenonceau Castle in France (and Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland, by extension)
- 📏 Height: 77 feet
- 👷 Construction notes: Hong Kong’s cultural influences on the park meant that it had to be designed with feng shui in mind, with ocean in the front and mountains in the back. Thus, while the other castles typically face south for the best photo ops, Hong Kong’s Disney castle faces east for the mountain backdrop.
- 💡 Fun fact: Until 2018, Hong Kong Disneyland’s castle paid homage to Sleeping Beauty. But then, for the first time, Disney decided to pay homage to multiple princesses and queens with a single castle.
And thus the Castle of Magical Dreams was born. While it’s still the same castle, it’s almost unrecognizable from its original form thanks to the massive transformation.
- 🔨 Built: 2020
- 🏰 Inspired by: Various Disney Princesses and Queens, with architectural inspiration from Europe, China, and Southeast Asia
- 📏 Height: 167 feet
- 👷 Construction notes: Imagineers reimagined the castle using 4D modeling technology. The entire project took four years.
- 💡 Fun fact: You can find nods to all your favorite Disney Princesses. Keep your eyes peeled for Snow White’s apple, Mulan’s sidekick Mushu, and the bow and arrow of Merida.
What’s Inside the Castle of Magical Dreams at Hong Kong Disneyland?
Like Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom, you can find a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. You can also sometimes meet your favorite Disney Princesses.
Did You Know? The expansion cost a total of roughly $1.4 billion USD. Half of that was funded by Hong Kong taxpayers.
Enchanted Storybook Castle at Shanghai Disney Resort
Rather than replicate Disney’s formula for success, Bob Weiss, president of Walt Disney Imagineering, designed Shanghai Disney Resort to be different, with no Main Street, no Frontierland, and no copycat Disney castle.
In fact, Imagineers decided to go for the biggest castle of any Disney Park but also make it feel like a “cozy home.” On top of that, Shanghai wanted Imagineers to build the castle as an E-ticket attraction, which led to the boat ride that goes through the castle (called Voyage of the Crystal Grotto).
- 🔨 Built: 2016
- 🏰 Inspired by: Multiple princesses, given the idea that every Disney Princess has lived here
- 📏 Height: 196 feet
- 👷 Construction notes: Due to the increased pollution in Shanghai, Imagineers wanted brighter colors for the castle. To get an idea of what these bright colors might look like before painting, Imagineer Doris Woodward had massive cranes hoist up different sheets of plywood painted in potential colors to make a final decision.
- 💡 Fun fact: Instead of the traditional Disney castle used at the beginning of films, the live-action Mulan utilizes a version of the Enchanted Storybook Castle.
What’s Inside Enchanted Storybook Castle at Shanghai Disneyland?
In addition to the E-ticket boat ride, the castle boasts a third-floor walk-through, princess meet-and-greets, a 250-seat restaurant, and a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.
Did You Know? Doug Rogers, who animated the Tangled castle, likes to build stories for what’s behind every door and window. So if you ever run into Doug, be sure to ask him about each door and window he designed for the Enchanted Storybook Castle.
Disney Castle Photo Collection
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Walt’s Weenies: A Spotlight
Walt used to entice his beloved dog with hot dogs (adorably referred to as “weenies”). He wanted his castles and other park icons to do the same: entice crowds into the parks from the entrances, giving them a sense of direction.
And it worked. The weenies weally worked. Er, really. Sorry about that.