Ready to meet some Disney princesses?!? We’re headed over to check out lunch at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Epcot!
Akershus offers a terrific alternative to the extremely hard-to-get advance dining reservation for Cinderella’s Royal Table. A mainstay of World Showcase’s Norway Pavilion, the grand restaurant offers old world Scandinavian charm and character dining encounters with a cast of Disney Princesses.
You still get to eat in a castle (albeit a much smaller one), and you still get to meet at least five Disney princesses. (Cinderella is usually included.) Plus, the price is going to be quite a bit lower than it is in Cinderella Castle. Time to take a closer look.
Located to the right as you make your way back through the Norway Pavilion, Akershus is is situated across from Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe, Norway’s charming counter service location.
The inside (once you GET inside…more on that later) offers a welcome respite from the bright, hot Florida sunshine. Immediately upon entering, you pick up on the medieval decor. Heavy, ornately carved wooden “thrones” can be found in the entryway.
Akershus is modeled after a medieval castle outside of Norway’s capital city, Oslo. The fortress was completed in the 14th century, and the interior features the same white walls as the Disney replica.
The whitewashed stone walls lend to the cheerful, cool feeling. The low windows look out on the pavilion and allow for lots of natural light to flood the pretty space.
In the main dining room, you get a real sense of the castle vibe. Vaulted wooden ceilings are not plastered, and feature heavy wooden beams and wrought iron chandeliers with “candles.”
Just like in the banquet hall of Cinderella’s Royal Table, the ceiling at Akershus soars above you, and it’s decorated with banners. These depict symbols of life in Norway.
Take a moment to study the beautiful detail of the woodwork here. It’s reminiscent of the Stave Church, also found in the Norway Pavilion. The intricate dark wood beams are just beautiful, and another example of how specific Imagineers are in the work they do.
Seating is found in several different, distinct dining rooms; and guests are made comfortable with cushioned chairs. The main dining room with its soaring ceilings is usually the loudest and most hectic. If you’d prefer a quieter table tucked away in a separate dining room, be sure to request it when you check in.
Thick brick arches continue to give off a stone castle vibe.
Eating in the circular dining room is a special treat! You feel like you’re in the turret of the castle. The windows here let in plenty of light, while giving you a nice view of the outside as well.
Be sure to look at the details of the decor as you enjoy your surroundings. Not only is this china display beautiful, but the message inscribed, if I’m not missing my mark, is loosely translated to “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes.” Fabulous!
While the restaurant itself is quite beautiful, the biggest draw is the character interaction. During your breakfast, lunch, or dinner, you’ll encounter a collection of Disney Princesses. They tend to vary slightly, so you may see princesses that weren’t at our lunch. If you do, let us know who you meet!
Characters and Princess Processional
The day we visited, we had a chance to meet five princesses. Belle was at the front entrance to Akershus (as she usually is), greeting guests. She doesn’t actually circulate throughout the dining room , so if she’s a favorite of yours, be sure to get your photo and autograph on the way in.
As an aside, here’s a little tidbit about how guests are checked in and seated at this restaurant. Because all guests have the chance to meet Belle when they first come in, the small entryway and lack of a “waiting area” means things get crowded and backed up very quickly.
As a result, guests check in outside and are given a pager. They’re then made to continue to wait outside until a large group of new diners is brought in to meet Belle and then be seated. It’s definitely a hassle if it’s super hot or super rainy in Epcot that day. (And anyone who’s been to Orlando knows that there’s a good percentage for most of the year that it’s either going to be super hot or super rainy on any given day!) Be sure to prepare accordingly if you’re visiting on a busy, or weather challenged, day.
Now back to your regularly scheduled princesses!
Aurora from Sleeping Beauty was also there during our lunch.
We found that she was the “head princess” in our dining room when the Princess Processional began.
This little “parade” happens about once every half hour or so. Kids from throughout the restaurant are invited to join in for a processional around the room, led by the Disney princesses. This will be a fun memory for them and it’s a great photo op for parents!
There’s even a little Princess Processional song that goes along with it!
Once the processional was over, the princesses went back to greeting guests at tables, taking photos, and giving autographs. Ariel, Cinderella, and Snow White also headed over from their kingdoms to join in the feast.
Incidentally, it’s fun to see the princesses in costumes with little variations. On my last visit to Akershus, Cinderella was attired for colder weather. Well, it is a little cooler in Norway at times.
We also enjoyed breakfast here a while back, if you’re interested to see what that meal looks like at Akershus. But now it’s time to see what’s on the menu for lunch!
The menu tells a bit about the original castle of Akershus in Norway. It also explains a little about the dining format here, which is unique to this restaurant.
Inside the menu, you begin with a wine list, which offers a decent selection and some good variety.
The menu includes specialty drinks with a Norwegian emphasis. Many of them feature Linie Aquavit, a strong spirit flavored with herbs and tasting faintly of licorice.
You also get a description of the offerings. Even though Akershus offers a prix fixe, or set price, meal, you enjoy a combination of cold buffet (koldtbord) and menu items.
The children’s menu features healthier Mickey Check Meals as well as more traditional kid-friendly options.
You’ll finish up the meal with a dessert platter with three offerings.
To begin your meal, your server will take your drink and entree selections. You are then free to take a trip (or four — there’s no limit) to the koldtbord.
Freshly baked rolls kick off the buffet selection.
Prepared butter balls lend an extra fancy touch.
There’s a basic salad bar, which includes tossed salad and a selection of house made dressings.
There are also a number of prepared cold salad selections. One the left, from front to back, there was Potato Salad, Pear and Apple Salad, and Beet and Apple Salad. On the right, you have Quinoa, Chicken, and Cucumber Salads.
One of the truly authentic and unique portions of the buffet are the cold fish preparations. Usually, there is a selection of Smoked Salmon, as well as Herring prepared in two ways. You’ll also find accompaniments, like capers and chopped onion.
There are also a number of sliced meats and cheeses. Cheeses include Gjetost, Jarlsberg, and Muenster.
A Mixed Fruit Salad and Cold Asparagus completes the buffet offerings and provide some really excellent healthy selections. I thought the asparagus especially looked pretty great.
After we were finished with our cold selections, our entrees arrived. My husband chose the Traditional Kjottkake, or Norwegian meatballs. They were served with mashed potatoes, gravy, lingonberry sauce, and green beans.
They were really incredible — super flavorful and rich, with the perfect sweet-tangy note from the lingonberries. It’s always a treat to find them in a dish! The green beans were bright and cooked just right as well. The hearty and flavorful mashed potatoes were a great accompaniment.
I had heard good things about the Open-Faced Roast Beef Sandwich, so I couldn’t wait to try it. It comes with your choice of soup. I decided to sample the Tomato.
The sandwich comes with thinly sliced beef, which is smothered in a wild mushroom-onion ragout and topped with a slice of melted Jarlsberg cheese. Served on artisan bread, this is a really tasty knife-and-fork sandwich. The ragout was an especially nice touch, lending an almost sauce-like consistency to the combination. I didn’t really miss having a condiment.
The Tomato Soup was a good fresh version with a vibrant red color. While I love a creamy tomato bisque, this succeeded with bright flavors.
Overall, this was a smaller portion that what you might expect, so keep that in mind when ordering. It’s a good option if you’re going to supplement with strong trips to the buffet.
Dessert is served in the form of a sampler. The desserts vary, so you might see different selections. The three sweets served to us were Sweet and Savory Chocolate Mousse, Traditional Rice Cream topped with Strawberry Sauce, and Apple Cake with Cardamom Whipped Cream.
I’m not sure why the chocolate mousse is termed “sweet and savory”, but we always enjoy having the rice cream. (If it’s a favorite of yours too, be sure to check out our recipe!) And the apple cake was an enjoyable, comforting addition. The portions aren’t huge, but after a big meal, they don’t really need to be.
Although none of the desserts stood out as particularly memorable, they were all good.
I have long been a champion of and advocate for Akershus. A meal here will set you back far less than something similar at Cinderella’s Royal Table, and the reservation is much easier to secure. True, you get the cute wand or sword souvenir and the photo package at Cindy’s. Still, the food here is a notch or so above Cinderella’s Royal Table in my opinion (even though things over there have improved drastically).
If you’re looking to mark several princesses off of your meet and greet list in one fell swoop, give Akershus a try. With good food, good character interaction, and beautiful surroundings, it really is a win.
Plus, it offers an opportunity for your kids to explore some different food items than they might normally try, since you’ll have access to that cold buffet. It’s a great learning experience and palate expanding opportunity!
Is Akershus a favorite destination for you or your crew? Leave us a comment and tell us about your experience!