Have you ever had the opportunity to visit a royal palace or even spend a night in one? People these days are building huge houses with all sorts of luxuries, but referring to them as palaces might not be accurate. Numerous royal palaces around the world have stood their ground for centuries, and their sheer size, extravagance, magnificence, and value makes building proper palaces uneconomical and unnecessary. Most of the palaces on this list sit on extremely huge pieces of land, the materials used for their construction and finishing would be uneconomical today, and the numerous years they took to build are not practical today.
People these days prefer building mega structures that will make them a handsome income, not just to live in like the kings and royal families of ancient times. In addition, since most countries and communities in the world are moving away from the monarchy system of government to other forms of elected governments, most of the palaces are being transformed into museums and cultural heritage centres. Preserving these palaces is always in the best interest of every country that has them, since them is evidence of a rich history and amazing ancient architecture.
These are 15 of the most luxurious royal palaces in the world. Some other palaces out there might be bigger and others possibly even more luxurious, but for some reason they did not make it to this list. Which palace do you feel does not deserve to be here, and which is its best replacement?
15. Buckingham Palace – London
Buckingham Palace is arguably the most famous palace on this list. This palace is located in Westminster, London, and is still the administrative headquarters and residence of the United Kingdom’s monarch. The original building that stood where the palace is standing today was called the Buckingham House – a huge townhouse built in 1703 for the Duke of Buckingham. In 1761, King George III acquired this building for Queen Charlotte, a change in ownership that led it to be called The Queen’s House. Architects enlarged this building in the 19th Century by adding three wings, and it eventually became the British Monarch’s official residence in 1837 when Queen Victoria ascended to power.
The most recent major constructions occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries, one of which being the replacement of the palace chapel with the Queen’s gallery after bombings in World War II. With 775 rooms and the largest private garden in London, Buckingham Palace is a magnificent place to visit.
14. Government Palace – Lima, Peru
This beautiful palace in Lima, Peru might not be one of the biggest palaces on this list, but is one of the few that has not yet been converted into a museum. This is the Peruvian president’s official residence and the government’s executive branch seat. This palace goes as far back as 1535, built over a big revered monument that had the old Lima’s shrine on it. Immediately after its completion, the Indian revolt of 1536 forced a vast army to envelop Lima and transform the palace into a fortress.
This palace has gone through numerous transformations since its construction, with its most recent taking place in the 1930s, during President Oscar R. Benavides’s second term. The palace is so important to the people of Peru because it was the home of the Rimac Valley’s ruler from the house of Taulichusco, and was where General José de San Martín declared Peru’s independence on July 28, 1821.
13. Château de Chambord – Loir-et-Cher, France
This amazing château is one of the most magnificent structures in France. One of the reasons this château is so beautiful is that it blends classical renaissance and traditional French medieval forms of architecture. Surprisingly, this amazing building is still incomplete, since the time King Francis I decided to begin its construction. King Francis I never moved into the château because he favored the châteaux of Blois and Amboise over this one, despite wanting it to serve as his hunting lodge. This Château was constructed between 1519 and 1547 under the supervision of Pierre Nepveu, with its design attributed to Domenico da Cortona, although it is believed that Leonardo da Vinci was involved.
The French Revolution led to the sale of some of this château’s furnishing and timber around 1792, the result of which was the abandonment of the château for a period. Restoration attempts in the 19th century were not very successful, although the artworks from the Louvre and the Château de Compiègne were brought here making it a premier tourist destination.
12. Palacio Real – Madrid, Spain
This magnificent palace along Calle de Bailén in Madrid is the Spanish Royal Family’s official residence and is the largest royal palace in Europe. Instead of living here, King Felipe VI and his family choose to stay in Palacio de la Zarzuela, a smaller palace also in Madrid. Therefore, the palace hosts state functions and a few of its rooms are open to the public, except when there is a state function.
This palace was constructed where a 9th-century Muslim fortress called Alcázar used to be. Moorish Taifa of Toledo inherited the fortress in 1036, but his family lost it in 1083 after Alfonso VI of Castile conquered Madrid. After the Alcázar burned down in December 1734, King Philip V began the construction of a new palace to replace it. The construction of this palace took 17 years, opening its doors after completion in 1755. The first king to inhabit it was Charles III, who moved here in 1764 and the last to live here was Alfonso XIII.
11. Forbidden City – Beijing, China
China has some of the most beautiful architectural structures in the world, with this Forbidden City standing out as one of the nation’s heritage. This City, located in Beijing, China, was the imperial palace between 1420 and 1912, during the reigns of the Ming dynasty and the Qing dynasty. This amazing city used to house the emperors and their families, and it used to host the Chinese government’s political and ceremonial events for close to 500 years. This palace complex covers over 180 acres and has 980 buildings. The palace complex has a unique design that exemplifies Chinese palatial architecture, a major influence in East Asia architectural developments and other places around the world.
Today, the Forbidden City is open to the public, serving as one of the most magnificent museums with the biggest collection of well-maintained ancient wooden structures on earth. The Palace Museum receives over 14.6 million visitors every year; no other art museum in the world receives such numbers.
10. Château Frontenac Castle – Quebec, Canada
This is one of the most amazing former royal palaces in the world, owing to the fact that it is currently a grand hotel. This amazing landmark hotel is on top of a tall cape, making it one of the most beautiful features of the Quebec City skyline, affording it an amazing view of Saint Lawrence River and its environs for kilometers. This hotel is possibly the most photographed hotel in the world, owing to its beauty and rich history. The former British colonial governors lived in this amazing château designed by Bruce Price, an American architect.
The construction of this château had begun by the close of the 17th century, and since its completion, it has been the center of some of the most significant meetings in history. For instance, the Quebec Conference of 1943, where Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and William Lyon Mackenzie King talked about their way forward in World War II, took place in this Château.
9. Grand Palace – Bangkok, Thailand
The Grand Palace, which is not a single building but a complex of buildings, looks outstanding from every angle. Since 1782, the Kings of Siam, and later the Kings of Thailand, have used this palace as their official residence, the home of the King’s court and the base of the royal government, until 1925. Although several state functions and royal ceremonies take place here, this outstanding palace is one of the leading tourist attraction sites in Thailand.
Chakri Dynasty’s founder, King Phutthayotfa Chulalok (Rama I), ordered the construction of this palace upon moving the capital city to Bangkok from Thonburi. The construction of this magnificent palace started in May 1782, and it has gone through numerous structural additions throughout the different reigns. In 1932, following the abolishment of the absolute monarchy in Thailand, the government agencies, as well as the Royal family moved to other residences, leaving it to be the tourist attraction it is today.
8. Winter Palace – St. Petersburg, Russia
The Winter Palace is one of the most magnificent buildings in St. Petersburg, Russia. This palace has played a significant symbolic, political, and cultural role in the city’s history. The Russian monarchs used this palace as their official residence from 1732 through to 1917. Before this amazing palace was built, a wooden Dutch style imperial residence had been built here for Peter the Great and his family in 1708. A stone building replaced the wooden residence in 1711, which eventually became the Hermitage Theatre’s foundation. This palace is situated between the Square and the Embankment, a secure and serene environment for royalty.
The construction of the present Winter Palace began around 1730, with a design that altered severally through to 1837, when it was rebuilt owing to a severe fire. In 1917 at the height of the Russian Revolt, people stormed into the palace and that was the last year it played the role of the monarch’s official residence.
7. Neuschwanstein Palace – Bavaria, Germany
This image of the Neuschwanstein Castle is simply breathtaking. This castle’s history is both interesting and a bit complex, one of the things that make it so amazing. Before its construction, King Maximilian II of Bavaria, Ludwig’s father, bought the ruins of the Schwanstein Castle in 1832 and replaced it with Hohenschwangau Castle, a neo-Gothic palace that was complete in five years. Two other castles, the Hinterhohenschwangau Castle and the Vorderhohenschwangau Castle, which shared a fortified tower house, a keep, and a hall, overlooked the Schwanstein Castle but were in ruins.
When Ludwig ascended to the throne in 1864, his first project was to build a castle to replace the two ruined ones, which he called the New Hohenschwangau Castle. He used his own finances and even borrowed to complete this project, as opposed to using Bavarian public funds. However, after his death, the castle was given the name Neuschwanstein, which lives on until today.
6. Alhambra – Andalusia, Spain
The name of this beautiful palace and fortress complex is Alhambra, one of the most attractive buildings in Spain. In AD 889, the Romans built a small fortress, which stood here, but was then neglected until the mid-13th century. The Emirate of Granada, Moorish emir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar, renovated it, built the walls and built a palace here. In 1333, the Sultan of Granada, Yusuf I, transformed it into a royal palace.
Following the 1492 Christian Reconquista, the palace became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella and partly changed to have a Renaissance taste. The Morisco rebellions in Granada eventually led to the castle being abandoned for centuries and squatters occupying it. Napoleon’s defeat led to the rediscovery of the palace, which historians believed he had conducted retaliatory destruction. Although the European Romantic travelers and British intellectuals were some of the first visitors to this palace, it is currently one of the leading tourist attraction sites in Spain.
5. Potala Palace – Tibet, China
This stunning palace is amazing in every way. Although today it is a World Heritage site and a museum, this palace used to be the Dalai Lama’s home from its completion until 1959, when the 14th Dalai Lama had to flee to India owing to the Tibetan uprising. Historians believe that this palace sits where an earlier fortress called either the White or Red Palace used to sit, which Songtsän Gampo built in 637. The fifth Dalai Lama flagged off construction of the Potala Palace in 1645. Konchog Chophel, one the Dalai Lama’s spiritual advisers claimed that it was ideal for the seat of government to be located between Sera and Drepung monasteries, and Lhasa, the old city, where it now sits today.
The sloping walls are about three meters thick on average, with their base as thick as five meters. In order to protect the palace from earthquakes, the foundation was mixed with copper to make it even stronger.
4. Umaid Bhawan Palace – Jodhpur, India
Words like amazing, outstanding, spectacular, and breathtaking do not even begin to describe this palace. Located in Jodhpur, India, this is without a doubt one of the best palaces in the world. This serves as the home of Gaj Singh and the erstwhile Jodhpur royal family. This palace gets its name from Maharaja Umaid Singh, who was Gaj Singh’s grandfather. This palace has 347 rooms, it has a museum within its walls, and it has a section managed by the Taj Hotels. The construction of the Umaid Bhawan Palace began in November 1929, and it took 14 years to complete.
People would refer to the Umaid Bhawan as The Chittar Palace when it was under construction because builders used stones from the Chittar hill. This palace is special to the people in Jodhpur since, in addition to being an outstanding tourist site, Maharaja Umaid Singh built it during a time of famine, in order for the people to get jobs and earn money for their livelihood.
3. Palace of Versailles – Île-de-France, France
This Palace of Versailles is nothing short of spectacular, with this amazing photo highlighting its extent and its outstanding beauty. The beautiful and expertly maintained surrounding is a huge contrast of how this area used to look like during the construction and its initial completion, because it was built in the midst of a small 11th-century village.
Louis XIII began building this palace in 1623, intending for it to be a hunting lodge. However, in 1682, Louis XIV expanded it and moved France’s seat of political power from Paris this palace, making it the official royal residence. The first expansion occurred between 1661 and 1678 and the second was between 1678 and 1715, expansions that transformed the once hunting lodge into this magnificent castle. However, in 1789, the royal family had to return to Paris because of the French Revolution. This amazing palace is worth over $50 billion today, but its rich history and its symbolism of the absolute monarchy regime is priceless.
2. Rundale Palace – Latvia
This is the aerial view of the magnificent Rundāle palace; one of the locations that the Dukes of Courland since 1768 would call home, in Pilsrundāle, present day Latvia. The construction of this palace began in 1736 and continued through to 1768. Ernst Johann von Biron, the Duke of Courland back in 1735 bought this land, despite having an old medieval castle in its area. After demolishing the old castle, the construction began and continued slowly until 1740, the year Biron fell from grace. The empty and unfinished shell stood there until 1762, the year that Biron returned from exile. Upon its completion in 1768 under Rastrelli’s supervision, Biron moved in the same year and made sure to visit it every summer until he died in 1772.
1. Schönbrunn Palace – Vienna, Austria
Located in Vienna, Austria, this beautiful palace is arguably the most significant historical, cultural, and architectural monuments in the country. Before the construction of this palace, a huge mansion called the Katterburg stood in its place. The Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II bought the land in 1569 and placed game there for hunting, and exotic birds just for viewing. The area became famous for recreation and hunting, and people would spend a lot of time there.
Eleonora Gonzaga received the residence after the death of Ferdinand II, her husband, and built a castle there between 1638 and 1643. However, the current design is a result of additions and remodeling done between 1740 and 1750 during Empress Maria Theresa’s reign, who acquired the estate as a wedding gift. The various Habsburg monarchs who resided in this palace had different tastes, aspirations, and interests, all of which have contributed to the magnificence of this palace.