The development of the cerebral cortex is a tightly regulated process that relies on exquisitely coordinated actions of intrinsic and extrinsic cues. Here, we show that the communication between forebrain meninges and apical neural progenitor cells (aNPC) is essential to cortical development, and that the basal compartment of aNPC is key to this communication process. We found that Celsr1, a cadherin of the adhesion G protein coupled receptor family, controls branching of aNPC basal processes abutting the meninges and thereby regulates retinoic acid (RA)-dependent neurogenesis. Loss-of-function of Celsr1 results in a decreased number of endfeet, modifies RA-dependent transcriptional activity and biases aNPC commitment toward self-renewal at the expense of basal progenitor and neuron production. The mutant cortex has a reduced number of neurons, and Celsr1 mutant mice exhibit microcephaly and behavioral abnormalities. Our results uncover an important role for Celsr1 protein and for the basal compartment of neural progenitor cells in fate decision during the development of the cerebral cortex.