From fantastical palaces to epic forts, the world is full of beautiful works of architecture waiting to be discovered. These incredible feats of architecture will leave any traveler in awe. In our quest to find must-visit places for those who love a good mix of good architecture and history, we collaborated with other travel bloggers to come up with a list of some of the world’s most beautiful palaces and forts.
Here are some of the most beautiful palaces and forts from around the world:
Amber Fort and Amber Palace, India
Amber Fort rises out of the arid countryside like a mirage, the giant walls and towers concealing some of the most intricately beautiful architecture in India. You can also walk above the palace to see defensive walls winding their way through the barren hills. Amber Fort was built in the late 1500s and has been immaculately preserved. There are heaps of other amazing places to visit in and around Jaipur, putting it high on most people’s India itinerary. We went there in the summer and it was scorching, the crowds were thin though which made up for it.
Mehrangarh Fort, India
This hilltop fort, built in the 15th century, keeps watch over the blue city of Jodhpur and contains some of India’s most elaborate palaces. The giant walls can be seen from many parts of the city below and there are numerous rooftop restaurants which take advantage of the incredible views. You can also visit the nearby Thar desert and continue on to Jaisalmer, which is home to a huge sand-coloured fort.
Bundi Palace, India
Rudyard Kipling describes Bundi Palace as being “the work of goblins rather than of men” — it’s a pretty surreal looking place. We had the whole fort / palace to ourselves when we visited — it’s nowhere near as popular as some other places in Rajasthan. Make sure you take the local “guides” up on their offer to unlock some of the palace’s rooms — they are full of stunningly colorful murals. Bundi Palace was built in the early 17th century and is a bit rougher than some other nearby palaces — it does have a more abandoned, ruined feel which I like. You can also explore the nearby Taragarh Fort, but watch out for the monkeys!
There are two main palaces in the centre of Orchha, a small rural town in Madhya Pradesh. These architectural gems dating back to the 16th / 17th centuries are really well preserved and can be almost deserted depending on when you visit. Look out for the colourful murals and tiles, as well as the views of the surrounding countryside full of temples and ruins. We actually got in engaged in Orchha so it’ll always be a special place for us!
City Palace of Udaipur, India
The City Palace is one of the largest constructions of its type in Rajasthan and one of the most impressive places I’ve been to. It has several palaces within the complex. Since Udaipur was once the capital of the Mewar Kingdom, the City Palace was built by several rulers of the Mewar dynasty over nearly 400 years. The palace reflects a fusion of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture of that time. In addition to royal interiors, spacious halls and top floor gardens, the palace pverlooks Lake Pichola, hills and several other historic monuments, providing its visitors with a panoramic view of the city. Due to its unique ambiance, it was a setting of the numerous movies including one of the James Bond films.
Natalia – My Trip Hack
Bhainsrorgarh Fort, India
Bhainsrorgarh is a living fort with close to 5000 inhabitants within the fort walls. The fort is small and still has the royal family living within the palace. Part of the palace has now been converted into a luxury heritage hotel but given the proximity of the royal family and their love for a good conversation, it makes for a palace like none other. The fort stands at the intersection of two rivers, Chambal and Brahmini which provides some very enchanting views when the rivers are full just after the monsoon.
The fort has an interesting history as it was the chosen seat for Rao Chunda who forsake the throne of the Kingdom of Mewar for his yet to be born younger brother. The seat passed through the hands of many clans before it was awarded to the present Royal family. The fort is said to be 270 years old with the fort built around 1740’s.
To know more, check out Rishabh and Nirali’s post about Bhainsrorgarh Fort, India.
Rishabh and Nirali – Gypsycouple
Gingee Fort, India
Gingee Fort, also known as Senji Fort or Chenji Fort, is one of the beautiful surviving forts in the state of Tamil Nadu in India. The fort was said to be built during the 15th – 16th century by the Nayaks from the Vijayanagara Empire. Shivaji, the Maratha king, ranked the fort as the most impregnable fortress in India and was called the Troy of the East by the British. Gingee Fort lies on three hillocks: Krishnagiri to the north, Rajagiri to the west and Chandrayandurg to the southeast.
Gingee fort was declared a National monument in 1921 and is under the Archaeological department. Gingee Fort with its ruined forts, temples and granaries portrays a beautiful history of the past. It shows the numerous invasions, battles and acts of bravery it witnessed.
Raksha – Solo Passport
Golestan Palace, Iran
In the former heart of Tehran stands this monument that is a testament to the excesses and glories of the Qajar rulers. Located between the bazaar and Imam Khomeini Sq is Golestan Palace. Originally built during the Safavid dynasty and enclosed within the now gone mud-thatched walls of Tehran’s arg is a series of several grand buildings set perfectly around beautifully manicured gardens.
The exterior of the buildings is tiled mosaics in incredibly colourful middle eastern fashion. The extravagance and beauty of the interiors was like almost nothing else I had ever seen before. Millions of small pieces of mirror and glass reflect every particle of light that comes through the windows. Every building is incredible and unique and a complete must see if you are visiting Iran.
Dane – Holiday From Where
Nizwa Fort, Oman
Nizwa Fort is a castle and a fort Tower. Located in the geographical heart of Oman, under 2 hours inland from the capital city Muscat, the current structure dates back to the early 17th century.
There are many rooms to explore and to learn about life back then. No heavy decor or sculpted architecture — the beauty is in the simplicity and layering of walls. And it is possible to climb to the top of the 34 meters high tower to appreciate the views of the surrounding oasis and mountains. Today it is still the center of the town of Nizwa with the Souq (market) and the weekly animal market.
To know more, check out Claire’s post about Nizwa Fort, Oman.
Claire – Zigzag on Earth
Qala Ikhtyaruddin, Afghanistan
Dating back to the 4th century BC, Qala Ikhtyaruddin stands majestic in the heart of Herat City, western Afghanistan. Its large towers and walls visible from afar, the citadel, or Arg, was built by Alexander the Great on the ruins of an already existent fort to protect the Macedonian Empire from revolt.
Qala Ikhtyaruddin was destroyed during the invasion of Gengis Khan and rebuilt during Fakhruddin’s rule by his minister Ikhtyaruddin, after whom it was later named. Serving as citadel and castle for years, the fort was falling into disrepair. Initial restoration by UNESCO started in 1975 were halted by the ongoing civil war and a full renovation was carried out with funds from the Aga Khan Trust For Culture and US and German governments from 2006 to 2011.
Angela – Chasing the Unexpected
Al Zubarah Fort, Qatar
Al Zubarah Fort is found a little over an hour north-west of Qatar’s capital city, Doha. Seemingly in the middle of nowhere, the town of Al Zubarah was once a bustling pearling and fishing hub. After being abandoned in the early 1900’s, the town had been largely covered in sand until archaeologists began excavating the area in the 1980’s. Al Zubarah Fort was built in 1938, using traditional Qatari materials of coral stone, limestone and compacted mud. It was once used as a military and police base, but today houses a visitor centre with exhibitions showcasing the history of both the fort and surrounding areas. It’s a fascinating place to visit, and after you’re done with the fort you can take a tour of the fortified Al Zubarah town.
Nadine – Le Long Weekend
This 14th century Saxon fortress is a lot of fun to explore. We visited in autumn when colourful leaves covered the ground. There are lots of small buildings to explore inside the fortress and the views over the Transylvanian countryside are awesome.
RELATED POST: Exploring Transylania: A Week in Romania
The Alhambra, Spain
The Muslim Moors left behind some incredible architecture in southern Spain. The finest example is surely the Alhambra, a lavish palace with incrediblly intricate details throughout its many rooms, courtyards and gardens. The Alhambra dominates the city of Granada — one of the best things to do there is have a sunset drink while admiring this famous piece of architecture from afar.
RELATED POST: Winter in Andalusia: 10 Days in Spain Itinerary
Alcazar de Seville, Spain
Seville’s Alcazar, which was mostly built in the 14th century, almost rivals the Alhambra for sheer beauty. It even featured in Game of Thrones as the Water Gardens of Dorne.
Alcazaba Almería, Spain
For two months, we stayed near Almería, a beautiful town in the south of Spain. Andalusia has a lot of Muslim influences. Around 955, the Islamic ruler started building the Alcazaba fort. The main purpose was to protect the city of Almería and those in control of the city had their seats there. But it was also a venue, a place to live and pray. Lots of people lived inside the walls of the Alcazaba.
At the moment, the interior part of the Alcazaba is being restored in its former glory but it will take many years before this is finished. Until then, you can enjoy the beautiful garden of the Alcazaba. There is also a stunning view over the Islamic neighborhood with its lovely colored houses, small scenic streets and tea houses on almost every corner.
Nanouk – Digital Nomad with Kids
Pena Palace, Portugal
Surely one of the world’s most colorful palaces, Pena Palace is a must-see for those visiting Portugal. It was built in the 1850s using a huge range of architectural styles — it’s definitely a unique place. There are other palaces and castles in Sintra and you can visit them on a day trip from Lisbon if you’re short on time.
RELATED POST: 5 Days in Portugal: Lisbon, Sintra and Porto
Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna
Perhaps no other place in Vienna exudes as much imperial affection as Schönbrunn Palace. This sprawling estate was at one point not much more than a hunting ground, but now is considered one of Austria’s most significant cultural monuments. An impressive Baroque palace, Schönbrunn served as the summer home of the Habsburgs before being returned to The Republic of Austria at the end of the monarchy in 1918. Inside you can see authentically furnished rooms, most reflecting the luxurious tastes of the Habsburg monarchs, but some are surprisingly modest. After touring the interior, don’t miss out on taking a walk through the Crown Prince Garden up to the Gloriette, which offers beautiful views of both the palace and city.
To know more, check out Rhonda’s post about Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna.
Rhonda – Travel Yes Please
Versailles Palace, France
Just ten miles from the center of Paris, Versailles served as a palace for the French monarchy up till the French Revolution. At first, the land had little more than a hunting lodge, but later a palace was built surrounded by beautiful gardens, sculptures and fountains.
Today, the palace and grounds are open as a museum. You can tour the palace and walk the manicured gardens and even enjoy a boat or horseback ride. Versailles is easily accessible by train from Paris. I recommend purchasing tickets before going or buying the Paris Pass, which will get you into many of Paris’s museums and attractions and arriving early.
Text by Dan – HoneyMoon Always | Photo by Mismatched Passports
Belogradchik Fortress, Bulgaria
The Belogradchik Fortress is among the renowned Belogradchik Rocks. The Fortress dates back to Roman times, and along with the Belogradchik Rocks, is a major tourist attraction today. The Fortress is located in the northwest part of Bulgaria, near the town of Belogradchik. Both the Fortress and the Rocks are impressive and have great views of the surrounding area. The Belogradchik Fortress is a great idea for a day trip from Sofia — the most convenient way to get there is to travel by car. Buses don’t run often, so you might need to spend a night in Belogradchik. Well, this is not a bad idea since there other great places to visit in the area, like the Magurata cave which is one of the largest caves in the country.
Bilyana – Owl Over the World
Dubrovnik is a medieval fort city that was made famous by being one of the filming location of Game of Thrones. Surrounded by almost 1.2 km of walls, this ancient city used to be a maritime superpower. With no army to protect it, the walls were their only means of defense.
The city is now a pedestrian only zone and a beautiful limestone maze. It’s almost like time stood still for Dubrovnik with all its palaces, churches and monasteries. For the best view of the city, head up its walls and walk around the perimeter and soak in the glory that is the Pearl of Adriatic.
To know more, check out Nam’s post about Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Nam – Laugh, Travel, Eat.
Würzburg Residence (Würzburger Residenz), Germany
Wurzburg, Germany with its Royal Residenz may not be tops on a lot of travelers’ lists, but it should be. While the Romantic Road starts here and it is the capital of the Franconia wine region, the real reason to visit mighty Wurzburg is the Royal Residenz. Built to be the home of the Prince-Bishop of Wurzburg, it is one of the grandest palaces in all of Europe. But because it is in remote Wurzburg, instead of one of Europe’s grand cities, it receives far fewer visitors than it otherwise would. The palace has had some notoriety over the years. The Royal Residenz played host to Napoleon Bonaparte in May 1812 while he was en route to his unsuccessful invasion of Russia (supposedly he didn’t sleep well). But perhaps the best reason to visit the Residenz: it is surrounded by an absolutely majestic garden!
Laura and Lance – Travel Addicts
Mount Saint-Michel, France
Mount Saint-Michel is an island in Normandy, France around 1 km off the coast (connected by a causeway). The UNESCO world heritage site with its strategic fortification stayed unconquered during the Hundred Years War. The 11th-century castle was built in a Romanesque architectural style and is a popular pilgrimage destination. The abbey can be easily explored on foot through the winding narrow alleys and sets of stairs. There are several souvenir shops and small restaurants along the way. The route leads to the top of the abbey to Eglise Saint-Michel and the terrace offers some of the remarkable views of the mudflats below. One can also take up horse riding around the abbey during the low tide.
To know more, check out Rashmi and Chalukya’s post about Mont Saint-Michel, France.
Rashmi and Chalukya – Go Beyond Bounds
Peterhof Palace, Russia
The Peterhof Palace in Saint Petersburg is a series of palaces and gardens built in the beginning of 18th century by Tsar Peter the Great, hence the name. Petehof is Dutch for Peter’s Court. One of the features that draws people from all over the world to Peterhof is its fountains. The ensemble amounts to over 150 fountains and 4 cascades. The fountain system is unique due to the fact that it doesn’t require any pumps. Water is supplied by a gravity-fed water system that was designed to exploit the natural slope of the terrain. The system hasn’t been modified through the years, the only change that was made is replacing the wooden pipes to cast-iron ones. The palace-ensemble is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is often referred to as “The Russian Versailles”.
Yulia – The Foodie Miles
The Gravensteen in Ghent, Belgium
Located in the medieval heart of the Flemish city of Ghent, the Gravensteen is one of the most imposing of the more than 1,000 castles in Belgium. Its name means literally “Castle of the Counts”. The Gravensteen was built in 1180, its construction commissioned by Philip of Alsace and modeled after the crusader strongholds that he saw during the Second Crusade.
Having served as the seat of the Counts of Flanders for more than a century, the castle was abandoned in the 1300s. From then on, it had several different purposes, from courthouse and prison to even a factory. The city of Ghent eventually bought the castle in the late-19th century to save it from demolishment. It was renovated, its walls and keep restored to their former glory. Nowadays, The Gravensteen houses a fascinating museum about the Middle Ages, including a rather macabre exhibit of torture devices.
Bram – Travel. Experience. Live.
Sanssouci Palace, Germany
Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam is actually a grouping of different castles that were built by the various Prussian kings living at the height of the Prussian empire and Prussian kings that ruled Germany and many neighboring countries. Sanssouci is the classically inspired palace that is grand in design but smaller in stature compared to the relatively newer Neues Palaces. But what Sanssouci lacks in size it makes up for with rich and elaborate details finished in every room with fine carpentry, exotic finishes using silver or gold and other rare materials to create a grand palace.
To know more, check out Noel’s post about Sanssouci Palace, Germany.
Noel – Travel Photo Discovery
Masada Fort, Jerusalem
I recently visited the Masada Fort in Israel and it was an incredible experience. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is located at the top of a rock plateau, similar to a mesa, on the eastern edge of the Judaean Desert, overlooking the Dead Sea. It was built by Herod the Great between 37 and 31 BCE and according to history, the families and the soldiers residing there committed mass suicide when it was clear they could not resist the Roman Empire’s siege.
The fort can be reached by cable car or via a one hour uphill hike. I hiked it as I went there before sunrise, in order to view the sun rise over the Dead Sea. It was a great experience and the sights were absolutely stunning!
Claudia – My Adventures Across the World
El Morro Fort, Puerto Rico
Castillo San Felipe del Morro Fort in Old San Juan was build in the 16th Century at the tip of (what is now) Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. El Morro fort was declared a World Heritage site in 1983 and continues to be a top attraction in Puerto Rico for history buffs and architecture lovers. The dome shaped sentry boxes at each corner of the fort can be seen on car license plates and are recognizable symbols for the island. The interior is converted into a museum with exhibits in both English and Spanish. As beautiful and impressive as the architecture is, the real jewel is the views from the fort out over San Juan Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.
To know more, check out Jen’s post about El Moro Fort, Puerto Rico.
Jen – Jen There Done That
El Castillo, Nicaragua
This stone fort on the banks of the Rio San Juan, built in the 1670s, is still in remarkably good shape. That is mostly due to a teenage girl, Rafaela Herrera, who defended the fortress from an intense pirate attack. Nowadays El Castillo looms over a small town of the same name. It’s quite off the beaten path and those who make it there arrive by boat. There are wild jungle areas just down stream and wildlife spotting tours are popular.
Ollantaytambo, the 15th century Inca fortress towering above a small town of the same name, was the scene of a famous battle. It was the only battle the Inca won against the invading Spanish, and it’s easy to see why when you visit. The hilltop location was perfect for repelling attacks. It now attracts lots of tourists, so try to get there as soon as it opens like we did. Ollantaytambo is close to Machu Picchu and is part of the Sacred Valley of the Incas — if you’re into ruins (that have stunning views) you won’t want to miss it.
Have you been to any of the world’s most beautiful palaces and forts? Have you been to any beautiful palaces and forts that should be included in this list? Let us know.
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