These are the Most Beautiful Royal Palaces on Earth
A royal palace. A residence that is as regal as it sounds. These gorgeous buildings are home to very prestigious individuals worldwide and do bring luxury, beauty, and a picturesque spot in a country’s history as well as many a tourism book. In essence, they are an architect’s dream. And I’m not the only who thinks so. I asked my fellow travel writers to come forward with their favourite royal palaces that they have come across on their travels. And the response was quite impressive with more than 30 replies. Here is the epic list to get you started on a Palace Bucket List of your own.
1 – Buckingham Palace, UK
Fill My Passport
So first of all I just love London so much. It is one of my absolute favourite cities in the world and it has such a variety of things to do and see. One of the places you should not miss is the regal and exquisite Buckingham Palace. Located in the heart of Westminster, the royal have of the British monarchy is a 775+ room palace equipped with every luxury you could want.
Originally built in 1703 for the Duke of Buckingham, the Palace continues to be the prime home of the Royals, who now open it to the public every July while they vacation elsewhere in the UK. Take the tour through the palace and enjoy an audio tour narrated by Prince Charles, marvel at the throne room, snap pics of the State Rooms, and the Grand Staircase.
As well, while you are exploring the royal grounds, do plan to witness the Changing of the Guard ceremony! This daily routine brings the guards together to swap and hand over the keys. If you plan to see this ceremony, do yourself a favour and head there EARLY. Thousands congregate near the fence wishing to take exceptional photos and experience this unique event. Try to arrive a couple hours before the scheduled ceremony otherwise your photos will be of the crowds in front of you.
2 – Forbidden City, China
One of our favourite royal palaces it the Forbidden City in Beijing. This was the Chinese Imperial Palace from 1420 to 1912. It used to be the heart and sole of Beijing, the political and ceremonial centre of the Chinese government, and where the emperors used to live.
Today the Forbidden City is a large museum and one of Beijing’s top tourist attractions. The place is huge. It consists of 980 buildings, covering over 180 acres of land. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, mainly for having the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.
Traditionally when this was the place for the royals, The rest of the population, the commoners lived outside in courtyard-like small pedestrianized streets called “hutongs”, which branched outwards from the Forbidden City. Commoners were strictly forbidden from entering the walls of the Forbidden City, hence the name. The only commoners allowed to enter were eunuchs (men who had been castrated). This was historically popular because in exchange for their manhood, men would receive a better future within the city walls.
One tip for visitors to the Forbidden Palace, it gets packed full of people, so go as early as you can in the day, preferably on a weekend.
3 – Royal Palace, Monaco
4 – Pena Palace, Portugal
The most extravagant is, to my opinion, the Pena Palace. Nestled at the highest point around, its colorful walls contrast with the surrounding nature. It is impossible to give it a style with this mix and match of forms, colors and decors.
Originally, a monastery occupied the hill. But after it was destroyed by lightning and the 1755 Great Earthquake, King Ferdinand transformed it into a summer residence of the Royal Family in the 19th century.
Most of the corridors and external passageways are open, making it a fun labyrinth to explore. There is already much to explore outside, but you can also visit part of the interiors with the cloister, the dining room, the Apartments of King Carlos I and Queen Amelia, the Gallery of Passage, the Kitchen…
And with the huge park also opened for visitor, you can keep busy all day!
5 – Royal Palace, Norway
Harald V of Norway is the King of Norway, and the Royal Palace in Oslo, Norway is where he conducts all official business and is also the residence of the royal family. While he is the king, he doesn’t get to speak on any political issue and has no say in how the Government conducts its business. The Palace was erected in 1849. In the neo-classical style. The Royal Palace is situated at the top of Karl Johans gate, Oslo’s main road and therefore is right in the middle of the city. The Royal Palace is only open to the public during the summer season to view the different rooms on a conducted tour. However, each day you can watch the Changing of the Guards at 1.30 pm, which is interesting to watch. One of the most beautiful parts of the Royal Palace in Oslo are the lush royal gardens, where many local people sunbathe is the summer, or enjoy a picnic.
6 – Potala Palace, Tibet
On the third day of a grueling journey across central China we finally drove into Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. Entering the city, my first sight of Potala was one of those “Oh I’ll never forget this” moments you frequently experience while travelling. The sheer size and scope of the Potala Palace dominates the city. At night Potala is even more impressive with its bright floodlights illuminating the palace against the inky black Tibetan night.
The Potala Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was home to the Dalai Lama until he fled to India in 1959 after the Tibetan uprising. Construction started in 1645 reportedly over an already existing structure from 637 AD. It’s actually two separate palaces! The White Palace houses tombs of previous Dalai Lamas, the traditional home of the current Dalai Lama and monks’ quarters. The Red Palace is strictly for religious purposes.
Getting to the Palace is almost as arduous as getting to Tibet. The 2564 steps to the Palace are very steep but the views are magnificent. Today Potala is a fascinating museum. Since the Palace has 1000 rooms and over 200,000 statues, it would take weeks to see it in its entirety.
7 – Zanzibar’s House of Wonders
Zanzibar’s “House of Wonders” or also called the Palace of Wonders is the tallest and largest building in Stone Town. Built in 1883, The House of Wonders was the first building in Zanzibar to have electricity and the very first in all of East Africa to have an elevator. It was built by a Sultan of Zanzibar to which he lavishly decorated in the late 1800’s and into the 1900’s. It’s said that he even made the front door wide enough so that he could eventually ride an elephant through it, although history is unsure if he ever did.
This old palace used to be a museum filled with displays from the 18th century, but nowadays it has fallen into such disrepair it is closed until further notice.
8- Gyeongbokgung, South Korea
Gyeongbokgung is South Korea’s largest and most amazing Royal Palace. Visitors can explore the entire palace grounds but are only allowed in select buildings. Gyeongbokgung is now more of a preserved museum than anything else but it’s still full of beautiful architecture and cultural experiences. Visitors can often see actors dressed in traditional Korean hanbok or ancient guard uniforms.
If you’re lucky you’ll visit the palace during one of the many festivals and parades that are held to celebrate the country’s rich history. A few times a year they even open the palaces up for a night tour! Gyeongbokgung is centrally located in Seoul making it perfect for people who have a short visit or even just a long layover!
Gyeongbokgung is the largest of the five grand palaces in Seoul and my favorite. But if you happen to visit Seoul when the palace is closed for some reason then make sure you check out the nearby Changdeokgung or Deoksugung. Entrance fees at all of these palaces is just over $1 and often free during holidays or festivals. The best time to go is during the week when the local Korean crowds are all at work.
9 – Grand Ducal Palace, Luxembourg
The Grand Ducal Palace of Luxembourg has undoubtedly one of the prettiest house fronts in the entire capital. It’s a must when you visit Luxembourg City.
The Palace is the official residence of the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, which means that they are actually not living here. The Palace is the place where the monarch is executing his duties as head of state like state banquets, New Year’s Reception or it functions as accommodation for other heads of state when they visit the only Grand-Duchy in the world as guests of the Grand Duke.
The Palace is relatively small in comparison with other European palaces. This is mainly due to the fact that Luxembourg is a small nation without any colonial history. Throughout its history this little country has been much under foreign control.
Consequently the history of the Grand Ducal Palace is eventful too. The palace became the seat of the prefecture of the Départment des Forêts in 1795 under the rule of Napoleon and it even became a tavern and concert hall under the German occupation during World War II.
When Grand Duchess Charlotte, the grandmother of the present Grand Duke, came back from her exile, the Palace became again the seat of the Grand Ducal Court. Nowadays the Grand Ducal Palace is a popular photo motive but it can only be visited during the summer.
10 – The Royal Palace, Cambodia
The Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia is truly a majestic sight to behold. A pristine example of Khmer architecture, the Royal Palace complex has much to offer visitors, including the Throne Hall, Royal Treasury, and the Silver Pagoda.
Other than walking around and checking out the impressive architecture, the Silver Pagoda is the most popular spot in the complex. Also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the Silver Pagoda is aptly named for the 5000+ silver tiles that cover the floor. Once inside the temple, visitors can check out 1500+ artifacts, many of which are Buddha figures, and set their eyes on the amazing gold and diamond encrusted Buddha and Emerald Buddha.
You can easily see all that the temple has to offer within 1-1.5 hr, though it might take longer if the queue is long. If you aren’t with a guided tour, you’ll want to do some research before going, as tours of the facility are not free and you may want to know a bit about what you’re looking at. Be sure to wear proper attire (cover your shoulders and knees) and expect to pay around $10 USD to enter.
11 – Himeji Castle, Japan
12 – Leh Palace, India
Located on top of the Himalayan city of Leh and inspired by the Potala Palace of Lhasa, Tibet, the Leh Palace was built by King Sengge Namgyal in the 17th century. It’s an impressive nine-story building in which the upper floors accommodated the royal family, while the lower floors held stables and storage rooms.
Once the tallest building in the world, the Palace of Leh lost power throughout the years. However, it still has a majestic presence in this region of India, often called Little Tibet.
Although currently abandoned, it serves as an office for the Indian Archaeological Service (ASI), which hopes to gradually restore the entire building.
Visits to the interior are allowed. However, most valuable things have been stolen or lost over the years, so if you get inside, you’ll find an endless labyrinth of dark, empty rooms with low ceilings. It’s still worth a visit, though as it has, by far, the best views of beautiful Leh and the surrounding Himalayas.
At the foot of the old palace is a succession of adobe houses and an ancient city that was once an important commercial center in a region where most people had a nomadic lifestyle.
13 – The Grand Palace, Thailand
Quite unlike any other royal residence in the world, the Grand Palace in Bangkok is a genuine spectacle of Thai architecture! Originally constructed with wood in 1782 by King Rama I, the Grand Palace has undergone several extensions and re-modelings throughout its 235 year lifespan.
Surrounded completely by elaborate courtyards and fortified by walls on all four sides, the Grand Palace is made up of several buildings, pavilions, and halls, as well as a very well known temple called the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The buildings within the palace are comprised of three main courts. The smaller outer court contains the present-day headquarters of the Grand Palace, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, and several other reception and meeting rooms. The massive middle court is considered the most important, as it is where all previous coronations of kings have taken place. It also houses the Throne Hall, where the royal family used to entertain foreign dignitaries. The more personal inner court is completely off-limits to anyone outside the royal family, as it is where previous kings resided with their families. Five more kings after Rama I and their families lived in the Grand Palace until 1925. At the start of the reign of King Rama VII, the royal family officially departed the Grand Palace to reside in private residences. You can visit the Grand Palace as a tourist for 500 baht, granted you are wearing at least a T-shirt and pants for men, and shoulders/legs completely covered for women. You can actually “rent” clothes at the entrance if you don’t have any!
14 – Belvedere Palace, Austria
Gorgeous, stunning, breathtaking, magnificent and beautiful; one of those places that I’ll never forget; the royal Palace at Belvedere, Austria encapsulates all those descriptions. The gardens and the orangeries were so perfectly manicured, the fountains awesome, the palace resplendent. All we needed was some prince on a white horse. Ha! But one can settle with staring at Gustav Klimt’s exhibit of the Kiss, one of his masterpieces, and also one of the reasons many flock to the Belvedere. Although we were a bit too late and only had time to see the palaces and the gardens, it might have been amazing had we seen the world famous Kiss as well.
But we were happy enough to visit the Upper and Lower Palace, the splendid gardens and the organeries. The entry fees here were reasonable, at around € 20 for both Upper and Lower Beldvere, and it was open to the public from 9 am to 5 pm on weekdays.
Having seen quite a few palaces, some lovely and some quaint, some enormous and some gorgeous; it was really easy to conclude that the description one would pick for the Belvedere was simply magnificent.
15 – Hofburg Palace, Austria
Vienna is the capital of Austria and is a remarkable city, especially regarding history, food and incredible architecture. This (of course) includes its many palaces. And Hofburg Palace, originally built in the 13th Century is certainly one of the most beautiful palaces in all of Vienna.
Hofburg Palace used to be the home of the Habsburg Royal Family, mainly used during the winter. From the outside, you’ll be greeted by a typical Baroque style of architecture, which Vienna is most renowned for.
And once inside, one of the first things you will notice is just how elegant everything is. They say this echoes what Empress Elisabeth (Sisi) was like in her day: a total trendsetter and one of the most glamorous ladies to aspire to be like.
To spend time both in and outside this palace, I’d recommend setting aside 3-4 hours. The palace is open daily (including public holidays) from 9 am – 5.30 pm (or 9 am – 6 pm in July and August).
The palace is actually home to several different exhibits including: the Sisi Museum, the Imperial Apartments and the Silver Collection. The Sisi Museum is dedicated to Empress Elisabeth’s jewels and clothing, whilst the Silver Collection contains their silver dinnerware, which is definitely impressive to see. The main attraction though are the Imperial Apartments, which is actually where the Royal Family spent most of their days.
You can see all of this on just one ticket costing: €13,90 (with audio guide) or €16,90 (with guided tour). Unless you have some very specific questions you want answered, I found that the audio guide tour was more than sufficient to learn the history of everything here.
16- Royal Residenz, Germany
The Royal Residenz in Wurzburg, Germany is one of the most impressive royal palaces we’ve ever visited. Home to the Prince-Bishop of Wurzburg and located in the heart of the wine region of Franconia, this is the start of the famous Romantic Road through the heart of Germany. It’s worth noting that Napoleon Bonaparte stayed here in May 1812 while he was en route to his unsuccessful invasion of Russia (supposedly he didn’t sleep well). The palace was partially destroyed in World War II and was painstakingly resorted (now recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site). However, the palace is also surrounded by majestic gardens that are among the finest in all of Europe.
17 – Alhambra, Spain
A combination of Fortress and Palace, the Alhambra floats regally above Granada on al-Sabika hill. Together with Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, the Alhambra (or red castle) is the most visited monument in Spain.
A defensive fortress from the 9th century it was transformed into a Palace for the Arab Moorish Nasrid Dynasty four centuries later.
While the outside walls of the complex are modest in the Arab way, inside is an awe-inspiring mix of delicate plaster carvings and colourful tile-work. Archways look to enclosed courtyards and perhaps most captivating of all is the Arab use of water.
It was channelled uphill from the Darro River, gurgling through palace rooms, trickling into ponds and baths and spouting from the mouths of lions. It was the Moors ode to their desert origins.
With the end of Moorish rule in 1492, Roman Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella hoisted their royal flag from the Alcazaba making few other changes. It was here, at the Alhambra, they received explorer Christopher Columbus.
In the 18th Century the Palace fell into neglect and squatters took over. Fortunes changed in 1870 however, when it became a National Monument and again in 1984 with Unesco World Heritage listing. The Alhambra now receives all the accolades it deserves.
18 – Nymphenburg Palace, Germany
The Nymphenburg Palace in one of the most famous sights of Munich especially due to its rich history and magnificent architecture. Initially, the palace was built as a summer residence for the royal family to the birth of the heir to the throne, Max Emanuel, who was born in 1662. Over the years, royal members of the Bavarian Kingdom have continued the construction and expending of the palace and its royal gardens.
Nowadays, visitors can take a tour at the palace and see the room where King Ludwig II of Bavaria was born. The palace is also the perfect place to visit for art lovers as its interior rooms feature works of art from the Baroque period and Classicism.
Visitors can also enjoy Nymphenburg’s wide and beautiful park which is open all year round and there is no need to purchase a ticket to enter the park. The park and gardens are home to numerous pavilions, fountains, and a nice cafe and restaurant. In addition, there are various museums operating in the property including carriage museum, museum of man and nature and porcelain museum.
19 – Peles Palace, Romania
20- Kensington Palace, UK
Recently famous for its beloved inhabitants the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince George and Princess Charlotte, Kensington Palace is a 1605 Jacobean-era mansion. King William III purchased the building and commissioned Christopher Wren to update and extend it, but the subsequent ruling monarchs did not like the palace and it was eventually divided up into accommodation for the royal family.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge reside in Apartment 1A- a misleading term for the four-storey house that is home to 20 rooms, including three kitchens. Some of the decor inside the apartment includes a £50,000 Persian rugs loan from the royal treasure chest along with more subtle floral cushions to create a homely atmosphere.
There are also exhibits and special events held at the palace to give visitors an insight into the heritage of the building. A collaboration between the palace and the Yale Center for British Art is focussing on Enlightened Princesses, while children can download the visitors’ app and go on a digital time-travel mission to create the perfect painting for Queen Caroline in 1735.
The Palace is open 7 days a week and tickets can be booked online at www.hrp.org.uk.
21 – Laxmi Niwas Palace, India
Set in the princely state of Rajasthan in India, Laxmi Niwas Palace was completed in 1904 as the residence of ruler of Bikaner, Maharaja Ganga Singh. Conceptualized and designed by famous British architect Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob, LNP (Laxmi Niwas Palace) was done in Indo-Saracenic style.
22 – Amalienborg Palace, Denmark
23- Palace of Fine Arts, Mexico
Known as the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Spanish, it’s located in the historic center of Mexico City. The palace is made of white marble making it one of the most photogenic buildings in the world. It is home to artwork by famous Mexican artists and often stages art exhibitions. The palace is also home to a large concert hall which has held concerts by Mexican legends such as Juan Gabriel and Alejandro Fernandez. No trip to the Mexican capital would be complete without a visit to the Palace of Fine Arts.
24 – Peterhof Palace, Russia
25 – Mysore Palace, India
by Gokul of Plan Save Travel
26 – Tijara Fort Palace, India
by Sudipto of Salt and Sandals, YouTube
The royals of Rajasthan had a replendant time indeed. But after the independence of India, their power and status were decreased by several notches. Many of their palaces were converted into hotels, one of which is the Tijara Fort Palace in Rajasthan.
The Tijara Fort Palace, started in early 19th century by Maharaja Balwant Singh was never completed until 13 years later when the Maharaja passed away in 1845. Unsuccessful attempts by his descendants and the stifling rule of the Britishers meant that the fort fell into ruins. The fort was never restored and lived in until recent times. After the government’s auction of the property, the Tijara Fort was discovered to have three standing structures. The Massive Hawa Mahal which was a common meeting place, the bold Mardana Mahal with thick walls and a combination of Afghan and Rajput architecture while the Rani Mahal lay unfinished. After a decade of work, the dilapidated ruins had been transformed into something majestic.
27 – Summer Palace, China
The lovely Summer Palace in Beijing, China, can sometimes be forgotten by visitors preferring a trip to the more famous Forbidden City instead. It is also slightly out of town, which makes it a little less accessible than the many sights found in the Red Capital. While the architecture of this world heritage site is, indeed, amazing, the Summer Palace shouldn’t be ignored, if one has the time.
Surrounded by a gorgeous park, some impressive gardens, and a massive lake, this residence was built during the 17th century, and became the permanent residence of royals towards the end of the Qing Dynasty.
Still, people rarely visit for the palace itself. Most do for the gardens and the walks around Kunming lake, which see some of the most amazing sunsets and sunrises. Visit in winter to see it all frozen over, or in spring to see all the flowers in bloom. You will also get to witness a few elders practicing their calligraphy on the tiled paths, or simply admire the tradition of the Chinese gardens.
Recognized as a world heritage by the UNESCO, this palace is one that celebrates nature and beauty, and is worth a little more time on your agenda when you decide to visit Beijing.
28 – Royal Palace, Sweden
Somehow, whenever I travel to a foreign city, I always end up in a royal palace of sorts. I mean not only do they have awesome changing of the guard ceremonies, but there is an opulence , sophistication, and splendor about these buildings that is largely absent in the Untied States. I guess its because we don’t have any royals, per say, but I feel as though these palaces are a way that we can step back in time and observe a piece of history that needs to be savored and enjoyed, kind of like the Royal Palace of Stockholm, in Stockholm Sweden.
This residence of the Swedish royal family is still in use today and functions as a royal residence, workplace and historical monument, all in one. Truly an amazing and enlightening experience to see the building in which royal duties are conducted, even today.
Visitors are welcome to explore the building from October – April, from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm on Tuesday – Sunday. From May through June, the palace is open daily from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, with the building opening an hour earlier in July and August. The building is also open daily in September, from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm.
To visit this exquisite collection of royal Swedish artifacts, adult tickets can be purchased for SEK 160 . But given that this building has over 600 baroque style rooms to explore, the admission fee is well worth it. Be sure to some time to explore the royal apartment and indulge in the historic beauty and the extravagant lifestyle that this building has come to represent. Also check out the wedding gowns that were worn by the royals and that are now on display. Truly one of a kind pieces that immortalize the sanctity of marriage. But don’t leave without watching the traditional changing of the guard ceremony. Truly a great way to end your tour of such diverse and fascinating aspects of Swedish culture.
29 – Fasil Ghebbi, Ethiopia
Located in the Northern Ethiopian city Gondar, the Royal Enclosure Fasil Ghebbi is a true secret when it comes to royal palaces of the world. It was founded in the 17th and 18th centuries. Back then, the Emperor Fasilides, which gave this palace its name Fasil, built it. On a side note: Ghebbi means compound or enclosure in Amharic, the national language of Ethiopia.
Fasil Ghebbi was the home of Ethiopia’s emperors and is a massive complex of different houses: Fasilide’s castle, a banqueting hall, three churches, a library, Iyasu I’s palace, stables, Empress Mentewab’s castle, Dawit III’s Hall and a chancellery are located within the compound. The rooms are huge and you find some true luxury here, which is barely given in the rest of the country. The palace has been well-kept and looked after and is, thus, a pleasure to visit.
In 1979 the royal palace Fasil Ghebbi was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today this 70,000 square meter area is truly a gem. No wonder, that it is also called African Camelot. When arrive, there is a small entrance fee that need so be paid. Mostly, guides are around and it’s a good idea to take an expert with you to find out everything about the history that is behind this place.
30 – Versailles, France
by Dan of Honeymoon Always
31- Winter Palace, Russia
In Saint Petersburg, the city inspired by the most fascinating European capitals and built from scratch to resemble them, pretty much every building looks like a royal palace. Some of them turn out to be office buildings, others – grocery stores. That’s why when you come across an actual royal palace, it’s hard to believe its grandeur, like in case with Winter Palace whose principle façade is 250 m long (820 ft). They say, inside the palace one can find 1,786 doors, 1,945 windows, 1,500 rooms and 117 staircases!
Winter Palace, located between the Palace Embankment and Palace Square, used to be the official residence of Russian monarchs until the revolution of 1917. In the beginning of 19th century it suffered a serious fire and was restored in 1837. The exterior was left unchanged, but large parts of the interior were redesigned.
Today, the palace houses Hermitage museum with its extensive collection of art from around the world. Hermitage museum is the largest museum in the world containing around three million items and featuring the largest collection of paintings in the world.
Need help planning your getaway? Get some help on the sidebar here.
Want to Shout us a Cuppa Jo? We Cannot Thank you enough. Click here for details!
Check out our incredible travel essentials for your next trip in our shop!
Travelling outside your home base? Don’t be a ninny and go without insurance!
Fill My Passport collaborated with these wonderful travel bloggers on our experiences abroad. All opinions are our own.