They have been home to generations of royals who have carved their names in the history books and in 2019, their power to fascinate continues. A new survey has taken a look at the most popular regal residences in Europe and those belonging to the British royals take four of the top five spots.
Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, Windsor Castle and Hampton Court Palace dominate the head of the list, produced by Celebrity Cruises. It used Google search data to identify the most looked for European palaces and then combined that with the number of photos of each royal residence posted on Instagram. The results are a snapshot of popular interest in royal homes that show British regal residences are top of more to do lists than any other.
Buckingham Palace is about to open its doors for the summer season but for much of the year it’s a snap from the outside kind of destination. That doesn’t stop it being the most looked for royal home of them all. A total of 5.4 million searches for the Queen’s official home were recorded with 1 million Instagram snaps posted over the period of a year, making it easily the most looked for royal palace in Europe. The iconic building has been home to the Royal Family since the 18th century.
Windsor Castle is the second most searched for regal residence. While it’s been the go to place for major events in recent times, with three weddings and a christening in the space of a year taking place there, it’s been home to royalty for almost 1,000 years. Kensington Palace has hit the headlines itself plenty of times in 2019 as the place where Queen Victoria was born two centuries ago this year. It is, of course, now the official residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and an important destination, too, for those tracing the story of Diana, Princess of Wales.
Hampton Court Palace is the fourth British royal residence in the top five. Forever associated with King Henry VIII who entertained several of his six wives there, it became his home when it was given to him in 1528 by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey who had had it built while in favour with the monarch. He parted with it as his star began to wane but even that most generous gift wasn’t enough to stop Henry discarding him. Hampton Court and Kensington Palace are both now looked after by Historic Royal Palaces and, like Windsor Castle, they are open all year round to visitors.
The most popular royal home outside of the UK is Versailles Palace, just outside Paris, which is at number four on the rundown. The famous home of the Kings of France attracts millions of visitors every year who come to catch a glimpse of a regal past now long gone among the opulent interiors and rolling gardens of the famous palace.
Fontainebleau Palace (number 9) also has a very long royal history with the site first chosen as a regal home by Louis VII in the 12th century. It was a centre for the French royal interest in the Renaissance as its ideas took hold in the 15th and 16th centuries and was occupied until the 19th century when the Empress Eugenie added a small museum to the vast riches already there before the fall of her dynasty’s throne brought an end to its regal occupation and royal power in France.
Another regal echo from the past is at number six on the list. Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna was the summer residence of the Hapsburgs when their empire was at its height. With over 1,400 rooms and vast, landscaped gardens including follies all around it, it is a major visitor attraction and packed to its rococo roof with treasures.
Buda Castle in Budapest is at number 8 on the countdown. The residence of the Kings of Hungary was rebuilt in the 18th century and much of what visitors see today comes from that later creation although as they wander the complex that sits above the Hungarian capital, they will also come across medieval and early modern parts and treasures.
Two current royal residences complete the top ten. The Palacio Real in Madrid (number 7 on the list) might not be King Felipe VI’s actual home but it’s still his official residence and, as such, it’s used every week for royal events and audiences. The site on which it stands has been used by royalty since medieval times although the palace of today began life in the reign of Felipe V in the 18th century with his son, Carlos III, becoming the first king to occupy it in the late 1700s.
The top ten is rounded off by the Amalienborg in Copenhagen, home of Queen Margrethe II and her royal family. Comprising four palaces bearing the names of a quartet of monarchs – Christian VII, Christian VIII, Frederik VIII and Christian IX – it became a fully fledged royal residence in 1794 when Denmark’s ruling family found itself homeless following a fire at the Christiansborg Palace. Since then generations of royals have developed the complex in the heart of the country’s capital.
Ten royal residences, all with stories to tell and all popular tourist draws and several in countries visited by the thirteen ships that make up the fleet of Celebrity Cruises.
As summer takes full hold, let us know which are your top royal destinations to visit across Europe, either in the comments section or on our Facebook page.