More often than not the homes of emperors, heads of states, monarchs and other important dignitaries, palaces, are some of the world’s most spectacular works of architecture. Here’s three magnificent examples that you should definitely see in your lifetime. While the dignitaries may not reside there anymore, you can still experience the opulent lifestyles they once lived.
Perched on a hilltop above the Andalusian city of Granada, the Alhambra is among Spain’s most exquisite Islamic monuments. Designed by the Nasrid sultans and built in the 1400s, it blends a fortress with Moorish palaces and landscaped gardens. Once the royal palace of Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada, it became the royal court of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I in 1492 and was later redeveloped by kings Charles I, Charles V and Philip V. Today this UNESCO-protected monument welcomes over 8,000 visitors on a daily basis.
With so much to see and understand it could be worth booking a guided tour of the Alhambra. There’s the exquisite Moorish-style courtyards and living quarters of the Nasrid Palaces. See the Renaissance Palace of Charles V, home to the thematic exhibitions of the Museum of the Alhambra. Inside the ruins of the Alcazaba citadel, the Torre de la Vela watchtower offers sublime views of Granada and the Sierra Nevada mountains. Wander amid the gardens of the Generalife summer palace, complete with Baroque courtyards, flowerbeds, fountains and ponds.
Plan your visit to the Alhambra.
Château de Chambord, France
Blending medieval designs with classical Renaissance features, the Château de Chambord is arguably the finest example of French Renaissance architecture on the planet. King François I established the chateau in 1519 as a hunting lodge in the Loire Valley; however, he only stayed here for about 40 days. All-but abandoned for over a century, it wasn’t until the reign of Louis XIV that construction was completed. The sumptuous royal residence features over 400 rooms and 282 fireplaces. Of its 84 staircases, the double-helix staircase was allegedly inspired by Leonardo da Vinci.
Over 60 rooms are open to the public, spread throughout which is a permanent exhibition of 4,500 artifacts and art pieces. Don’t miss the bedchambers, 18th-century kitchens and vaults. The double helix staircase leads to the rooftop and a panoramic view of the cupolas, domes, turrets and surrounding woodland. Drive an electric boat around the chateau’s canal, watch a bird of prey show and attend a joust. Explore the formal gardens along 14 miles of trails on foot, by bike and via horse-drawn carriage rides.
Plan your visit to the Château de Chambord.
The Grand Palace, Thailand
One of Bangkok’s most recognizable landmarks dates back to 1782, when King Rama I made the city Thailand’s capital and built his royal residence. Until 1925 The Grand Palace was the home of the Thai monarch, the royal court and government. Today it is a location for royal ceremonies, a place of worship and popular tourist attraction. The walled palace sits on the banks of the Chao Phraya River with a majestic fusion of Thai, Asian and European architectural styles.
Follow monks in red-colored robes to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew), where worshippers pray at a revered Buddha statue. See opulent royal thrones in the Amarind Hall and Dusit Maha Prasat audience hall. The Boromabiman Hall displays French influences and the Chakri Maha Prasat Hall is a neoclassical royal residence. Don’t miss the model of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, the imposing Demon Guardians and the statue of Cheewok Komaraphat, who was the father of Thai herbal medicine.
Plan your visit to The Grand Palace.