Palaces have long been used to demonstrate national wealth and achievement.
They furthered the political foundations of dynasties, ruling powers and royal families. This has left the world
with a number of these phenomenal sprawling structures that have been used for
every purpose imaginable, such as: churches, military forts, museums,
entertaining foreign diplomats, imprisoning political opponents and innovating societies. You may think of palaces as
being relics from the earliest centuries but they have continued to be built into the 20th century. Most started
as castles, religious buildings or other structures and were transformed by a royal ruler.
Nearly every country in the world has one palace that was used at a time for
a ruling family
or political party. The architecture found inside, in addition to works of art,
are a snapshot of the country’s history.
Palaces showcase the height of wealth, whether a country is poor or wealthy, and
are fascinating examples of how royalty as well as their attendants lived.
15) Topkapi Palace,
The construction of Topkapi Palace in Istanbul began in the mid-15th century by
Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror (1432-1481) and he resided there until his death.
The palace includes a private garden, a chamber for holy relics, a harem and four
separated courts that each set a different mood but they are only open to
certain members of society. The first court contains a Byzantine church from
the sixth century named "Church of the divine peace" and is open to the general
public. The Second Court was used for official business and contains a
park like setting. The Third Court holds a wondrous gate known as "The Gate of
Felicity", which leads to the Audience Chamber of the sultan and is sumptuously
outfitted with pearl embroidered pillows. The
Fourth Court is "The Domain of Pleasure Pavilions" and is occasionally referred
to as the “Tulip Garden.” This section of the palace is connected to other
buildings that hold a pool, stained glass windows and other richly decorated
The harem served as a center of royal
family life where female slaves were purchased and installed in these quarters.
they would be instructed in Turkish culture and other entertaining arts such as
dress, music, literary skills, embroidery as well as dance.
The palace was the primary royal residence for sultans and their attendants.
It served as a central meeting place for official royal business and included
separate chambers for doing so, essentially functioning as a city-state within
its own walls.
Palace, Kiev, Ukraine
The Mariyinsky Palace is a Barouque style palace located in the capital city
of Kiev, Ukraine and was built by Russian architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli
(1700-1771) for Empress Elizaveta Petrovna (1707-1762). Construction began on
the palace in 1744 and it remained as the primary residence of the royal family
until the early 20th century. It has been reconstructed several times due to
fire and other natural disasters, embellished with
further detail each time. After World War II, the severe damage the building suffered
required a dramatic restoration.
The palace is situated into the picturesque surroundings on the riverside of
the Dnieper and has a pale blue exterior with beautiful gardens and pastel shades
on the interior. It houses works of art by major Ukrainian artists and serves as a
functioning museum. Chandeliers dot the
vaulted ceilings and augment the splendor of the architecture.
The palace currently functions as a central meeting point for politicians,
visitors and world leaders.
13) Iolani Palace,
Honolulu, Hawaii, United States
The Iolani Palace was originally constructed in 1879 when Hawaii was still its own
sovereign nation and wanted to mark itself as a modern country by building a
palace. It was completed in the summer of 1882 when the royal family, King Kalakaua and Queen Kapiolani, entertained visitors;
they made it their primary
residence at the end of that same year. It was outfitted with modern
conveniences, including electricity and indoor plumbing, reflecting the original
intent to have the palace function as a symbol of the modernization of Hawaii.
However, there was criticism over the design of the palace with early
newspaper critics describing the design as too ornate and over the top.
After the political overthrow of the Hawaiian government in 1893, the palace
served as the capitol until being made an official state of the United States
many decades later.
The palace is named for io, which is a Hawaiian type of hawk that represents
the celestial and exalted. It’s located in the tropical city of Honolulu with a grand white facade and front lawn dotted with palm trees.
12) Bahia Palace,
Bahia Palace is located in Marrakesh, Morocco and was built in the 1860s but
was embellished for years by Moroccan artists. The interior is
decorated with woodwork, gilding and paint; in Moroccan the name means
“beautiful” or “brilliant.”
The palace was home to Bou Ahmed (1840-1900), the grand vizier at the time
and his family. It was ransacked but it still displays colorful decorations,
such as: mosaics, dramatic rounded doorways and gardens for shade. The
whole structure has low sloping ceilings that give the entire architecture a
sense of sweeping length rather than verticality and its wide courtyard is
outfitted with colorful archways as well as paving stones.
Interior court in Bahia Palace
Oriental style hall inside Bahia Palace
11) Tokyo Imperial
Palace, Tokyo, Japan
The Tokyo Imperial Palace in Japan is right at the center of the city of Tokyo
and situated in a green park dotted with water
as well as stones. Currently, it is the primary residence
of the Imperial Family of Japan
The palace replaced Edo Castle where the shogun, the tradition of military
governors that governed Japan, lived and ruled until 1867. After this system was
overthrown, the Tokyo Imperial Palace was constructed and finished in 1888. It
was destroyed in World War II but replicated in 1968 in an
The style of the palace is a mixture of elements that has two
bridges named the Eyeglass Bridge and the Double Bridge which lead into the
palatial grounds. The palace gardens include Kokoyo Gaien, the outer garden,
Kokyo Higashi Gyoen, the east garden, and Kita-no-maru-koen Park; all of them
contain a stunning array of flowers. Pieces of Edo Castle still remain with
hints of the ancient stone walls and military outlooks that once made up on the
site. The moan, called Chidori-ga-fuchi, is an excellent place to admire the
seasonal cherry blossoms of which Japan is famous.
Inside, an art collection is exhibited and live cultural programming that
features traditional Japanese dance as well as music is performed.
10) La Casa Rosada,
Buenos Aries, Argentina
La Casa Rosada, meaning the Pink House, is a bright pink palace originally
constructed as a military fort in the late 16th century then became a palace in 1898. The palace retains many of its
previous incarnations via walls at various thicknesses and it being supported by
materials, such as: brick, steel as well as wood. The original design included openings for
skylights but only two remain to present day.
Situated on the Plaza de Mayo, the vivid pink building is a popular tourist
spot for its colorful history and its hue. There are two theories for why the
palace is pink: it represented warring political parties that combined the
opposing shades of white and red or the
exterior was painted with cow’s blood that dried lighter in the sun. This
conundrum has never been solved but it remains an eye catching feature in
The dramatic history also makes it an intriguing place; it served as the site
that Eva Perón made her famous addresses as well as the announcement of Leopoldo
Galtieri’s defeat in 1982 after a war with the United Kingdom. Currently, the
president doesn’t reside in the palace but does work in the building.
9) Royal Palace of
Madrid, Madrid, Spain
The Royal Palace of Madrid is a neoclassical structure that was commissioned by Philip
V of Spain (1683-1746) on the site of an old castle and was designed by the
Italian architect Giovanni Battista Sacchetti (1690-1764). The structure
exhibits an elaborate series of staircases and courtyards that include the
Sabatini as well as the Campo del Moro Gardens. The palace and its gardens are
enormous, occupying 32 acres.
Contrary to the name of the palace, it is not the official residence of the
king of Spain. That honor goes to the Zarzuela Palace, which isn't in
The interior of the palace has sumptuous materials, such as: Spanish
marble, mahogany doors, mahogany windows and frescoes. The frescoes were made by
artist like: Corrado
Giaquinto (1703-1765), Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696-1770) and Anton Raphael Mengs (1728-1779). Decoration of the palace has evolved
over time and features a mixture of styles that vary from period to period.
Front view of the Royal Palace of Madrid
Campo Del Moro Gardens
8) Palazzo Medici
Riccardi, Florence, Italy
The Palazzo Medici Riccardi is a mid-15th century structure in the heart of
Florence that served as the residence of the Medici family; they were one of the
most important forces in Italian culture and instrumental in the development of
Florence as a city-state in the 16th as well as 17th centuries.
The Eldest of the Medici family, Cosimo, commissioned
the architect Michelozzo di Bartolomeo Michelozzi (1396–1472) to construct the
palace nearby the San Lorenzo church and it is considered the
first Renaissance building to be built in Florence. Michelozzo completed the
palace in 1460 and Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) later worked on the building for the Medici family;
they were one of his primary as well as early patrons.
comprised of arched windows and a series of doors that lead to a courtyard
along with a Renaissance Garden.
One of its most notable features is a chapel decorated by a 1439 fresco by Benozzo Gozzoli (1421-1497) of the Procession of
The building again changed hands in 1814 when the Riccardi family
sold the palace of the state to the Provicincial authority and it has belonged to them ever since.
It is currently a museum open to the public,
where visitors are allowed to explore the exquisite works of art and dramatic
interior decoration of the palace.
The Schönbrunn Palace was originally built in the late 17th century by
the Emperor of Austria, Leopold I, as a hunting lodge for his heir. The palace
was designed by Bernhard Fischer von Erlach
(1656-1723), a renowned Austrian architect and a master of the Baroque period. The palace became a center of courtly life under the influence of Maria Theresa
(1717-1780), the only female ruler of the Habsburg dynasty, and
was owned by the Habsburg Dynasty until 1918 when it was passed to the Republic
of Austria once the monarchy fell.
The palace illustrates beautiful ornate Baroque gardens with matching buildings, the
original idea behind the buildings was to unite the Habsburg dynasty with nature
and glorify it. The lavish property encompasses a courtyard that connects with
the chapel and theatre. The courtyard was originally a greenhouse used to
cultivate plants, the
Great Palm House and a zoological garden. You can find the Maze and
Labyrinth in the courtyard garden.
The Schönbrunn Palace is one of the most visited attractions in Vienna for
its majestic grounds, architecture and for the compelling story of the House of
Hapsburg that ruled Austria until the early 20th century. It embodies numerous
artistic philosophies and styles via its Baroque architecture and flamboyant
6) Vatican Palace,
Vatican City, Italy
The Vatican, most famously known as the home of the Pope and the center of the
Catholic Church, is also a palace. The sprawling structure has St. Peter’s
Basilica at its center, which is erected over the tomb of Saint Peter and is
the largest religious building in the world.
The Vatican sits on the Tiber River where it is traditionally believed that
Saint Peter, the first pope, was martyred. Constantine later built a shrine in
the church to mark the tomb of Saint Peter but the
church continued to expand over the next few centuries and new plans had to be drawn up.
The ceiling of the Vatican was painted by
Michelangelo and was an initiative undertaken by Julius II, who was one of the arts
biggest patrons during the Renaissance. He led many dramatic projects that
include assembling an armed force to defend his lands and envisioning a
sensational new part of the Vatican that would also house his own tomb. A number of
noteworthy artists and architects were called into the project but the most
notable one was
Michelangelo who painted the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling. He was later appointed as
the final architect in his early 70's and worked on the ceiling for the majority of his life, despite the
fact that he was primarily a sculptor who did not enjoy painting.
The Vatican is host to the immense Vatican Library, which houses some of
the rarest religious and philosophical texts in the world. It gained city-state
status from Italy in the early 20th century and functions as such in the center
5) Louvre Palace,
The Louvre Museum in Paris is known as the home of Leonardo da Vinci’s
“Mona Lisa” and other major works of art. It originally began as a military
fortress that evolved into a chateau and now is the familiar museum everyone
knows of today.
The Louvre began as a fortress on the River Seine under Philippe Auguste (1180-1223) after a
rampart was built around the city of Paris in 1190 to protect it from attacks.
Over the next several centuries it was expanded
depending on what member of the monarchy was in control. The fortress was
converted into a chateau in the mid-14th
century and acquired decorative
elements, including: carved windows, grand staircases, works of art,
sumptuous textiles as well as a garden. It was inhabited by various
members of the monarchy over hundreds of years and then abandoned for
nearly a century in the 17th century when Versailles became the primary royal
The museum today is the largest in the Western world and there is no
architectural plan or style for the structure due to it being built as well as
manipulated over eight centuries.
4) Qasr al-Hosn
Palace, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia
The Qasr al-Hosn Palace is one of the Middle East’s most magnificent palaces,
nestled amidst the huge buildings and bustling metropolis of Abu Dhabi in Saudi
The palace was originally a military tower and then a fort at
the end of the 18th century by Sheikh Shakhboot bin Diyab. Later in the 19th
century, it continued to be used for this purpose to protect maritime trade and
eventually cannons were added to further fortify the palace. It was not expanded
again until 1958 upon the discovery of oil and more resources. After 1958, Qasr al-Hosn
was then used as a central place to settle tribal disagreements.
Today, it serves as the governmental center that is replete with palatial elements
and decorations that extend back centuries.
3) Grand Kremlin
Palace, Moscow, Russia
The Grand Kremlin Palace, which also serves as the primary residence of the
president, goes back hundreds of years and has undergone numerous
transformations as well as additions.
The first structure considered to be the foundation for the Kremlin was a
wooden fort established by Yuri Dolgoruki in 1147, specifically built next to the
convergence of the two rivers that run through Moscow. Moscow continued to grow,
despite setbacks, and its importance dramatically increased when the head of the
Russian Orthodox Church moved to the city in the 14th century.
The Kremlin has been at the center of Russian political events and acted as a
cultural storehouse of Russian art as well as culture, including the Church of
the Nativity of the Virgin. It stands as one of the most iconic images of
Russian architecture that overlooks the Red Square and the Cathedral of Saint
Grand Kremlin Palace
Duke Yuri Dolgoruki
Church of the Nativity of the Virgin
St. Basil Cathedral in Red Square
Palace, London, England
Buckingham Palace, the residence of the Queen today, has served the royal family since 1837
and the site of the property itself traces
origins back to the Middle Ages as part of a manor house.
The palace has over 700 rooms used for dining, entertaining, political
meetings and bedrooms. It’s decorated with works of art from the Royal
Collection but it’s not open to the public. The Queen frequently receives
visitors at the Palace, ranging from political to cultural figures.
Some of the highlights of the palace include: the Grand Staircase made
of marble; the Throne Room where the Queen delivers addresses, court meetings and
wedding photographs; and the Ballroom, one of the longest rooms in London. The
Ballroom was constructed by Queen Victoria in 1853 and opened in 1856 with a
reception to celebrate the end of the Crimean War with Russia.
1) Palace of
Versailles, Versailles, France
The Palace of Versailles is located about an hour outside of Paris in Versailles,
France and has long been held as the ultimate example of
exuberant luxury. Famously associated with the extravagant lifestyle of Marie
Antoinette and her court before the French Revolution, Versailles is a wonder to
behold in the present day with its prawling expanse of wealth outfitted with
hallways and rooms full of gold, mirrored walls as well as chandeliers. The
gardens of topiaries and the palace orangery are famous in addition to its
The chateau began as a hunting lodge for Louis XIII until 1682 when Louis XIV
moved the central French government to Versailles. One of the most important
contributions to the Palace of Versailles prior to the French revolution was the
Grand Trianon, which was a group of buildings surrounded by
a carefully curated and ornate garden.
Palaces can be fun places to visit to see how the monarchs of history have lived
surrounded by splendor and otherworldly lifestyles. These structures also stand
as records of how humanity has progressed in architecture, art, politics and social
It’s something every country in the world has; a huge structure with impressive
amounts of decoration, winding rooms, immense wealth and
affluence. Many palaces are relics transformed from private residences into
museums but occasionally they are still functional sites within capitol cities.
Palaces may have been erected in the name of political gain,
military force or personal wealth but they stand the test of time and remain
symbols of the achievements of different cultures around the world.
References: 15) Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, Turkey
LonelyPlanet.com - (The construction of Topkapi Palace..)
TripAdvisor.com - (he palace was the primary royal residence for sultans
and their attendants. It served as..)
14) Mariyinsky Palace, Kiev, Ukraine
President of the Ukraine’s official website - (built by Russian
architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli (1700-1771) for Empress
Elizaveta Petrovna (1707-1762)
Ukraine.com - (has a pale blue exterior, landscapes gardens, and pastel
shades on the interior)
13) Iolani Palace, Honolulu, Hawaii, United States
IolaniPalace.org - (The Iolani Palace was originally conceived in
StarBulletin.com - (early newspaper critics described the design as too
ornate and over-the-top)
IolaniPalace.org - (The palace is named for io, which is a Hawaiian type
of hawk that represents the celestial and exalted)
12) Bahia Palace, Marrakesh, Morocco
LonelyPlanet.com - (located in Marrakesh in Morocco, was begun in the
1860s and embellished for years by Moroccan artisans and artists)
USNews.com - (The palace was home to Bou Ahmed (1840-1900)
11) Tokyo Imperial Palace, Tokyo, Japan
Japan-Guide.com - (The Tokyo Imperial Palace in Japan is situated in a
green park dotted with water and stone, right at the center of the city
Japan National Tourism Organization - ("all of which contain a stunning
array of flowers")
10) La Casa Rosada, Buenos Aries, Argentina
presidencia.gob.ar [the official website of the Argentinean presidency]
- (La Casa Rosada, meaning the Pink House, is a bright pink palace
Frommers.com - (a popular tourist spot, both for its colorful history as
well as its hue)
9) Royal Palace of Madrid, Madrid, Spain
Spain.info - (was commissioned by Philip V of Spain ..)
MadridTourist.com - (it is not the official residence of the king of
8) Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Florence, Italy
MuseumsInFlorence.com - (considered the first Renaissance building to be
built in Florence)
Palazzo-Medici.it - (..belonged to the Provicincial authority ever
7) Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria
Schoenbrunn.at - (was originally commissioned in the late 17th century
by the Emperor of Austria, Leopold I, as a hunting lodge for his heir)
Unesco.org - (the original idea behind the buildings was to..)
6) Vatican Palace, Vatican City, Italy
Unesco.org - (largest religious building in the world)
MetMuseum.org - (..where it is traditionally believed that Saint Peter,
the first pope, was martyred)
5) Louvre Palace, Paris, France
Louvre.fr - (The Louvre began as a fortress under Phillipe Auguste..)
New York Times - (the museum is the largest museum in the Western world
4) Qasr al-Hosn Palace, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia
abudhabi.ae - (was originally formulated as a military tower..)
3) Grand Kremlin Palace, Moscow, Russia
Moscow.info - (first structure considered to be the foundation for the
Unesco.org - (The Kremlin has been at the center of Russian political
events as well as..)
2) Buckingham Palace, London, England
Royal.gov.uk - (has served as such for the royal family since 1837)
1) Palace of Versailles, Versailles, France
ChateauVersailles.fr - (began as a hunting lodge..)