Critical phenomena involve structural changes in the correlations of its constituents. Such changes can be reproduced and characterized in quantum simulators able to tackle medium-to-large-size systems. We demonstrate these concepts by engineering the ground state of a three-spin Ising ring by using a pair of entangled photons. The effect of a simulated magnetic field, leading to a critical modification of the correlations within the ring, is analysed by studying two- and three-spin entanglement. In particular, we connect the violation of a multipartite Bell inequality with the amount of tripartite entanglement in our ring.