The World's Most Beautiful Palaces
In these historic locations, you can experience some of the grandeur of days gone by.
We've rounded up some of the most beautiful palaces we've visited around the world.
1) Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, England
Set on a sprawling estate beside the River Glyme, Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, is the only non-royal country house in hotel that is officially a “palace”. The English Baroque building, constructed between 1705 and 1722, is home to the Dukes of Marlborough, and the palace, surrounding park and gardens are open to the public.
Explore a maze, adventure playground and butterfly house. Similar to the backstory of the fictional Downton Abbey, Blenheim Palace also has American connections – the ninth duke married an American heiress in the 19th century to save the estate.
2) Château de Chenonceau & Château de Maintenon, France
Under construction from the 12th to the 18th century, the fairy-tale Château de Maintenon was transformed into a country house in the 16th century. Apart from the round towers, spires, steeples and perfectly manicured gardens, another impressive feature on the property is the aqueduct, Canal de l’Eure, that was built in 1685 to direct water to the park fountains at Versailles. Parts of the building are open to visitors including the salon du Roi, Louis XIV’s bedroom when he stayed at Maintenon as guest of his secret wife, a 19th-century billiard room and a portrait gallery.
Chenonceau, meanwhile, is one of France‘s most sublime architectural gems. This beautiful French château straddles the River Cher near the village of Chenonceaux. The architecture is a combination of Gothic and early Renaissance, and besides the palace of Versailles, it ranks as the most visited château. Both the gardens and the building itself are open to the public. Find your way to the centre of the garden maze, or spend a few moments in contemplation in the ornate chapel.
3) The Alhambra, Granada, Spain
As the sun sets, the walls of this ornate Spanish palace almost glow. In Arabic, the name Alhambra means “red castle”. While it may seem austere from a distance, almost every surface of the building is covered with carving, plasterwork and decoration. In fact, many of the arches inside are there primarily for decoration instead of for structural reasons.
The palace was designed with the mountainous and forested area around it in mind, and it was described by Moorish poets as “a pearl set in emeralds”.
The best of the rest
4) The Doge's Palace, Venice, Italy
One of Venice’s main landmarks, this Venetian Gothic palace is now a museum. The wing which overlooks the lagoon is the oldest part of the building and it is adorned with 14th-century sculptures. The Scala dei Giganti (giant’s staircase) in the courtyard is flanked by two massive sculptures of Mars and Neptune that symbolise Venice’s might. The detail in the mouldings and artworks on the walls and ceiling of the Sala del Senato is astounding.
5) City Palace, Jaipur, India
Gain exclusive access to this impressive palace complex in the heart of Jaipur. The Chandra Mahal and Mubarak Mahal palaces are surrounded by a large number of courtyards, gardens and temples, and combine elements of Rajput, Mughal and European architecture. Sections of the expansive palace have been made into museums and art galleries. Gateways are highly detailed with intricate painting work around the archways, while some of the doors are ornamented polished metal.
6) Fasil Ghebbi, Gondar, Ethiopia
The remains of this walled fortress and palace compound is dominated by the 17-th century castle of Emperor Fasilides. The immense structure is a combination of Portuguese, Indian and local architectural styles. Ethiopian emperors used to travel around with their belongings, setting up camp and living off the produce their subjects provided, but Emperor Fasilides changed this and instead set up residence in Gondar. Each successive emperor added to the compound.
7) Palazzo Poli, Rome, Italy
Once the location of lavish parties thrown by Princess Zinaida Volkonskaya in the 1830s, this palace is the stunning backdrop for Rome‘s famous Trevi Fountain. Part of the palace was demolished to make space for the fountain in 1730. Today, the Palazzo Poli houses a collection of copper engraving plates dating back to the 16th century.
8) Lake Palace, Udaipur, India
Seemingly floating in Lake Pichola, this marble palace was built as a pleasure palace for a young prince in 1746, and is now a Taj Hotel. The walls are made of black and white marble, and decorated with semi-precious stone. Stroll through column-line courtyards and relax in the lush calming gardens beside serene ponds and bubbling fountains.
9) Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
This gravity-defying medieval island monastery, perched just off the northern coast of France in the middle of the entrancing bay where Normandy and Brittany merge, is a centuries-old site of pilgrimage and a staggeringly beautiful sight, as attested to by its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The sea forms a natural moat around this stunning feat of medieval architecture.
10) Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
Perched atop the Castle Rock at the top of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, this formidable fortress dominates the Edinburgh skyline. It has stood the test of time through sieges, invasions, power struggles and murder, though archaeologists have established the presence of human occupation of the rock since long before the castle was built, as early as the 2nd century.