From Buckingham to Bangkok, the world is scattered with palaces that will take your breath away. Some are still official royal residences, while others have been reimagined as museums. You can cruise to some of the most majestic travel destinations in the world, and get a taste of royal life by visiting these nineteen posh palaces.
Buckingham Palace in London, England
The London residence and administrative headquarters for the British monarchy is on the itinerary for most tourists visiting London. The palace is open for tours during summer months. Go to see the lavish State Rooms, the ornate Grand Staircase, an impressive collection of art and sculptures, and the famous Throne Room. Outside, the impressive 39 acres of gardens can be explored via a separate tour.
Witnessing the Changing of the Guards ceremony is popular at Buckingham Palace. The event is free and takes about 45 minutes.
Did you know? Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms, including 78 bathrooms.
Pitti Palace in Florence, Italy
On the south side of Florence’s Arno River, you’ll find Palazzo Pitti. The large Renaissance palace is a short walk from Ponte Vecchio and offers a spectacular view of Florence’s skyline.
Built in 1458, the palace was purchased by Florence’s famous Medici family in 1549 and became the chief residence of the ruling families of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. It has also been used as a power base by Napoleon, and the principal royal palace for the newly united country of Italy.
Today, it is Florence’s largest museum complex. Visitors can explore the Royal Apartments, as well as small museums dedicated to porcelain, costumes, carriages, and silver. The surrounding Boboli Gardens is a beautiful open-air museum featuring sculptures, fountains, and an amphitheater.
Did you know? In 1919, King Victor Emmanuel III donated the palace and its contents to the Italian people.
Catherine Palace in Pushkin, Russia
This opulent palace in Pushkin, just 30km south of St. Petersburg, is one of Russia’s most majestic pieces of architecture. It originated in 1717 as a summer palace for Catherine I of Russia. In 1752 Catherine’s daughter, Empress Elizabeth, had the structure demolished and replaced with a more ornate structure.
When Catherine the Great inherited the residence, she had several rooms renovated in Neo-Palladian style. The palace was largely destroyed after the siege of Leningrad and is still undergoing reconstruction today. The palace is most famous for the dazzling Amber Room. The Amber Room was originally constructed in the 18th century, disappeared during World War II, and was recreated in 2003.
Did you know? More than 100kg of gold was used to gild the palace’s façade and statues.
The Royal Palace in Stockholm, Sweden
This official residence of the Swedish monarch is located on Stadsholmen, a small island in the center of Stockholm. It was erected here in the early 1700s after a fire destroyed the medieval Tre Kronor Castle.
The palace’s interior includes over 600 rooms, including apartments for Royal families, State apartments, Guest apartments, and the Bernadotte apartments. It also houses the Bernadotte Library, offices of the Royal Court of Sweden, the Royal Chapel, the Armory, and more.
The Palace is open to the public and free 45-minute tours are offered twice daily. Five museums, including Tre Kronor Museum, are located in the remaining cellar vaults from the former castle. The Royal Treasury is another highlight, as it contains beautiful ceremonial crowns and other regalia.
Did you know? At the Palace’s Hall of State, you can see Queen Kristina’s silver throne, one of only a few items rescued from the Tre Kronor fire.
The Alhambra in Granada, Spain
The Alhambra is many things: a fortress, a palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It began in 889 AD as a small fortress. However, the palace and walls many tourists flock to today were constructed in the 13th century by Moorish emir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar of the Emirate of Granada. It is an important part of Moorish culture and has inspired songs, poems, and stories.
If you plan to visit while in Granada, purchase your tickets in advance. Your entrance ticket provides a specific time to tour the Nasrid Palaces. Don’t miss it – the beautiful rooms are a highlight of the tour.
Did you know? The name Alhambra comes from the Arabic al-qala’a al-hamra, or Red Castle.
Palace of Versailles in Versailles, France
Versailles was once the seat of political power in France after Louis XIV moved the royal court there from Paris in 1682, a time when French Monarchy was at the height of power. The royal family remained there until they were forced to return to Paris in October 1789, a few months after the French Revolution began. Thus, the Palace of Versailles is not just a renowned building, but also a symbol of France’s Ancien Régime.
Today, Versailles is a museum, art exhibition site, and one of the country’s top tourist attractions. The château sits amid splendid formal gardens that include orange trees, flowers, and fountains. Inside, the highlight is the Hall of Mirrors. This gorgeous central gallery gets its name from the seventeen mirror-clad arches that reflect seventeen arcaded windows, which overlook the gardens.
Did you know? Each arch in the Hall of Mirrors contains 21 mirrors, with a total of 357 mirrors used in the decoration of the gallery. At the time of construction in the 18th century, mirrors were among the most expensive items to acquire.
Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin, Germany
This Berlin palace is the largest in the city and a major tourist attraction. Built at the end of the 17th century and expanded during the 18th century, it combined baroque and rococo styles.
Parts of the palace are open to visitors, including the Old Palace and the New Wing. Highlights are the display of the Prussian Crown Jewels, the ornate Throne Room, and the Porcelain Cabinet Room. The beautiful surrounding gardens were inspired by Versailles and today offer a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of modern Berlin.
Did you know? Catherine Palace’s Amber Room was constructed in Prussia and originally meant for Charlottenburg Palace.
Diocletian’s Palace in Split, Croatia
This palace dates back to the turn of the fourth century AD, when it was constructed by the Roman emperor Diocletian. The massive complex more closely resembles a fortress, and its ruins cover 31,000 square meters in Split. The well-preserved monument of Roman architecture will be one of the highlights of your visit to Split.
Diocletian imported expensive marble from Italy and Greece, and columns and sphinxes from Egypt when constructing his home. Each wall has a gate: at the north end is the Golden Gate, the Bronze Gate at south end, the Silver Gate to the east, and the Iron Gate to the west.
Did you know? There 220 buildings within Diocletian’s Palace’s boundaries, home to approximately 3,000 people.
The People’s Palace in Glasgow, Scotland
This untraditional “palace” is a museum and glasshouse located in Glasgow’s famous Glasgow Green park. It was opened in 1898 by the Earl of Rosebery in Glasgow’s East End. At the time the neighborhood was the city’s most overcrowded and impoverished areas.
The People’s Palace is devoted to the city’s social history and gives visitors a fascinating insight into life in Glasgow from 1750 to present day. The glasshouse Winter Gardens features exotic plants, palm trees, and a café.
Did you know? At the opening ceremony, Lord Rosebery said, “A palace of pleasure and imagination around which the people may place their affections and which may give them a home on which their memory may rest.”
The Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand
This complex in the heart of Bangkok has been the official residence of the Kings of Siam since 1782. Though the present monarch lives at Dusit Palace, the Grand Palace is used for ceremonies and state events. The Grand Palace is partially open to the public as a museum and is one of Thailand’s most popular tourist attractions. However, it remains very much a working palace and contains several royal offices within its many buildings.
The complex’s most sacred site is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. This royal chapel is surrounded by cloisters and houses the famous Emerald Buddha. The figure of the meditating Buddha is made of semi-precious green stone, rather than actual emerald, and gold.
A strict dress code is enforced for visitors to the Grand Palace. Dress modestly, and if you’re wearing sandals bring a pair of socks to don while inside as bare feet are not allowed.
Did you know? The Temple of the Emerald Buddha is technically a chapel rather than a temple, as it does not feature living quarters for monks.
Kadriorg Palace in Tallinn, Estonia
Peter the Great had this palace built in Tallinn as a summer residence for Catherine I of Russia in the early 1700s. However, today’s palace is the result of a tremendous renovation ordered by Nicholas I of Russia in 1827.
After Estonia gained independence in 1919 the palace became state property. Today it serves as a branch of the Art Museum of Estonia. Don’t miss the adjoining French-style garden.
Did you know? Both the Estonian and German name for the palace means “Catherine’s valley.”
Luxembourg Palace in Paris, France
Photo by Lee Abbamonte
The Luxembourg Palace and Gardens in Paris’s 6th arrondissement is one of the city’s top attractions. Original construction took place from 1615 to 1645 to be the royal residence for the regent Marie de’ Medici, mother of Louis XIII. It’s fashioned after Florence’s Pitti Palace, where she spent her childhood.
Following the French Revolution, the palace was turned into a legislative building. Since 1958 it has housed the Upper House of French Parliament, the Sénat.
Did you know? The Luxembourg Gardens is one of the best places in Paris to enjoy a picnic. For more, check out our blog How To Spend 36 Hours in Paris.
Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal
This gorgeous palace sits high in the Sintra Mountains and, on clear days, can even be spotted from Lisbon. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.
Pena Palace dates back to the Middle Ages when it was a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Pena. A monastery was added in the 1400s and existed for centuries before suffering damage from lightning and an earthquake. In 1838 the King consort Ferdinand II acquired the ruins, along with several other buildings in the area. The Romanticist palace was built to serve as a summer residence for the Portuguese royal family.
Following the Republican Revolution in 1910, the palace was declared a national monument and quickly became a popular destination with visitors. It’s only about a thirty-minute drive from Lisbon, and well worth the visit.
Did you know? The poet Robert Southey once described Sintra, Portugal, as “the most blessed spot on the whole inhabitable globe.”
Prince’s Palace of Monaco in Monaco
Palais Princier de Monaco, the official residence of the Prince of Monaco is an impressive Genoese fortress built in 1191. Its dramatic history includes many sieges, but it has been the home of the Grimaldi family since they captured it in 1297.
The palace - and Monaco in general - became of particular worldwide interest in 1956 when the American film star Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier III and became Princess of Monaco. Today the palace is home to the current Prince of Monaco, their son Albert II.
Visitors can tour the state apartments (purchase tickets in advance) and watch the Changing of the Guard daily.
Did you know? The Palace’s courtyard hosts Monaco’s annual children’s Christmas party, as well as open-air concerts by the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra.
The Royal Palace in Oslo, Norway
Slottet, Norway’s Royal Palace, was built in the mid-1800s as a residence for King Charles III and remains the official Oslo residence of the present Norwegian monarch.
The palace was extensively renovated by the current monarch, and public tours began in 2002. The palace boasts 173 rooms, a dozen of which are included on tours. The surrounding gardens, known as Slottsparken, are an idyllic place for a stroll.
Did you know? One of the palace’s best-known rooms is the Bird Room, because of its memorable décor and because it’s the antechamber for those awaiting an audience with the King.
Thien Dinh Palace in Hue, Vietnam
The Thien Dinh Palace is the main building of Tomb of Khai Dinh in Hue, Vietnam. This impressive complex at the foot of the Chau Chau mountain was built by Vietnam’s penultimate emperor at great expense from 1916 to 1925.
Steps leading to the Honour Courtyard feature Mandarin Honour Guards. The palace is where visitors can see the sarcophagus of Emporer Khai Dinh. The mausoleum is known for being overdone and tacky but is worth visiting when cruising to Da Nang.
Did you know? Usually, the whereabouts of an emperor’s actual remains in a tomb are a secret. Khai Dinh placed his directly below a large, gilt bronze statue of himself.
Doge’s Palace in Venice, Italy
This Venice landmark was the residence of the Doge of Venice. Sometimes translated as “Duke”, the Doge was the chief magistrate and leader of the Most Serene Republic of Venice. For over a thousand years, Venice’s aristocracy elected Doges for lifelong terms.
Today, the Doge’s Palace is a museum and popular tourist attraction on Piazza San Marco. The palace is known for its stunning exterior and courtyard, dazzling Golden Staircase, and ornate chambers. The Grand Council Hall is the most lavish of all, as the home to the Doge’s throne and the massive painting “Paradise” by Domenico Tintoretto.
Did you know? Azamara ships dock in the heart of Venice, making it easy to explore on foot. For more, check out Five Things To Do In Venice.
The Royal Palace of La Almudaina in Palma de Mallorca, Spain
This Moorish fortified palace was originally built as an Arabian Fort and was claimed as a royal residence in the early 14th century. Today, the Royal Family uses the residence for ceremonies and State receptions.
The palace’s most important features are the King and Queen’s Palace, the Arab Baths, and St. Anne’s Chapel. Across from the Royal Palace is the stunning Palma Cathedral, another must-see spot in beautiful Palma de Mallorca.
Did you know? Many rooms in the Royal Palace of La Almudaina are empty.
The Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg, Russia
St. Petersburg's sprawling Winter Palace was the official residence of Russian monarchs from 1732 to 1917. The present Winter Palace (the fourth iteration of the building) was constructed between the late 1730s and 1837, undergoing nearly constant alterations. It was destroyed by fire in 1837 and immediately rebuilt.
The Winter Palace’s wine cellars, said to be the largest and best stocked in history, were looted during the revolution – leading to what has been called “the greatest hangover in history.” Today, the Winter Palace is part of a complex of buildings that house the State Hermitage Museum.
Did you know? The façade of the palace is 250 meters long and 100 meters high. It’s said to contain 1,500 rooms, 1,945 windows, 1,786 doors, and 117 staircases.
With all these palaces on your travel bucket list, the only thing left to do is start planning your trip!