What’s it like to live in a place so large you can get lost in it? How lavishly would you decorate your palace? Would your gardens be formal, naturalized, or some of both? The best way to answer these questions (just in case the occasion arises), is to visit these remarkable royal palaces in Europe. Then when the opportunity to set up your own palace comes; you’ll be totally prepared.
Versailles, Paris, France – The ornate palace of the “Sun King,” King Louis XIV, is the epitome of extravagance. History was made and a world war ended within the magnificent halls filled with crystal chandeliers, gilded-framed paintings, and marble sculptures. The formal gardens are some of the best in France, with sculpted fountains and a lake that kept the royal gondolas. Travel Maestro tip: Versailles can be very crowded with tourists in the summer, especially on Tuesdays when many Paris museums are closed. The chateau is closed on Mondays.
Alhambra, Granada, Spain – This complex of Nasrid and Generalife palaces, Alcazaba fortress, and beautiful gardens is the world’s best-preserved Islamic architecture from the medieval ages. The Alhambra Experiences ticket includes a night visit to the Nasrid Palaces and a visit the next morning to the Alcazaba and the Generalife palace and gardens. Travel Maestro tip: Admission is limited to protect the monument, so purchase tickets in advance.
Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria – This captivating 1,441-room palace is one of the most important cultural monuments in Austria and the most popular attraction in Vienna. It was the opulent summer home of the Hapsburg dynasty and the setting for Mozart’s musical duel with Antonio Salieri recreated in the movie Amadeus. The grounds include a spectacular rose garden, sculpture, fountains, and one of the world’s oldest zoos. Travel Maestro tip: Get a wonderful view of the palace and city behind it from the Gloriette, a small colonnade that has been converted into a scenic coffeehouse.
Windsor Castle, Windsor, Britain – The Queen’s official country residence is the most accessible of all her royal properties. It’s also the world’s oldest and largest inhabited castle, built by William the Conqueror in 1070. You can tour the opulent State Apartments, admire the largest seamless Indian carpet in the Waterloo Chamber, visit Gothic St. George’s Chapel, and marvel at Queen Mary’s magical dollhouse. The lavish semi-state rooms are used for official entertaining and are open to the public only from September to March. Travel Maestro tip: Time your visit to catch the pageantry of the Changing of the Guard, a 45-minute ceremony at 11 am on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
Prague Castle, Prague, Czech Republic – This 1,000-year-old castle complex is actually a district called Hradcany, rather than a building. Multiple palaces and churches in a range of architectural styles (10th-century Romanesque to 14th-century Gothic) constitute the UNESCO monument. Of particular interest are the brilliant stained-glass windows and gargoyles at St. Vitus Cathedral and the masterwork paintings in Spanish Hall. Along the Golden Lane stand the tiny 16th-century houses of the castle’s goldsmiths and marksmen which were inhabited until World War II. Travel Maestro tip: Climb 287 steps of the Great South Tower of the Cathedral for a view of the Cathedral’s bells and a gorgeous view of beautiful Prague.
Doge’s Palace, Venice, Italy – Palazzo Ducale, or Doge’s Palace, served as the seat of government, the Palace of Justice and the residence of the doge. The Venetian Gothic architecture is spectacular and the 15th-century marble Scala dei Giganti (Giant’s Stairs) is a Renaissance masterpiece. Rooms are filled with paintings and murals by the most important Venetian school Renaissance artists. Travel Maestro tip: Don’t miss the itinerary segreti (secret passageways) where the unfortunate prisoners who crossed the Bridge of Sighs were tortured and confined in the dungeons below.
These are some of the finest palaces in Europe, but there are others, too. Ask your Covington vacation advisor to help you plan an itinerary to visit them. Then you can start designing your own palace.