The Most Spectacular Royal Palaces

The Queen celebrates her 90th birthday on April 21st, although her official birthday will be celebrated on June 11th – the perfect time to raise a toast to a much-loved monarch, especially when the country’s pubs are marking the June event with extended opening hours. In the meantime, we’ve rounded up the world’s most spectacular royal palaces, ranging from medieval Bavarian fortresses to Swedish castles filled with over a thousand rooms.

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Buckingham Palace, London, England

The Queen’s official London residence was built in 1703 by Captain William Winde, an English architect and former military man. Today, it’s not just home to the Queen but to 800 members of staff, whose roles cover everything from clock making to horticulture. It’s not an easy property to maintain either – the 760 windows are cleaned every six weeks and there are 775 rooms to clean. And, with over 40,000 light bulbs we reckon keeping the palace illuminated is a full time affair.

Buckingham Palace, London

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Fredensborg Palace, Zealand, Denmark

This beautiful palace was built as a hunting lodge for King Frederik IV in 1719 and it’s been used by Denmark’s royal family ever since. The country’s current monarch, Queen Margrethe II, uses the palace as a venue for royal weddings, anniversaries and birthdays and it’s also a base for visiting heads of state who, according to tradition, must scratch their names onto a pane of glass with a diamond. Queen Margrethe has always allowed the Danes to enjoy the property – the rambling gardens are open to the public and locals can attend the weekly church service held in the estate’s chapel.

Fredensborg Palace - Denmark

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Pena National Palace, Sintra, Portugal

One of the more colourful royal residences, the UNESCO-listed Pena National Palace was built on the orders of King Manuel I in the 16th century. It was used as a monastery until 1838, when the king transformed it into a summer residence for the royal family. King Ferdinand was incredibly well-travelled and insisted that the building incorporated Islamic, Moorish and medieval elements. The last monarch to live there was Queen Amelie, who spent her last night in Portugal at Pena, before being exiled to France after the revolution of 1910. Today, visitors can go on guided tours of the palace and its gardens, which are home to several exotic plant species, some dating back to the nineteenth century.

Pena National Palace, Portugal

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Bangalore Palace, Bangalore, India

You’d be forgiven for mistaking this ivy-clad, turreted fortress for Windsor Castle but it’s actually Bangalore Castle in the Indian state of Karnataka. It was built in 1862 by Bostonian clergyman Rev. J. Garrett on the orders of Maharaja Sri Sir Chamarajendra Wadiyar X, the ruling Maharaja of Mysore between 1868 and 1894. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Maharaja was inspired by England’s Windsor Castle; inside there are vast expanses of wood panelling and priceless works of art. However, there are also several items we can’t quite picture at Windsor. The Maharaja was a keen hunter and items of furniture on display include foot stools made from elephants’ feet.

bangalore-palace

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Mysore Palace, Karnataka, India

Regarded as one of India’s finest royal residences, Mysore Palace was the former residence of the Wadiyars (otherwise known as the Maharajas of Mysore), the royal family which ruled the kingdom between 1399 and 1950. The enormous fortress is famous for its numerous courtyards, gardens and outbuildings, which include 12 temples. Beneath the building is a network of tunnels which lead to nearby palaces and religious sites. One of the most ornate rooms is the Kalyana Mantapa, or marriage hall – the enormous stained glass window was shipped to Mysore from Glasgow, where it was made. Equally breathtaking (and slightly eerie) is the Gombe Thotti, or Doll’s Pavilion, which houses a collection of antique dolls and ceremonial objects, including an elephant howdah (passenger seat) decorated with 84 kilograms of gold.

Mysore Palace, India

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Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria

The Schönbrunn Palace is the former imperial summer residence of Austria’s Habsburg rulers. It’s Austria’s most important cultural landmark, and its design was inspired by the baroque extravagance of Versailles. There are 1,441 rooms in the main building, some of which can be viewed on guided tours (and let’s face it – who really has time to inspect all 1,441?). Highlights include the parlour, where Mozart once played music for Empress Maria Theresia. The palace also had a starring role in the Bond film The Living Daylights, when 007 and his female accomplice passed through the gardens in a horse and carriage.

Schönbrunn Palace, Austria

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Neuschwanstein, Bavaria, Germany

Neuschwanstein was the inspiration for Disneyland’s famous castle. It’s one of Germany’s most popular attractions, with over 6,000 visitors a day – rather a lot when you consider it was built to be the home of just one person. Ludwig II ruled Bavaria in the late 19th century, but when the notoriously shy king decided to retire from public life, he commissioned this huge castle. Construction spanned two decades, during which time the project was the region’s biggest employer. Ludvig’s nineteenth century shopping list hints at the scale of the project; purchased materials included 465 tonnes of Salzburg marble, 1,550 tonnes of sandstone and 400,000 bricks.

Neuschwanstein, Germany

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Palace Of Versailles, Ile-de-France, France

The sheer size of this royal palace is mind-blowing. Built for King Louis XIV in the late 1600s, 3,000 people were employed to construct the main building and to design the magnificent grounds. Inside, there over 700 rooms, 1,200 fireplaces and 60 staircases. The gardens once contained 400 sculptures and 1,400 fountains. It’s hardly surprising that when King Louis XIV lived there, he would regularly complain to one of his 200 servants that his food was cold, due to the fact that the enormous kitchens were so far away from his dining room.

Palace of Versailles, France

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Château de Chambord, Loir-et-Cher, France

This beautiful castle was built on the orders of King Francis I of France. It’s the largest chateau in the Loire valley, and was constructed as a hunting lodge. It took years to build, with construction starting in 1519 and finishing in 1547. Château de Chambord was built in the renaissance style, with a central keep and four enormous bastion towers encasing its 440 rooms, 84 staircases and 282 fireplaces. The most admired part of the castle is the spectacular double helix staircase which ascends three floors. It’s just one example of King Francis’s penchant for extravagance – he even diverted the Loire so that the famous river would surround his home.

Château de Chambord, France

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Imperial Palace, Tokyo, Japan

The Tokyo Imperial Palace has been the primary residence of the Imperial family (Japan’s equivalent of the royal family) since the nineteenth century. It can be found on a piece of land which covers 3.4 square kilometres, making it the largest private estate in the city. The palace is famous for it sprawling gardens, which are home to 3,600 animal and insect species and 1,366 species of plant. The late Emperor Hirohito, one of the palace’s former residents, was against the use of pesticides and encouraged staff to create insect habitats on the property.

Imperial Palace, Japan

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Royal Palace, Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm Palace is the official residence of the Swedish royal family, and can be found in the heart of the old town, where it looms over the river Norrström. The royal residence has been located at this site since the thirteenth century, when King Gustav Vasa built a castle here. It was later destroyed in a fire, and in the early eighteenth century, a new building was commissioned, although it was only completed in 1770s. Today, the basic structure remains unchanged and the building contains 600 rooms spread over seven floors.

Royal Palace, Stockholm

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