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.
This post was originally posted in March 2017 and was updated in December 2019.
Here are some of the most beautiful palaces from around the world:
Amber Palace, India
Amber Palace, built in 1952, is one of the highlights of our trip to Rajashtan. With stunning courtyards, intricately decorated walls and astounding stonework, it’s a structure that was truly made to impress. The Sheesh Mahal is a must-see in this palace. From the outside you are welcomed by its ornate wall and ceiling designs and inside you’ll witness its intricate mirrorwork.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Have you been to any of the world’s most beautiful palaces? Have you been to any stunning palaces that should be included in this list? Let us know.