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Europe’s 9 Most Stunning Royal Palaces to Visit

Even if you can’t afford to live in your own palace, you can see what it might be like by visiting some of Europe’s most famous. These royal palaces are like a fantasy come to life, featuring opulent interiors and grand architecture with fascinating historical details. Stroll like a royal through these beautiful destinations in Europe, which are considered the most stunning royal palaces in the region.

Pena Palace - Sintra, Portugal Pena Castle
Credit: Pena Castle by Bigstock.com

Pena Palace - Sintra, Portugal

Perched high above the village of Sintra, this fairytale palace in Portugal is one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal, containing a mixture of architectural styles including Manueline and Moorish influences. Considered one of the best expressions of 19th-century romanticism in the world, it was originally the site of the Royal Monastery of Our Lady of Pena, but the monastery was abandoned in 1834 when the religious orders were suppressed in Portugal and it was left in disrepair. Inspired by German Romanticism, King Ferdinand bought the building, transformed it into this eclectic castle, planting exotic flowers and over 500 species of trees on the grounds. The palace was built so that it would be visible from any point in the park, standing atop a rocky peak in its eastern area. The palace itself includes two wings that are ringed by a third architectural structure that’s a fantasized version of a castle, with walls that one can walk around that comprise of watchtowers, battlements, an entrance tunnel, and a drawbridge.

Chateau de Versailles - Versailles, France Versailles Palace and Gardens
Credit: Versailles Palace and Gardens by allysonta via Flickr

Chateau de Versailles - Versailles, France

Chateau de Versailles is among the most visited sites in France and one of the most stunning examples of royal residence from the 17th- and 18th-century anyone can experience. It boasts around 2,143 windows, 1,252 fireplaces, 67 staircases, and five chapels. One of the many highlights is the Hall of Mirrors, which is made up of 17 arched windows, with each window embellished with 21 individual mirrors. Considered to be Louis XIV’s best contributions to the Palace, historically it was also where the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919 to end the Second World War. Many feel the gardens are the best feature of all, with its 250 acres filled with winding paths that lead to flower beds, ornamental lakes, quiet corners decorated with statuary and a canal, used by the king himself for gondola rides.

Rundale Palace - Rundale, Latvia Rundale Palace, Latvia
Credit: Rundale Palace, Latvia by bigstock.com

Rundale Palace - Rundale, Latvia

Nicknamed the Baltic Versailles, a visit to Rundale Palace will transport you to an age of splendor. Designed by Francesco Rastrelli, the architect who also created St. Petersburg’s Hermitage, it’s a Baroque and Rococo masterpiece, loaded with art treasures and surrounded by a beautiful rose garden. Originally built for the Dukes of Courland, it’s gone through a number of incarnations over the past 250 years or so, including being a German army commandant’s office, an infirmary, and a school. Today, after extensive renovations that took nearly a half-century, the 54 rooms look much like they did in the latter part of the 18th century. You’ll see brocade tapestries, fine tile work and elaborate moldings in the salon, while the Gilded Hall is often compared to the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.

Buckingham Palace - London, England Buckingham Palace
Credit: Buckingham Palace by © I Wei Huang - Dreamstime.com

Buckingham Palace - London, England

Buckingham Palace was the London residence of the late Queen Elizabeth II and it continues to be a working palace as the centerpiece of Britain’s constitutional monarchy. It’s been the official London residence of the United Kingdom’s sovereigns since 1837 and today it’s the administrative headquarters of the Monarch as well as serving as the venue for many official events, royal ceremonies, and receptions held by The King. The State Rooms are open to visitors during the summer months and include numerous pieces from the Royal Collection, such as opulent chandeliers, paintings by Van Dyck and Canaletto, as well as beautiful French and English furniture. If you watched the Royal Wedding, you might recognize the Throne Room that served as the backdrop for the official photographs of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Topkapi Palace - Istanbul, Turkey Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
Credit: Topkapi Palace, Istanbul by bigstock.com

Topkapi Palace - Istanbul, Turkey

First built by Mehmet the Conqueror in the 15th century, the sultans of the Ottoman Empire ruled over their dominions from this grand palace beside the banks of the Bosphorus through the 19th century. The enormous palace, which takes at least a half-day to explore, once housed 5,000 full-time residents, including hundreds of concubines and eunuchs. The complex is a dazzling display of Islamic art, with opulent courtyards lined with intricate hand-painted tilework, connecting sumptuously decorated rooms that are all bounded by battlemented walls and towers. Apart from the harem, the courtyard gardens, and the architecture, highlights of the courtyard museums, of which there are more than a dozen, including the Palace Kitchens which house the imperial porcelain collection of more than 10,000 pieces, the Costume Collection with formal imperial robes worn by the sultans themselves, including Mehmet II’s more than 500-year-old fur-lined kaftan, the Imperial Treasury and the Archaeological Museum.

Chateau de Chambord - Loire Valley, France Chambord Castle
Credit: Chambord Castle by Bigstock.com

Chateau de Chambord - Loire Valley, France

One of the most beautiful castles in France, Chateau de Chambord is considered the grandest of Renaissance castles in the Loire Valley, a region well-regarded for its picturesque vineyards, historic villages, glorious chateaus and spectacular scenery. The enormous castle features more than 400 rooms, as well as numerous turrets, towers, cupolas, gables, and chimneys. Henry James declared that its towers were “more like the spires of a city than the salient points of a single building.” The renovated castle has been furnished, and during your visit, you can explore almost 100 of the castle rooms. In addition to the building itself, you can also explore the very extensive parkland, visit the game reserve, the stables and even admire a collection of traditional horse-drawn carriages.

Royal Palace Amsterdam - Amsterdam, Netherlands Royal Palace of Amsterdam
Credit: Royal Palace of Amsterdam by bigstock.com

Royal Palace Amsterdam - Amsterdam, Netherlands

In the 17th century in the heart of the Dutch Golden Age, the Royal Palace was dubbed “the eighth wonder of the world.” At the time, it was Amsterdam’s City Hall, in the city that was the largest business center in the world. Today it serves as the King’s residence when he’s in Amsterdam and is used for ceremonies and events. Based on the architecture of ancient Rome, the exterior is strictly classical, but step inside and you’ll be awed with the magnificent furnishings, its apartments decorated with elaborate ornamentation, marble sculptures, and friezes, as well as ceiling paintings by Ferdinand Bol and Govert Flinck, students of Rembrandt. You’ll also discover one of the world’s finest furniture collections, and the Council Hall, the largest and most important room in the palace, lavishly decorated and considered to be one of Europe’s most beautiful staterooms.

Royal Palace of Caserta - Caserta, Italy Caserta Palace Royal Garden, Italy
Credit: Caserta Palace Royal Garden, Italy by bigstock.com

Royal Palace of Caserta - Caserta, Italy

The Royal Palace of Caserta, designed and mostly built by the Dutch architect Ludwig Van Wittel, who received the Italian onomatopoeic name of Vanvitelli, is the pride of the Bourbon dynasty, its foundation stone laid on on January 20, 1752, in an official ceremony celebrating the 36th birthday of King Charles. Its visual impact is immediate, with the set of fountains in the background complementing the grandeur. Inside the massive rooms follow one after the other, all extraordinarily opulent, from the royal apartments to the throne room. The palace also features a theater, the only space entirely completed by Vanvitelli himself before he died. While plasters and frescoes make it an impressive place, what’s most unique is the stage, where behind the backcloth is a portal opening on the park, used as a scene for plays.

Schonbrunn Palace - Vienna, Austria Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria
Credit: Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria by bigstock.com

Schonbrunn Palace - Vienna, Austria

A top attraction in Vienna, the word palatial should have been created for this sprawling palace located on the outskirts of the city. The former imperial summer residence of Austria’s Habsburg rulers, it’s considered the country’s most important cultural landmark, and its design was inspired by the baroque extravagance of Versailles. Guided or recorded audio tours include many of the palace’s opulent rooms, including a grand ballroom, bed chambers, private dining rooms, and the study of Emperor Franz Joseph as well as the very room where six-year-old Mozart played one of his first public concerts for Empress Maria Theresia. The palace also had a starring role in the James Bond film “The Living Daylights,” when 007 and his female accomplice passed through the gardens in a horse and carriage.

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