25 Splendid Royal Palaces to Visit in Europe

Palacio Real in Madrid, Spain. (Photo Credit: Jose Ramirez / Flickr)
Scott Hartbeck
by Scott Hartbeck
Last updated: 8:00 AM ET, Sat June 10, 2023

Palacio Real, Spain

This sprawling palace in the heart of the Madrid is home to well over 3,000 rooms, thus laying claim to being the largest royal palace in Western Europe. While the Spanish Royal Family doesn't reside there day-to-day anymore, it is still considered one of their official residences and is open to the public for visits. The architecture of the palace was inspired by early sketches of the Louvre in Paris and inside it's full of treasures (everything from an armory to world-class works of art) that tell the story of Spain. 

Hampton Court Palace, England

This marvelous red-pink brick palace on the outskirts of London is synonymous with one of the more infamous former British monarchs: Henry VIII. Here, you can tour the grounds where he feasted, fought with Rome and welcomed a long-awaited heir into the world while learning all about his reign and the impact it had on the country. This is to say nothing of the tales of his famous former wives—some of who are said to still haunt the grounds today—and other historical figures who stamped stories on the palace as well. 

Amalienborg Palace, Denmark

Composed of four identical buildings, this palace in the heart of Copenhagen is the autumn and winter home of Queen Margrethe ll, who has reigned for over 50 years and is now Europe's longest-reigning monarch. Visit to take in the daily changing of the guard outside before heading in to get a behind-the-scenes peak at Danish royal life. 

Wilanow Palace, Poland

This former royal palace in Warsaw is a Baroque beauty, showing off both French and Italian influences in addition to many traditional Polish touches. Just a few of the highlights are the Paintings Gallery, The Grand Vestibule, the opulent White Hall and a striking statute of the man the residence was built for: Jan III Sobieski. 

Peleș Castle, Romania

Despite its name, this modern Romanian palace nestled amongst the stunning Carpathian mountains was always intended to simply be a royal residence, but there is nothing simple about its dazzling architecture. Designed for King Carol I in a Neo-Renaissance style around the turn of the 20th century and home to many Romanian and Art Nouveau touches inside, Peleș Castle owns one of the finest natural settings of any palace in Europe.

Grand Ducal Palace, Luxembourg

Located in the center of atmospheric Luxembourg City, this impressive palace is the official residence of the country's grand ducal family and the place where the Grand Duke makes his traditional Christmas address each year. Guided tours of the palace are available during the summer months, allowing visitors to get up close to the Grand Duke’s office, the elegant dining room and other sights.

Lednice Chateau, Czech Republic

Located in the rolling hills of the southern Czech Republic, this beautiful palace is one of the finest examples of English neo-Gothic design anywhere on the continent. The historical home of the House of Lichtenstein (who now rule over the small nation of Lichtenstein), the palace is home to a sprawling garden, regal apartments, grand halls and even a museum dedicated to puppets. 

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

Sure, it's got the word castle in its name, but this fanciful former home of King Ludwig II of Bavaria is purely a palace. Constructed in the late second half of the 1800s in a Romantic style meant to emulate older castles, Neuschwanstein was supposed to be Ludwig's escape from the stresses of life in Munich, but he ended up only living here for less than a year before his death. Visit to take a spin in the eccentric world of this king and admire great views of the Bavarian countryside.

The Royal Palace, Norway

Perched on a prominent spot in the Norweigan capital of Oslo, this stately Royal Palace dates back to the early 1800s and is the official residence and place of work of the King and Queen of Norway. Famed for its neo-Classical facades, the palace is open to visitors during the summertime allowing travelers the opportunity to see sights like the Bird Room (the spot where people seeking an audience with the King wait to be called), the Banqueting Hall and White Parlour room. 

Real Alcazar, Spain

A prime example of the cultural mash-up that is much of the Spanish region of Andalucia, this royal palace in Seville fuses magnificent Mudéjar and Christian architectural features. Xxpect to see patios lined with vibrant tiles and grand archways inside during your visit and lush gardens outside, both providing a serene space in the heart of the city. Real Alcazar is still a royal residence, with the Spanish Royal Family occasionally staying there when business brings them to Seville. 

Buckingham Palace, England

Perhaps the most famous royal residence on the list, this beauty in the heart of London has been the official residence of the UK’s sovereigns for nearly 200 years—including the newly crowned King Charles III. The palace is primarily open to visitors during the summer (2023 features a special Coronation display), but special exclusive tours are available during the autumn and winter. Of course, Buckingham Palace is the setting for the iconic Changing of the Guard ceremony, which has been the highlight of many a visitor’s time in London. 

The Royal Palace, Sweden

Unique among European royal residences, this grandiose Baroque palace in Stockholm is open to the public year-round, providing a fascinating look at the history of Sweden and its cultural heritage. In addition to getting the chance to see royal apartments, the Royal Palace is home to three fascinating museums dedicated to its special history and—like Buckingham Palace—is known for having a wildly popular Changing of the Gaurd ceremony in the spring and summer. 

Palais des Papes, France

The world’s largest Gothic palace, this dramatic structure was the home of the Papacy during the decades of the 14th century that it was based in Avignon. While the palace’s grand halls are fairly sparse today (save some fine frescoes by Matteo Giovannetti), during the tour, so-called 'histo-pads” virtually reveal what the palace would have looked like during its heyday. 

Schonnbrunn Palace, Austria

This Baroque palace in Vienna was the summer residence of the all-powerful Habsburg Dynasty and bore witness to scores of significant historical occurrences. The palace is home to well over 1,400 rooms and visitors are able to visit 40-plus of them on a tour, a collection of spaces that bring the story of this remarkable building to life. Schonbrunn Palace is also renowned for its outdoor spaces, which are fanciful spaces full of fountains, statues, flowers and even a maze made of greenery. 

Royal Palace, Belgium

The King of Belgium's main workplace is a resplendent space full of grand staircases, gilded chambers, opulent staircases and striking works of art. The palace will not open to the public during the summer of 2023 due to renovations, but its grandeur can still be appreciated from the outside during a trip to Brussels. 

Nymphenburg Palace, Germany

Located on the outskirts of Munich's city center, Nymphenburg Palace is a sprawling complex that gained fame as the summer residence of the Bavarian royal family. Visit to walk in their footsteps while viewing striking portraits alongside intricately designed halls & grand rooms. The palace is also home to elegantly landscaped outdoor spaces.

Royal Palace, The Netherlands

Located on Dam Square in the absolute center of Amsterdam, this Dutch Royal Palace is the King’s official reception venue while also playing a huge role during national New Year’s celebrations, state visits and other special ceremonies. Originally constructed as Amsterdam’s town hall, the palace offers a glimpse into both the royal family of The Netherlands and the history of the Dutch Golden Age.

The Palace of Versailles, France

A place of both opulence and huge historical significance, Versailles is one of the world's most visited and loved palaces. Visit to stroll the grounds where French royals lived, played & conducted affairs of state. Along the way, you'll meander through the Hall of Mirrors (where the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I was signed) and countless other remarkable sights in addition to getting a lesson in French history. The palace also features seasonal fountain shows and musical gardens. 

Pena National Palace, Portugal

Dramatically perched atop Monte da Pena near Sintra, Pena Palace is a colorful Romantic castle that was built in the 1800s in a wide range of styles to the tastes of Ferdinand II, the so-called King-Artist. The result is like nothing else you’ve ever seen before, and this former royal residence now welcomes visitors who can discover sights like the King’s Chambers, Dining Room and Pantry and Manueline Cloister.  

Drottningholm Palace, Sweden

A shining example of European architecture of the 1600s, this royal palace near Stockholm is the permanent home residence of the King and Queen of Sweden. The palace is open year-round to guests and is famed for its palace theater, Chinese Pavilion, and gorgeously landscaped gardens among striking architectural effects that reflect multiple European influences. 

Doge's Palace, Italy

One of the most recognizable symbols of Venice, the Doge's Palace (or Palazzo Ducale) is a Gothic masterpiece that was the former home of the leader of Venice, the Doge. Highlights of a visit include the chance to get to see an impressive courtyard, armories, prisons, porticos, gilded fixtures and archways in addition to learning all about the Venetian Republic's rise and fall. 

Prince's Palace, Monaco

This lavish residence a stone's through from the Mediterranean Sea has been the residence of the Grimaldi Family—the rulers of Monaco—since around the year 1300. Visit to take in the glamour of the state apartments, which includes sensational works of art and unique furnishings, before or after watching the unique changing of the guard ceremony put on by the Carabiniers du Prince, the sovereign's security force.  

The Hofburg, Austria

This sprawling complex of opulent buildings, squares and greenspaces in the center of Vienna offers modern visitors a snapshot of what life was like for the Imperial Habsburg Family. Today, the gorgeous facades hold museums, collections of silver, crown jewels and even the famed Spanish Riding School behind their doors, all helping the Hofburg to be one of the highlights of any visit to Vienna. 

Palace of Holyroodhouse, Scotland

Located at the foot of the Royal Mile, this is the official residence of King Charles III when visiting Edinburgh. In addition to getting the chance to appreciate the remarkable structure's architecture, during a visit, you'll be able to view the Palace Gardens, the remnants of Holyrood Abbey and hear countless stories of former Scottish royals and legendary figures like Mary, Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie. 

Luxembourg Palace, France

While organized tours of this 17th century palace-turned-senate building are available on select dates, the adjoining gardens are always available to be visited. An oasis in the heart of Paris full of flowers, ponds and lovely landscaping, Luxembourg Gardens provides the perfect place to sit, rest your feet and take in the quintessentially Parisian atmosphere all around you—all with this remarkable palace as the backdrop.

Europe is synonymous with its vast array of castles and palaces, and visiting one is often a highlight of a trip across the pond. Technically speaking, they’re different entities altogether (historically, a castle is fortified, whereas a palace is simply just a lavish place of residence), and these dramatic structures dot the landscape of Europe. No trip to the continent would be complete without visiting at least one of them in person. For this list, we're focusing exclusively on palaces that are either former residences of royalty (or in one famous case, the Papacy) or are currently still the home base of one of the continent's reigning monarchs. Click on the slideshow to see the best royal palaces in Europe to visit. 

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Scott Hartbeck

Scott Hartbeck

Born in the USA but now based in England, Scott has been writing about travel for over 10 years. He specializes in Europe, rail...

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