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Monday, December 25, 2023

Belvedere castle: location, admission, what to see & things to do

  Rajesh Kumar Rana       Monday, December 25, 2023

Did you know that there is also a castle in Central Park? Well yes, Belvedere Castle has been observing the famous New York park since the 1870s or more or less since the creation of the park itself.

Belvedere castle central park, NY
Belvedere castle central park
Image source: Flickr/hjjanisch

It was precisely the architects of the park who wanted a panoramic point that harmonized with the surrounding nature and was surprising at the same time. Although small, this castle, especially after the restorations of the Central Park Conservancy, seems to have come out of a fairy tale to charm visitors tired of tall and ultra-modern skyscrapers with its eccentricity.

Belvedere Castle Central Park

What's this?

Belvedere Castle is a castle that was built on the second highest point in Central Park. Its construction began in 1869. Its architect, Calvert Vaux planned to use the tower as a vantage point over the reservoir which was later filled and which is now the part known as the “Great Lawn”. In 1919 its use was revised and the weather bureau of the United States used it to record various data. In the 1960s, they moved their tools to the roof of Rockefeller Center leaving the building empty. It remained so until 1983 after several years of vandalism. Since 1996, an exhibition on the observation of nature occupies the interior of the castle.

Why was belvedere castle built?

Upon arrival, many tourists have the feeling that they are not in front of a "real" castle: it may be because of its small size or because it is surrounded by trees and a charming turtle pond. The castle  seems to have come out of a storybook, in the photograph below this fantastic appearance is reflected.

It is made up of schist + granite and is inspired by European Gothic and Romanesque architecture. The structure is equipped with a corner tower with a conical roof and a belvedere placed on the parapets. 

The castle houses some exhibition rooms, allowing you to learn more about the castle and its history. The original plans for the castle included the construction of two towers: a larger one on the eastern elevation and a smaller one on the opposite side.

However, Tammany Hall, having taken over the building, modified the initial design to reduce costs. 

A painted wooden pavilion not provided for in the initial project was erected and the eastern tower was completed in 1871. The western tower was never built. In 2018, the Central Park Conservancy began a second renovation of the castle, it was restored over 15 months at a cost of $12 million, completing it on June 28, 2019.

Belvedere Castle location & how to get there


Belvedere Castle is located in the center of Central Park, at 79th Street, not far from the Delacorte Theater, Shakespeare Gardens, Romeo and Juliet and The Tempest statues. To the north it overlooks the Great Lawn, while to the south is The Ramble. The castle overlooks Turtle Pond.


How to get to belvedere castle:

The best way to reach Belvedere Castle is to get off at the 81st Street – Museum of Natural History subway station on Central Park West. The stop is served by the A, B, C lines. Enter Central Park and walk for about 6 minutes on the 79th Street Transverse. After passing Shakespeare Gardens, you will find the castle on your left.

In front of the castle there are also bus stops E79 Transverse Road / Central Park and E79 Street / 5 Avenue for the M79 – SBS line.

If you need advice or suggestions on  the New York subway or on  how to get around in New York, I am sure that our articles will help you to better organize your visit.

Admission & opening hours

Belvedere Castle is open Wednesday to Sunday 10am to 5pm. The castle is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day.

Admission is free. The internal visit will take 5-10 minutes of your time, but from the castle you will have the opportunity to see a good part of the central area of ​​the park and therefore I recommend you to visit it.

Why visit it & what to see 

From Belvedere Castle you can admire the view over the central part of the park and perhaps spot rare birds. The castle, in fact, is a popular destination for birdwatchers. From its windows you can see Turtle Pond and the Delacorte Theater, as well as the wooden pavilion with tower that is part of the complex.

Belvedere Castle still houses some instruments to measure the direction and intensity of the winds. Furthermore, since 1995 it has been the seat of the Henry Luce Nature Observatory, a study and research center for visitors interested in the flora and fauna of Central Park: binoculars, telescopes & maps reproductions of the birds present and visible in New York's most famous park York.

Like various other locations in Central Park (Bethesda Terrace, The Great Lawn, The Mall, Bow Bridge), Belvedere Castle has also been the backdrop for some movies and TV series. If you have children, you will surely remember the film The Smurfs in which the castle was Gargamel's operations centre, but also the dances from Enchanted and some scenes from Stepmom with Susan Sarandon and Julia Roberts.

What do we do here?

When entering the castle, you can climb the tower to have an interesting view of the park. This makes it possible to take excellent pictures. Also, you can visit the exhibition inside. Opening hours are Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

A walk through central park to Belvedere castle video:

What is inside Belvedere Castle?

The castle not only offers beautiful views of Central Park and Manhattan, but also has a series of exhibition rooms. You will find the Central Park Learning Center with interesting information for children and lovers of nature and animals.

The collection on display includes a wide range of natural history finds, such as bird skeletons and feathers, but also  microscopes, binoculars and telescopes to better observe nature and try to spot some animals.

To help visitors recognize the species that inhabit Central Park, in one section you can see  bird specimens made from papier-mâché. There are also maps, documents and informative material on the studies carried out.

Events are organized throughout the year within the castle, and activities related to themes  such as astronomy and the natural world.

There is also a program dedicated to children with fairy tales and ghost stories during Halloween. It is recommended that you take a walk through the  turtle lake, where you will also see lizards, fish and beautiful flowers.

From Belvedere Castle you will find the Delacorte Theater on the opposite shore of the Turtle Pond. Free Shakespeare performances are held on the outdoor stage in summer.

Belvedere Castle is also very popular with people looking for a good place to propose.

Belvedere castle central park, NY
Belvedere castle central park, NY

Where to sleep in the area

If you want to stay in a quiet area and have the opportunity to take a relaxing walk in the countryside after returning from your adventurous days of discovery in New York, choosing to sleep in hotels near Central Park is an excellent solution. The area is well connected to other parts of Manhattan and so you can explore this huge park far and wide enjoying every part of it and perhaps taking advantage of the many events that take place in this area.

In short

During your walk in Central Park during your next stay in New York, take a few minutes to visit Belvedere Castle. When we do not know that it is there, it may surprise us to see such a castle in the middle of the park.

If you liked this article and want to continue learning more about the great city of New York, do not hesitate to visit our great page with guides and excursions for the whole family.

More Central Park Attractions

  • Central Park Statues
  • Sports in Central Park

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