Located very close to the American Museum of Natural History and the Great Lawn, and right above the Turtle Pond in the heart of Central Park NYC, Belvedere Castle is a magnificent folly. It brings a combination of Gothic and Romanesque architecture to the modern Manhattan.
Guests of the park can also enjoy the Shakespeare Garden on their way to the edifice. Belvedere Castle is open to everyone for free, although the guests are asked for a 2-dollar donation per person. Except for its other amenities, the building houses one of the five centers in Central Park.
The castle was designed by two architects Calvert Vaux and Frederic Olmsted, and after 4 years of work the building was finally completed in 1869. The initial design included another pavilion right next to the castle, but due to lack of funding it was never erected.
Until 1919 the fortress was open-air and had neither windows, nor doors installed. However, it was not before 1983 when the Belvedere Castle received its current, and final shape. It was in that year when the small but fascinating edifice was fully renovated and opened as the tourist attraction we see today.
Belvedere Castle stands on one of the highest points in the park the so-called Vista Rock and offers great view of the surroundings, hence its name, which in Italian means beautiful view. From the several balconies of the fortress, which has three floors can be seen various landmarks in the area, including but not only, the Great Lawn, the Turtle Pond (also sometimes referred to as the Belvedere Pond) right beneath, Delacorte Theatre, and the nearby forests.
The building is famous for and instantly recognizable by its solid granite walls and tower, which even to this day remains the highest point in the entire park. Its Gothic facade and the surrounding forest makes the castle one of the most popular places in the park for wedding and tourist photoshoots alike.
During most of the first half of XX century the castle was the home of the New York Meteorological Observatory, which stopped to use it in the beginning of the 1960s, when the bureau opened an automated meteorological kiosk not far from Belvedere.
Today, although the main meteorological station is located outside the building itself, guests of the fortress can enjoy an interesting exposition, featuring various tools used by naturalists for exploring the surrounding world, which makes the castle an extremely suitable destination for families with children.