Once the homes of kings and emperors, palaces represent an important part of European history. From marvelous feats of architecture and technology to the interesting stories that fill the opulent halls and gardens, we love everything about these six European palaces!
PALACE OF VERSAILLES
PALACE OF VERSAILLES
Versailles • France
Located 12 miles southwest of Paris, Versailles began as Louis XIII’s hunting lodge before his son Louis XIV (known as the Sun King) transformed and expanded it into one of the most beautiful achievements of 18th-century French art.
Reason to Go: Enjoy an entire day on palace grounds where you could go boating on the Grand Canal, ride a bike, or simply get lost in the elaborate gardens.
Fun Fact: The famous Hall of Mirrors stretches over 230 feet with 357 mirrors!
Granada • Spain
Alhambra was built in 899 as a small fortress and has since evolved into a royal palace complex attracting visitors from across the globe. Exhibiting a unique mix of Islamic and Christian architecture, this Moorish palace is set on an elevated plateau with the Sierra Nevada mountains as a magnificent backdrop.
Reason to Go: The tilework! Although the exterior is plain, the interior is striking with its intricate tile designs and detailed mosaics.
Fun Fact: The complete name of Alhambra is “Qal’at al-Hambra”, which means “The Red Fortress”.
Vienna • Austria
The impressive Schloss Schönbrunn served as the main summer residence for the Hapsburgs, one of Europe’s most influential royal houses. On the estate of this UNESCO World Heritage Site you’ll find a zoo, maze, labyrinth, seasonal markets, and more—no wonder it’s the top place to visit in Austria!
Reason to Go: You can visit the oldest zoo in the world, Tiergarten Schönbrunn.
Fun Fact: A young Mozart performed his first concert here when he was six years old.
London • England
Home to the Royal family since 1837, Buckingham Palace is the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Philip the Duke of Edinburgh. Although it’s one of England’s most popular tourist destinations, the Palace is very much a working building and the centerpiece of Britain’s constitutional monarchy.
Reason to Go: Witness the iconic Changing of the Guard ceremony.
Fun Fact: The Palace has 775 rooms, 78 of which are bathrooms!
Saint Petersburg • Russia
Built in the early 18th century, the Peterhof complex is a series of palaces and gardens commissioned by Peter the Great as a direct response to the Palace of Versailles. Once serving as the summer residence of the imperial court, today, the palace holds a unique historical and art museum with a collection of over three thousand items.
Reason to Go: The fountains! From the impressive Grand Cascade to the joke fountains designed by Peter the Great himself to trick his friends.
Fun Fact: Perhaps the greatest technological achievement of Peterhof is that all of the fountains operate without the use of pumps.
Sintra • Portugal
Perched atop Portugal’s Sintra Mountains sits Pena National Palace, an eclectic attraction built in the late 18th century. The vibrant colors and unusual architecture were the brainchild of King Ferdinand II who built the palace to serve as a summer home for the Portuguese royal family. Today it holds the distinction of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
Reason to Go: Admire the blend of four architectural styles: Neo-Gothic, Neo-Islamic, Neo-Renaissance, and Neo-Manueline.
Fun Fact: Surrounding the Pena Palace, trees were brought in from around the world including the North American Sequoia, Chinese Ginkgo, Japanese Cryptomeria, ferns from Australia and New Zealand, and shrubs and succulents from Northern Africa.