8 Real Castles That Inspired Cinderella’s Castle in the Magic Kingdom

There are few people in this world who couldn’t recognize the enchanting, magical, dream-like fortress known as Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Disney World as we know it is tailor-made for adventurous and intrepid little dreamers. From princess makeovers to magical mirrors, it is the world’s most magical place. Alongside candy, favorite characters and thrilling rides, it boasts the most enchanting castle in all the land, Cinderella’s Castle. No matter how many times you see it, no matter how old you are, Cinderella’s Castle is awe-inspiring 100% of the time. If you’re fortunate enough to see it during Halloween or Christmas, it’s even more mind-blowing. So, I got thinking,

Where did all this magic come from?

Cinderella's Castle

Scott Smith, A Burst of Magic, Cinderella’s Castle, Magic Kingdom Walt Disney World, FL

Like many great works of art, the inspiration for Cinderella’s Castle comes from the most magical and storybook-plucked fortresses in all of Europe. I’m talking fairy tale quality, fairy Godmother flying around on unicorns kinda castles. That’s right… and I’m going to show you all of them, but first let’s meet Herbert.

Cinderella in theaters March 13, 2015

The Designing of Cinderella’s Castle

Herbert Dickens Ryman (June 28, 1910 – February 10, 1989), Disney artist, personal friend of Walt Disney and chief designer of the Cinderella Castle, chose eight named architectural masterpieces that inspired his plans for Cinderella’s fairytale fortress. Since 1971 Cinderella’s Castle has become the poster-castle for modern day fairy tales, (for mainstream America that is because we all know these fairy tale castles were around long before Walt). For others around the world, this was just a fabrication of some of Europe’s most stunning works of architecture, built in pieces from France, Germany, Poland and Spain.

Cinderella's Castle

ONe of the elaborate mosaic murals in the great hall through Cinderella’s Castle. I actually took this one! LOL.


Castles That Inspired Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World, USA

Castle that made Cinderella's Castle

Aerial view of Neuschwanstein Castle, photo by Wikimedia Commons.

#1 Neuschwanstein Castle

Perched high above the village of Hohenschwangau near Füssen in southwest Bavaria, Germany, stands what may be the most fairytale of them all, Neuschwanstein Castle. Commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria, more than 1.3 million people visit this remarkable site annually. It also served as the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. You can see the resemblance in the sky-high towers and distracting height. Other similarities can be seen inside the castle.

Chateau de Chenonceau Cinderella's Castle

Exterior of the Chateau de Chenonceau photo by Wikimedia Commons

#2 Château de Chenonceau

The Château de Chenonceau towers over the River Cher. Cradled by the tiny village of Chenonceaux in the world-famous Loire Valley in France. It’s one of the most popular châteaux of the Loire valley and dates back to 1514. Recognizably, the stained glass windows of this structure are seen in Cinderella’s Castle.

Castle that made Cinderella's Castle

Exterior view of the Chateau de Pierrefonds. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

#3 Château de Pierrefonds

The Château de Pierrefonds is situated along the southeast edge of the Forest of Compiègne, north east of Paris, between Villers-Cotterêts and Compiègne. During the Middle Ages it served as a military fortress, but has since undergone reconstructions in the late 19th century and is heavily toured today.

Chambord Castle Cinderella's Castle

The Northwest façade of Chambord Castle. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

#4 Château de Chambord

This may be the most iconic of all the châteaux in the world. Its notable French Renaissance architecture flawlessly blends traditional French medieval forms with classical Renaissance structures. It’s also the largest in the Loire Valley, originally a hunting lodge. How’s that for a man-cave.

Chateau de Chaumont Cinderella's Castle

The exterior of the Chateau de Chaumont. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

#5 Château de Chaumont

This castle in Chaumont-sur-Loire, France was founded in the 10th century by Odo I, Count of Blois. It was destroyed once and rebuilt in the late 15th century and is now a protected monument. This castle’s features are most noticeable in the elevations of Cinderella’s Castle.

Castle that made Cinderella's Castle

The Alcazar de Segovia, exterior view. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

#6 Alcázar of Segovia

Another towering fortress seated high on a cliff in the historic city of Segovia, Spain. The Alcázar of Segovia has served many functions throughout history including a prison! You can see the resemblance here in the elevations of Cinderella’s Castle.

Moszna Castle Cinderella's Castle

Exterior of Moszna Castle. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

#7 Moszna Castle

The Moszna Castle is a historic site and castle residence located Moszna, Poland. The brick layering in this structure are very similar to that of the Disney masterpiece and projects inviting and rich elegance.

Chateau de Fontainebleau Cinderella's Castle

The throne room in the Palace of Fontainebleau was the bedroom of the Kings of France from Henry IV to Louis XVI. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

#8 Palace of Fontainebleau

This stunning palace is just outside of Paris, France and is perhaps the most breathtaking of all French châteaux. You can see the resemblance of its interiors in Cinderella’s Castle. Its rich detail and lavish ornate trim on nearly everything practically mirrors that of the Palace of Fontainebleau.

Cinderella's Castle

Cinderella’s Castle during Disney’s Christmas celebration. Photo by historygradguy (jobhunting) Flickr

If you love all things Cinderella and want to bring a little magic into your Halloween ball, check out these premium Cinderella costumes. These super high quality costumes will make you think you have your very own fairy godmother!

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About Christa Thompson

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Christa Thompson is the Founder and Senior Editor of The Fairytale Traveler. Christa has been traveling the world since 2003 when she attended a summer abroad study at the University of Cambridge in England. Since then, her wanderlust has been fierce. Her three passions in life are her son, traveling, and being creative. The Fairytale Traveler brand gives Christa the opportunity to do all of these things and to live intentionally every day. "It's never too late to believe in what you love and to pursue your dreams." -Christa Thompson

11 Comments on this post

  1. I lived in Germany for a while and spent a lot of time in Europe and of course there are castles everywhere. I visited Neuschwanstein Castle many years ago. It is massive castle with lots to see inside.

    Bob / Reply
  2. […] WOW this is awesome news! In honor of Disney’s CINDERELLA, opening in theaters everywhere on March 13th, Disney is giving away a fairy tale trip to Walt Disney World Resort for 5 days and 4 nights, one of which will be spent in THE Cinderella’s Castle! […]

  3. […] Get ready to hop in your enchanted carriage for a storybook magical experience that takes you to Poland, Germany, Spain and France where you’ll find all the castles that inspired Cinderella’s Castle in the Magic Kingdom. Anyone and everyone will tell you, Cinderella’s Castle at Walt Disney Resort is one of the most spectacular castles among the Disney franchise, but it was actually inspired by 8 real castles that you can visit. […]

  4. […] from traditional Moorish and Spanish design, the Alcazar of Segovia is said to have been the inspiration for Cinderella. Isabelle I was crowned here in 1474 and today it is a museum well worth checking out for a […]

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  7. oh, don’t forget castle Drachenburg (dragons castle) in Koenigswinter!

    Bettina Wohlert / Reply
  8. […] hit the screen. Not only was she immortalized in the 1950 film Cinderella, but her palace is also a key attraction at Disney World. Many of us watched this film as children and dreamed of our own happily ever afters, but adulthood […]

  9. […] hit the screen. Not only was she immortalized in the 1950 film Cinderella, but her palace is also a key attraction at Disney World. Many of us watched this film as children and dreamed of our own happily ever afters, but adulthood […]

  10. […] hit the screen. Not only was she immortalized in the 1950 film Cinderella, but her palace is also a key attraction at Disney World. Many of us watched this film as children and dreamed of our own happily ever afters, but adulthood […]

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