The world’s most-visited palaces and castles

From Paris to Beijing, these historic castles and palaces draw millions of visitors for a glimpse of the lifestyles of the rich and famous.

The Forbidden City (Palace Museum), China

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The 9,999-key Forbidden City is one of the most important five palaces over the globe along with Versailles in France, Buckingham Palace in the UK, the White House in the US, and the Kremlin in Russia. As home of the 24 emperors during Ming and Qing dynasties, this building was completed after 14 years since Emperor Yongle assigned a Vietnamese person to design and manage its construction. The most features in the Forbidden City are bright red buildings topped with golden pagodas exemplifies traditional Chinese architecture and a huge collection of art, furniture and calligraphy.

The Louvre, France

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The Louvre is one of the world’s largest museums which was transformed from a palace and has opened its door to public since 1793. Covering more than 650,000 square feet of gallery space with thousands of art pieces including masterpieces like La Gioconda (the Mona Lisa) and the Winged Victory of Samothrace, the Louvre has welcomed millions of visitors each year. The Louvre started out as a fortress built for King Philippe II in the late 12th century and has been renovated many times. Today, visitors can view the remaining part of the original fortress in the basement of the museum.

Grand Palace, Thailand

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For nearly 150 years, the Grand Palace has been not only the official residence of Thai kings and his court but also the entire administrative of government seat. Today, even though the Thai kings stopped living there but it is still used as a venue for several royal events and state functions every year.

Royal offices are still used within the Grand Palace, and state visits and royal ceremonies like the Royal Birthday Anniversary of the King Bhumibol Adulyadej had been held there annually. This was also the official residence of Thai kings from 1782 to 1925 and counts numerous buildings, halls, and pavilions set around open lawns and manicured gardens. The palace’s Temple of the Emerald Buddha is considered one of the most sacred sites in Thailand. Its Buddha was carved from a single block of jade, and his garments, made of pure gold, are changed in a royal ceremony three times a year to reflect the Thai seasons.

Palace of Versailles, France

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Formerly Louis XIV ‘s palace in the late 1600s, Versailles used to be a symbol of France before Eiffel Tower’s appearance. Such palace was described as a mirage, a sumptuous and theatrical entertainment that was also a manifestation of glory and power imposed to a great extent by art and luxury. Versailles, indeed, impresses visitors by its huge collection of water fountains, sumptuous architectures and an elegant farm of Marie Antoinette who was Louis XVI’s Queen. After the French Revolution in 1789, this destination became the Royal Opera for the National Assembly and the Senate before renovated to become a museum in the present.

Tower of London, UK

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Located on the north bank of the River Thames, Tower of London is one of the most iconic buildings of this Kingdom. This building was firstly constructed as a fortress which was used to hold a wide range of famous prisoners during the Middles Ages such as Henry VI and Queen Lady Jane Grey. Besides that, the tower stores royal treasures including the 12th century gold Anointing Spoon, three steel coronation swords and lots of armors which were presented in the 300-year “Line of Kings” exhibit. In 2014, 888,246 ceramic red poppies were filled its moat to remember British soldiers who died in World War I.

Shuri Castle, Japan

Rebuilt from the ruins of the 400-year accommodation of the Ryukyu kings, Shuri Castle comprises eight Chinese-style entrances, gardens, a study, and a main hall with red-colored tiles on two layered roofs. It is also one of nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Okinawa. There are reenactments of royal processions and other important moments in history taken place within this castle at some points during the year.

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

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From the first sight, Neuschwanstein Castle looks like a magical castle from a fairy-tale story that people read in their childhood. Inspired by Byzantine churches, the building was designed with a two-storey throne room and a bedroom decorated with murals depicting the legend of Tristan and Isolde and furnished with an ornately carved oak bed covered in blue silk. King Ludwig II, Neuschwanstein Castle’s owner, used to ban everybody visiting his refugee but it was opened to public just after 7 weeks from his death.

Edinburgh Castle, UK

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Perched on a volcanic plug, Edinburgh Castle dominated not only the skyline of Edinburgh but also Scotland’s history for centuries. During time of unrest, such imposing fortress was home of Queen Margaret and Mary, Queen of Scots and a jail to hold prisoners. Additionally, there were hundreds of people who were suspected as witches burnt within this military stronghold. Most of travellers were attractive by its ancient architecture with medieval wooden roof in the Great Hall and the Stone of Destiny.

Catherine Palace, Russia

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The summer palace of Russian tsars is named for Queen Catherine I who ruled Russia in two years after her husband’s death. However, its splendor was truly clear during the reign of Empress Elizabeth when she decided to enlarge it in 1742, at the same time with Versailles. Inspired by the refined art of Ancient World, this constructions was decorated by a blue and white façade with gilded reliefs, including the Amber Room that was completely made of amber panels backed with gold leaf and mirrors.

Windsor Castle, UK

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As the oldest castle worldwide, Windsor Castle has been an official residence of 39 kings and queen from British royal family, including Queen Elizabeth II with her royal treasures. This palace was also renovated with painted ceilings and ornated wood carvings to be a rival of Versailles in France at that time. It also stores some of the finest art from the Royal Collection such as paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens, and Canaletto.