We've guided you through museums, through underrated sites and even brought the outdoors to your rooms from around the world and now it's time to bring some palaces and their beautiful interiors and exteriors to you. There is nothing like taking a stroll through some of the most iconic palaces in the world. They are a remnant of decadent living and serve an insight into what it was like to live as kings and queens in the past. While palaces have evolved over time from their original purpose of being a secure and fortified location to being almost like a competition between monarchs on who will create the most affluent and expansive palace of all. Thanks to Google Arts & Culture you can now virtually visit many of the ritziest palaces of the world with the touch of a few buttons and a good internet connection.
PALACE OF VERSAILLES IN FRANCE
The Infamous Gardens via Encyclopaedia Britannica
Well let’s start with the most obvious one shall we? Versailles needs no introduction, but let’s give it that prestige anyway. One of the most beautiful palaces in the world and the one that arguably started it all for European royals, Versailles was the main royal residence for the King of France from 1692 until the French Revolution. It is the epitome of opulence and luxury architecture and is a testament of the times in which it was built, I mean it culminated in a revolution that changed everything. From the Hall of Mirrors, to the King’s Grand Apartments (where people would watch the King, you know do his business apparently) to it’s beautiful and breathtaking gardens, take a virtual tour through every aspect of this magnificent palace.
BUCKINGHAM PALACE IN BRITAIN
The State Dining Room via Galerie Magazine
The primary residence of the British monarchy since Queen Victoria’s accession in 1837, Buckingham Palace is iconic and includes some of the finest collections of paintings, sculptures and furniture. While this virtual tour only extends to the State Rooms, just like in real life when they are only open to visitors for 10 weeks in the summer, it’s still a pretty accurate look into the home of the notoriously private British Royal family. Explore the opulent White Drawing Room, the infamous Throne Room and the Ballroom where countless royal affairs have taken place.
PETERHOF PALACE IN RUSSIA
A glimpse of the many fountains in the gardens of Peterhof via Get Your Guide
This palace was commissioned by Peter the Great in direct response to the Palace of Versailles, so you can imagine how swanky this one must be. Often referred to by tourists as the Russian Versailles and it's so easy to see why. Firstly if anyone could compete with the splendour of the Bourbon dynasty in France it would be the Romanovs in Russia. And boy did they. The Gardens were designed by Jean-Baptiste Alexandre Le Blond, likely chosen because he was a frequent collaborator of Versailles landscaper André Le Nôtre. Peterhof Palace is an almost 4000 hectare mass of an area with lush gardens and insane fountains. Not to be missed is the insanely beautiful ballroom that has hosted many a decadent ball. Alexa, play Once Upon a December.
SANSSOUCI PALACE IN GERMANY
The tiered green steps at the entrance to the palace via Fritzguide
Sanssouci was the summer palace of Friedrich the Great who was the King of Prussia and it is located in Potsdam, near Berlin. It is often also likened to Versailles (you’ll find many entries likened to Versailles) although nowhere near as grand. It is interestingly only a single story building and in the Rococo style rather than Versailles’s Baroque. It was supposed to serve as a relaxing home away from home for the then King from the pomp of the Berlin court, which is evident in its name which is french for “without concerns” or “carefree” and built to reflect the pre-Romantic ideal of harmony between man and nature. Explore the carefree palace here.
AKASAKA PALACE IN JAPAN
An usual building for Japan via mbell1975
A beautiful white and mint green building that is 15,000 square meters of floor space. It was originally built as an imperial palace for the crown prince in 1909, but today it serves as an official accommodation for visiting state dignitaries. With a gate almost resembling that of Versailles, it is Japan’s only neo-baroque palace building, although a more traditional and yet modern Japanese style annex was added inside the premises. The annex features a Japanese stone garden and the traditionally low ceilinged building. Even though the main building is very European in it’s look, if you pay close attention you will find many details in the decorations that showcase the traditions of Japan such as samurai armours, the emperor’s emblem, Japanese musical instruments and so on. Explore here.
AGA KHAN PALACE IN INDIA
Quite the prison premises via Kiss from the World
Built by Sultan Muhammed Shah Aga Khan III and located in Pune, India, this majestic building is closely linked to the Indian freedom movement, because it served as a prison for Mahatma Gandhi and his wife Kasturba Gandhi, where she also died. It has such a cultural significance for the Indian freedom movement, that it even houses a memorial dedicated to Gandhi, where his ashes were kept. This place used to attract a lot of photographers as it had perfect lighting for photography, but since that started becoming a nuisance for visitors they have since banned all types of photography in the palace, so this is a great chance for you to really take it in once again in case you’ve already been before.
NATIONAL PALACE OF QUELUZ IN PORTUGAL
A glimpse at the beautifully intricate interiors via Selection Tours
Yet another summer retreat for the royals of Europe, this palace is considered one of the last great Rococo buildings to be designed in Europe. Located in the city of Queluz on the Portuguese Riviera, it was the summer residence for Dom Pedro of Braganza later to become king consort to his own niece (yikes) Queen Maria I, who was the first undisputed Queen of Portugal and the first monarch of Brazil also known as Maria the Mad and served as a good retreat for the Queen when she slowly descended into madness following her husband's death. She was even treated by the same physician who treated mad King George III. The Palace represents the final extravagant period of Portugal which followed the discovery of gold in Brazil, so it is quite decadent and lavish.
MONSERRATE PALACE IN PORTUGAL
The Islamic architechtural details via Teun Janssen
Another Portuguese summer palatial villa this time located in Sintra. In the 17th Century the villa was owned by Mello e Castro the governor of Portuguese Ceylon and after the Lisbon earthquake it became unliveable and in ruins and changed several hands (some of whom were notable English writers) and was at some point even visited by Lord Byron who wrote about its striking beauty in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. That is until it became the summer residence of Francis Cook, an English aristocrat, and his family. The architectural style has several influences such as Moorish revival and neo gothic elements but most notable is its islamic architectural influences, which are due to the fact the region was part of the muslim Gharb Al Andulus until the 13th Century.
ROYAL PALACE OF CASERTA IN ITALY
The Map Room inside Caserta via MyWoWo
Yet another Baroque palace inspired by Versailles, the Royal Palace of Caserta was the royal residence for the House of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, the Kings of Naples. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the palace is considered one of the largest royal residences in the world, covering an area of 47,000 square meters. The building has 5 floors and 1200 rooms, which include a huge library, 24 state apartments and even a theatre. The garden or it would be more accurate to call it a park is typically baroque and stretches for 120 hectares and has countless beautiful fountains that rivalled even those at Peterhof. Interesting fact: The first of the Star Wars prequels was filmed within these stunning premises.
GRANDMASTER’S PALACE IN MALTA
The State Rooms corridor via Heritage Malta
A relatively more modest entry on this list and taking up an entire city block in the centre of Valletta, the Grandmaster’s Palace was built in 1574 and was the home of the Grand Master of the Order of St. John, the ruler of Malta. Today, it’s the home of the office of the President of Malta. The exterior of the palace is very simple compared to other palaces built around the same time in Europe and is built in the Mannerist style. On the inside however, it is as grand as any other palace and includes a Throne Room, Tapestry Hall and a large armoury, with a collection of arms that are considered some of the most valuable historic pieces of European culture.
SCHÖNBRUNN PALACE IN AUSTRIA
View of the Gloriette and one of the fountains in the gardens via Klook
Another leisure palace, this time for the Habsburgs, built in the Rococo style and located in Vienna. The 1441-room palace is a major tourist attraction in Austria and has a history that spans over 300 years reflecting the tastes of the Habsburg monarchs. The palace in its present form was remodelled during the reign of Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa, yes the mother of Marie Antoinette, who received the estate as a wedding gift and remodelled it to reflect a more neoclassical style. After the fall of the Habsburg monarch in 1918 it was preserved as a museum. The gardens are spacious and include beautiful fountains, the Gloriette, a palm house as well as a maze, and was planned by yet another student of André Le Nôtre, Jean Trehet.
PALAU DE MARICEL IN SPAIN
The amazing view of the Mediterranean via Museus de Sitges
Located in the coastal city of Sitges about 35 kilometers southwest of Barcelona, in Catalonia. The noucentista-style palace is one of the most emblematic buildings in Sitges and has one of the most colourful interiors on this list. The building has an amazing view of the Mediterranean sea but its interiors are equally splendid. Each room has a unique decor which showcases its character. Today the Palau has three main functions, it is a place where cultural events are held, it has guided tours for its museum and best of all it can be rented for events by organisations or even for weddings.
DOGE’S PALACE IN ITALY
Overlooking the canal via Wikipedia
Doge’s Palace or Palazzo Ducale is one of the main landmarks of the city of Venice and was the residence of the Doge of Venice, the supreme authority of the old Venetian Republic. The palazzo was founded in 1340 and overlooks the Grand Canal on the Piazzetta San Marco, while it has no gardens, it has vast open spaces that are surrounded by the beautiful Venetian Gothic architecture of the palazzo. The interiors are as grand as you’d expect when in Italy, with countless paintings and intricate and splendid decorations.
MAFRA NATIONAL PALACE IN PORTUGAL
Ceiling details via Wikipedia
The Palace-Convent of Mafra was commissioned by King John V of Portugal as a consequence of a vow he made to build a convent should his wife Queen Mariana bring him any offspring and so with the birth of his first daughter Infanta Barbara of Portugal construction on the palace began. Once constructed the palace was considered a secondary residence for the royal family and it also served as a Franciscan friary as promised. Originally the project was supposed to be relatively small but after that Brazilian gold started arriving from the Portuguese colony, plans changed and boy did they. It became a grand palatial complex spanning 1213 hectares, with spacious royal apartments, so much so that the distance between the king's apartments and that of the queen’s were 200 meters apart (social distancing indeed!), and he was announced of his approach to her by trumpet. Wouldn’t we all love that? Take a look at the exterior here and the interior here.