5 European Palaces to Explore from Home

No need for a passport, enjoy the palatial views from wherever you are

By Google Arts & Culture

The Alhambra, Spain

Perhaps since the first brick was laid, the name Alhambra has stood for excellence and luxury. Parts of this Granadan palace date to 889CE, but the intricate carved stone we see today is mostly the work of the 13th-century Nasrid emir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar.

The Alhambra continued to be used as a royal palace, long after the defeat of the Moorish kings. In the 16th Century, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, commissioned an enormous extension to the palace, in the then-fashionable neoclassical style.

Pena Palace, Portugal

In 1838, Ferdinand II, King consort of Portugal, bought the decrepit ruins of Pena monastery, on the hill outside Sintra, and by 1854 had transformed it into this palace - a melange of medieval structures and romanticist ornament.

King Ferdinand and Queen Maria II paid close attention to the decoration of the palace, insisting that the amateur architect Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege include a dazzling array of features and styles inspired by Islamic architecture and Gothic castles.

The Royal Palace of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Unusually, this palace was originally built as a city hall, during the 'Golden Age' of the 17th Century. It became a royal palace under King Louis Napoleon, after his older brother 'liberated' the Netherlands. It was once again given to the Dutch royal family, by law, in 1936.

The Great Hall is used by the monarch for entertaining guests on state visits, as well as official functions, and significant events. If you look to the floor, you'll see two maps of the Earth, symbols that point to the power and breadth of the Dutch Empire.

Château de Chambord, France

This fairytale renaissance château, found in the Loire Valley, is one of the most recognisable in all of France. It was commissioned by Francis I, partly to show off his wealth and style to his archrival, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor.

This palace was one of the first to dispense with fortification, and to indulge in ornament and levity. One of the many architectural highlights is the spectacular double spiral-staircase, where two spirals ascend three floors without meeting.

Palace of Versailles, France

Finally, the crowning glory. The palace of Versailles was the largest, most extravagant in all of Europe. The ludicrous expense of time, effort, and money, put into simply running the place day-to-day helped fuel the eventual French Revolution.

Since those bloody days, the palace has enjoyed a quieter life. The exquisite Hall of Mirrors is reserved for prestigious state events, but is perhaps best known as the spot where the 1919 Treaty of Versailles was signed, officially ending the First World War.

ChenonceauCastle of Chenonceau

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