Castles, palaces and royal houses are a staple on many people’s itineraries when visiting somewhere new.
Not only are they a fantastic way to travel through time, allowing us to experience bygone eras and grandeur on an unprecedented scale, they also allow us to walk in the footsteps of some of the most famous royal families in the world.
Luckily for us, Europe is awash with some of the world’s best examples of royal palaces, so to discover which are the most popular, Celebrity Cruises looked into how many people searched for each palace on Google and combined that with the number of photos posted on Instagram. And now, the results are in.
Our latest Eurovision song may have come in last place, but our royal family and their homes appear to be the most popular in Europe, with four of the top 10 most popular palaces in Europe being in the UK.
Buckingham Palace, UK
Probably one of the most recognisable royal palaces in the word, Buckingham Palace is officially THE most popular palace in Europe, with 5.4 million people wanting to know more about it on Google, and a whopping 1.1 million photos of the palace uploaded to Instagram.
The iconic London-based palace has served as the official London residence of UK sovereigns since 1837 and it has 19 state rooms, 52 royal and guest bedrooms and 188 staff bedrooms. The palace opens its doors to visitors every summer, and a further 50,000 people are also entertained at the palace as guests at state banquets, lunches, dinners, receptions and garden parties.
Windsor Castle, UK
Home to the Queen and offering up more than 900 years of royal history, Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world.
Incredibly it has been home to 39 monarchs since it was originally founded by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, and luckily for us, it’s now open to visitors all year round.
Kensington Palace, UK
Once home to Princess Diana, Kensington Palace is now home to a host of royals, including Kate and Wills and their young family, and Princess Eugine and her husband Jack Brooksbank. The palace was also the birthplace and childhood home of Queen Victoria and has been the home to young royals for over 300 years.
A visit to Kensington Palace is a great way to step back in time and walk in the footsteps of royalty – key highlights include the King’s State Apartments, the Queen’s Apartments and the famous Sunken Garden.
Palace of Versailles, France
The iconic Palace of Versailles played a central role in the infamous history of the French royal family; the French Revolution forced Louise XVI to flee the palace in 1789 for Paris and never again would the decadent palace be home to a French king. In 1837 it became the Museum of the History of France, and today the collections of the Palace of Versailles contain over 60,000 works.
Oozing privilege and excess, The Palace of Versailles is the first UNESCO World Heritage Site on the list. If you’re lucky enough to visit it, there’s an incredible number of lavish rooms to explore, including The Hall Of Mirrors, The Royal Opera House, Marie-Antoinette’s Private Chambers, The King’s Apartments and many more.
Hampton Court Palace
The fourth UK royal palace to feature in the list, Hampton Court Palace is synonymous with one of the most famous British Kings in history – King Henry VIII. Home to the notorious king and his six wives, you can visit Hampton Court Palace to explore Henry’s Great Hall, the infamous Haunted Gallery, the Tudor Kitchens, The Baroque Palace that was built for William III and Mary II and the spectacular gardens.
Schönbrunn Palace, Austria
The second UNESCO World Heritage Site on the list, Schönbrunn Palace is one of Austria’s most important cultural assets, drawing millions of visitors each year. The vast and impressive palace was the main summer residence of the Habsburg rulers who ruled over Austria for nearly 650 years. Maria Theresa, Emperor Franz Joseph, Empress Elisabeth all once resided at the palace.
Schönbrunn Palace is reported to be Austria’s most visited tourist attraction, and with good reason – in addition to the imperial ceremonial rooms and magnificent gardens, Mozart is also said to have made music in the mirrored hall as a six year-old prodigy. Napoleon apparently held conferences in the Vieux Lacque Room. And, in the Blue Chinese Salon, Emperor Charles I signed his renunciation of government (end of the monarchy).
Palacio Real, Spain
The Royal Palace of Madrid is no longer called home by the Spanish royal family, instead it plays host to state ceremonies, official banquets and other state functions. The current palace’s construction started in 1734, and there have been royal buildings on the same site since the 9th century – at more than 135,000 square meters of floor space and 3,418 rooms, Palacio Real is the largest functioning royal palace in Europe.
When exploring the elegant palace, visitors have access to lavish halls, the throne room, residential areas, banqueting rooms, The Royal Armoury and the Royal Pharmacy, as well as the majestic gardens
Buda Castle, Hungary
Buda Castle is the historical castle and palace complex of the Hungarian kings in Budapest, and the third UNESCO World Heritage Site on our list. Today, the castle houses the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum.
Statues surrounding the castle provide a fascinating window to its history. One notable example is the statue of Prince Eugene of Savoy that was created in 1900 to honour him for liberating Budapest from the Turks.
Chateau De Fontainebleau, France
Located 55 kilometres from the centre of Paris, the second French palace in the top 10 list, and another UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the Palace of Fontainebleau. One of the largest royal chateaus, Fontainbleau served as a residence for a host of France monarchs, from Louis VII to Napoleon III.
With 1,500 rooms and 130 acres of parkland and gardens, Fontainebleau is the only royal palace to have been continuously inhabited for seven centuries, and a visit to the magnificent site provides an unparalleled view of French history and architecture.
Home to Denmark’s present-day royal family, and one of the world’s oldest monarchies, Amalienburg is made up of four identical buildings: Christian VII’s Palace, Frederik VIII’s Palace, Christian IX’s Palace and Christian VIII’s Palace.
Originally built as residences for four high-ranking aristocrats, it wasn’t until 1794, when Christiansborg Palace burnt down, that the royal family took up residence at Amalienborg, and ever since then, successive royal family members have lived there.
From June to August visitors can explore the Royal Representation Rooms, the Gala Hall and other state rooms which are still used by the royal family.