Historic palaces come in all shapes and sizes. From ruined ancient palaces to medieval palace fortresses and later modern architectural wonders, those who rose to power through the ages have always sought to build residences which were literally fit for a king.
Today these historic palaces are some of the most popular tourist destinations on the planet and the list of palaces around the world contains some of the most recognisable buildings to have ever been built. While many of these palaces no longer house royalty, some are still active homes while others may serve as such for just a short time every year.
If you’re one of the millions of people who enjoy visiting historic palaces then this list of palaces around the world should help to provide some inspiration.
The Palace of Versailes was the residence of King Louis XIV and former seat of the French Government.
The Palace of Versailles was originally the hunting lodge of France’s King Louis XIII, but was transformed into a magnificent residence by his son and successor, Louis XIV.
The ostentatious monarch built the Grand Apartment of the King and Queen which included the magnificent Hall of Mirrors before moving both his court and the government of France to Versailles in 1682. And so it remained until the French Revolution in 1789.
In the 19th Century King Louis-Philippe turned it into the Museum of the History of France. The gardens of the Palace of Versailles, designed by André Le Nôtre at the instruction of Louis XIV, are equally spectacular and took forty years to complete.
There are numerous places to visit at the Palace of Versailles and a range of tour options. Audio headsets are available as are guided tours. When visiting the Palace of Versailles, you can also see Marie Antoinette’s estate and The Grande Trianon.
Visually stunning, Hawa Mahal – which means the Palace of the Winds - is a striking 18th century royal palace in Jaipur.
Hawa Mahal, translated as the Palace of the Winds, in Jaipur in India was built in 1799 for the Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh. Constructed of fiery sandstone with an intricate façade that rises into a curve, Hawa Mahal is a striking structure.
One of the most prominent features of Hawa Mahal is its large lattice of 935 tiny windows. These were built in this way in order to allow the women of Hawa Mahal to look outside whilst being able to maintain their modesty. This was necessary at the time as the women were required to observe a purdah – meaning to remain covered.
The interior of Hawa Mahal is far less ostentatious than the outside may imply and in fact some of the levels are very small indeed. Nevertheless, it is worth climbing to the top of the palace for the fantastic views.
Once the thriving centre of the Minoan civilisation, the archaeological site of Knossos contains the remains of the famous Knossos Palace, thought to have been the home of King Minos. It is one of the most intriguing and ancient historic palaces in the world.
Knossos or ‘ko-no-so’ was an important ancient site found on the outskirts of the modern city of Heraklion in Crete. It is believed that Knossos was first established a place of settlement in Neolithic times in around 7000 BC and then continuously inhabited until the Ancient Roman period.
Knossos reached its peak in the period from the 19th to the 14th centuries BC, as the capital of the Minoan civillisation. It was at this time that the majority of its incredible buildings, the remains of which can be seen today, were constructed, although it suffered large-scale destruction sometime between 1500 and 450 BC. It was later populated by the Mycenaeans, experienced a resurgence in the Hellenistic period and was occupied by the Romans in 67 BC.
In addition to being a prosperous city, Knossos was also been the setting for many mythical stories, including those of the Minotaur, Ikaros and Daidalos.
Excavated and vastly reconstructed in the nineteenth century by archaeologist Arthur Evans, Knossos has revealed a wealth of ancient treasures, not least of which are its many fascinating ruins. The most famous of these is the Knossos Palace, also known as the Labyrinth for its incredible maze of passageways and rooms.
Believed to date back to 2000 to 1350 BC, Knossos Palace is thought to have been the home of King Minos, an iconic monarch of the island of Crete who legend says was the son of the deities Europa and Zeus. The Palace of Knossos contains a myriad of rooms, including banqueting halls, religious shrines and even a throne room, all centred on a courtyard.
Other important buildings at Knossos include the 14th century BC Royal Villa with its pillar crypt, the Little Palace, believed to date back to the 17th century BC, the ornately decorated House of Frescos and the Villa of Dionysos, a 2nd century BC house from the Roman period.
The drainage system at Knossos is also fascinating in its own right, indicating an incredible level of sophistication.
The great thing about Knossos is that its reconstruction has meant that it's easy to identify the original use of each part of the site. However, it's best to take a guidebook, a map or even a guide if you want a better idea of the site as a whole, particularly as it is indeed a labyrinth. This site also features as one of our top ten tourist attractions of Greece.
Ranked among the most famous palaces in the world, Buckingham Palace has been the royal residence of British monarchs since the reign of Queen Victoria.
Buckingham Palace has been the official residence of Britain's monarchs since 1837, at the start of the reign of Queen Victoria.
With its 775 rooms, Buckingham Palace was originally built for the Dukes of Buckingham at the beginning of the eighteenth century.
In 1761, Buckingham Palace, then known as Buckingham House, was acquired by George III who rechristened it “The Queen's Residence" and had it remodeled by Sir William Chambers. When the building passed to George IV, he continued the renovations, and, from 1826 under the remit of architect John Nash, began transforming Buckingham Palace into the building with which we are familiar today. These changes took around 75 years to implement. The first monarch to actually live there was Queen Victoria.
Today, Buckingham Palace is the official London residence of Queen Elizabeth II, although it is also an administrative centre and a place in which the monarch hosts official receptions and events. Buckingham Palace also houses the offices of the Queen's and the Duke of Edinburgh's staff.
In August and September, the nineteen State Rooms and some other sections of Buckingham Palace are open to the general public and to tourists. Here, visitors can see the Royal Collections, which include an incredible array of artwork as well as some of the finest English and French furniture. Audio guides are included in the ticket price and a visit usually lasts around two hours.
One of the major attractions at Buckingham Palace is the ceremony of Changing the Guard. This takes place on a daily basis during the summer at 11:30am on the forecourt of the palace and on alternate days in winter. This ceremony lasts for 45 minutes. This site features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in the United Kingdom.
El Escorial is an impressive sixteenth century royal complex built under the orders of King Philip II of Spain. UNESCO listed.
El Escorial, the full name of which is The Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial (Real Monasterio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial) is an impressive sixteenth century royal complex built under the orders of King Philip II of Spain. Intended to mark the celebration of Spain’s victory over the French in the Battle of St Quentin, El Escorial was constructed between 1563 and 1567. It would go on to serve as the king’s palace and the seat of his empire.
The architecture of El Escorial is one of its most significant elements. The style, now known as Herrerian, was developed by El Escorial’s architect Juan de Herrera and was considered an innovation at the time.
Many of Spain’s monarchs are buried within the grand granite walls of El Escorial, including several members of the Habsburg Dynasty as well as the Bourbons.
Today, El Escorialis a UNESCO World Heritage site and is open to the public, who can tour its various buildings, courtyards, vast library, towers and halls as well as viewing its around 1,600 paintings. This site also features as one of our top Tourist Attractions in Spain.
One of the most enthralling entries on the list of world palaces, Hadrian’s Villa is perhaps the best-preserved Roman villa complex in the world and was the private palace of the famous Roman Emperor Hadrian.
Hadrian’s Villa, or Villa Adriana, is perhaps the best-preserved Roman villa complex in the world. Built in the early 2nd century, the villa was the central hub of power in the Roman world for the latter years of Emperor Hadrian’s reign.
Hadrian’s Villa covers almost 250 acres and consists of over 30 buildings and a number of other points of interest. It includes a large colonnaded swimming pool, libraries, the Palestra and the famous Maritime Theatre. Most intriguing of all are the remains of the Emperor’s small island retreat – including his personal toilet – which served as Hadrian’s private escape from the stress of Imperial life.
Not the easiest site to access, and not among the most famous of Rome’s attractions, Hadrian’s Villa is nevertheless a startling tribute to the power of the Roman Empire and the magnificence that could be brought to bear by its leaders.
Be warned, to fully explore Hadrian’s Villa will take you at least three hours and can be quite physically strenuous in the summer heat, so make sure you take plenty to drink.
Dolmabahce Palace is an opulent nineteenth century palace which twice served as the seat of the Ottoman Empire.
Dolmabahce Palace (Dolmabahce Sarayi) is an opulent nineteenth century palace on the Bosphorus which twice served as the seat of the Ottoman Empire.
Begun in 1842 under Sultan Abdulmecit I, Dolmabahce Palace was completed in 1853 and first became the base of the Ottoman Empire as well as the home of Sultan Abdulmecit from 1856. It would remain as such until 1922, except for a twenty year period from 1889, when the seat was moved to Yildiz Palace.
Even after the beginning of the Turkish Republic, Dolmabahce Palace did not lose its stature. In fact, it became the residence of its first president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who died there on 10 November 1938.
With its grand size and appearance both in it colourful interiors and ornate neoclassical exterior, Dolmabahce Palace is quite something to see. One of its most impressive rooms is the Throne Hall, with its elaborate chandelier gifted by Queen Victoria.
Today, Dolmabahce Palace is a museum. Entry by guided tour only and if you’re planning to visit all the sections, a tour can take up to two and a half hours.
Wilanow Palace is a late seventeenth century Baroque palace in Warsaw, built by King Jan III Sobieski, and an art museum.
Wilanow Palace (Palac w Wilanowie) is a pretty, late seventeenth century Baroque palace in Warsaw built by King Jan III Sobieski. Combining Polish architectural style with several others from around Europe, Wilanow Palace became Jan III’s royal home and eventually the place where this military leader died.
Over the upcoming centuries, Wilanow Palace would change hands from royal residents to wealthy owners, including being the home of king August II the Strong in the 1730s.
In the nineteenth century, Wilanow Palace was turned into a museum and, despite many of its works being stolen during World War II, most of these have since been returned.
Today, the museum at Wilanow Palace displays a range of artwork. Visitors can also tour the royal apartments at Wilanow Palace as well as viewing pieces related to the history of the Polish royal family, including their effigies. The gardens of Wilanow Palace are stunning and are also nice to wander through.
The Agra Fort was a Mughal fortress and palace in Agra, India and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Agra Fort is one of India’s most impressive and important forts and palaces, close to the Taj Mahal.
From fortress to city
Primarily intended as a military structure, the Agra Fort is made up of 20 metre high walls with a circumference of 2.5 kilometres. However, the Agra Fort was later transformed into a city unto itself expanding into a labyrinth of red sandstone buildings, including a palace, a mosque, homes, halls and monuments.
Original construction of the Agra Fort was commenced by Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1565 with successive emperors of the Mughal Dynasty adding to it over time. One particular contributor was Emperor Akbar’s grandson and commissioner of the Taj Mahal, Emperor Shah Jahan, who added further white marble buildings, in effect creating a palace.
While the Agra Fort was intended to keep out enemies, it in fact transformed into an opulent prison in 1685, when Shah Jahan was imprisoned there for the final eight years of his life when his son, Aurangzeb, seized power.
What there is to see
Incredibly well-preserved, the Agra Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage site. In addition to the fort itself, some of the most impressive structures within the Agra Fort complex include the Diwan-i-Am or ‘Hall of Public Audiences’, from which Shah Jahan conducted state business, the 17th century Nagina Masjid or ‘Gem Mosque’ and the mirror encrusted Shish Mahal palace. The Anguri Bagh gardens are also very beautiful, having been extensively restored.
Aigai in northern Greece was once capital of the Macedonian kingdom and the site where Alexander the Great was proclaimed king. Important remains at Aigai include the royal palace – which includes impressive mosaics.
Aigai in northern Greece was once the capital of the Macedonian kingdom and it was here in 336BC that Alexander the Great was proclaimed King of Macedon after the assassination of his father, Philip II.
Though evidence of human occupation of the site stretches back to the 3rd millennium BC, it is thought that it was not until around 1000BC – 700BC that it became an important regional centre. Aigai probably reached its height around 500BC as the Macedonian capital, before being replaced by Pella around 100 years later.
After the death of Alexander, Aigai suffered during the Wars of Alexander's Successors and the city was again damaged during the Roman conquest of the region in 168BC. Aigai survived into the Roman era but gradually declined during the latter Imperial period.
Today, Aigai can be found near the modern town of Vergina and there are a number of interesting sites to explore. Probably the most famous of Aigai’s sites are the royal burial tombs, which are believed to house the tombs of Phillip II and Alexander the Great’s son, Alexander IV. An impressive museum – the Royal Tombs of Vergina Museum - was built to enclose these tombs and visitors can explore this underground experience.
Along with these main tombs are as many as 300 other grave mounds, some dating back to the 11th century BC.
Other important remains at Aigai include the royal palace – which includes impressive mosaics – and the 4th century BC theatre, believed to be the exact site of Philip’s murder. There are also a number of temples near the theatre, including the temple of Eukleia.
Note: At time of writing the royal palace and theatre are closed for excavation work. They are set to reopen in 2014.
Ajuda National Palace was once the official residence of the Portuguese royal family.
Ajuda National Palace (Palacio Nacional da Ajuda) was the official residence of the Portuguese royal family from the reign of King Louis I (circa 1861) until 1910, when Portugal became a republic.
A neoclassical building with a lavish interior, Ajuda National Palace was built from 1802 after the devastating earthquake of 1755, in which the then royal residence - Ribeira Palace - was destroyed. At first, a wooden building was erected on the current site to temporarily house the royals, but this burnt down and was replaced by Ajuda National Palace.
Since 1968, Ajuda National Palace has been an art museum as well as a venue for official state functions. Guided tours are available.
The Ajuda Palace also features as one of our top tourist attractions in Portugal.
One of the most picturesque palaces in the world, the Alcazar of Segovia embodies much of what is considered to be the ideal vision of a fairy-tale castle, complete with charming turrets and cliff-top perch.
The Alcazar of Segovia (Alcazar de Segovia) is an imposing medieval fortress which embodies much of what one would consider to be the ideal vision of a fairytale castle, complete with picturesque turrets and cliff-top location.
It is thought that a fort has existed on this site since Roman times, but the first known written mention of the Alcazar of Segovia is found in twelfth century Christian records. Having started life as an Arab fort, in the thirteenth century, the Alcazar of Segovia made the transition from military stronghold to palatial residence and was slowly renovated in a gothic style, with further changes made in the sixteenth century.
The interior of the Alcazar of Segovia doesn’t disappoint and visitors can tour this magnificent site as well as climbing to its towers for great views of the town. This spectacular castle features as one of our top Tourist Attractions of Spain.
The Alhambra in Granada, Spain was a fortified palace complex of the Nasrid Dynasty conquered by the Christians.
Calat Alhambra or the “Red Fortress” in Granada, Spain, is a complex of royal palaces, mosques, baths, shops and other buildings surrounded by an imposing two kilometer fortified wall.
Originally established in 1238 by the founder of the Nasrid Dynasty, Muhammad Ibn al Ahmar, it was expanded in the 13th century by Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada of the Nasrid Dynasty, who passed the project onto his son and heir, Mohammad V. Mohammed completed the Alhambra in the 14th century, including the Palacio Nazaríes. Thus the Alhambra became the royal residence of the Nasrid ‘emirs’ or princes until 1492, when it was conquered by the Christians.
In fact, Arabic texts show that there was a fortress at the Alhambra from the 9th century and evidence even points to it being inhabited during Roman times, but the work of the Nasrid Dynasty was the first incarnation of the Alhambra fortified palace complex as it is known today.
The Alhambra area, known as Albayzin, was also an important stronghold for the eleventh century Zirid Dinasty and for the Andalusians in the twelfth century.
Today, the Alhambra is open to the public. Visitors can tour its palaces, including the Palacio Nazaríes and the 16th century Palace of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. The Alcazaba or “citadel” is another highlight of the Alhambra, this being the main element of the complex’s fortifications.
The Alhambra is centred on two main courtyards, the Court of the Lions and the Court of Myrtles, the former with a fountain and the latter with a long pool. Its beautiful Generalife gardens and buildings are also worth visiting, while the Alhambra Museum offers everything from Nasrid art to archaeological finds.
The Alhambra contains a wealth of building and monuments and a visit usually lasts around 3 hours. The Alhambra’s website is very useful for downloading tours onto mobile devices as well as maps and itineraries. Audio guides are available on site.
The Alhambra is a UNESCO World Heritage site and also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Spain.
A Rococo style eighteenth century royal palace, Amalienborg Slot in Copenhagen is the winter home of the Danish royals.
Amalienborg Slot in northern Copenhagen is a Rococo style palace originally constructed under the orders of King Frederik V.
Made up of four externally similar buildings built around a central courtyard, Amalienborg Slot was completed in 1760. The first residents of the palace were not royals, but rather wealthy families. However, in 1749, Amalienborg Slot became a royal palace after Christiansborg Slot was destroyed in a fire.
The four buildings are divided into Christian IX’s Palace, Christian VII’s Palace, Christian VIII’s Palace (now the Amalienborg Museum) and Frederik VIII’s Palace.
Today, Amalienborg Slot is the winter home of the Danish royals. Visitors can tour parts of Amalienborg Slot, viewing royal collections and objects as well as enjoying the palace’s Rococo architecture, including the ornate Knight’s Chamber.
The entrance hall of the palace is also fascinating, having been restored to its eighteenth century state. In the central courtyard, the sculpture of Frederik V is understood to have been as expensive to create as Amalienborg Slot itself. This site features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions of Denmark.
An ancient city of the Islamic Umayyad dynasty, which is listed by UNESCO, Anjar contains the remains of the great palaces which once stood there.
Anjar was a city of the Umayyad Islamic dynasty, founded in the early 8th century by Caliph Walid I. Over the course of this century, Anjar’s setting at the centre of two trading routes allowed it to flourish into a commercial hub. Yet, in 744AD, this prosperity came to an end when Walid’s son, Caliph Ibrahim, suffered a defeat.
Following this, Anjar was damaged and subsequently abandoned. Yet, it is this short history which makes Anjar such an important site. For, every aspect of what remains of this once great trading city - it’s carefully planned layout, the large arches and colonnades of the palaces which once stood there, the ruins of its 600 shops and its great fortifications - can all be dated precisely to the Umayyad period as this city rose and declined under its rule. In fact, Anjar was never actually completed.
Today, Anjar is an archaeological site listed by UNESCO, especially for being such an excellent example of Umayyad architecture.
A UNESCO-listed sacred ancient city in Sri Lanka, Anuradhapura contains the remains of several palaces and a host of other ruins.
Anuradhapura is a sacred ancient city in Sri Lanka which was founded in the fourth century BC and whose beautiful ruins are UNESCO-listed. Over time, Anuradhapura became one of the great capitals of Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon), garnering both political and religious significance.
The third century BC saw Anuradhapura grow in importance for the Buddhist faith. In around 250 BC Anuradhapura gained its first Buddhist sovereign, Tissa and, in the same century, the city was gifted with a highly sacred object in the shape of a tree cutting. The fig tree from which the cutting originated is believed to be the same one under which Siddharta – the founder of Buddhism - became enlightened. Today, visitors can see the tree which is said to have grown from this cutting, which attracts Buddhist pilgrims from around the world.
The kings of Anuradhapura ruled for centuries, establishing a series of impressive monuments, from palaces and monasteries to sculptures and dagobas. However, the city suffered numerous attacks by the Tamils, Pandyas and Cholas. The final blow occurred in around 993 AD with an attack by King Chola Rajaraja I, after which Anuradhapura was abandoned in favour of Polonnaruwa.
Today, the modern city of Anuradhapura houses an incredible set of ruins belonging to its ancient counterpart, especially Buddhist shrines. There are numerous stupas and dagabas (mounds which house sacred relics), including the beautiful Ruwanwelisaya stupa with its thousands of elephant sculptures, the Thuparamaya and the vast Jetavanarama.
Attingal Palace is an historic site located near Attingal, Kerala. It is one of the oldest palaces in Kerala.
Attingal Palace is an historic site located near Attingal in Kerala.
It is one of the oldest palaces in Kerala and played a part in several of the key events of the region. The palace bore witness to many of the milestone proclamations of the ruling dynasty.
In 1721 Attingal Palace was also the location of one of the first ever rebellions against the British.
It is located in a very beautiful and calm location near Attingal. The surrounding area contains several temples, many of which were built by the local rulers. A number of these temples are located close to Attingal Palace.
The capital of Siam for around 400 years from the 14th century, the ruins of Ayutthaya include the remains of three royal palaces. A fascinating addition to our list of world palaces.
Ayutthaya, once known as Ayothaya, was an ancient city in Thailand and which is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Ayutthaya was established as the capital of Siam in around 1350 by Ramadhipati, a Thai vassal who forced the original King to swear allegiance to him. It remained as such for approximately four hundred years, passing under the reign of thirty three kings, each of whom deified themselves as Buddhas. However in 1767, Ayutthaya was destroyed by Burmese attacks, stripping it of most of its stunning architecture and art.
Nevertheless, Ayutthaya is still an incredible source of Thai history, its beautiful ruins marking the once thriving city and port. Visitors can still view Ayutthaya's many Buddha statues, its giant complex of temples which once numbered an estimated four hundred and three palaces.
For those looking to discover more about the history of Ayutthaya and Thailand you can visit museums such as the Chao Sam Phraya National Museum, which contains many original artifacts and the Ayutthaya Historical Study Centre which includes models depicting what life in Ayutthaya might have been like. Perhaps the best way to get around in Ayutthaya is by bicycle, with its many cycling routes providing a natural itinerary.
Ayutthaya is usually an entire day’s trip, particularly for those coming from Bangkok and tours are available.
Baku is the capital of Azerbaijan and an impressive walled medieval city. Among other things, it is famed for the Shirvanshahs’ Palace, an imposing 15th century royal residence.
Baku, also known as Baki or The Ancient Walled City of Baku, in Azerbaijan was an ancient city inhabited by the Shirvani dynasty in the Middle Ages.
Whilst the area in Baku is thought to have been inhabited since the Stone Age, Baku itself rose to prominence as the Shirvani capital in 1191, following an earthquake which destroyed their original capital, Şamaxı.
At Baku, the Shirvani built a walled city including an impressive palace complex which was only completed in the 15th century. Much of this was destroyed over the centuries as it came under ongoing attack including by the Ottomans in 1585 and by the Russians in 1723 when it was razed by fire, after which Baku became part of the Russian empire in 1783.
Nevertheless, Baku’s rich history has endowed the area with a wealth of monuments ranging from 7th century structures to 15th century citadels, earning it a place on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites. In particular, Baku is famed for its 12th century Maiden Tower, which was once a fire temple and for the Shirvanshahs’ Palace, an imposing 15th century royal residence. Also notable are the 11th century Mehmet Masjid and the ancient market.
Some of the sites at Baku have suffered from dubious restoration efforts, but overall Baku and its ancient city offer an authentic medieval experience. Visitors can enjoy wandering through its labyrinth of narrow streets and enjoy the mix of architecture in this historical centre.
One of the most famous historic royal palaces, Balmoral has been the official Highlands home of the British royals since the reign of Queen Victoria.
Balmoral Castle has been the official Highlands home of the British royal family since the reign of Queen Victoria.
Having fallen in love with the Highlands after their first visit in 1842, it was in fact Queen Victoria and Prince Albert who built Balmoral Castle between 1853 and 1856.
Today, parts of Balmoral Castle and its grounds are open to the public, with audio guides available (included in the admission price) detailing the workings of the estate and its history. There are also a series of exhibitions at Balmoral Castle related to the royal family.
This site features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in the UK.
Famous as the site of the execution of King Charles I, Banqueting House in Whitehall is is the only complete surviving building of the Palace of Whitehall.
The Banqueting House in Whitehall, near Horseguards Parade, is the only complete building of the Palace of Whitehall to remain standing. The original Palace of Whitehall was acquired from Cardinal Wolsey by Henry VIII and was a royal residence until James I came to the throne in 1603.
The Banqueting House was built for state occasions and, after the installation of grand ceiling panels, the Banqueting House became a reception area for greeting foreign dignitaries.
On 30 January 1649, many spectators gathered to watch the beheading of King Charles I on the balcony of the Banqueting House. A service is held at the Banqueting House every year in January to commemorate this event and visitors can still see the scaffold stage on which the monarch died.
From 1654 until 1658, the Palace of Whitehall was the home of the revolutionary and statesman, Oliver Cromwell. After the restoration of King Charles II to the throne in 1660, the Palace of Whitehall once again became the royal residence and the Banqueting House once again was used for its original purpose.
In 1698, a huge fire burned Whitehall Palace to the ground. Sir Christopher Wren was commissioned to convert the Banqueting House into a chapel to replace the one destroyed in the fire.
Visitors can tour Banqueting House and discover its history. An entry ticket includes an audio guide, available in a variety of languages.
Beihai Park is vast, well preserved imperial palace and garden dating back to the 1st century AD.
Beihai Park is an imperial garden and palace in Beijing, China established during the Liao Dynasty in the first century AD. Since then, Beihai Park has undergone significant changes and renovations, with each imperial dynasty making its mark on the gardens. In fact, Beihai Park has served as a haven for every Chinese royal family since its founding, including the Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties through to 1911.
Spanning more than 69 hectares, Beihai Park contains numerous historical structures and was considered at one time to be the “nucleus” of Beijing. The most famous aspects of Beihai Park are Qionghua Island with its iconic white 17th century dagoba, Tuancheng Island, and the north bank containing the Five-Dragon Pavilions.
Behai Park is rich with references to Chinese mythology, particularly as relates to the fairyland mountains of Penlai, Yingzhou and Fangzhang on which its structure is based. Many Chinese emperors have built their palaces in accordance with these fairytales as they are supposed to guarantee immortality.
Visitors to Beihai Park can enjoy not only its expansive grounds, but its many Buddhist temples, exhibitions, royal residences and halls.
Though now in ruins, Berkhamsted Castle was once a large, fortified royal palace built by English King Henry I and often used by the royal family of the era.
Berkhamsted Castle was originally a timber castle constructed in the eleventh century by William the Conqueror’s half-brother, Robert of Mortain. This was in the aftermath of William’s success in the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
Located in the strategically important area of Berkhamsted, this motte and bailey castle was a vital stronghold. However, most of the stone remains of Berkhamsted Castle which can be seen today date back to the twelfth century. The timber castle having been destroyed after Robert of Mortain’s son dissented against the king, this later incarnation of Berkhamsted Castle was initiated during the reign of Henry I and expanded over the years to become a large, fortified palace where royalty was often entertained.
The earthworks, walls and ditches of Berkhamsted Castle are now open to the public under the remit of English Heritage.
Beylerbeyi Palace is a nineteenth century palace built to house important guests.
Beylerbeyi Palace (Beylerbeyi Sarayi) was built during the reign of Sultan Abdulaziz in the 1860s.
Serving as the residence of visiting dignitaries, Beylerbeyi Palace has played host to kings, shahs and princesses. It was also at Beylerbeyi Palace that sultan Abdulhamid II was kept captive for six years before he died in 1918.
Guided tours are available.
A medieval castle in Hampshire built in the 12th century, the ruins of the medieval Bishop’s Waltham Palace can be seen in Hampshire.
Bishop's Waltham Palace is a medieval castle in Hampshire built in the 12th century, although the current picturesque ruins mostly date from the early 14th century works of the Bishop William Wykeham. In its time, Bishop's Waltham Palace acted as a residence for a series of the Bishops of Winchester and their clergy until it was destroyed during the English Civil War.
Today, the ground floor of Bishop's Waltham Palace is the location of the Bishop's Waltham Town Museum and the site is under the remit of English Heritage.
A beautiful historic palace, complete with stunning gardens, Blenheim Palace is the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill.
Blenheim Palace was built as a gift to the Duke of Marlborough following his victory over French forces at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704. On 30 November 1874, it also became the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, one of Britain’s greatest leaders. Today it is home to the 12th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough.
Whether you choose to wander Blenheim Palace independently or as part of a guided tour, you can enjoy endless artistic masterpieces such as the Blenheim Tapestry depicting Lord Marlborough accepting the surrender of the French and the stunning ceiling paintings of Louis Laguerre. The 18th century house itself is an architectural marvel in its own right with its Baroque design.
Exhibitions include “The Untold Story”, which explores the lives of the palace’s inhabitants as well as the Churchill exhibition. This latter exhibition is very engaging and insightful, but can be confusing as it skips over certain periods. The grounds are also spectacular with over 2000 acres of parkland and gardens, butterfly house, adventure playground, mazes and even a train!
Blenheim Palace has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987 and features as one of our Top Ten Tourist Attractions in the United Kingdom.
Bojnice Castle was a medieval fortification and royal palace, now seen by many as Slovakia's most romantic castle, with a history dating to the 12th century.
Bojnice Castle (Bojnicky zamok) is seen by many as Slovakia's most romantic castle, with a history dating to the 12th century. The castle has undergone many changes over the centuries. In its present form it is more similar to a French chateaux or Bavaria's Neuschwanstein than to other Slovak fortresses.
A castle is first recorded on the site in 1113; in the early 14th century a castle on the site belonged to Matus Cak Trenciansky, who had captured it in the 13th century, before passing to other aristocratic owners. Amongst these nobles were members of the Thurzo family who were first gifted it by King Ferdinand I in 1527 and updated the castle from a Gothic to a more comfortable Renaissance palace.
In the 17th century the Palfi family received control of Bojnice Castle. It was Count Jan Palfi who decided in the late 19th century to renovate the castle in the romantic style seen today.
Bojnice Castle has been part of the Slovak National Museum since 1950. The interiors include furniture from the early modern period through to the late 19th century. The chapel features a 14th century Florentine altar, and Count Jan Palfi is buried in a chapel in the rock below the castle.
Beneath the courtyard is a cave that contains the castle's water source. The grounds around Bojnice Castle include a moat with swans and a 600-year-old tree. Besides the standard daytime tour, the castle also offers night tours. In late April and early May the International Festival of Ghosts and Spirits is held there.
Buda Castle is a vast palace in Budapest’s Castle Quarter housing a series of museums including the National Gallery.
Buda Castle (Budai Var) is a vast palace in Budapest’s Castle Quarter housing a series of museums including the National Gallery.
In the thirteenth century, the then separate cities of Buda and Pest were endangered by Mongol raids, to which Pest succumbed in the 1241-1242. A few years later, King Bela IV decided to fortify Buda, a project completed in around 1265, offering his subjects defensive walls within which to shelter.
The first incarnation of Buda Castle dates to the fourteenth century, but since then it has been destroyed and rebuilt several times, including by the Ottomans in the sixteenth century. Rebuilding projects took place throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as well as extensive renovations following World War II. As a result of the constant changes to Buda Castle, it’s difficult to identify the periods to which each part of the site dates.
Those who want to learn about the history of Buda Castle can visit the Budapest History Museum, which is located within the castle.
Casa Rosada is the presidential palace in Buenos Aires from which Eva Peron addressed the people.
Casa Rosada is a presidential palace in Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires.
Literally translated as the “Pink Palace” due to its distinctive pink façade, Casa Rosada houses the executive branch of Argentina’s government. The area on which Casa Rosada is located was once by the sea and in the late sixteenth century was the site of the Royal Fort of San Juan Baltasar de Austria built under the orders of Don Juan de Garay.
In fact, the land on which Casa Rosada sits was subject to many changes and it was only in 1857 that President Justo José de Urquiza partially demolished and renovated a fort which stood there, creating a customs house which would become Casa Rosada.
The building was renovated and decorated in the 1860, first by Bartolomé Mitre and then by Domingo Sarmiento, transforming it into a presidential residence.
Probably the most famous aspect of Casa Rosada is its association with Eva Peron or “Evita”, the wife of President Juan Peron who addressed the people from its balcony.
Today, Casa Rosada is open to the public, and has a museum in its lower levels containing numerous artifacts relating to Argentina’s history and its government. Behind Casa Rosada are the little known 18th century catacombs of Fuerte Viejo.
Castel del Monte is an impressive thirteenth century fortified palace, originally built as a hunting lodge by the Emperor Frederick II. It is now listed by UNESCO.
Castel del Monte in Puglia, Italy is a medieval palace originally built as a hunting lodge by the Emperor Frederick II and later used as his seat of power. Built in the thirteenth century and completed in 1240, Castel del Monte has been described by UNESCO, with whom it is listed as a World Heritage site, as a “unique piece of medieval military architecture”.
Frederick II used his knowledge of culture, natural sciences and mathematics to create a number of castles of which Castel del Monte was the largest. With its set of perfectly octagonal towers, it was also a great example of symmetry in medieval building.
Castel del Monte is not only extremely well defended, with thick limestone walls and a position on an, albeit low, hill, but it blends the influences of the cultures to which Frederick II had been exposed and had learned about. This palace also employed many sophisticated functions from around the world, as demonstrated by the oriental-inspired complex hydraulic systems of the bathroom facilities.
After the death of Frederick II, Castel del Monte served primarily as a stronghold and military base until the nineteenth century. Visitors to Castel del Monte can tour its two floors. Much of the original splendour, such as its marble walls, has now disappeared, but traces appear here and there.
There are information boards in several languages. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Italy.
Clarence House has been the London residence of several members of the British royal family.
Clarence House has been the London residence of several members of the British royal family and is now the home of the Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall.
Built from 1825 to 1827 next to St James's Palace, the prime location of Clarence House has made it the perfect place for royals to call home. The first member of the monarchy to live there was King William IV.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother moved in in 1953 and resided there for almost fifty years. Meanwhile, a newlywed Queen Elizabeth II also lived at Clarence House with The Duke of Edinburgh for a time in 1947.
In the summer, there are public tours of much of the ground floor of Clarence House, which is not in a dissimilar state to that which it was in under Queen Elizabeth.
Diocletian’s Palace was the place where this great Roman Emperor retired and is now an entire town.
Diocletian’s Palace in Croatia is remarkable in that this Ancient Roman emperor’s home evolved over the years to become an entire town, known as Split.
Diocletian was a Dalmatian-born soldier who reigned as emperor from November 248 AD to May 305 AD. He is considered a great reformer, having restructured the empire’s provinces and reorganised its administrative system. Perhaps one of the most unique aspects of Diocletian’s reign was that he was able to retire by choice.
When he retired, the emperor did so at what is now known as Diocletian’s Palace and lived there until his death. He had built Diocletian’s Palace between 293 and 303 AD, not far from the town of his birth, Salona, modern day Solin.
When it was completed, Diocletian’s Palace was an impressive fortified structure with residential and garrisoned wings separated by a road. Diocletian’s Palace was lavish, with several apartments, three temples and the Peristil, which was a ceremonial court. It also housed Diocletian’s mausoleum, an octagonal structure where the emperor was later buried.
After Diocletian’s demise, Diocletian’s Palace continued to be in use until the sixth century, when it and Salona were attacked by the Eurasian Avars. The people of Salona sheltered within the palace walls, which managed to withstand the attack, and continued to live there.
From this point began the slow development of Diocletian’s Palace into a medieval town known as Spalato – now Split. Shops and homes were incorporated into its walls and a city grew in what can be described as a process of organic urbanisation. Unfortunately, Diocletian’s mausoleum no longer exists, it having become St Duje Cathedral in the seventh century. The location of Diocletian’s remains is unknown.
Walking around Split today, it is difficult to know where Diocletian’s Palace ends and the city begins. The two are intricately combined. Some of the more obvious and impressive original ruins include the fortification gates, particularly the Silver Gate, the Temple of Jupiter, the underground passageways and the Peristil. It caters well for the tourist trade with several walking tours of the historical sites.
Diocletian’s Palace and Split have been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1979 and the city is a popular tourist destination.
With one of the richest histories of any palace site, the Domus Augustana on the Palatine Hill in Rome was the palace of Ancient Rome’s emperors.
The Domus Augustana on the Palatine Hill was a magnificent palace used as the residence of Rome’s emperors.
Built by the Emperor Domitian, the incredible remains of the Domus Augustana include a remarkable courtyard with the remnants of a fountain and many of its walls.
The Domus Augustana should not be confused with the nearby House of Augustus, the latter of which was the much more humble home of the first Roman Emperor, Augustus. In fact, Roman emperors were called “Augustus” for over 300 years, which is reflected in the name of the Domus Augustana.
Drottningholm Palace is a well-preserved 18th century royal palace in Sweden and a UNESCO listed site.
Drottningholm Palace (Drottningholm Slott) is a well-preserved royal palace in Sweden, renowned as the “Versailles of Scandinavia”.
The first incarnation of Drottningholm Palace was built by King Johan III in the late sixteenth century. The king built it for his wife, Queen Katarina Jagellonika, hence its name “Drottningholm” means "Queen's Island". However, this palace was razed to the ground by a fire in 1661 and a new one built in its place in 1662. This was foundation of the Drottningholm Palace which can be seen today.
Yet, it was the influence of crown princess Louisa-Ulrika in the eighteenth century which can be felt most keenly today. She had Drottningholm Palace renovated in image of Versailles, taking inspiration from the opulence of Louis XV.
Since 1981, Drottningholm Palace has been the home of the current royal family. Parts of the Palace are open to the public and fifty minute guided tours of Drottningholm Palace are included in the ticket price.
Amongst the highlights at Drottningholm Palace are its restored eighteenth century theatre (the work of Louisa-Ulrika), its gardens and the Chinese pavilion gifted to Gustav III in 1769.
In 1991, Drottningholm Palace became a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Among many fine sites in this historic city can be found the 15th century buildings of Sponza Palace and Ducal Palace, both of which have served important roles in Dubrovnik’s history.
Dubrovnik is a Croatian city on the Dalmatian coast understandably known as the 'Pearl of the Adriatic'.
While many historical sources date its establishment to the seventh or even fifth century, Dubrovnik or its ‘old city’, which is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site, became a powerful merchant town in the thirteenth century and, in a period before the eighteenth century, operated as a free state.
Dubrovnik is considered to be the cultural centre of Croatia and, despite the fact that the city suffered a devastating earthquake in 1667 and several attacks including being invaded by the Nazis and a seven month siege by the Yugoslav People’s Army in 1991, many of its stunning buildings survive.
Amongst its many draws are its churches, such as the beautiful Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary with its impressive organ, the Church of St. Ignatius, the church of St Blasius (patron saint of Dubrovnik) and the Franciscan Monastery which houses the third oldest pharmacy in the world. Many of Dubrovnik’s churches are built in a classic Baroque style.
Dubrovnik’s main street is Stradun, where the Large Onofrio Fountain can be found and, in nearby Luza Square, one can see Dubrovnik’s symbol of peace, Orlando’s Column. Also within the vicinity of the buzzing Luza Square are the fifteenth century buildings of Sponza Palace and Ducal Palace, both of which have served important secular roles in Dubrovnik’s history.
Other gems include the Zelenci statues, or at least the new replicas of the originals, at the top of the Bell Tower near the Polce entrance to Dubrovnik, which toll a giant bell on the hour.
Ducal Palace is a 17th century fortress in Lerma, built in the 17th century by its Duke, a favourite of Phillip III.
Ducal Palace is a 17th century fortress in Lerma, Spain designed by Spanish Renaissance architect Francisco de Mora.
A small hilltop town, Lerma is a little off the tourist track, but has a variety of interesting sites to see, especially at its summit. Here stands the Ducal Palace (now a Parador hotel) which looks out over what was, in the 17th century, the largest Plaza Mayor in the country.
Duke Francisco Gomez de Sandoval, who was responsible for building both the Ducal Palace and the Plaza Mayor, was a major power in Spain during the reign of Phillip III, one of the Hapsburg kings of Spain.
The Duke was also responsible for building the six convents and monasteries which can be found close by. It was rumoured that the Duke, who was obsessed with the religious orders, had tunnels dug to them from the Ducal Palace.
The Plaza Mayor is now mainly used as a car park. To avoid a long, uphill walk to see the Palace and other buildings, you may wish to park there.
Dunfermline Abbey and Palace was a royal residence and the final resting place of many a Scottish monarch.
Dunfermline Abbey and Palace have a royal connection dating back to the eleventh century, when a priory was established there under Queen Margaret (now known as St Margaret). This was elevated to being an abbey in around 1150 by her son, David I.
The picturesque remains of Dunfermline Abbey - now just its impressive Romanesque nave - can still be seen there today.
Over time, Dunfermline Abbey would host many important events. In particular, the cloister of Dunfermline Abbey would later become a royal palace and the birthplace of King Charles I.
Another fascinating aspect of Dunfermline Abbey is its church, which is the burial site of many famous Scottish monarchs, notably Queen Margaret and David I as well as King Robert Bruce.
El Badi Palace was an opulent sixteenth century palace of the Saadi Dynasty destroyed by Moulay Ismail.
El Badi Palace was once the magnificent royal palace of the sultan Ahmad al-Mansur of the Saadi Dynasty. Having taken twenty five years to build, El Badi Palace was a lavish, grand sixteenth century complex of buildings with over 350 rooms, courtyards, gardens and a large pool.
Yet, today there is no sign of the gold which once adorned the walls of El Badi Palace. Indeed, the whole complex lies in ruins in the centre of Marrakesh, having been utterly destroyed by the sultan Moulay Ismail. Moulay Ismail is infamous for demolishing many of the buildings in Marrakesh to use their materials in his own creations and El Badi palace was probably one of the most prominent examples of this.
Visitors to the remains of El Badi Palace enter through its gatehouse and can view the remnant of much of this site. Some of the highlights include its sunken gardens, its subterranean passages and the Koubba el Khamsiniyya or “main hall”, which has fifty columns.
For an overview of El Badi Palace, go to a nearby terrace to see it from above.
Eltham Palace is a spectacular Art Deco palace built in the 1930’s alongside a 15th century medieval hall.
Eltham Palace is a spectacular Art Deco palace built in the 1930's alongside a 15th Century medieval hall.
The medieval part of Eltham Palace is quite stunning for those who are interested in that era. The Great Hall of Eltham Palace is still extant and was originally built for the Yorkist king Edward IV in the 1470s and his grandson, Henry VIII, spent much of his childhood here. It is so atmospheric that you can almost see their ghosts walking its floors. This is the only part of medieval Eltham Palace which still exists.
However, the ‘new build’ at Eltham Palace, dating from the 1930s is a wonderful example of Art Deco. When Stephen and Virginia Courtauld built their 1930s Art Deco mansion beside the Great Hall of medieval Eltham Palace, they created a masterpiece of 20th century design.
When the 20th century building at Eltham Palace was completed in 1936, the red brick exterior of the house was built to mirror the older building without seeming to be out of place. The interior of the new Eltham Palace is a wonderful example of 1930s Art Deco and cutting-edge Swedish design. The dining room is most exotic, with pink leather, bird's-eye maple veneered walls, an aluminium-leaf ceiling, and black-and-silver doors.
The rest of the Eltham Palace is equally stylish, with gold plated bath taps, and central heating in the sleeping quarters (or cage?) of their pet lemur. Equipped with all the latest modern conveniences, the house featured underfloor heating, a centralised vacuum cleaning system and built-in audio. Upstairs is a display devoted to the Courtaulds, including original furniture and family photographs.
Visitors to Eltham Palace can also enjoy a restored original 10-minute Courtauld home movie, giving a glimpse of their family life.
Eltham Palace's 19 acres of beautiful gardens reflect both the medieval and 20th-century garden design. These include a rock garden, a moat, a medieval bridge, herbaceous borders, a rose garden and plenty of picnic areas. Always interesting and colourful, garden highlights at Eltham Palace include the Spring bulbs display and the wisteria cascading over the classical pergola in Summer.
Falkland Palace was the country retreat and hunting lodge of the royal Stuart dynasty.
Falkland Palace was the Renaissance country retreat and hunting lodge of the royal Stuart dynasty for around two centuries.
Begun in 1450 and completed in 1541, Falkland Palace was the work of kings James IV and James V and was very much a favourite of Mary Queen of Scots.
The highlights of Falkland Palace today are its gardens and portraits of the Stuarts.
Fatehpur Sikri was the capital of the Mughal Empire for a short period in the sixteenth century.
Fatehpur Sikri near Agra was the short-lived capital of the Mughal Empire. Commissioned by Emperor Akbar in 1571, Fatehpur Sikri was built on the site where a holy man called Shaikh Salim Chishti was said to have predicted the birth of Akbar’s third son, who would become the leader of the empire.
Fatehpur Sikri was built in honour of this prediction and also following Akbar’s victory in conquering Gujarat. Indeed, “Fatehpur Sikri” is translated as the “city of victory”.
Completed in 1573, Fatehpur Sikri was a magnificent city with numerous palaces, monuments, mosques and houses as well as public buildings. Today, the city is a ghostly sight, with its buildings intact but entirely empty save for the tourists.
Interestingly, Fatehpur Sikri is the origin of several board games. At the time of its existence, people (usually women) were used as the pieces and games were played at the Parcheesi Court.
Fatehpur Sikri was abandoned in 1585, when Lahore became the new capital. This was arguably due to the need to move to be nearer tribal conflicts, but it has been posited that the reason was inadequate water supplies. It would serve as an emergency capital once more in 1691 when a plague made Agra uninhabitable, but only for a few months.
Visitors can walk through Fatehpur Sikri to see structures such as the great Jama Masjid mosque and the building where Akbar addressed his people – the Diwan-i-khas – amongst others. All the buildings are similarly designed, creating an overall sense of continuity. In 1986, Fatehpur Sikri became a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Fishbourne Roman Palace hosts the remains of a huge Roman palace built in the 1st century AD. Today it operates as a museum and contains information, artefacts and mosaics.
Fishbourne Roman Palace in West Sussex hosts the remains of a huge Roman palace complex which was constructed in the 1st century AD.
Built on the site of a Roman supply compound, Fishbourne Roman Palace was a vast and impressive development which would have been built for the very highest echelons of Romano-British society. It is one of the largest Roman palace complexes to be discovered and is bigger than Buckingham Palace.
Over the next two hundred years Fishbourne Roman Palace was further renovated, including the addition of an array of intricate mosaics, many of which can still be viewed.
In the late third century Fishbourne Roman Palace was struck by fire and there is no evidence that the site was re-built beyond that date. The remains lay lost and forgotten until their discovery in the 1960s.
Today, Fishbourne Roman Palace is run by the charity Sussex Past and is open to tourists and educational groups. Visitors can view audio-visual displays, artefacts and reconstructions of the site as well as viewing the remains of the North Wing, which are protected under a covered enclosure.
There are many extremely well-preserved mosaics in Fishbourne Roman Palace, including the famous Dolphin mosaic.
The site also contains a reconstructed Roman garden, designed and planted according to archaeological and historical evidence, as well as a museum examining Roman horticultural techniques.
Various events and performances are held at Fishbourne Roman Palace throughout the year, with details available on the official website (see links).
The Flavian Palace on the Palatine Hill was where Roman emperors held official functions.
The Flavian Palace (Domus Flavian) on Rome’s prestigious Palatine Hill was an Ancient Roman palace built by the Emperor Domitian in the first century AD.
A place where official functions were held, the Flavian Palace was the public counterpart to Domus Augustana, which served as the private home of Rome’s emperors.
The fountains in the courtyard of Flavian Palace are some of its most impressive remains.
Frederiksborg Slot is a restored sixteenth century royal palace in Denmark and the site of the National History Museum.
Frederiksborg Slot or ‘Frederiksborg Castle’ in Northwest Zealand, Denmark, was originally built in 1560 by Frederik II and expanded by Christian IV.
Following a fire in 1859, which ravaged much of the castle, Frederiksborg Slot was restored and now serves in large part as Denmark’s National History Museum.
So, in addition to being able to view Frederiksborg Slot’s incredible architecture such as its Knight’s Hall (Riddersalen) and its stunning baroque gardens, visitors can tour the museum to learn about the country’s history dating back to the fifteenth century.
The museum’s collection is mostly made up of artwork relating to Denmark’s past, including portraits of former monarchs and paintings of important events throughout its history.
This palace is certainly a fitting place for such a museum as, from the late seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth century, Frederiksborg Slot was the site of many of Denmark’s royal coronations, making it an integral part of the country’s history. Frederiksborg Slot also features as one of our Top Tourist Attractions in Denmark.
The Grandmasters Palace of Rhodes was the base of the Knights Hospitaller of St John.
The Grandmasters Palace of Rhodes was the palace of the Knights Hospitaller of St John. Dating to the fourteenth century (circa 1309), the Grandmasters Palace would be the base of this famous Christian and military order until Rhodes was captured by the Ottomans in 1522.
Under this empire the Grandmasters Palace served as a fortress, but was devastated in 1856 by an ammunitions explosion. It was the Italians who restored the Grandmaster Palace in 1912.
Today, this medieval castle operates as a museum of works mostly from the early Christian period up to the Ottoman conquest. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Medieval City of Rhodes. This site also features as one of our Top 10 tourist attractions in Greece.
The Grandmasters Palace in Valletta has been the seat of power in Malta since the sixteenth century.
The Grandmasters Palace in Valletta has been the seat of power in Malta since the sixteenth century. It was in 1571 that the Knights Hospitaller of St John made the Grandmasters Palace their base, a role which it would fulfil until 1798, when this religious and military order left Malta.
At first, the site of the Grandmasters Palace only had a single house on it, owned by the nephew of the head of the Knights Hospitaller, Grandmaster Jean Parisot de la Valette. This was incorporated into the new palace.
Under British Rule in the nineteenth century, the Grandmasters Palace became the home of the British governors and, since Malta’s independence in 1964, it has served as the seat of the country’s House of Representatives.
Today, as well as being a government building, parts of the Grandmasters Palace are open to the public, particularly the State Rooms and the Armoury. The opulent and lavishly decorated State Rooms display several art collections of which many, such as The Great Siege Frescoes by Matteo Perez d’Aleccio, date back to the times of the Knights Hospitaller.
Meanwhile, the Palace Armoury contains the impressive collection of armour and weaponry of the Knights Hospitaller.
The Grandmasters Palace is part of the City of Valletta UNESCO World Heritage listing.
Hampton Court Palace is a medieval palace whch has served as everything from a royal residence to a prison.
Hampton Court Palace is a medieval palace once favoured by Henry VIII which has served as everything from a royal residence to a prison.
The first buildings at what is now Hampton Court Palace belonged to the Knights Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem, a religious order founded in the 11th century. Giles Daubeney, later Lord Chamberlain, leased and then modernised the medieval manor of Hampton Court.
In 1514, Thomas Wolsey, soon to be made cardinal, leased Hampton Court for a period of 99 years. He began rebuilding on a grand scale, converting Hampton Court into a lavish palace.
Wolsey added new private chambers at Hampton Court Palace for his own use, as well as three suites for the new royal family: one each for King Henry VIII, Queen Katherine of Aragon and their daughter Princess Mary. He also built 40 guest lodgings, each with an outer room and an inner room - and all ensuite with a garderobe (lavatory). This makes Hampton Court Palace sound like the Tudor version of a 21st Century luxury hotel!
Upon the fall of Wolsey, Henry VIII took Hampton Court Palace for himself. Henry set about further renovation of Hampton Court Palace, rebuilding and extending the existing palace, at a cost of over £60,000, rather a lot at the time.
Hampton Court Palace was then the site where some major events in Henry’s life took place: the break with Rome, the birth of his heir, Edward (VI), divorce of Anne of Cleves, and the accusation of adultery and subsequent detention of Catherine Howard.
The palace was used as a country retreat by Edward VI and Mary I. Elizabeth I used it as a venue for diplomacy and Hampton Court Palace was also used by James I, but none of them altered the buildings to any great extent.
Today, Hampton Court Palace is a popular tourist attraction, with visitors able to tour Henry VIII's apartments and the Tudor kitchens as well as its famous maze. Hampton Court Palace's official site has some good suggestions for itineraries.
Amongst its many attractions, Hampton Court Palace is home to a set of medieval “tenys playe” or tennis courts. These courts, then often used by a young Henry VIII and now England’s oldest existing “real” courts can still be seen there today. In fact, they are still actively used.
Hatfield House is a Jacobean country house built on the site of what was Queen Elizabeth I’s childhood home.
Hatfield House is a Jacobean country house built on the site of what was Hatfield Palace. Built in approximately 1485, Hatfield Palace was bought by Henry VIII and became the home of his children, particularly that of a young Elizabeth I. In the gardens of Hatfield House, one can visit the oak tree where Elizabeth is said to have been informed of her ascension to the throne.
Today, little is left of the original Hatfield Palace, which was torn down in the seventeenth century to make way for a more modern structure - Hatfield House. Built by Robert Cecil, the 1st Earl of Salisbury, and completed in 1612, Hatfield House and has since been owned by the Cecil family.
Today, the stunning Hatfield House estate is open to the public as well as being a popular venue for weddings and events. Visitors can embark on a tour of the house and its stunning gardens.
A stunning 19th century Bavarian palace, located on its very own 230-hectare island, modelled on the Palace of Versailles.
Herrenchiemsee Palace is a luxurious 19th Century Bavarian palace, modelled on France’s Palace of Versailles, which sits atop its very own 230-hectare island.
Initially intended to serve no functional purpose other than as a shrine to absolute monarchy, Herrenchiemsee New Palace was modelled on the Palace of Versailles. Initial work on the Palace began under Ludwig II in 1873 but the palace and grounds stood incomplete at the time of his death in 1886.
In addition to the other of Ludwig II’s commissioned buildings, including Neuschwanstein Castle and Linderhof Palace, Herrenchiemsee New Palace is a visual representation of the king’s ideas on monarchy and absolutism, despite himself being a constitutional monarch. The fairytale-like designs reflect the king’s oft-debated eccentricities but are architecturally outstanding and interesting to visit.
Today, Herrenchiemsee New Palace offers visitors the chance to explore 19th century Bavarian art and architecture through its ground floor museum, spread across twelve rooms. Furniture from the other of Ludwig’s castles and palaces are on display, as are documents, paintings, busts and robes. Lavishly decorated palatial rooms, such as the State Staircase, the State Bedroom and the Great Hall of Mirrors offer a glimpse into the mind-set of Ludwig II and are an example of 19th Century Bavarian decorative artwork.
As an interesting side note, the museum highlights the relationship between Ludwig and the composer Richard Wagner, whom he sponsored and supported, acting as the composer’s patron.
The island itself also houses an Augustinian Monastery dating back to 1645 but with medieval origins as well as several museums and art galleries, including the Constitutional Museum. The art galleries contain work by famous Bavarian painters from the early 19th Century up until the mid-20th.
Adding to the splendour of the Museum, Galleries and Palace itself are the grounds in which they are situated. Designed by Carl von Effner, again on Versailles and again left incomplete at the time of Ludwig’s death, the gardens offer fountains and a magnificent landscaped design that visitors can explore at their leisure.
Visitors to the site arrive by boat and during the summer months can take a horse carriage ride from the pier to the Royal Palace, a fitting way to arrive at this splendid last Palace of Ludwig II. Herrenchiemsee features as one of our Top German Tourist Attractions.
Contributed by Ros Gammie
Hofburg Imperial Palace was the winter residence of the Habsburg Dynasty, the Austrian-Hungarian imperial family.
Hofburg Imperial Palace, or just “the Hofburg”, is a grand palace in Vienna and was under the ownership of the Austro-Hungarian Habsburg Dynasty until 1918, when it passed to the Austrian Republic.
Today it is a buzzing network of museums, restaurants and halls as well as the seat of the President of Austria.
Although the oldest, square parts of the building date back to the thirteenth century, Hofburg Imperial Palace became a residence of the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation from the fifteenth century and the seat of the Emperor of Austria from the early nineteenth century.
The oldest and most well preserved part of the Hofburg is its gothic chapel or ‘Burgkapelle’, where visitors can hear the Vienna boys’ choir sing on Sundays amidst its stunning architecture.
Hofburg Imperial Palace contains a wealth of architectural gems derived from a series of renovations and expansions carried out during the course of the Habsbergs’ ownership, including works by Filiberto Luchese, Lukas von Hildebrandt and Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach, the latter of whom also designed parts of Schonbrunn Palace.
Hofburg Palace is now made up of a series of museums, such as the Sisi Museum, housing the imperial silver collection, the Euphesus Museum of neo-baroque architecture, the natural history museum and the collections of military armour.
Holyroodhouse Palace is the Scottish royal residence famed as having been home to Mary Queen of Scots.
Holyroodhouse Palace has a history stretching back to the twelfth century. Now the official Scottish residence of the Queen, the story of Holyroodhouse Palace is intertwined with that of the monarchy, particularly that of Mary Queen of Scots.
Holyroodhouse Palace is said to have been founded as an Augustinian monastery by David I in 1128, this abbey then being closed in the sixteenth century. At this time, James IV built a palace at Holyroodhouse. Successive monarchs would go on to add to and renovate this palace, especially Charles II in the seventeenth century.
However, perhaps the most famous chapter in the tale of Holyroodhouse Palace is the time spent there by Mary Queen of Scots. Not only was the palace Mary’s main home between 1561 and 1567, it was where she married two of her husbands. It was also at Holyroodhouse Palace that she was witness to the murder of her private secretary by her husband.
In 1745, the Bonnie Prince Charles used Holyroodhouse Palace as his seat, at the time of the uprising.
Today, visitors can see the ruins of the abbey of Holyroodhouse as well as touring the palace and the royal apartments. A visit to the site usually lasts around an hour to an hour and a half.
Originally part of the great royal Westminster Palace, home to English monarchs for over 500 years, The Houses of Parliament are now the home of the UK Parliament.
The Houses of Parliament or 'Palace of Westminster' is where both houses of the UK Parliament are located.
Originally part of the great royal palace that had been home to English monarchs for over 500 years, Westminster Palace became the home of parliament in the 16th century after reign of King Henry VIII, when Henry moved the royal family out of the Palace of Westminster following a fire.
The monarch left the Palace of Westminster for the use of Parliament and some government offices. The House of Commons met in the choir stalls of St Stephens Chapel, the Speaker taking the place of the altar, and the government and opposition sitting on opposite sides in the choir stalls. Interestingly, there is still a line in front of the seats, being two sword lengths apart, thus keeping the two sides from killing each other in House...
The great hall of the Houses of Parliament was used for state trials including those of Sir Thomas More, William Wallace and King Charles I.
The original Westminster Palace burned down in 1834, and the building you see today is the result of the subsequent rebuilding by Sir Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin.
The iconic clock tower, housing Big Ben, is probably the most famous part of this building and the complex is a UNESCO World Heritage site. This site also features as one of our Top Ten UK Tourist Attractions.
Hunedoara Castle in Romania was a medieval fortress turned royal palace.
Hunedoara Castle, also known as Corvin Castle or “Corvinesti” in Hunedoara in Romania was originally a fortress, the date of origin of which is highly contested. Used as a royal stronghold until 1440, Hunedoara Castle was then expanded by the General Iancu de Hunedoara, who renovated it, turning into an impressive castle with a series of towers and turrets.
Several monarchs lived in Hunedoara Castle, including Matthew Corvin, Ioan Corvin and Gabriel Bethlen , who made numerous changes to the castle’s structure.
Today Hunedoara Castle is open to the public. One of its most impressive internal features is its Knight Hall, which now houses a weaponry exhibit. Hunedoara Castle has a number of collections, ranging in theme from the archaeological to the medieval. It also offers a fascinating insight into medieval Romanian defensive architecture.
The Jaipur City Palace is an eighteenth century royal palace which houses several museums.
The Jaipur City Palace in the city of Jaipur in Rajasthan, India, was initially built in the eighteenth century by Maharaja Jai Singh II.
Comprised of a complex of palaces, including the Mubarak Mahal and Chandra Mahal, Jaipur City Palace includes a mixture of architectural influences and has been altered to over the years, with many features having been added in the early twentieth century.
Visitors to the Jaipur City Palace can view the former home of the wives of the maharajas, which is now an armoury displaying an interesting array of weaponry. The Jaipur City Palace also houses numerous museums, such as the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum which houses a collection of royal garb, such as that of Sawai Madho Singh I
The Jaisalmer Fort in India was a heavily defended city of a warrior tribe built in the twelfth century.
The Jaisalmer Fort, sometimes called Sonar Quila, was a twelfth century fortified city which sits atop Trikuta Hill in Jaisalmer in India. Built in 1156, the Jaisalmer Fort was the creation of Rawal Jaisal, king of the fearsome Bhatti Rajput warriors.
Within its impressive 30-foot high sandstone walls, which are defended by almost a hundred bastions, lies a labyrinth of buildings such as palaces, homes and temples. Many of the structures in the Jaisalmer Fort are adorned with intricate mosaics and carved stone, adding to the beauty of this ghostly site.
People still live in Jaisalmer, but it has recently been reported that the fort is in great danger of erosion, partly due to the popularity of the site and also inadequate drainage.
The Jewel Tower is one of the last remnants of the medieval Westminster Palace.
Originally part of the medieval Westminster Palace, the Jewel Tower was built in 1365 to hold the riches of Edward III, earning it the name of the 'King's Privy Wardrobe'. Following a fire in 1834, the Jewel Tower and Westminster Hall were the only buildings of the palace to survive.
Today, the Jewel Tower is open to the public under the remit of English Heritage. Visitors to the Jewel Tower can view its fourteenth century vault, an exhibition about Parliament’s history and view the remains of its medieval moat and quay. A visit usually lasts around half an hour.
Kenilworth Castle is a former medieval stronghold and royal palace, most famed as the home of Elizabeth’s beloved Robert Dudley.
Kenilworth Castle is a former medieval stronghold and royal palace, most famed as the home of Elizabeth’s beloved Robert Dudley.
It was King Henry I's treasurer, Geoffrey de Clinton, who built the vast Norman keep of Kenilworth Castle in the 1120s which can still be seen there today.
Kenilworth earned the status of royal castle over the coming centuries and underwent a series of changes, both under the remit of Henry II and under King John, who put into place greater fortifications from 1210 to 1215, solidifying its role as a stronghold. In fact, so impenetrable was Kenilworth Castle by this point that when it underwent a great 6-month siege by Henry III in 1266, its resident rebels only faltered when they ran out of food.
The transformation of Kenilworth Castle from castle to palace came in 14th century, when the Duke of Lancaster, John of Gaunt, made his mark on the site. Thus, Lancastrian kings and Tudors alike both enjoyed time there.
Yet, it was under Elizabeth I that Kenilworth Castle had its heyday. The property of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester from 1563, Kenilworth was something of a token of love in architecture. Dudley, who is renowned as the Queen’s one true love, made extensive changes to the castle to make it fit for his queen and her entourage, doing everything from refitting and remodelling to adding new buildings, all on a lavish scale.
Kenilworth Castle finally met its decline after the English Civil War. Having been under Parliamentarian rule since August 1642, it was condemned to ruin in 1649, if only to save on the costs of maintaining it. Now a magnificent ruin, Kenilworth Castle is open to the public and also offers beautifully recreated Elizabethan gardens.
Kensington Palace was the childhood home of Queen Victoria and the home of Diana, Princess of Wales, until her death.
Originally built for the Earl of Nottingham, Kensington Palace was acquired by King William III in 1689, after he and his wife, Mary II, had taken the throne from her father, James II. They employed Christopher Wren to rebuild and improve it.
Other monarchs enjoyed the atmosphere at Kensington Palace. These included Queen Anne, Mary’s sister, and her husband Prince George of Denmark. Her successor to the British throne, George I, had new state rooms built, and Queen Caroline, wife of George II, had the gardens laid out.
In the time of George III, Kensington Palace ceased to be the monarch’s residence, and it housed some of the more minor Royals. It was here that the Duke and Duchess of Kent (he was the son of George III) made their home and in 1819, their daughter, Victoria was born. She spent her childhood there, and in was at Kensington Palace that she was told that, on the death of her uncle, William IV, she had ascended the throne. Visitors to Kensington Palace can see Queen Victoria's bedroom, the location where she was informed of this.
Kensington Palace was still used as a residence for some of the more minor royals during their stays in London. Prince Albert (later Edward VII) famously dubbed it the ’Aunt Heap’ and, somewhat more cruelly, it was also called the Dowagers’ Dumping Ground.
Most recently, Kensington Palace has been the home of the late Princess Margaret, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, Prince and Princess of Kent, and the late Princess Diana.
Kew Palace is a seventeenth century palace which once served as a royal residence.
Kew Palace was built around 1631 by merchant Samuel Fortrey. The 17th century palace is noted for its distinctive decorative brickwork and gables, and it is the oldest surviving building in the Kew botanical gardens.
Kew Palace was the home of various members of the royal family between 1728 and 1898. Queen Caroline, wife of George II leased several parcels of land and buildings in Kew. These included Kew Palace. Frederick, Prince of Wales (son of George II, and father of George III) and his wife, Augusta, lived in Kew Palace. After Frederick's untimely death in 1751 (he was hit on the head by a cricket ball), Augusta remained there. It was first Frederick, and then Augusta, who effectively established the botanic gardens at Kew.
George III bought Kew Palace in 1781 to accommodate his growing family. He had 15 children and Kew Palace became their family home, but his favourite residence, however, was Windsor. When George III became ill, he was sent to Kew Palace for treatment, closely followed by Queen Charlotte and their daughters. Queen Charlotte died at Kew Palace in 1818, and Kew Palace was closed until it was acquired by Kew Gardens in 1896.
Queen Victoria, who had agreed to the sale, stipulated the room in which Queen Charlotte died should remain untouched. The Palace was opened to the public in 1898. It has recently been closed for ten years for restoration, but has now reopened to the public.
The ground and first floor rooms at Kew Palace have been restored to reflect the Georgian era, while the second floor has remained untouched.
The La Almudaina Royal Palace in Palma was a Muslim citadel turned into a Majorcan palace.
La Almudaina Royal Palace, also known as Palau de l'Almudaina, in Palma was a Muslim citadel turned into a Majorcan palace. This transformation occurred from 1281, after which it was used by monarchs of Majorca. Even today, the king of Spain uses La Almudaina Royal Palace as a summer residence.
Inside La Almudaina Royal Palace, visitors can see various displays including a variety of Flemish tapestries and tour the palace as a whole, including the king’s and queen’s rooms, the royal chapel and the impressive gothic hall.
La Conciergerie in Paris is a former palace turned prison which now serves as a museum and government building.
La Conciergerie in Paris, France is located on an important site which once formed the seat of the city’s Roman leaders during their occupation of Gaul. La Conciergerie itself originally formed part of thirteenth century Palais de Justice, the royal palace built by King Philip IV. It served this role until the 1350’s, when the French royals moved to the Louvre.
As it ceased being used as a royal residence, La Conciergerie became the site where judicial functions were carried out, a purpose which parts of the palace still fulfil today.
From 1391, La Conciergerie’s judicial function took on a different character as it was transformed into a prison. Thus it remained for centuries, playing its sinister role during the French Revolution as the home of the ominous Revolutionary Tribunal which sent thousands of prisoners to the guillotine.
In the course of the Revolution, La Conciergerie held over a thousand prisoners at any given time. Some of the most famous inmates at La Conciergerie included Francois Ravaillac, the assassin of King Henri IV, imprisoned there in 1610, revolutionaries Georges Danton and Maximilien Robespierre, and, most prominently, Queen Marie Antoinette. Each was then executed.
Visitors to La Conciergerie can enjoy both its impressive medieval architecture, such as its large Hall of the Men at Arms and its history, both royal and as an instrument of punishment. Its original torture chambers can still be viewed.
The Lahore Fort is a vast fortified complex built by the Mughal Emperors and is UNESCO listed.
The Lahore Fort (Shahi Qila) in Lahore, Pakistan is a large complex of fortifications, marble mosques and palaces built by Mughal Emperor Akbar, known as Akbar the Great. Whilst there were buildings and fortifications on the site since the eleventh century and even before, it was under Akbar the Great that the current fort flourished.
In the sixteenth century, Lahore became Akbar’s capital and, in circa 1580 he established the Lahore Fort as it is known today. Since his reign, successive leaders have made their mark on the fort including Shah Jahan’s seventeenth century Crystal Palace or “Shish Mahal”. However, despite all of the renovations and additions to the Lahore Fort, Akbar’s work can generally be distinguished as the red brick constructions.
Ornate and full of incredible sites such as Naulakha Pavillion and the Hall of Public Audience or ‘Diwan-i-Aam’, the Lahore Fort is also well-planned. For example, it is compartmentalised to separate the residential aspects from those of the administrative functions.
After the Mughal Empire fell in the eighteenth century, the Lahore Fort was ransacked and many of its buildings were damaged. However it has now been carefully restored, allowing visitors to enjoy its original splendour.
The Lahore Fort houses three museums, the Mughal Museum, the Armoury Gallery and the Sikh Museum, each containing a series of interesting exhibits.
It is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Leeds Castle in Kent was a twelfth century stronghold which has since served as a royal palace, a prison and as a stately home.
Leeds Castle was originally constructed as a fortification in 1119 by Robert de Crevecoeur, a lord under William the Conqueror.
In 1278, Leeds Castle took on a different role, as a royal palace to King Edward I, who expanded it, adding further elements such as an impressive barbican.
Leeds Castle passed through numerous royal hands over the coming centuries, hosting a myriad of important guests including Henry VIII, who visited it on several occasions. Henry VIII also extensively renovated the castle for his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.
Eventually falling into private ownership under King Edward VI, Leeds Castle survived the English Civil War in the hands of parliamentarians and later acted as a prison for Dutch and French prisoners of war.
Today, Leeds Castle is a leisure facility, housing an aviary and a maze along with a dog collar museum. Guided tours are available for groups and schools and audio tours are also available.
Unique in design and style, the ornate 19th century Linderhof Palace exhibits exquisite Rococo ornamentation and is surrounded by beautiful landscaped gardens.
Linderhof Palace in Bavaria is a grand country home created by King Ludwig II of Bavaria – one of several grand building projects the king undertook.
The only palace that Ludwig lived to see completed, Linderhof Palace’s origins are one of continual building and remodelling. Originally a hunting lodge owned by his father Maximillion II, Ludwig had the original farmhouse rebuilt in 1869, five years after his coronation. Gradually extensions were added to either side of the newly-christened “King’s Cottage” and with the added wing extensions the foundations for Linderhof Palace were complete.
Until 1874 the exterior of the u-shaped complex was a simple wood and plaster construction. However, in 1873 the final phase for the completion of the palace was approved by Ludwig – the entire complex was clad with stone, incorporating all the different structures under one roof. The final stage was to move the King’s Cottage, which looked out-dated next to the new stone-clad palace, 300 meters to the west.
With the relocation of the King’s Cottage slightly to the west of the palace, work on the gardens surrounding the palace was finally able to commence. Carl Von Effner, the court’s gardener, landscaped and designed the gardens surrounding Linderhorf in a similar fashion to the plans at Herrenchiemsee Palace.
As with Herrenchiemsee, he was inspired by Louis XIV and the gardens at Versailles. A large pool was installed directly in front of the Hall of Mirrors and included fountains 25 meters high. A water cascade, still visible today, was created in front of the bedroom, with water flowing from the music pavilion at the top, down 30 marble steps towards the Neptune fountain at the bottom.
Between 1876 and 1878 Ludwig ordered the construction of various other buildings in and around the palace grounds. One was the “Venus Grotto” modelled on Wagner’s opera ‘Tannhauser’, lit by dynamos making it one of Bavaria’s first electricity works. Ludwig also purchased several exhibits from the World Exhibition in Paris, including the “Moroccan House” and the “Moorish Kiosk”, giving the grounds the “Oriental” feel that Ludwig longed after.
Today the grounds and palace have had little alteration since the 1880s when they lay complete. The oldest part of the palace complex, St. Anna’s Chapel, built in 1684 by the abbot Roman Schretler was refitted with stained glass windows under the direction of Ludwig and is one of the many features of the grounds worth a look.
The King’s Cottage today offers visitors an exhibition on the many stages of planning and construction work that took place to eventually create Linderhof Palace, including the influencing role Ludwig himself had on developing and planning the grounds.
The palace itself boasts elaborately decorated rooms, including a large bedroom, an audience chamber, dining room, several cabinet rooms and the Hall of Mirrors overlooking the water parterre and fountain. The rooms contain ornamental and decorative features surpassing those that inspired it, such as the Rich Rooms of the Munich Residence. Decorated in the Rococo style, the rooms have become an exhibition of the finest Bavarian and German craftsmanship of the late 19th century.
Contributed by Ros Gammie
Linlithgow Palace was the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots and host to most of the Stuart kings.
Linlithgow Palace was built in the fifteenth century on a site with a history dating back thousands of years. Now a dramatic ruin, its royal connection makes it an enduring tourist attraction.
It was James I who began building Linlithgow Palace in 1424. With its location between Stirling Castle and Edinburgh Castle, it soon became a popular place for royals to visit, including most of the Stuart kings.
In 1542, Linlithgow Palace also became the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, although the room in which she was born no longer exists.
From 1603, Linlithgow Palace’s era as a royal pit stop began to deteriorate as the royal court moved to London under James VI. The palace’s decline was confirmed when it was destroyed by a fire in 1745.
Lobkowicz Palace is a sixteenth century palace and a museum of art, history and music.
Lobkowicz Palace (Lobkowiczky palac) is one of the museums of Prague Castle and almost certainly one of its most popular sites. It is named after the affluent and influential Lobkowicz family, to whom Lobkowicz Palace passed not long after it was built in the mid-sixteenth century.
Inside Lobkowicz Palace are a range of interesting exhibits which portray the interests and work of this aristocratic family. Pieces in the main collection, known as the Princely Collection, range from ceramics and sixteenth century Spanish art to musical manuscripts by Beethoven, (of whom a member of the Lobkowicz family was a patron).
Beyond the museum element, the architecture and history of Lobkowicz Palace and the history of the Lobkowicz family are fascinating in themselves. One way of enjoying a visit to Lobkowicz Palace is via their free hour-long audio guide.
The Mehrangarh Fort is the well-defended former capital of the Rathore clan in Jodhpur in India.
The Mehrangarh Fort is a vast fortified palace complex in Jodhpur in India. It dates back to the mid-fifteenth century, when the leader of the Rathore clan, Rao Joha, decided to build a well-defended capital in place of the former capital, Mandore.
Indeed, with 120 foot-high thick walls and with its position on a steep hill, the Mehrangarh Fort would have been a daunting prospect to invaders. In fact, the Mehrangarh Fort has lived up to its imposing appearance, having never been captured.
Inside the Mehrangarh Fort are numerous palaces, such as the ornately decorated Flower Palace “Phool Mahal” and the Pearl Palace or “Moti Mahal”. One of the most famous features of the Mehrangarh Fort is its hall of mirrors or “Sheesh Mahal”, which is encrusted with mirrors. Visitors to the Mehrangarh Fort can learn more about the complex with the help of an audio guide.
Musee du Louvre is a twelfth century fort turned palace and today stands as one of the world’s foremost art museums.
Musee du Louvre, also known as, the Grand Louvre or just The Louvre, is one of the world’s foremost art museums, exhibiting over 35,000 works from around the globe and throughout history.
The Louvre’s eight departments cover an extensive array of historical periods and artistic genres, each represented through the museum’s permanent and temporary exhibits. Amongst these exhibits, The Louvre holds Near Eastern and Egyptian antiquities, Greek, Etruscan, and Roman antiquities, Islamic art, sculptures and paintings as well as decorative arts, prints and drawings.
Some of the most famous pieces held by The Louvre include the Jewels of Rameses II and Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
Set over 60,000 square meters, Musee du Louvre can be fairly daunting, but guided tours and audio tours are available in English and French lasting ninety minutes. Tours can be historically themed.
The building in which Musee du Louvre is housed has a fascinating history of its own, having started life as a fortress built by Philippe Auguste to protect Paris from the Anglo-Normans. It later became a royal palace of Louis XIV. The Louvre opened as a museum in 1793. The history and archaeology of The Louvre is explored on the lower ground floor of the museum in room 3.
Mycenae is a well-preserved Ancient Greek archaeological site in the Peloponnese which formed the centre of the Mycenaean civilisation.
Mycenae is an important archaeological site in Greece which was once the city at the centre of the Mycenaean civilisation of between 1600BC and 1100BC.
Believed to have been inhabited since Neolithic times, Mycenae flourished into a fortified city and was ruled at one time by the famous King Agamemnon.
At its peak, Mycenae was one of the most important Ancient Greek cities and is linked to several works of cultural significance, including the Odyssey and the Iliad. Today, Mycenae contains several well-preserved sites, including the Lion’s Gate and the North Gate, which form parts of its fortified walls and which once stood 18 metres high and 6 to 8 metres thick.
A few other dwellings can also be seen at Mycenae, together with a granary and some guard rooms. Other important structures include Mycenae’s Terraced Palace, which was abandoned in the twelfth century, the religious structures which comprise several shrines and temples and the grave sites, which date back throughout Mycenae’s history.
The most impressive of the burial sites and arguably the most remarkable of Mycenae’s sites is the Tomb of Agamemnon, also known as the Treasury of Atreus. This once elaborate thirteenth century tomb is carved into Mycenae’s hills. This fascinating site also features as one of our top ten tourist attractions of Greece.
Built in the 18th century, this former royal palace was home to Denmark’s royals and now operates as a museum with an impressive range of exhibits about the country’s history and culture.
The National Museum of Denmark (Nationalmuseet) contains a range of exhibits about the country’s history and culture.
There are eight main themes within the National Museum of Denmark from prehistory to present day. Going through the museum, visitors can learn about everything from the Vikings and other early Danish inhabitants to viewing Renaissance artwork and seeing how the modern state of Denmark developed. Amongst the highlights of the museum are its prehistoric Trundholm Sun Chariot and its medieval golden altars.
The National Museum of Denmark also contains artefacts and items from around the world, some in its antiquities collection such as ancient Greek statues and Egyptian mummies and other in its ethnographic section including nodding dolls from China.
Just walking around the National Museum of Denmark is fascinating, especially given the building’s history as having once been the Prince’s Palace. Built in the 18th century, this palace was home to Denmark’s royals and there is a specific exhibit about its past. Perhaps its most impressive room is the Great Hall.
There’s an overview self-guided tour of the museum, which takes around an hour to complete. It’s also worth mentioning that the museum has a good children’s exhibit, which offers an interactive element for younger visitors.
The Norwegian Royal Palace has served as the home of the Norwegian Royal family since the 19th century and is now open for tours and visitors for part of the year.
The Norwegian Royal Palace (Det Kongelige Slott) was begun on 1 October 1825 and inaugurated in 1849. Intended as a home for King Carl Johan, it would never serve this purposes as it was only completed after his death. It was designed by Hans Ditlev Franciscus Linstow.
Over the years, the Norwegian Royal Palace has undergone a series of alterations and changes, mostly to modernise it for living purposes.
Guided tours of the palace last around an hour and the changing of the guard takes place daily at 1:30pm.
Nymphenburg Palace is a grand baroque palace in Munich and one the city’s most famous sites.
Nymphenburg Palace (Schloss Nymphenburg) is a grand baroque palace in Munich and one the city’s most famous sites.
Originally built in the seventeenth century, Nymphenburg Palace was constructed in celebration the birth of Max Emanuel, the son and heir of Bavarian Elector Ferdinand Maria and his wife, Henriette Adelaide of Savoy.
Begun in 1664, most of Nymphenburg Palace was complete by 1679, but would later be added to significantly by Max Emanuel himself as well as by later rulers.
With its beautiful baroque style, stunning gardens and opulent interiors, Nymphenburg Palace is worth a visit. It is also home to the Museum of carriages and sleighs, which showcases an impressive collection dating from the eighteenth century, and the Museum of Nymphenburg Porcelain.
The Palace of Septimius Severus was magnificent extension of the Domus Augustana on the Palatine.
The Palace of Septimius Severus on the Palatine Hill was an extension of the Domus Augustana and was built during the reign of the Roman Emperor Lucius Septimius Severus (193 - 211 AD).
The Palatine Hill was closely linked with the foundation of ancient Rome and housed some of its most lavish and important buildings, including the homes and palaces of the Imperial family.
Overlooking the Circus Maximus, the remains of the Palace of Septimius Severus are some of the most impressive found on the Palatine Hill.
Palacio del Infantado is a fifteenth century palace in Guadalajara built by the Mendoza family.
Palacio del Infantado (Infantado Palace) is a renaissance style palace designed by Juan Guas under the orders of don Íñigo López de Mendoza, the second Duque del Infantado.
Palacio del Infantado is interesting both in terms of its stunning architecture and its status as a museum of fine art and archaeology. Palacio del Infantado also contains the tomb of doña Aldonza de Mendoza.
A former royal residence of the French monarchy until Charles V moved the royal palaces to Marais in 1358, the Palais de Justice served as the court of the Revolutionary Tribunal.
The Palais de Justice in Île de la Cité in Paris is a vast and majestic gothic structure, the site of which was originally the home of governors of Ancient Rome.
Palais de Justice then became the royal residence of the French monarchy such as Louis IX and remained as such until Charles V moved the royal palaces to Marais in 1358 following the Jacquerie revolt.
As the current seat of the French judicial system, the Palais de Justice serves a function which it has fulfilled in various guises since medieval times. This began in earnest in April 1793, when the civil chamber or “Premier Chambre Civile” of the Palais de Justice became the home of the Revolutionary Tribunal. This was the fearsome court of the French Revolution from which the Reign of Terror was systematically carried out.
Also part of the Palais de Justice is the famous prison known as La Conciergerie and it is next to Sainte Chapelle, which was built by Louis IX.
Palais de Papes in Avignon in France was the fourteenth century seat of the papal court.
Palais de Papes (Popes’ Palace) is a medieval fortified palace in Avignon, southern France.
A magnificent 15,000 square metre palace defended by ten towers, some might be surprised to find that this heavily protected complex was the fourteenth century seat of the papal court or “Curia” rather than a military stronghold. In fact, it was Pope Clement V who had transferred the court from Rome to Avignon in 1309 in order to avoid the conflict which raged in its former home.
Over the next decades, seven popes, including Clement VI and Innocent VI, built and expanded the Palais de Papes, transforming it into the buildings seen today.
From the frescos depicting hunting imagery in the fourteenth century Stag Room to the vast Great Chapel, the Palais de Papes offers an insight into the time of the Avignon Papacy. In 1377, the papacy moved back to Rome and the Palais de Papes was used to house Papal representative or “legates”.
During the French Revolution, the Palais de Papes was stripped of much of its riches by looting.
Today, most of the site is open to the public and, since 1995, the Palais de Papes has formed part of a UNESCO World Heritage site. Audio guides are included in the entry ticket and guided tours are available for an extra fee.
Palais du Tau in Reims was where French monarchs would prepare for and celebrate their coronations.
Palais du Tau in Reims is a seventeenth century neo-Classical palace once used as the residence of each future French monarch the night before their coronation at Reims Cathedral.
The monarch-to-be would also be dressed for the occasion there and the banqueting hall or “salle” of Palais du Tau, which is still adorned with fifteen century tapestries, was then used for a sumptuous post-coronation banquet. The most famous tapestry at Palais du Tau is the one of the baptism of King Clovis by Saint Remi.
It is thought that a palace has existed on the site of Palais du Tau since Reims was a Gallo-Roman town. However, it was in the late seventeenth to early eighteenth century that Jules Hardouin-Mansart and Robert de Cotte created the current “T” shaped building - “Tau” meaning “T” in Greek.
Now a museum, Palais du Tau offers visitors a chance to see its various ceremonial rooms as well as pieces from Reims Cathedral and its treasury. Palais du Tau is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Known as the birthplace of Rome, the Palatine Hill houses some of this ancient city’s most impressive sites, including several Imperial Palaces.
The Palatine Hill (Palatino) is considered to be the place where Rome was born. One of Rome’s seven hills, the Palatine Hill is closely linked with the city’s history and houses some of its most ancient and important sites.
Legend says that the twins Romulus and Remus were taken to Palatine Hill by a she-wolf who raised them. Here they founded a village which would become Rome.
In a dispute over who was the rightful leader of the new settlement, Romulus eventually killed his brother at the Palatine Hill. Romulus thus became the namesake of Rome. Indeed, the Palatine Hill is where the earliest huts of Rome were found, supposedly built under the remit of Romulus.
As it developed, the Palatine Hill became one of the most affluent areas in Ancient Rome and was already a coveted address by the first century BC during the Republic. This continued under the Roman Empire, when the Palatine Hill was home to Rome’s most prominent figures. It was also where the first Emperor of the Roman Empire, Augustus was born in 63 BC.
Today, the Palatine Hill offers some of Rome's best ancient sites and is a must-see, especially for history enthusiasts. Amongst the buildings excavated at the Palatine Hill are the House of Augustus, the House of Livia (Augustus’s wife), the home of several of Rome’s emperors - the Domus Augustana - and the Palace of Septimius Severus. There is also a large stadium.
Palazzo dei Normanni is a Norman palace expanded from a ninth century Islamic building.
Palazzo dei Normanni, also known as the Palazzo Reale, in Palermo in Sicily has been used as a place of governance for centuries and remains so today. In fact, it is currently the seat of Sicily’s regional government.
Begun in the ninth century AD when Sicily was under Islamic rule, the Palazzo dei Normanni was expanded and renovated by the Normans from 1072. Once abandoned by the Normans, Palazzo dei Normanni would remain untouched until the sixteenth century when it was restored.
One of the main attractions at Palazzo dei Normanni is the Cappella Palatina. This famous chapel was constructed under the rule of King Roger II and completed in 1140. It is most well known for its stunning combination of Byzantine, Islamic and Norman styles.
Other things to see include the royal apartments. Note that guided tours are only provided in Italian.
Palazzo Pitti was the home of the Medici family and now houses the Palatine Gallery.
Palazzo Pitti, translated as the Pitti Palace, is an incredibly grand building in Florence, Italy originally built in 1457 for Luca Pitti. Determined not to be outdone by the ruling Medici family, Pitti, who was an affluent banker, wanted to ensure that his home was as large and impressive as possible. The result was the Palazzo Pitti.
Unfortunately for Pitti’s heirs, the task of trying to surpass the Medici proved too dear and in 1549 they were eventually left with no option but to sell Palazzo Pitti to none other than the Medici themselves. It went on to become not only the prime residence of the Medici, but also that of every ruling Florentine family thereon.
Today, Palazzo Pitti houses a number of museums including the ornately frescoed seventeenth century Royal Apartments, the Porcelain Museum, Silver Museum and Museum of Modern Art. However the main feature of Palazzo Pitti is the Palatine Gallery. This famous art museum contains works by many of the world’s most famous artists, such as Raphael and Caravaggio.
Palazzo Pitti forms part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Historic Florence. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Italy.
Palazzo Vecchio has been at the centre of Florence’s civic life since the fourteenth century.
Palazzo Vecchio, translated as “Old Palace” and also known as Palazzo della Signoria, in Florence in Tuscany is an iconic fourteenth century palace. Completed in 1322, it served as the seat of the city’s governing body, a function it still fulfils today.
In 1540, Palazzo Vecchio underwent a renovation campaign under the remit of Duke Cosimo I, who employed the artist Vasari to add a series of frescos depicting important Florentine events. Many of these frescos can be seen at Palazzo Vecchio, notably in the Salone del Cinquecento, which also contains a beautiful statue by Michelangelo entitled “Victory”.
Palazzo Vecchio played a central role in Florence’s civil history, with its bell being the main method of communicating important events, including meetings and any dangerous elements such as fires or possible attacks.
Housing a stunning collection of artwork and sculptures by some of Italy’s most celebrated artists such as Donatello, Bronzino and Michelangelo, Palazzo Vecchio is a fascinating and beautiful site. It also has an interesting sixteenth century map of the world in its Room of Maps.
Palazzo Vecchio’s location in Piazza della Signoria is also of interest, not only because of the statues and fountains, such as the sixteenth century Fontana do Nettuno, but also as this was the site of the execution of Girolamo Savonarola. Savonarola was a Dominican priest and a leader of Florence who was excommunicated by Pope Alexander VI and burnt at the stake in 1498.
For children, Palazzo Vecchio has a series of “secret rooms” to explore, although note that this must be booked in advance. Guided tours are available.
It is also part of the UNESCO site of Historic Florence.
Pasargadae was the first capital of the Persian Empire and among these UNESCO-listed ruins are the still visible remains of several royal palaces.
Pasargadae was the capital of the Persian Empire from the sixth century BC until it was conquered by the Macedonians led by Alexander the Great in 330 BC. Now a town in Iran, Pasargadae was established by the first ruler of the Achaemenid Dynasty, Cyrus the Great.
Amongst the sites still visible at Pasargadae, which is a UNESCO World Heritage historical site, are several palaces – including the Presidential Palace - making up a royal complex and a fortress known as the Tall-e Takht.
Most of these structures were built in the sixth century BC under Cyrus the Great and expanded and renovated over the years. King Cyrus’ successor, Cambyses, carried out some of these works, as did Darius the Great.
The Tomb of Cyrus the Great can also still be seen nearby.
Peles Castle was the summer home of Romania’s first king, Carol I.
Peles Castle (Castelul Peles) in Sinaia, Romania was the summer home of the Romanian royal family until 1947.
Commissioned by Carol I (1839-1914), Romania’s first king, Peles Castle was constructed between 1873 and 1883 and built in a neo-Renaissance style with Fachwerk facades. It became the home of Carol I’s wife, Queen Marie.
Peles Castle was the first ever European palace to be powered by electricity, created in its own power plant, and to have central heating.
Carol I also built a further castle - Pelisor Castle - on the grounds of Peles Castle. This was to be a wedding gift to his heir, Ferdinand I. Other buildings within these grounds include the Hunting Lodge, the Royal Guard House, the Gardener’s House and the Royal Stables.
With a wealth of artwork in over 160 rooms, including thousands of paintings and sculptures, today, Peles Castle houses the Muzeul National Peles, exhibiting these many pieces to the public. There are guides in several languages.
Polonnaruwa contains the UNESCO-listed ruins of what was the medieval capital of Ceylon.
Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka was initially a temporary royal residence in the eighth century AD. However in the late tenth century, it became a capital city of Ceylon (the former name of Sri Lanka) after the ancient capital of Anuradhapura was conquered and destroyed by King Chola Rajaraja I. The Chola dynasty favoured Polonnaruwa over Anuradhapura as it was thought to be easier to defend.
Despite this reasoning, in 1070, King Vijayabahu I of the Sinhalese kingdom conquered Polonnaruwa and made it his capital, exiling the Cholas. Vijayabahu set about adorning Polonnaruwa with Buddhist monuments, as opposed to the Brahmanist monuments of the Chola dynasty.
Overall, Polonnaruwa would remain the capital for three centuries, with the twelfth century seeing a mass building project undertaken under King Parakramabahu I.
Parakramabahu constructed beautiful palaces, monuments, parks and gardens. The well-preserved ruins of many of the structures built during this time can be seen at Polonnaruwa today, such as its star attraction, the collection of vast Buddha sculptures known as the Gal Vihara.
Another monument created under Parakramabahu is the Lankatilaka, a grand sacred structure known as a “gedige” which houses a large headless Buddha statue.
The monuments of ancient Polonnaruwa are within easy reach of one another within the modern city, with many tourists hiring bicycles to get around.
Polonnaruwa has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1982.
Flourishing from around 1600BC to 1200BC, Qatna Archaeological Park contains the ruins of this Mesopotamian city. One significant part of the park which is now open to tourists is an area of the Royal Palace.
Qatna Archaeological Park in Tell Mishrifeh in Syria houses the ruins of what was the thriving ancient Mesopotamian city of Qatna.
Known to have first been occupied in the third millennium BC, Qatna’s location on an important commercial and political crossroad connecting it to both the Mitanni empire and the ancient Egyptians allowed it to flourish. In fact, in the period between 1600BC and 1200BC, in the Late Bronze Age, it grew to become a local kingdom.
This period heralded a great deal of construction, including the building of Qatna’s acropolis. However, much of this is still being excavated so is inaccessible to tourists. One significant part of Qatna Archaeological Park which is now open is an area of the Royal Palace. Constructed from 1650BC to 1550BC and with over eighty rooms on one level alone, Qatna Royal Palace would have been an impressive sight, but was devastated during the Hittite conquest of Syria in 1340BC.
The Red Fort is a world famous fortified structure and palace in Delhi, India and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Red Fort (Lal Quila) in Delhi, India was originally built by the fifth Emperor of India’s Mughal Dynasty, Shahjahan in 1639, when he moved India’s capital from Agra to Delhi.
The Red Fort, which derives its name from the red sandstone bricks which make up its protective walls, was built as Shahjahan’s new palace and as a defensive structure. The walls of the Red Fort are an imposing sight, rising up to 33 metres in places, with ornate carvings, domes and minarets. In addition to the Red Fort itself, the historic Red Fort Complex is made up of palaces, gardens, halls, monuments, mosques and even another fort, Salimgarh.
The Red Fort Complex took almost a decade to complete and covers a staggering 120 acres, at one time holding a population of 3,000 people. Its architecture is considered to be a testament to the creativity of the Mughals, enriched by Persian, European and Indian imagery.
The Red Fort Complex consists of numerous impressive structures, including the Diwan-i-Am or Hall of Public Audience, once the home of the royal throne and the private apartments along the Stream of Paradise or ‘Nahr-i-Behisht’ as well as several other palaces and even the Chhatta Chowk or palace market. All of these are placed within strict geometrical lines within the Red Fort Complex’s distinctive octagonal shape.
Over time, the Red Fort has been subject to change and is now a shadow of its original grandeur, particularly following the destruction of many of its buildings and gardens after 1857 by British colonialists. However, with ongoing restoration and maintenance, the Red Fort remains one of the most popular tourist sites in Delhi and is on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage historic sites. An average trip can last around three to four hours during peak times.
Rosenborg Slot is a seventeenth century royal palace in Copenhagen in Denmark.
Rosenborg Slot (Rosenborg Castle) in North Copenhagen is a seventeenth century royal palace built by Christian IV.
Construction of Rosenborg Slot began in 1606 with the intention that it become a summer home for Danish monarchs, a purpose which it served until Fredensborg Slot was built in the eighteenth century.
Today, Rosenborg Slot is a popular tourist attraction where visitors can admire its opulent Dutch-Renaissance brickwork, a vast collection of paintings and even the Crown Jewels, contained in the incredible underground treasury.
A tour of the castle also offers an insight into the history of the Danish royal family. This picturesque site also features as one of our top visitor sights in Denmark.
The Royal Palace of Madrid was built in the eighteenth century and was the home of the Spanish royal family until 1931.
The Royal Palace of Madrid (Palacio Real de Madrid) is the official - although not the actual - home of the Spanish royal family. Now used mainly for ceremonial and public functions, the Royal Palace of Madrid is open to the public as a museum of the building’s and the country’s history.
Prior to the building of the Royal Palace of Madrid, the site on which it sits was home to the Antiguo Alcazar, translated as the Old Fortress. When this burnt down in 1734, Felipe V (Philip V) ordered the construction of what would become the Royal Palace of Madrid.
Begun in 1738, the Royal Palace of Madrid would take seventeen years to complete and its first resident was the infamous Charles III (Carlos III). It would serve as the home of the Spain’s monarchs until 1931 under Alfonso XIII.
Visitors to the Royal Palace of Madrid can view the armour and weaponry of the Kings of Spain in the Royal Armoury, the Royal Pharmacy and several fascinating rooms such as that of Charles III and his Hall of Mirrors and the Throne Room.
As well as the historical significance of the Royal Palace of Madrid, the site also has stunning gardens in which to wander around. On Wednesdays, there is a changing of the guard ceremony. The Royal Palace of Madrid features as one of our Top 10 Visitor Attractions in Spain.
Once a focal point of Austrian political and social life, Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna is a famous 17th century royal palace which also contains magnificent gardens.
Schonbrunn Palace (Schloss Schönbrunn) in Vienna was in the possession of the Habsburg Dynasty from the sixteenth century to 1918, when it passed into the hands of the Austrian Republic. Originally known as Katterburg, it was renamed as Schonbrunn in approximately 1642.
The land on which Schonbrunn Palace sits was purchased by the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II in 1569 and used as a hunting lodge and recreational venue before the buildings were destroyed as part of the Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683.
Reconstruction of Schonbrunn Palace began in 1696 under the orders of Emperor Leopold I and designed by architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach in a Baroque style. At this time, Schonbrunn Palace was intended to be a hunting lodge rather than a residence and thus it remained until Emperor Charles VI, who had acquired the palace in 1728, gifted it to his daughter, Maria Theresa.
Maria Theresa transformed Schonbrunn, both in terms of architecture and the palace’s stature. She spearheaded the renovation and extension of Schonbrunn, turning it into a palatial residence designed by architect Nikolaus Pacassi and made it a focal point of Austrian political and social life. Maria Theresa’s death in 1780 marked a further period of neglect of Schonbrunn Palace, which was occupied twice by Napoleon in 1805 and 1809.
Schonbrunn Palace did undergo some renovation during the nineteenth century, including the removal of much of its Rococo facade and the repainting of its exterior to a colour known as “Schonbrunn Yellow”.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Schonbrunn Palace and its magnificent gardens are one of the most popular historic tourist destinations in Vienna and visitors can avail themselves of various themed guided tours or make use of free audio guides.
Schwerin Castle is a picturesque palace and once the home of the dukes of Mecklenburg.
Schwerin Castle (Schweriner Schloss) is a picturesque palace which seemingly floats upon Schwerin Lake. Whilst it is thought that there was a fort on this location as early as the tenth century, the beginnings of Schwerin Castle date back to 1160, when Henry the Lion (Henry III) built a castle there.
This first incarnation of Schwerin Castle later became a palace of the dukes of Mecklenburg, but fell into a state of dereliction once the dukes relocated in 1765. It was only from around 1843 that Schwerin Castle began to take the form we see today. Vast renovation of the building took place, with only some of its older parts having been kept.
Taken over by the German state in 1918, Schwerin Castle would undergo yet another set of renovations in the twentieth century, following a fire.
Schwerin Castle is now both the seat of the local government and an art museum displaying pieces ranging from the ancient to the twentieth century. Some of the most important pieces at Schwerin’s museum are its seventeenth century Dutch and Flemish paintings.
Schwerin Castle features as one of our top tourist attractions in Germany.
Shirvanshahs’ Palace is a fifteenth century castle complex in Baku in Azerbaijan.
Shirvanshahs’ Palace (Palace of the Shirvanshahs) is a fifteenth century castle and complex in the old city of Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku.
Originally constructed by the ruler Shirvanshah Khalilulla I and his son, Faruk, Shirvanshahs’ Palace had both royal and religious significance. However, Shirvanshahs’ Palace is somewhat incomplete as construction was halted in 1501 when Faruk was killed in battle.
Shirvanshahs’ Palace was also severely damaged in the 18th century during the Russian invasion. Nevertheless, Shirvanshahs’ Palace remains one of Baku’s main sites. Its structure includes the palace mosque, the mausoleum of the Shirvanshahs and the tomb of Seyyid Yəhya Bakuvi, the court astrologer.
Upon first entering Shirvanshahs’ Palace, visitors go into a central courtyard through which they can access the residential parts of the palace. Much of the Shirvanshahs’ Palace is in ruins and other aspects were subject to thorough renovations, not all of them entirely sympathetic. However, Shirvanshahs’ Palace contains many beautiful and authentic structures and inscriptions.
Shirvanshahs’ Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Sirmium Imperial Palace complex holds the remains of a Roman imperial palace which was home to several Roman Emperors in the middle and late empire.
The Sirmium Imperial Palace complex in Serbia contains the remains of a Roman imperial palace which was home to several Roman Emperors, including Constantine I.
Built at the end of the third or beginning of the fourth century AD, the complex has now been opened to the public as a museum.
The ancient Roman settlement of Sirmium was founded in the first century AD and grew to become one of the most important cities of the Roman Empire. Indeed, by the end of the third century Sirmium had become one of four designated capitals of the Empire. The city was a major centre of trade and home to many of the middle and latter Emperors. In fact, several Roman Emperors were born in Sirmium.
Discovered in the 1950s, the Sirmium Imperial Palace complex has been carefully excavated over the years, revealing a multitude of finds including remnants of the private rooms of the Emperors and even a Roman circus. The site also contains a number of well preserved mosaics, frescos and ornaments as well as the underground heating systems employed by the Romans.
Today the Sirmium Imperial Palace complex is one of the most important Roman sites in Serbia and is a testament to the central role this area played in the middle and late Roman Empire.
St George’s Castle in Lisbon is a medieval castle which once served as a royal palace.
St George’s Castle (Castelo de Sao Jorge) in Lisbon is a medieval citadel resting high atop one of the city’s highest hills overlooking the Tagus River.
Historical research has shown that the hill on which St George’s Castle sits was inhabited as early as the sixth century BC, with the first fortifications dating back to the second century BC. This hill was of military importance to a number of peoples, including Lisbon’s indigenous Celtic and Iberian tribes as well as the Romans, the Visigoths and the Moors.
The earliest mentions of St George’s Castle date back to the eleventh century, when Arab geographers mention it defending the ‘quasabah’ or ‘fortress’. In 1147, St George’s Castle was conquered from the Moors by Portugal’s first king, Afonso Henriques helped by crusaders as part of the Seige of Lisbon.
In 1255, when Lisbon became the capital city, St George’s Castle served as the royal palace and was later renovated by King Dinis I. The castle was dedicated to Saint George by King João I in the fourteenth century. However, St George’s Castle began to lose its stature in the sixteenth century, when King Manuel I built the Ribeira Palace, particularly when St George’s Castle was damaged by earthquakes in 1531 and 1755 and never properly rebuilt.
Today, people mostly visit St George’s Castle for its beautiful views across Lisbon on Ulysses Tower. The Castle does have some exhibitions, including a multimedia presentation of the city’s history and a space for temporary exhibitions as well as a handful of courtyards and battlements to explore. Also visible are the remnants of an old Moorish wall, which was reconstructed by the King Ferdinand I in the 1370’s.
St George’s Castle also features as one of our top tourist attractions of Portugal.
St James’s Palace has been the official residence of the British Sovereign since the reign of King Henry VIII.
St James’s Palace has been the official residence of the British Sovereign since the reign of King Henry VIII.
In fact, it was under Henry VIII that the redbrick Tudor structure of St James’s Palace was begun in 1531 on the former site of a hospital. It was mostly completed by 1536. Much of this original work remains today, including a gatehouse, parts of the state rooms and the Chapel Royal.
With its status of royal residence, St James’s Palace has played host to many an important event. Amongst these was the death of Henry VIII’s illegitimate son Henry Fitzroy in 1536, the signing of the treaty of the surrender of Calais by Mary Tudor in 1558 and the births and baptisms of numerous future monarchs such as Charles II, James II, Mary II and James Francis Edward Stuart.
Today, St James’s Palace is still a working palace, although it has not served as a de facto royal residence since the reign of Queen Victoria, when this role was taken over by Buckingham Palace. Instead, St James’s Palace houses the offices of several members of the royal family including Princes William and Harry and is used for official functions. As such, it is not open to the public.
Stirling Castle is an iconic royal palace, a medieval stronghold and a focal point for many of the most important events in Scotland’s history.
Stirling Castle is an iconic royal palace and stronghold, seen to represent Scottish independence and a focal point for many of the most important events in Scotland’s history.
Famous Events at Stirling Castle
It was the site of royal deaths such as that of King Alexander I in 1124 and William I in 1214, the subject of a tug of war between the English and the Scottish during the Wars of Scottish Independence and even the scene of an assassination. This latter event, the murder of William the eighth Earl of Douglas, occurred when he was invited to dinner there in 1452. A skeleton found at the castle in the eighteenth century is believed to have been his.
During the Wars of Scottish Independence, Stirling Castle was fought over by some of the most famous figures in Scottish and English history, including William Wallace and Robert the Bruce.
Royal events at Stirling Castle included the coronation of Mary Queen of Scots (1543) and the baptism of her son, James VI (1566), both at the Chapel Royal.
At least part of the reason for the prominence of Stirling Castle over the centuries must be attributed to its location. Situated atop the flat top of an ancient volcano, it forms an imposing sight and a formidable stronghold. Furthermore, it is located at a vital strategic point at the centre of various routes across Scotland.
The first mention of Stirling Castle dates to 1110, when Alexander I endowed a chapel there, but many believe the site has been fortified since prehistoric times (although this is disputed).
The current grand incarnation of Stirling Castle mostly dates from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries onwards. Some of the highlights include the King’s Old Building, constructed in 1496 for James IV, the Great Hall, which was medieval Scotland’s largest banqueting hall built by James IV in the early sixteenth century and the Royal Palace, built by James V in around 1540.
One of the most well-known parts of Stirling Castle is its Forework Gate, a turreted stone fortification built by James IV in the early sixteenth century.
Visiting the castle
Today, Stirling Castle offers tours around its buildings and grounds. Visitors can tour with an audio guide or with a tour guide and there are a range of exhibitions to see. Not least of these is the Regimental Museum, a military museum dedicated to the Argyll
Tchogha Zanbil is home to the impressive remains of the ancient city of Dur Untash, the holy capital of the Elamite Kingdom.
Tchogha Zanbil is home to the impressive remains of the ancient city of Dur Untash, the holy capital of the Elamite Kingdom.
Located between Anshan and Suse, the city of Tchogha Zanbil would have been founded in 1250BC by King Untash-Napirisha. It would finally be abandoned in 640BC, following a devastating attack by King Ashurbanipal of the Assyrians. It was never completed.
The undeniable focal point of the ruins of Tchogha Zanbil, also spelt Chogha Zanbil, is one of the greatest - if not in fact the greatest - ziggurats to have been built in Mesopotamia. Originally a temple dedicated to the deity Inshushinak, it developed to become the ornate pyramid-like structure - ziggurat - that stands today, although at 25 metres high it is now just a shadow of its former self having once risen to 60 metres.
Beyond its great ziggurat, visitors to Tchogha Zanbil can also view ancient temples and palaces, including its 13th century BC Untash-Gal Palace. Tchogha Zanbil is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Containing the remains of several palace complexes, Teotihuacan is a vast and well preserved ancient Mesoamerican city near Mexico City.
Teotihuacan was a holy Mesoamerican city built in around 400 BC in what is now Mexico and forms one of the country’s oldest archeological sites.
Whilst the founders of Teotihuacan have never been definitively identified, it is thought that the city was inhabited by the Toltecs and was also an important Aztec site.
Literally translated as the place “where gods are created”, Teotihuacan was clearly a city of significant religious importance to its inhabitants, as illustrated by the wealth of monuments at the site.
Characterised by looming stepped pyramids, indeed one of the most impressive aspects of Teotihuacan is the sheer size of these monuments, including the Pyramid of the Sun, which measures 225 by 222 metres at its base, rising 75 metres high.
Incredibly well-preserved, despite a fire which tore through Teotihuacan in the 7th century, Teotihuacan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
However, it is not just Teotihuacan’s religious monuments which make it such an important and popular site. In fact, it is estimated that these make up a mere 10% of the total excavated site and the rest includes castles, such as the Palace of Quetzalcoatl and the Palace of the Citadel, residential buildings and communal buildings.
Visitors to Teotihuacan can maneuver their way through the city via its original streets, such as Avenue of the Dead, which divided the city into quarters, although take note that the site is absolutely enormous.
Today, Teotihuacan is one of the most popular tourist sites in Mexico and includes numerous museums, including the Museo del Sitio, just south of the Pyramid of the Sun where visitors can see various artefacts from the site. It also features as one of our Top Ten Tourist Attractions in Mexico.
Housed in what was originally a 13th century Hafside Dynasty royal palace, the Bardo Museum is most renowned for its collection of Roman mosaics.
The Bardo Museum (Le Musee National du Bardo) in Tunis is Tunisia’s national archaeological museum and contains artefacts from throughout the country’s history.
From prehistoric items to Punic ceremonial artefacts believed to be connected with practices of human sacrifice and right through to art from the Islamic era, the Bardo Museum offers a great overview of Tunisia’s past and the development of its culture.
The most celebrated exhibit at the Bardo Museum is its collection of Roman mosaics. Mostly dating from the second and third centuries, but going up to the seventh century AD, this collection has been amassed from Tunisia’s many archaeological sites, including El Jem, Dougga and Sousse.
Vibrant and intricate, the mosaics at the Bardo Museum depict everything from nautical scenes of boats and fish to images of deities and legends. One of the most famous mosaics is that of Virgil shown between the Muse of Tragedy and the Muse of History.
The Roman items do not stop at these famous mosaics however. Visitors can see numerous Roman sculptures and artefacts, many from Roman Carthage.
The Bardo Museum’s building has a long history of its own, having been a Hafside Dynasty palace originally built in the thirteenth century and renovated in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The Bardo Museum also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Tunisia.
The Brazen Palace was a grand structure built in the second century in the ancient city of Anuradhapura.
The Brazen Palace (Lovamahapaya) in Anuradhapura was once a magnificent structure initially built during the reign of King Dutugemunu of Sri Lanka (161BC-137BC).
Rebuilt on several occasions, at its peak, it would have had over a thousand rooms and would have risen nine storeys.
Today, the sole remains of the Brazen Palace are 1,600 neatly aligned granite columns arranged in forty rows.
The Doge’s Palace of Venice is a gothic structure which housed the government of the Venetian Republic.
The Doge’s Palace of Venice (Palazzo Ducale di Venezia) is a gothic style structure in St. Mark’s Square which served as the residence of each successive ‘Doge’ or leader of the Venetian Republic until its fall in 1797.
The Doge’s Palace housed the Republic’s administrative center, hall of justice, prison, public archive and senate house.
Whilst the current Doge’s Palace was probably constructed from 1309 to 1424, it is thought that the original palace dated back to the tenth or eleventh century and was probably a fortified structure protected by thick walls and guard towers, of which traces have survived.
A new Doge’s Palace was built under Doge Sebastiano Ziani in the twelfth century following the devastation of the original by a fire in the tenth century. This structure was then renovated and vastly extended in a series of construction projects in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, much of which was necessary due to numerous fires, including one in 1483 and another in 1577.
Nevertheless, much of the original structure and artwork remain today, including some by artists such as Filippo Calendario and Guariento di Arpo. The Bridge of Sighs was added in around 1600, linking the Doge’s Palace to the prison.
However, when Napoleon Bonaparte occupied the city, prompting the fall of the Venetian Republic, the role of the Doge’s Palace inevitably changed, and today it is a museum managed by the Venice Museum Authority.
One can now either tour the Doge’s Palace independently with audio tours or take the pre-booked secret itinerary tour, which includes a visit to the prison cell of the infamous Giacomo Casanova and other parts of the building only accessible through this tour. The wealth of history and architecture, including the Bridge of Sighs and the Doge’s apartments, make the Doge’s Palace a fascinating attraction. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Italy.
The Forbidden City in Beijing was a Chinese imperial residence for nearly five centuries and now houses the Palace Museum.
The Forbidden City, also known as the Imperial Palace or the Palace Museum, is a fifteenth century palace complex in Beijing.
Sprawled over a staggering 720,000 square meters and very well-preserved, The Forbidden City is one of the most popular tourist destinations in China and is on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites.
Home of the Emperors
The Forbidden City was originally constructed under the remit of the third emperor of the Ming dynasty, the Yongle Emperor, between 1406 and 1420, although it was the Ming Emperor Zhudi who was the first to live there. It continued to serve as the imperial residence for almost five centuries, including during the Qing Dynasty era.
In all, the Forbidden City had housed 24 emperors, the final one being the last Chinese emperor, Emperor Puyi, who was evicted in 1924.
The name “Forbidden City” derives from the fact that access to it was extremely restricted despite its central location, demonstrated by its 10 metre high walls and a 52 metre wide moat. Furthermore, with 9,900 rooms and halls and almost a thousand surviving buildings it is very much a city within a city.
Inside the Forbidden City
The Forbidden City is characterised by its clear street plans lined with buildings made up of vermillion walls rising up to meet yellow roofs.
Inside the Forbidden City Museum, visitors can see the vast collection of artwork together with religious and imperial artefacts dating back as far as the seventh century. Tours range from two hour tours to a full day and audio guides are available for a fee. You can see the tour routes through a very fun little application on the Palace Museum’s official site.
This site also features as one of our Top Ten Tourist Attractions in China.
The Grand Palace in Bangkok is an eighteenth century royal residence.
The Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand has been a royal residence of the Chakri Dynasty since the reign of that house’s first monarch, King Rama I, also known as Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke, during the eighteenth century.
King Rama I ruled from 1782 to 1809 and moved the capital from Thonburi to its current location, building the Grand Palace as his home and offices. With its beautiful Thai-style architecture and spanning over 200,000 square metres, the Grand Palace is one of the foremost tourist attractions in Thailand.
The Grand Palace is actually made up of a series of buildings, including government offices, monasteries and a museum and a visit can last three or four hours. Upon entering the palace complex, one is in the outer court, which once housed government departments and now contains the famous Chapel of the Emerald Buddha, which is a definite must-see attraction together with the Museum of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which contains many artifacts relating to Wat Phra Keo.
The rest of the complex is divided into two sections called the inner and outer courts, most of which are out of bounds to the public. However, the Dusit Maha Prasat throne is open on weekdays and, as one of the least altered buildings in the complex, contains an audience hall with a mother-of-pearl throne built by King Rama I. Tourists can also enter the Amarin Winichai Mahaisun Audience hall on weekdays.
Part of the Grand Palace’s Phra Maha Monthien Group of buildings is where all important state occasions take place.
It can help to hire a guide beforehand if you want to learn about the Grand Palace history and make absolutely sure you abide by the strict dress code (no shorts, mini skirts, short sleeves, sandals or tight trousers).
Containing the Winter Palace of Peter the Great as well as the beautiful Menshikov Palace, the Hermitage is now a world renowned museum in St Petersburg which includes a vast array of global exhibits.
The Hermitage is a vast museum complex in St. Petersburg housing around three million historic and archaeological artefacts, paintings, sculptures, numismatics and other works.
It is one of world’s most well-renowned museums, with an astonishing array of exhibits ranging from the art and culture of ancient civilisations such as the Romans, Greeks and those of the Orient to Western European art and Numismatic coins.
The Hermitage is made up of six buildings, each consisting of exhibits relating to different eras and specialities. The main buildings are called the New Hermitage, the Small Hermitage and the Old Hermitage. These house, amongst other things, Greek and Roman artwork and artefacts, including vases, sculptures and gems dating back as far as 2000 BC, antiquities from Siberia and exhibits of Russian culture dating back to the 10th century.
The Treasure collection is also fascinating, showing diamonds, jewels and precious materials going back as far as the seventh century BC. For the military historian, the Arsenal provides an array of arms and armour from around the globe and throughout history.
The Winter Palace of Peter I, also known as Peter the Great, is another building in the Hermitage complex and displays pieces relating to the life and times of this monarch in his eighteenth century palace. Amongst this collection is Peter I’s own incredible collection of prehistoric art, mostly gold pieces taken from ancient burial grounds and dating back as far as the sixth century BC.
Other buildings in the Hermitage complex include the beautiful Menshikov Palace, being the former home of St Petersburg’s first governor-general, Prince Alexander Menshikov, the Museum of the Imperial Porcelain Factory, The Hermitage Theatre and the Reserve House and the Staraya Derevnya Restoration and Storage Centre.
With so much to see, it’s probably best to join in one of the tours, available in many European languages including in English. For those wishing to see the Staraya Derevnya Restoration and Storage Centre, visits must be booked in advance and must be by guided tour.
The Hermitage also features as one of our top ten Russian visitor attractions.
The House of Augustus on the Palatine Hill was the home of Rome’s first emperor.
The House of Augustus, located on the eminent Palatine Hill, was the modest home of Ancient Rome’s first emperor, Augustus.
The grandnephew and heir of Julius Caesar, Augustus lived in this house for many years. The House of Augustus should not be confused with Domus Augustana, which was the later palace of the emperors of Rome.
Whilst considered to be relatively small, especially when compared to the Imperial Palace built at a later date, the House of Augustus does contain a vivid collection of frescos.
Open to the public since 2008, the House of Augustus has been carefully restored and offers a fascinating insight into the life of one of ancient Rome’s most prominent figures.
The Kremlin has been the seat of Russian power for centuries and was the site of many significant historical events. Today it houses several impressive museums and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Kremlin (Kreml) is an iconic symbol of Russian statehood and forms the seat of its political power. Characterised by colourful domes and opulent buildings, this vast triangular shaped complex, together known as The Kremlin, spans an area of around 28 hectares and includes several beautiful palaces, numerous churches and even armouries and a medieval fortress.
The Kremlin’s history can be traced back as far back as 1156, preceding even the founding of the principality of Moscow in 1236. However, most of the buildings in the Kremlin were built between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries, initially under the reign of Dmitry Donskoy, then rebuilt in the fifteenth century under Ivan the Great. It was also under Ivan the Great that The Kremlin served as the seat of Russian power, a role which it fulfilled until Peter the Great transferred the Russian government to St Petersburg.
It was only in March 1918, when the Bolsheviks chose Moscow as their political centre, that The Kremlin once again took centre stage.
The Kremlin offers visitors a plethora of incredible sites. Many of these, including the Cathedral of the Assumption, which was built in the 1470s, are contained in Cathedral Square. Many of Russia’s important religious leaders are buried here.
Cathedral Square in The Kremlin was once a centre of political and religious importance and the site of many significant ceremonies such as coronations. It is the home of what was once Russia’s tallest structure, an imposing sixteenth century tower known as Ivan the Great Belltower. This 81 metres high tower was largely destroyed in 1812 by Napoleon’s army, but the main pillar remained and the whole structure was restored in the nineteenth century.
The Cathedral of the Annunciation is another worthy site in this part of The Kremlin, built by Ivan III in the fifteenth century and once being the official chapel of Russia’s tsars.
Beyond its religious sites, The Kremlin has much to offer the history enthusiast, notably in its Armoury which contains a myriad of exhibits relating to Russian culture including ceremonial clothing of the tsars, Faberge eggs, the chalice of the founder of Moscow, Yuri Dolgoruky and, next door, the stunning Orlov Diamond which measures a staggering 190 carats.
Those interested in military history can view the 40-tonne Tsar Cannon built by Ivan the Terrrible’s son Fyodor in 1586. Its enormous size belies the fact that it has never actually worked.
The Communist Era
During the twentieth century, The Kremlin became the focal point of Russia’s communist regime, being the home of, amongst others, Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin. Both of these leaders unleashed waves of destruction upon The Kremlin’s architecture, including demolishing monuments, such as one dedicated to Alexander II and buildings such as the Chudov Monastery.
Today, The Kremlin contains the President’s residences, including The Great Kremlin Palace, a nineteenth century building constructed during the reign of Tsar Nicholas I, The Senate and The Kremlin Administrative Building.
Overall, The Kremlin is a fascinating site, having played a vital role throughout Moscow’s social and political history. It contains several museums, some within its churches, whilst other exhibits are peppered throughout its grounds. The sheer beauty of its architecture makes The Kremlin an incredible place to visit and a must see site when visiting Moscow.
Unfortunately, some of its buildings, particularly its palaces are not open to the public, but even given this there is too much to see in one day. Themed tours and excursions are on offer, but it’s best to book in advance. The Kremlin became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1990 and also features as one of our top ten visitor attractions in Russia.
The Munich Residence was a focal point of Bavarian power for over four centuries.
The Munich Residence (Residenz Munchen) was a focal point of Bavarian power for over four centuries. Begun in 1385, the Munich Residence was initially a small castle, but slowly grew to be one of Germany’s most impressive palaces.
From 1508, the Munich Residence took its place in the history books as the seat of Bavarian dukes and monarchs, a role which it would play until 1918.
Now restored after being severely damaged in World War II, the Munich Residence has a range of exhibits and things to see, offering a glimpse into the history of the building and its residents. Highlights of a tour of the Munich Residence include its vast hall of antiquities or "Antiquarium" - one of the largest of its kind - as well as its elector apartments (Kurfurstenzimmer), ancestral gallery (Ahnengalerie) and the stunning works in its treasury, to name a few.
The National Palace of Mexico is an important landmark representing Mexico’s independence.
The National Palace of Mexico, or Palacio Nacional, was originally constructed in 1692 on a site which has been central to Mexico’s governance since Aztec times.
It became the National Palace in 1821, following the Mexican War of Independence, and houses the bell rung by the priest and original leader of this conflict, Miguel Hidalgo.
Hidalgo rang the bell in 1810 to signal Mexico’s independence during his famous “Cry of Dolores” speech, although he would not live to see this as he was beheaded shortly thereafter.
The National Palace served as the main command point during the US-Mexican War of 1846-1848 and is currently the seat of the country’s president as well as being home to the Federal Treasury and National Archives. Visitors to the National Palace can view Diego Rivera’s murals of Mexico’s history, particularly that of Spain’s conquest of the country in 1520.
The ruins of the Old Ming Palace in Nanjing were once part of a magnificent fourteenth century palace complex.
The Old Ming Palace (Ming Gugong) in Nanjing is a ruin of the remains of what was once a magnificent palatial complex built by the first Ming Emperor Hongwu in the fourteenth century. At that time, Nanjing was the capital.
Much of the Old Ming Palace has been destroyed, first by a series of fires and then by the attacks of Manchu and Taiping forces. The ruins of the Old Ming Palace in Nanjing are still worth seeing however. They include numerous pillars which allow one to comprehend the original layout of the palace together with ten bridges and the Meridian Gate.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Old Ming Palace is the range of ornate detailing in its remaining ruins, which offer a glimpse into the splendour of the original palace.
The Palace of Monaco began as a medieval fortress, undergoing centuries of conflict and attack before becoming a royal palace.
The Palace of Monaco (Palais Princier de Monaco) began as a medieval fortress, undergoing centuries of conflict and attack before becoming a royal palace.
One finds the origins of the Palace of Monaco in the 12th century, not long after the establishment of Monaco, when the Republic of Genoa agreed with German Emperor Henry IV to build a fortress there in return for the harbour. Construction of this stronghold commenced in 1215.
On 8 January 1297, the Palace of Monaco was captured by the House of Grimaldis, an aristocratic Genoese family, starting a period in which the palace would be seized and recaptured on many occasions.
Over time, the Palace of Monaco underwent several changes, being refortified in the 15th century, damaged in the early 16th and finally renovated into a palace not long after. However, having become an impressive royal home, the Palace of Monaco was devastated during the French Revolution, only being returned to the Grimaldi family in 1814.
Today, visitors to the Palace of Monaco can tour the site, including the state apartments and several museums. Particular highlights include its incredible frescos, the royal courtyard and the Mirror Gallery. Much of the Palace of Monaco has echoes of Versailles, making it an especially beautiful palace. There is also a museum of antique cars and a museum of Napoleonic souvenirs.
The Royal Palace in Amsterdam is a 17th century palace, once the largest secular buildings in Europe.
The Royal Palace in Amsterdam (Koninklijk Paleis Amsterdam) was designed by architect Jacob van Campen in 1648 with the intention that it serve as Amsterdam’s city hall, which it did for 150 years or so. During this time, it was the largest secular building in Europe, though it was not to remain so.
The Royal Palace was first used as a royal residence for a brief period in 1768 by Prince William V of the Netherlands. In 1808, the Royal Palace became the home of Louis Bonaparte, Napoleon’s brother, following the patriot riots which saw him ascend to Holland’s throne in 1806.
The Royal Palace was reverted to a city hall in 1813 as Prince Willem of Orange, took control following the fall of Napoleon. It only regained its status as a royal home in 1936, when it once again became property of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Today, The Royal Palace in Amsterdam is one of three palaces at the disposal of the monarch of the Netherlands, Queen Beatrix. When open to the public, the Royal Palace provides guided tours of its ornately decorated interiors, including the expansive Citizens’ Hall and the palace’s many sculptures and paintings. When available there is a free audio tour.
Topkapı Palace is a fifteenth century former residence of the Ottoman Sultans and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Topkapı Palace (Topkapi Sarayi) was the seat and residence of the sultans of the Ottoman Empire.
Construction of Topkapı Palace began in 1459 under the orders of Sultan Mehmed II following the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453. Built in a traditional Ottoman style, Topkapi Palace measured a staggering 700,000 metres squared in volume upon its construction, made up of a series of courtyards, the main palace and several ancillary buildings. The Palace was a focal point of Istanbul’s social and political life and once housed over four thousand people as well as a hospital, mosques and a mint.
Due to a series of fires and earthquakes, Topkapi Palace has undergone several reconstructions and renovations, but its historical origins are still visible throughout. It remained the court of Ottoman Sultans until 1853, when Sultan Abdül Mecid I moved it to Dolmabahçe Palace and it finally became a museum in 1924, which it has remained since.
Today, it is a popular tourist destination, with visitors flocking to see its Ottoman architecture, courtyards and Muslim and Christian relics, even including the belongings of the Prophet Mohammed. The Harem is also quite popular, but costs extra. Audio tours are available. This impressive site features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Turkey.
Trencin Castle was the main seat of aristocrat Matus Cak, Lord of the Vah and the Tatras.
Trencin Castle (Trenciansky hrad) is a dramatic cliff-top castle above the Vah River, not far from the Slovakian capital, Bratislava, which held royal status from the 11th century. It was also at this time that the main current castle was built.
The first buildings on the site date from the Romanesque period, although most of the buildings are Gothic. The most famous master of the castle was Matus Cak (also given as Csak, the Hungarian spelling), a nobleman with considerable holdings in western Slovakia in the late 13th and early 14th centuries, known as Lord of the Vah and the Tatras.
Trencin Castle and the town were heavily damaged by fire in the late 18th century, and in 1905 the castle was donated to the city.
The long tour takes visitors through three of the palaces of Trencin Castle and includes galleries of art collected by the castle's owners and portraits of the family members, arms and armour, and ruins of the oldest tower on the site and skeletons found there. Visitors must join a tour to see the castle, and English-speaking guides are available.
During the summer months, there may be activities on the castle grounds, such as archery and commemorative coin striking. Trencin Castle also hosts evening visits for special occasions.
On the cliff face below the castle is a Roman inscription dating from 179AD. The Hotel Tatra was built in front of the cliff, with a window allowing visitors to see the inscription. As of spring 2011, the hotel is undergoing a complete interior renovation and therefore the inscription is not able to be viewed. There is a replica in the castle, though.
Tsarevets Castle in Veliko Tarnovo is a medieval fortress and was the centre of the Second Bulgarian Empire. Today it is open to visitors and also hosts sound and light shows.
Tsarevets Castle in the Bulgarian city of Veliko Tarnovo is a medieval fortress complex and was the centre of the Second Bulgarian Empire, which ruled the region from the 12th to 14th centuries AD.
First constructed on the site of an earlier Byzantine fort, by the late 12th century Tsarevets Castle had become the headquarters of the Bulgarian forces, who overthrew Byzantine rule in the region. For the next two centuries, Tsarevets Castle housed the royal palaces and administration of the new regime.
However, by the late 14th century the continued rise of the Ottoman Empire put increasing pressure on the Bulgarian forces, and, along with the region as a whole, Tsarevets Castle was captured by the Ottoman army.
For much of the medieval period Tsarevets Castle continued to flourish as a centre of religion, trade and administration.
In the 20th century significant restoration projects were undertaken at Tsarevets Castle, including the restoration of the Patriarch’s Palace and Baldwin’s Tower.
Today, visitors can tour the castle complex and visit the restored Baldwin’s Tower from where there are great views of the locality. Sound and light shows are also held within Tsarevets Castle at certain times. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Bulgarian Tourist Attractions.
Home to numerous palaces, the most famous of which is Palazzo Ducale, Urbino is a picturesque UNESCO-listed city which was a creative centre during the Renaissance.
Urbino is a beautiful walled city which was a creative hub during the Renaissance. Located in the Le Marche region of Italy, Urbino was first a Roman then medieval town.
However, it was during the fifteenth century, particular during the time of Duke Federico II da Montefeltro, that Urbino flourished, playing host to intellectuals and artists from around the country.
Much of the architecture of Urbino was influenced by some of the biggest names of the time. For example, its walls followed the designs of Leonardo Da Vinci. Notably, it was also the birthplace of the painter Raphael, the site of which is now a museum.
Today, much of Urbino is charmingly frozen in its cultural heyday, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in this period. The city is home to numerous palaces, the most famous of which is Palazzo Ducale, a fairytale-esque structure begun in the fifteenth century which is now home to a national art museum.
There is much to see in Urbino including its cathedral or “Duomo” and the fourteenth century Albornoz Fortress.
Since 1998, the historic centre of Urbino has been a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Originally the site of the papal palaces, the Vatican Museums now house a wide-ranging collection of artwork and historical artefacts from throughout history.
The Vatican Museums (Musei Vaticani) house some of the most impressive and important historical artefacts and works of art in the world. Originally the site of the Vatican Museums was used for papal palaces, but they are now a series of galleries in Vatican City.
From the exemplary collection of classical statues in the Pio-Clementine Museum to the beautiful frescos by Raphael in the Raphael Rooms, the Vatican Museums have an extensive array of pieces from many historic periods.
Raphael’s Rooms or “Stanze di Raffaello” are divided into several periods, such as the room of Constantine, the room of Heliodorus, the room of Segnatura and the room of the Fire in the Borgo and depict events throughout history – both real and legendary.
The Gallery of Maps is particularly interesting, its walls adorned with topographical maps of Italy created by Ignazio Danti. The Vatican Museums also house a Gregorian Egyptian Museum containing funerary pieces, stelae and statues bearing hieroglyphics, a reconstruction of the Canopus of Hadrian’s Villa and mummies as well as reliefs and inscriptions from Assyrian palaces.
It would take many visits to see everything in the Vatican Museums. Some of the highlights include Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting of the Catholic Saint Jerome, the Roman Christian sarcophagus of the politician Junius Bassus (d 359 AD) and the Dogmatic Sarcophagus or “Trinity Sarcophagus”, dating back to the mid-fourth century AD.
However, the star attraction of the Vatican Museums is the Sistine Chapel. Probably the last of the exhibitions one sees at the Vatican Museums (it is quite a walk from the entrance), the Sistine Chapel is the magnificent creation of Michelangelo from 1508 to 1512. Its famous ceiling is frescoed in a multitude of colours with depictions from the Old and New Testaments showing, amongst other things, the creation of the world and original sin.
Guided tours of the Vatican Museums take place Mondays to Saturdays hourly from 9am to noon. The Vatican is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Historic Centre of Rome. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Italy.
Wawel Castle is an iconic fortified castle complex in Krakow and the former seat of the Polish monarchy.
Wawel Castle in Krakow is one of the most important historic sites in Poland. Located on Wawel Hill, which has been inhabited since the Paleolithic Age, Wawel Castle served as the seat of the Polish monarchy from the eleventh century and is now a vast museum.
It was King Bolesław Chrobry who constructed the first building of Wawel Castle at this time. Known as the Palatium, the remains of this building can still be seen today in Wawel Castle’s northern wing. Wawel Castle continued to expand over the centuries, undergoing extensive development in the fourteenth century under King Ladislas, known as Ladislas the Short and his heir, Casimir the Great.
In the fifteenth century, Ladislas Jagiello added the Danish Tower to the castle. By the mid-fifteenth century, Wawel Castle was a large Gothic complex. However, in 1499, a fire broke out, destroying most of the castle and ancillary buildings.
Kings Alexander Jagiello and Sigismund I, known as Sigmund the Old, proceeded to rebuild Wawel Castle in the sixteenth century. This time the castle would be built in a Renaissance style and created by many of the finest artists and builders of the time. Much of this splendor can still be seen today. This is despite two further fires in 1595 and 1702. However, parts of Wawel Castle were changed by war and occupation by the Swedish and Prussian armies.
In 1796, under Austrian occupation, attempts were made to change Wawel Castle into a military complex, an endeavour which resulted in the destruction of two churches. A mass restoration project was undertaken after Wawel Castle was returned to the Poles in 1905 and today it is one of the country’s main museums.
Wawel Castle is split into six permanent spaces; the State Rooms, the Royal Palace Apartments, the Crown Treasury and Armoury, the Oriental Art Collection, the Lost Wawel and the Dragon’s Den. The main exhibition at Wawel Castle is in its magnificent State Rooms, where one can appreciate the Renaissance architecture as well as tapestries and other works of art.
The Royal Palace Apartments offer visitors a chance to see the rooms of former monarchs as well as further collections of art, the remains of the Danish Tower and some of the older, Gothic architecture. For archaeological finds and a history of Wawel Castle, go to the Lost Wawel exhibition. This shows the development of the castle and displays a number of artefacts from its excavation.
Visitors can also see Wawel Cathedral as well as several other sites on Wawel Hill. This historic part of Krakow is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Windsor Castle is the oldest occupied castle in the world and the official home of the Queen.
Windsor Castle is the oldest occupied castle in the world. Covering an area of approximately 13 acres, it contains a wide range of interesting features. These include the State Apartments, Queen Mary’s dolls house and the beautiful St George’s Chapel. It is also the burial place of ten monarchs, including Henry VIII and his beloved wife (the one who gave him a son), Jane Seymour.
The building of Windsor Castle began in the 1070s at the behest of William the Conqueror, with the intent that it was to guard the western approach to London. Since that time, the structure of Windsor Castle has been embellished by many of the monarchs of England and the UK. Notably, in the 1170s, Henry II (the first Plantagenet) rebuilt most of the castle in stone instead of wood, including the round tower and the upper ward, where most monarchs have had their private apartments since the 14th century.
In the mid-fourteenth century, Edward III, who had recently founded the Order of the Garter, built St George’s Hall at Windsor Castle for the use of the knights of this Order. A further addition, St George’s Chapel, was started by Edward IV, but was not finished until the time of Henry VIII. It is here that the ten British monarchs lie buried.
During the English Civil War, Windsor Castle served as a prison and it was to St George’s Chapel that the body of Charles I was brought for burial after his execution. Charles II and George IV (formerly the Prince Regent) made further contributions to the architecture of Windsor Castle in the 1650s and 1820s respectively.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert loved Windsor castle, and Prince Albert died there of typhoid in 1861. Queen Victoria built a mausoleum in the grounds of the castle, Frogmore, where Albert and later Victoria herself were buried.
In the Second World War, Windsor Castle became home to our present Queen, Elizabeth II, and her family, George VI, the (future) Queen Mother and Princess Margaret. It remains a favourite home of Queen Elizabeth, and she spends most of her weekends there. There was a huge fire at the castle in November 1992 which took 15 hours and one and half a million gallons of water to extinguish. It began in the Private Chapel and soon spread to affect approximately one fifth of the area of the castle. It took five years to restore the Castle, and it was finished by the end of 1997.
There are numerous exhibitions and tours at Windsor Castle. In fact, a typical visit can take up to three hours. This site features as one of our Top Ten UK Tourist Attractions.