If you love architectural splendour and historical grandeur, you’ll love exploring the beautiful royal palaces around the world. From gilded walls, velvet staircases and crystal chandeliers to priceless paintings and ornate gardens, you’ll get a stunning glimpse into the past with these opulent royal residences. Walk in the footsteps of kings and queens with 15 of the best royal palaces to visit around the world.
1. Winter Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia
Once the official residence of Russian monarchs, the Winter Palace is jaw-droppingly extravagant. It’s one of the best royal palaces to visit to experience the wealth and power of the Russian monarchy, with 1,500 rooms dripping in Baroque glamour. Be sure to also visit the attached Hermitage Museum. It has over three million works including masterpieces by Picasso, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, da Vinci, Monet, Kadinsky and Renoir.
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2. Château de Chambord, Loir-et-Cher, France
The Loire Valley is famed for its beautiful castles and palaces, but the jewel in the crown has got to be Château de Chambord. Built in the mid 16th century, this palace was a retreat for French kings and is truly extraordinary. There are 440 rooms lined with luxurious furnishings and artworks and stables to accommodate 1,200 horses. You’ll also find 13 great staircases, including a double-helix spiral staircase, thought to have been designed by Leonardo da Vinci.
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3. Royal Palace of Madrid, Madrid, Spain
The origins of this magnificent palace date all the way back to the 9th century, although the palace we see today was built in the 18th century on the ruins of an Alcázar castle. With 3,418 rooms across 135,000 square metres of floor space, the Royal Palace of Madrid takes the title of largest European palace by floor area. And there’s plenty to see in all that space, with priceless artworks and furnishings including paintings by Velazquez, Caravaggio, de Goya, Tiepolo and more.
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4. Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand
The Grand Palace in Bangkok certainly lives up to its name. Set on the banks of the great Chao Phraya River, it was the official residence of the Kings of Siam since 1782. Although the royal family no longer lives there, they still use it for official ceremonies. It’s also one of the best royal palaces to visit as you can wander the grounds and marvel at the traditional Thai architecture with colourful spires and roof tiles. Be sure to stop by the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, where you’ll find the most sacred Buddhist sculpture in Thailand.
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5. Dolmabahçe Palace, Istanbul, Turkey
Set along the Bosphorus River, this gorgeous palace in Turkey was once the administrative centre of the Ottoman Empire with the last Ottoman Sultans living there. Filled with sparkling golden chandeliers, silk carpets, glittering jewels and original furnishings and decor, you’ll be amazed by the grandeur of the Dolmabahçe Palace.
6. Buckingham Palace, London, United Kingdom
Beautiful Buckingham Palace is one of the few remaining working royal palaces in the world, serving as the office and residence of Queen Elizabeth II. With 775 rooms there’s no shortage of splendour in this palace and you can even visit the 19 State Rooms. They’re furnished with treasures from the Royal Collection and you’ll literally walk in the footsteps of royalty as many grand ceremonies and events have taken place here.
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7. The Palace of Versailles, Versailles, France
The Palace of Versailles is one of the most famous and extravagant palaces in the world. Once the official seat of power in the 17th century, King Louis XIV transformed the former hunting lodge into the opulent royal palace we see today. From the Hall of Mirrors where grand balls were held, to the State Apartments and the intricate gardens and mazes, the Palace of Versailles is truly breathtaking.
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8. Hawa Mahal, Jaipur, India
With a bright pink exterior and delicate honeycomb latticework, this palace in Jaipur is absolutely stunning. Known as the Palace of the Wind, it was built in 1799 so the ladies of the royal court could get fresh air and observe the city below without being seen. Made from pink sandstone, Hawa Mahal is undoubtedly one of the most unique and beautiful palaces in the world. If you visit at night, you’ll even see the palace illuminated in golden lights.
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9. Royal Palace of Caserta, Caserta, Italy
Built in the 18th century to match the beauty of Versailles and the Palace of Madrid, the Royal Palace of Caserta is not only one of the most stunning royal residences in the world – it’s also the largest by volume. Spanning over one million cubic metres and a monumental 47,000 square metres including picturesque parks and gardens, this has got to be on your palace bucket list.
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10. Forbidden City, Beijing, China
Spanning 180 acres with almost 1,000 buildings and around 10,000 rooms, the Forbidden City is the largest palace complex in the world. Once the seat of both the Ming and Qing Dynasties from 1406 to 1912, today the Forbidden Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a museum with more than 10,000 masterpieces of Chinese art and artefacts. Don’t miss the Meridian Gate, the Imperial gardens, the Hall of Clocks and Watches, and the Hall of Supreme Harmony used for ceremonies and celebrations. You can also visit the Empress’ chambers and see the throne in the Palace of Heavenly Purity.
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11. Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria
Built in the 17th century as the summer residence of the Habsburgs, Schönbrunn Palace is a gem of Baroque architecture. With perfect symmetry, elaborate gardens including an intricate topiary maze, grand ceiling murals and priceless artworks and sculptures, this palace is sure to amaze. There are 1,441 rooms to get lost in but don’t miss the Hall of Mirrors where Mozart performed for Empress Maria Theresa and Marie Antoinette when he was only six years old.
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12. Palácio Nacional da Pena, Sintra, Portugal
If you’re looking for the most unique royal palaces to visit around the world, you can’t go past Pena National Palace. Perched high in the Sintra hills, the palace is made up of intricate stone carvings and stunning colours. It’s an opulent jumble of styles, incorporating Portuguese Romanticism, Neo-Renaissance, Neo-Gothic and Neo-Islamic architectural styles. The lands surrounding the palace are equally as beautiful, with more than 500 tree species and flowers from all over the world.
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13. Drottningholm Palace, Stockholm, Sweden
Built in the 1600s, Drottningholm Palace is the best-preserved royal palace in Sweden and a stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s also the permanent residence of the King and Queen of Sweden. While their rooms in the southern wing are kept private, visitors can explore the rest of the palace and grounds all year round. Set on an island in Lake Mälar, you’ll marvel at all the treasures including beautiful Baroque gardens and a Chinese pavilion. There’s even a perfectly preserved theatre built in 1766 that stills uses the original stage machinery.
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14. Alhambra, Andalusia, Spain
Known as the ‘Red Castle’ thanks to the red stone covering the walls, the Alhambra is a treasure of Moorish design and architecture. Rebuilt in the 13th century on top of La Sabika hill, the palace has a stunning view over Granada. The palace interior is just as beautiful, with immaculate gardens, leafy courtyards, Arabesque art and intricate Arabic carvings… and it’s an unmissable stop on any trip to Granada.
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15. Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, Turkey
Set on a hill overlooking the Bosphorus River, Topkapi Palace served as the favourite residence of the Ottoman Empire for around 400 years. Sprawling across 700,000 square metres, you’ll find regal pavilions, gardens and courtyards, colourful mosaic tiles and gold carvings in Arabic. You can even see the sultan’s Harem and Treasury filled with jewels and armour.
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Which beautiful royal palaces are on your list to visit? Let us know in the comments below!