Maybe it’s their grand size, the amazing design or the reminder of how ridiculous the distribution of wealth once was between monarch and commoner, but palaces remain huge draws as tourist destinations. Despite many countries no longer having a royal family, (and even if they do, often only as figureheads) the romanticism reserved for that time in their countries history is hard to be ignored by anyone who steps through their palatial estates.
Some people visit a destination like Granada purely to take Alhambra Palace tours, having read about them as children or been told about it by a friend and needing to witness it for themselves. Others just want to snatch a picture of the grounds, like at Buckingham Palace in London – maybe catching a guard in the shot as well. It doesn’t matter how you feel about ruling classes, the buildings themselves are spectacular sights to behold.
Here are a few suggestions of European palaces you can visit if you get the chance.
The palace that once housed one of the most decadent royal families ever known is now but a short metro ride from downtown Paris, thanks to urbanization. From the grounds to the state rooms; the fountains to the Hall of Mirrors – Versailles for many is the symbol of everything that was great about the French aristocracy, and all its greatest failings.
Now I know what you’re thinking – the royal family still lives in Buckingham Palace, and you’re right… most of the year. When they are in residence, you cannot get inside but when they are away at Balmoral in Scotland at the end of summer or any of their other estates, you can book a reservation to get inside and see how real-life royalty lives. Otherwise, take in the grounds, check out the Royal Mews and be no less impressed.
Few palaces are as simple and yet as beautiful in their simplicity as Alhambra in Granada, Spain. Serving as a reminder of Islamic architecture as it met with European influences, this palace hasn’t been used as it was originally intended for centuries, but you can still take Alhambra Palace tours and be amazed at how remarkably well preserved it remains for how neglected it was.
Winter Palace, Russia
If you’re looking for the true definition of opulence and detachment from ones subjects, look no further than the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia. Built basically to demonstrate how vast their empire was, the palace was destroyed many times, looted and now stands as a museum and a part of the larger Hermitage complex. If you think it looks impressive in pictures, just imagine how it would have looked prior to the Russian Revolution as an ordinary citizen.