Throughout history, palaces have been built for royal families, for heads of state, and for other people in positions of power. Most of the notable palatial buildings of the world are located in Asia and Europe and were once occupied by powerful emperors and kings. Today, very few of these symbols of power are still occupied by the royal families who once owned them. Most have been converted to museums and serve as major tourist attractions. Below are ten beautiful palaces from around the world.
10. Potala Palace
The Potala Palace of the Lhasa Valley, Tibet, was built in 1645 during the reign of the fifth Dalai Lama. It rises from a palace erected by Songtsän Gampo in the seventh century. The White Palace (Potrang Karpo) was constructed in 1648, while the Red Palace (potrang marpo) was constructed between 1690 and 1694. The palace was occupied by the Dalai Lama until the 14th Dalai Lama was forced out of Tibet. The palace measures 1315 ft west to east 1148 ft north to south. It rises 384 ft on top of the Red Hill and 1,000 ft from the valley floor.
The Alhambra Palace is located in Granada, Spain and was initially constructed in AD 889. It was left in ruins until the 13th century when the Moorish emir, Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar reconstructed it. In 1333 Yusuf I, the Sultan of Granada further reconstructed and converted it into a palace. It is a testament to Muslim craftsmanship as it is partly a fortress, and is also a palace that is surrounded by a beautiful garden. Initially, it was whitewashed but centuries of being baked by the sunlight make it look reddish. It is located on a hilltop which makes it visible from various part of the city and is currently one of Spain’s major tourist attractions.
8. Grand Palace Bangkok
The Grand Palace is located in Bangkok's old city on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. It is a spectacular but sacred site whose construction began in 1782 by King Rama I. The palace is protected by a 6,233 ft long wall and comprises of the royal residence, and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. It acted as the nerve center of the Kingdom, housing the government and the Royal Court. Today it is still considered a sacred place and is used for various royal rituals and official state functions. The Borom Philam Mansion, built in the early 20th century by King Rama V, emulates the western style of construction to house future leaders. There are strict guidelines for those visiting the palace including the dress code which dictates that short pants, sleeveless shirts, and any form of shoes are not allowed in the temple.
7. Schönbrunn Palace
The Schönbrunn Palace is one of the major tourist attractions in Austria. It was built between 1696 and 1712 by Emperor Leopold I before it was converted to a summer palace by Maria Theresa. It contains 1,441 rooms and has been compared to the grandeur of the Versailles. It houses several other attractions including the oldest zoo in the world, the sculpted Privy Garden, a labyrinth and the Gloriette. It was inscribed as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1996 and is managed by the Schloss Schönbrunn Kultur- und Betriebsgesellschaft mbH (Ltd).
6. Buckingham Palace
The Buckingham Palace in Westminster, London, acts as the residence and administrative center of the monarch of the United Kingdom. The initial building was built in 1703 for the Duke of Buckingham before King George III acquired it for Queen Charlotte in 1761. It was renovated, and more wings were constructed in the 19th century before Queen Victoria settled there in 1837. Today, it is a symbol of British Unity, particularly the east front Royal Balcony where the royal family congregates to greet crowds. It is visited by thousands of tourists annually - it is open to the public during summer and access is limited during December, January and at Easter.
5. Peterhof Palace
Peterhof Palace in Saint Petersburg, Russia, consists of a series of palaces and beautiful gardens. For these reasons it is sometimes referred to as the "Russian Versailles." The three most attractive features in the series are the Grand Cascade and Samson Fountain, the Lower Gardens, and the Grand Palace. The grand palace was built by Peter the Great in the early 18th century. The interiors were reconstructed after the Second World War and represent a combination of modern designs during the reign of Catherine the Great. Tourists visiting the palace are welcomed by an ornate Ceremonial Staircase and multitude of gilded statues.
4. Neuschwanstein Castle
Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany, was built by Ludwig II of Bavaria as an homage to Richard Wagner and was intended as the King's Palace. Ludwig admired Wagner, and several rooms in the castle were inspired by Wagner's character. The interiors of the third and fourth floors are designed from Wagner’s operas. Unlike past castles, the Neuschwanstein Castle was technologically advanced, fitted with automatic flushing toilets, air conditioning systems as well as piped water. It has a beautiful garden surrounded by a walled courtyard and an artificial cave. It is the most visited castle in Germany with more than 1.3 million tourists annually
3. Himeji Palace
The Himeji Palace represents a classical Japanese architecture. It is located on a hilltop and was built in the 14th century. Since its initial construction, it has undergone major refurbishment with minor restorations also done in 2015. Tourists enter the castle through the Otemon Gate that is lined with cherry trees suitable for taking photographs. At the heart of the palace is a six-story wooden building with a winged rooftop that acts as a landmark of the castle. Visitors visit the floors using a series of steep staircases with each floor getting smaller as one ascends. The top floor houses a shrine and presents a 3600 view of the city.
2. Palace of Versailles
The Palace of Versailles, locally known as Château de Versailles, was built in the 11th century in Île-de-France region of France. It was used as a royal palace until the French Revolution ousted King Louis XV. In 1837, it was converted to the Museum of History of France. Today it is the most popular museum, receiving about five million tourists annually. Apart from the magnificent building, the garden adjacent to it is also a major tourist attraction with about 8 million walking the garden annually. Other attractions in the palace include Chapels of Versailles, Royal Opera, and the Appartement du Roi (King's Apartment) among several other attractions.
1. Mysore Palace
Mysore Palace is located in Mysore, southern India. The building was initially constructed in the 14th century but underwent major reconstructions as different rulers took over power. The current building was constructed between 1897 and 1912 after the previous building was burnt down. It presents an Indo-Saracenic style that represents a blend of Muslim, Hindu Rajput, and Gothic architecture. It comprises of a three-storied stone structure with marble domes on the roof, as well as a five-storied tower. The most visited rooms in the palace include the Ambavilasa, Gombe Thotti (Doll’s Pavilion), and Kalyana Mantapa. During the Mysore Dasara Festival, approximately 100,000 bulbs illuminate the Palace and attract up to 6 million tourists annually with 3.5 million visiting it during the festival.