Palaces are the peak of residential architecture. They’re as far as someone can go when trying to pick the most luxurious household they possibly can. Bigger and more lavish than mansions and castles together, the only thing that could make a palace even more impressive is making it a royal palace. Royalty doesn’t settle for just anything, it’s a commonly known fact. Many great monarchs in history had their palaces built from scratch, specifically to house them and their family (and an array of servants, of course). Today, monarchies aren’t as common as they used to be only decades ago, with many palaces that used to be inhabited by royal family members being left hollow and open for the public to visit. Regardless of whether someone still lives in them or they were turned into tourist attractions, here are the 7 Most Stunning Royal Palaces In The World.
1. Forbidden City, China
This 980-building complex used to be the home of the imperial Chinese families for over five hundred centuries, all the way from the Ming Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty. Constructions began in 1406 and ended roughly fourteen years later. It’s located in the heart of Beijing and it’s also the go-to place if you want to visit the Palace Museum, which is the most visited museum in the world. The impressive architecture of the Forbidden City has become representative of the Chinese style, influencing many other East Asiatic constructions.
2. Potala Palace, Tibet
Located in the Autonomous Region of Tibet in China, the Potala Palace is one of the most beautiful attractions in Tibet and a hotspot of tourism in the region. The palace that we see today was built in 1645, on the foundation of another palace dating back to the 7th century. The monumental construction is situated 130 meters above the Lhasa valley, with the building itself extending a further 170 meters through its sheer height. The first one to be built was the White Palace, with the middle Red Palace being added in the interval between 1690 and 1694. For many years, Potala Palace used to be the residence of the Dalai Lama. However, this changed after when the 14th Dalai Lama fled from Tibet during the invasion of Chinese armies from 1959.
3. Alhambra, Spain
You can find the Alhambra in Granada, Andalusia, and you definitely have all the reasons in the world to pay a visit to it. It’s a building rich in history and stories, having initially been a fortress built as early as the 9th century. Yusuf I, the then Sultan of Granada, was the one with the initiative to turn the fortress into a full-fledged palace. Within the complex, you can also find several Islamic Palaces, which the Sultan had to be built for the last Spanish Muslim Emirs and their court. Portions of the complex slipped from the grasp of Muslim rulers, along with the reconquest of the Reyes Catolicos from the 15th century. For a while, it was used by Christian leaders. Now that no royal family currently lives within its walls, the Alhambra serves as Granada’s biggest tourist attraction.
4. Buckingham Palace, United Kingdom
Unlike the rest of the entries on this list, the Buckingham Palace is currently inhabited today, as it’s the residence and workplace of the United Kingdom’s monarch family. Located in the City of Westminster, London, the palace used to be under private ownership for over a century and a half. It was built for the Duke of Buckingham in 1703 and sixty years later, it was purchased by King George III to serve as a private residence for his wife, Queen Charlotte. The palace became the official residential lot for the royal family along with Queen Victoria’s ascension to the throne in 1837. Since its initial construction, many wings have been added to the main building. It suffered serious damage from German bombing in WWII, the entire palace chapel being destroyed in the process. The state rooms are open to visiting in August, September, December, and January.
5. Chateau de Chambord, France
No list about royal palaces would be complete without France. Chateau de Chambord is located in the Loire Valley, a location famous for the multitude of palaces and castles lined up in the area. It was constructed by King Francis I of France, becoming in time an epitome of Renaissance architecture. Some people say that Leonardo DaVinci had a say in the original design of the palace, though much of its initial appearance got lost through constant renovation. The building was never completed, since King Francis I had it built to serve as a hunting ground and chose to live in other palaces from the Valley. After WWII, many exhibitions from the Louvre and Chateau de Compiegne were moved to Chateau de Chambord, which today is open to visitors.
6. Palace of Versailles, France
Often shortened simply as Versailles, this palace is one of the most visited attractions in France, not only for its impressive architecture and gardens but for the historical significance as well. In 1682, Louis XIV moved together with his family from Paris to Versailles, back then a simple country village. The chateau was a center of political power and Ancien Regime reigning until the royal family was forced to return to Paris in 1789, after the ignition of the French Revolution.
7. Schonbrunn Palace, Austria
Built by King Leopold I at the end of the 17th century, the Schonbrunn Palace is one of the most valued attractions in modern Vienna. It used to be the residence of many generations of the royal house, the best examples being the famed Franz Joseph I and his wife Elisabeth I, also known as “Sisi.” Other than the palace itself, tourists can visit the enormous gardens surrounding the area, grab a ticket for one of the biggest zoos in Europe, enter the maze or hike thirty meters up a hill to visit the summer house Gloriette.
Stepping between the walls of one of these 7 Most Stunning Royal Palaces In The World is almost certain to take you back in time to a period when emperors and empresses, kings and queens all roamed the hallways of their homes. No matter how costly, a visit to one of them is worth every penny.
Image sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.