GUEST POST OVERVIEW: One of my favorite parts of visiting Europe is exploring the ancient castles, buildings and palaces. Now, my friend Charlie has written this excellent guide to help us all find the best ones during our next European vacations.



Windsor Castle in the United Kingdom

Let’s start with Windsor Castle, which remains the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world. It has been home to Britain’s Kings and Queens for nearly 1,000 years, including the current incumbent Queen Elizabeth and famous tyrants from history such as King Henry VIII.

Stylish, spacious and reflective of the Anglo-Saxon architectural trends, Windsor is a grandiose palace that has actively thrived throughout the considerable test of time.

Windsor is also relatively unique in that it remains a working royal palace, however, and one that is used regularly for ceremonial and state occasions.


Windsor Castle - photo by Jack Pease
Windsor Castle – photo by Jack Pease

The Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia

In terms of aesthetic appeal, the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg stands out from the competition. Home of the Russian Imperial Family until the nation’s revolution on 1917, this green and white structure was built in 1732 and currently houses the world-famous Hermitage Museum.

Certainly the largest palace in Europe, this structure makes for a magnificent site during the winter months.


Winter Palace - photo by Dennis Jarvis
Winter Palace – photo by Dennis Jarvis

The Schloss Schonbrunn in Vienna, Austria

Eastern Europe’s most famous and visited palace, Vienna’s Schloss Schonbrunn structure has multiple claims to fame. It is established as a World Cultural Heritage site, for example, while it is also an extremely popular tourist resort among visitors to Eastern Europe.

Built at the end of the 17th century after Emperor Leopold I commissioned the famous architect Bernhard Fischer von Erlach to build a palatial home for royal subjects, it became the focal point for court life in Austria and welcomed royalty from all over the world.

Interestingly, the building has remained relevant even after Austria became a republic, hosting numerous political summits and debates surrounding legislation. It has also been largely untouched over time and retains much of the architectural elegance it had when it was first built.


Schloss Schonbrunn - photo by Roger W
Schloss Schonbrunn – photo by Roger W

The Alhambra in Grenada, Spain

Another World Heritage Site, the Alhambra palace is located in the Andalucian city of Grenada in Spain. One of Spain’s most significant tourist attractions, it is an emotive and innately stylish palace that has been inspired by a stunning back drop that includes the Albaicin gypsy quarter, the snow-capped peaks of Sierra Nevada and an awe-inspiring sky-line.

It also has a rich cultural heritage, operating as the home of the Nasrid sultans during the 13th and 14th centuries while also boasting a unique meld of Islamic and Christian design influences.

A must-see location, it is arguably the finest and impressive palace anywhere in the world.


The Alhambra - photo by BrotherSoft
The Alhambra – photo by BrotherSoft

The Chambord in the Loire Valley, France

Arguably in a class of its own, the Chambord Palace is located in a region that is dotted with hundreds of stylish and elegantly designed castles. Despite this, the Chambord stands out ahead of all others, effortlessly blending traditional elements from Medieval French architecture and with those borrowed from the Italian Renaissance.

This diverse inspiration has helped to create a wonderful palace, and one which has unknown origins that are rooted in mystery and intrigue.


The Chambord - photo by Cristian Bortes
The Chambord – photo by Cristian Bortes

Where is your favorite place in Europe?