At least my mom says I am
Living in Europe really magnified my obsession for castles and monarchy history. It is dripping in royal relics, stories, and architecture. Despite all the negatives that came with Kings & Queens, they really knew how to throw a party and design a killer building.
Here’s my not-to-miss castles & palaces I’ve been to and would 10/10 recommend.
I will do my best not ramble on this topic… No promises… Hopefully the photos keep you interested!
Hampton Court – England
Although there are some gruesome stories behind the notorious King Henry the 8th, he was not the only monarch who occupied this property. While wandering through these walls and grounds you will witness the most varied styles of architecture and design. The early King Henry days gave it Gothic designs and vast hunting grounds, but once King William III came along he tried to take down the whole thing…
Thank god he ran out of money because instead he just copied the French design of Versailles by adding a wing and gardens in the Baroque style. Also find more subtle touches of Queen Anne and other monarchs that called this palace home.
After your palace visit go to The Albion, just across the bridge, for a local pub experience. Even better if you are there on a Sunday, because they have THE BEST Sunday Roast… I mean look at this…
Versailles & Grand Trianon – France
If there is one thing I can confirm, it is that the French knew how to build a wicked good castle. I’ve been to this Chateau more times than I can count, and for good reason.
It is a VERY easy trip on the train – Jump on the RER C line to the station ‘Versailles-Rive Gauche’ then talk a 5-10 minute walk through the quaint town of Versailles to the Chateau gates (golden gates might I add…). Boom, you’ve arrived. Bonus: If you have a french visa or are a EU resident under 26 you get in free!
FAVOURITE THINGS TO DO AT VERSAILLES:
Picnic lunch in the gardens
Palace mini displays – See the castles transformations through the years
Wandering the bed chambers and listening to the free audio guide
Grand Trianon gardens
Admiring the extensive roof paintings (seriously, don’t forget to look up)
A more understated and less known part of the grounds is the Grand Trianon. This is where the royal families would escape the strict etiquette and relax with more privacy. Privacy as in with all their maids, cooks, close friends, and servants too…
Big names used this property like Louis XIV (of course, another Louis), Marie Antoinette (although she preferred the Pettit Trianon), the Grand Dauphin, and Napoleon to name a few.
I LOVED the architecture at this mini palace. The marble… The designs… The garden… I can’t deal!
The Louvre – France
There is no denying that this is an outstanding building… Now that it is a museum you mostly have to imagine what it would have looked like all decorated and furnished, BUT there is a lesser known section of the museum that shows exactly this. It is a must see! It only takes about 20 minutes to walk through so you can easily fit it in. You’ll need a break from all that art anyway. When you’re finished inside, make sure you walk through The Jardins des Tuileries.
My other favourite part of the museum is the royal jewels and crowns. Don’t forget to admire the marble, gold and detailed painted ceilings through the whole Palace!
Walk all the way to the Arc de Triumph for maximum sight seeing. You’ll see The Louvre, Jardins des Tuileries, Place de la Concorde, Champs d’Elysee, and the Arc de Triumphe. Bonus if you venture over to the Seine to see monumental bridges and The Tour Eiffel for photos like this!
Placcio Real – Spain
Also known as the Royal Palace of Madrid
Did you know that Spain still has a monarch? King Felipe and Queen Letizia don’t actually live here though since it’s a museum now (dedicated to Spain’s history). I was in awe of this giant Palace from the moment I laid eyes on it. It shares a court yard with a beautiful Cathedral so there is a lot to take in. Out back there are of course impressive gardens to view with grand steps and staircases.
Munich Residenz & Nymphenburg Palace – Germany
While most people head to the nearby infamous Instagram-able Neuschwanstein Castle, I opted to stay in the city and see these two instead. Being the middle of the winter, I was surprised by some beautiful sights of snow and swans. Nymphenburg Palace was used as a summer residence for the Bavarian royals and they had canals and lakes put in out front. It was really easy to get to on the public train and a short walk from the stop. Completely worth it.
The Munich Residenz was very underwhelming on the outside because it was mostly destroyed in the Second World War… BUT this Palace had THE most impressive collection of original furnishings, tapestries, chandeliers, jewels, and decorations that have come from all over Europe. I honestly thought I was in the 1600s… Props to the Bavarian’s for acquiring this insane collection.
Prague Castle – Prague
Prague was one of the most stunning cities I visited. It was aaaaalmost untouched by WWII, aside from one accidental bombing, which was actually intended for Dresden, Germany. The US pilot was told to drop over ‘the city on a canal’. Oops, wrong one.
The castle is at the top of a hill, offering panoramic views of the whole city at the top. It was beautiful to see from both down below, and up close. Although I didn’t have time to tour the interior of the castle, the exterior and walk up was impressive in itself. The location, the architecture, and the cathedral (stained glass to die for…) did not disappoint.
Castell d’Eivissa – Spain
Ibiza is obviously known for it’s party culture, BUT if you go at the end of October you can still catch the amazing weather AND miss all the massive crowds! That is what I am talking about. All the huge parties were over at this time of the year, which meant all the good restaurants, hotels, and tour spots were still open but dead AF. The castle is more of a fortress because it is so old. Climb the cobble stone steps, bridges, and winding ally ways to find yourself at the highest point of the island to see some not too bad views…
Castillo Gibralfaro – Spain
Another hill to climb on really old cobblestone! But I promise the view over Málaga city and the Mediterranean are sooooo worth it. These ruins from the 8th century are really pretty. There are little lookouts every few steps. Don’t miss the little museum in the heart of the Castle that explains the history and use of these ruins.
There is a small museum inside the fortress that explains the history and use. I walked around this Castle for hours. It didn’t hurt that it was sunny and I was having a blast with my camera.
Tower of London – England
The Tower of London has such a long extensive history. Many many royals lived and visited here, and not to mention was a terrifying prison for the worst criminals. That being said… I love this castle! Like a lot. There are tons of cool displays here and of course the Royal Jewel House. But most of all I love how casual people act about it. I once walked by and the off-guard officers were playing a big game of football (I really mean soccer) in the empty moat, using the walls as boards… Like what?!
When you’re finished at The Tower, walk 10 minutes to The Dickens Inn for a pint or two! It’s on the Canary Wharf pier with views of the docked boats. Not to mention the 18th-century pub itself is amazing. Shout out to James for showing me this place!
Buckingham Palace – England
I’m not a huge fan of this palace but it’s worth mentioning since it does actually house current royalty. Queen Elizabeth II still lives here, and you’ll know she’s home when the flag is raised high! The Palace itself is pretty but fairly underwhelming in comparison to the other Castles I’ve seen across the UK and Europe. My favourite part is the gates surrounding the courtyard dedicated to the common wealth countries (yay Canada!). Definitely walk by and even try to time it during the changing of the guards, so you can see the horses. Maybe you will even get lucky and be there during the arrival of a VIP. It’s certainly a show…
Highclere Castle – England
A few hours out of London, this newly famous castle can be visited. The closest town is Newbury, where you can get the train in and out of, but you’ll need to book a tour or rent a car to get out to the castle.
Rent a car from London and do a whole week road trip to the cutest little towns outside the big cities. A few ideas – Winchester, Bath, Salisbury, Portsmouth, Oxford.
If you watched Downton Abbey you know that this property is stunning to say the least. It’s pretty authentic in what you see on TV too, but I liked learning more about the real life residents. At one point, the Lady of the House used it as a hospital to nurse wounded soldiers back to health. I love this.
Don’t miss what’s around the castle too. This estate is 6,000 acres!! Sheep filled hills engulf it, where you can also find arches, gardens, and ruins where they might have enjoyed afternoon tea or an event. It’s a beautiful representation of English countryside, although a rather wealthy one…
You must be sick of castles now, so I’ll stop here! I could go on forever. Hopefully you’ll get a chance to see some of these beautiful places for yourself, they are so worth it.
Got to go now, there’s an update about Meghan Markle! Just kidding. But actually, I hope there is…