Built to project the power and wealth of the rulers within, the palaces are opulent and over the top, but well worth a visit.
The current Imperial Palace is located on the former site of Edo Castle, a large park area surrounded by moats and massive stone walls in the center of Tokyo, a short walk from Tokyo Station. It is the residence of Japan's Imperial Family.
Imperial Palace during cherry blossom season (Shutterstock.com)
The inner grounds of the palace are generally not open to the public, except on January 2 (New Year's Greeting) and December 23 (Emperor's Birthday). Visitors are able to enter the inner palace grounds and see the members of the Imperial Family, who make several public appearances on a balcony. Guided tours of the palace grounds are offered during the rest of the year, although no buildings are entered.
Situated between the Palace Embankment and the Palace Square, the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg the official residence of the Russian monarchs from 1732 to 1917. It was built on a monumental scale to reflect the might and power of Imperial Russia.
Horse and carriage on the way to the Winter Palace (Shutterstock.com)
The levels of extravagance on display are jaw-dropping. Each glittering, gilded, frescoed rooms is an insight into the astonishing wealth of the Romanovs. Make sure you drop by the stunning State Rooms, extensively refurbished after the Second World War, and the attached Hermitage has more than 3 million exhibits, including masterpieces by Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Monet, Renoir, Picasso, Van Gogh and Kandinsky.
High on a hill, overlooking the Bosphoros, Topkapi Palace was the favoured residence for Ottoman sultans for over 400 years. In it’s heyday it housed over 4,000 people and contained mosques, a hospital, bakeries, and a mint.
Audience hall, Topkapi Palace (Shutterstock.com)
Today, the opulent pavilions, jewel-filled Treasury and sprawling Harem gives a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the sultans. The Palace and Museum is open every day except Tuesday. Visitors are required to wear appropriate clothing and photography is prohibited in the exhibition halls.
Buckingham Palace serves as both the office and London residence of Her Majesty The Queen. It is one of the few working royal palaces remaining in the world today. The palace is 108 metres long across the front, 120 metres deep and 24 metres high and has 775 rooms, including 19 State rooms.
Buckingham Palace in spring (Shutterstock.com)
Every summer the Queen throws open the doors of the palace to us commoners. Visitors can wander through the nineteen magnificent State Rooms, many of which provide the setting for ceremonial occasions and official entertaining. All rooms are furnished with some of the greatest treasures from the Royal Collection.
Smack bang in the heart of the Thai capital, on the banks of the murky Chao Phraya River, the Grand Palace in Bangkok has been has been the official residence of the Kings of Siam since 1782. Built in classic Thai style of spires and colourful roof tiles, the complex is also home to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the residence of Thailand’s most sacred Buddhist sculpture.
Grand Palace at sunset (Shutterstock.com)
The best way to get to the Grand Palace is to take a Chao Phraya River Express boat to Chang Pier, where it’s a short walk to the palace’s main entranc.. It is regarded as the most sacred site in Thailand and a strict dress code applies. Clothes are available at the gate if you need to cover up but a deposit is required.
Perched on top of al-Sabika, on the left bank of the river Darro, the Alhambra is a gem of Moorish culture, a place where fountains trickle, leaves rustle, and ancient poems are writ in stone. Taking its name from the Arabic, al-qala’a al-hamra (the Red Castle), the part fort, part palace sits above Granada, a refuge from the concerns of the city below.
The Alhambra (Shutterstock.com)
With over 6,000 visitors tramping through the palace over the hot, summer months, it is best to visit during quieter months, or book the very latest or very earliest slots. That way you will be able to inspect the wealth of intricate detail and your leisure and maybe even grab a few moments of quiet contemplation in the cool, lovely courtyards.
The Palace of Mysore, in Southern India, is the official residence and seat of the Wodeyars — the Maharajas of Mysore, the royal family of Mysore, who ruled the state from 1399 to 1950. The palace houses two durbar halls (ceremonial meeting halls of the royal court) and incorporates a gigantic array of courtyards, gardens, and buildings.
Mysore Palace at night (Shutterstock.com)
There are several palaces in Mysore, but this one is built in the centre of the Old Fort and easily the most impressive. Regarded as the grandest of all India’s royal building, the palace receives over 6 million visitors a year, second only to the Taj Mahal.
Main image: St Petersburg. In winter. (Shutterstock.com)