large and stately residence with large number of domestic workers in employment
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Travel topics > Cultural attractions > Architecture > Grand houses

Grand houses are buildings created to house either the nobility and royalty, or in later eras, those that had made their fortune by various means. Whilst some grand houses are or were palaces, other châteaux, stately homes, manor houses, Schloss and Residenz can be considered as grand houses. Some are or have been owned by monarchies.

UnderstandEdit

A palace is a grand residence, usually for a head of state. The word comes from the French word palais, which implies that the building is in a city.

A castle is a fortification from the Middle Ages (9th to 15th century) used as a royal or noble residence, especially in Europe and Japan.

Château (plural châteaux) is the French word for a countryside manor or palace; the master residence of a countryside estate. Schloss (traditional spelling Schloß) is the corresponding German word. If these buildings are from the 15th century or earlier, they are likely to be fortified.

A manor is in English law an estate with a manorial court; jurisdiction over an estate.

Today, many palaces and grand houses are used as museums, hospitality venues, diplomatic missions or government premises.

 
Map of Grand houses

AsiaEdit

ChinaEdit

  • 1 Chengde Mountain Resort (承德避暑山庄), Chengde. The summer residence of the early Qing Dynasty emperors.    
  • 2 Forbidden City (故宫 Gùgōng), Beijing. Built on the orders of Emperor Yongle, the third emperor of the Ming Dynasty, and the official residence of China's emperors during the most recent Ming and Qing Dynasties.    
  • 3 Mukden Palace (沈阳故宫 Shěnyáng Gùgōng, Shenyang Imperial Palace), Shenyang. Former Imperial Palace - built in 1625 for Nurhaci, and inherited by his son Hong Taiji, the Former Imperial Palace of Shenyang is one of two royal complexes extent in China today. The splendid and distinctly ethnic Manchu architectural style of the palace, which includes Dazheng (Grand Politics) Hall, the Ten Princes' Pavilion, Chongzhen (Golden Chimes), Phoenix Chamber and Qingning (Pure Tranquility) Pavilion, are still in perfect shape. On Saturday afternoons during the summer, the palace is the venue for a grand Imperial procession. This is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site alongside the palace in Beijing. This fascinating palace contains finer details compared to the one in Beijing, such as the exquisitely handcrafted detailed carving and painting, which are still clear after four centuries. The throne room in Chongzheng Hall has incredibly detailed scrollwork -even the columns circled by the watchful dragons and on the throne. The palace also shows a significant influence from the nomadic heritage of its builders in the cold Manchuria.    
  • 4 Summer Palace (颐和园 Yíhéyuán), Beijing. It was built as an imperial garden and was heavily damaged by the French and the British at the end of the Second Opium War. It was repaired and expanded on the orders of Empress Dowager Cixi between 1884 and 1895, who diverted funds intended for modernising the Chinese navy in order to do so.    
  • 5 Potala Palace (Podrang Potala), Lhasa. A stronghold probably existed on Red Hill as early as the 7th century CE when King Songtsen Gampo built a fortress on it for his two foreign wives. The palace was rebuilt by the Fifth Dalai Lama in three years, while the Thirteenth Dalai Lama extended and repaired it into what it is now. It became winter palace in 1755 when the Seventh Dalai Lama made the Norbulinka into a summer residence. With over 1,000 rooms, the Potala contained the living quarters of the Dalai Lamas while they lived, and their sumptuous golden tombs when they died. As the religious and political centre of old Tibet and the winter residence of Dalai Lamas, the palace witnessed the life of the Dalai Lamas and the important political and religious activities in the past centuries. Potala Palace also houses great amounts of rare cultural relics including the gold hand-written Buddhist scriptures, valuable gifts from the Chinese emperors and a lot of priceless antiques.    
  • 6 Kong Family Mansion (孔府 Kǒngfǔ), Qufu. Home to the mainline descendants of Confucius in imperial times.    
  • 7 Meng Family Mansion (孟府 Mèngfǔ), Zoucheng. Home to the mainline descendants of Mencius in imperial times.  
  • 8 Qiao Family Compound (乔家大院), Qi County (near Pingyao). This extensive compound was constructed in 1756 by Qiao Guifa, who made his fortune selling tea and bean curd in Inner Mongolia. He returned to his hometown in Qi County and built his dream house, which was then expanded by later generations of Qiao's. This magnificent complex is laid out in the shape of the Chinese xi character, meaning "double happiness." After entering through the main gate, you finds yourself on a long path leading to the main hall, which is the family's ancestral hall. This path divides the compound into southern and northern sections. Both halves have three courtyards each, and these six courtyards in turn include 20 smaller courtyards, 313 rooms, and a number of gardens spread out over a two-acre piece of land. The compound impressed visitors not just for its size but also for the exquisitie craftsmanship displayed in the brick carvings, woodwork, murals, and inscribed tablets. The wide variety of different roof styles is particularly interesting to see, and there are over 140 chimneys in the compound, each having its own design. Zhang Yimou's popular film, Raise the Red Lantern, was filmed here.    
  • 9 Wang Family Compound (王家大院), Lingshi County (near Pingyao). With 54 courtyards and over 1000 rooms, this massive compound is one of the largest of the residential complexes built by successful Shanxi merchants. It is, for instance, four times the size of the Qiao Family Compound. The Wang family started in farming and expanded into trading, then became officials. As the family grew in size and as they prospered, more and more courtyards were added to this residential complex, which was first constructed in the mid-1600s. Just as important as the scale of the complex is the distinctive architectural style and artistic finishing. As one moves from courtyard to courtyard, one can see an impressive collection of decorative lattice screens and windows, shaped openings between rooms and courtyards, and graceful roofs. The houses and courtyards feature carvings everywhere--in stone, brick, and wood--from the eaves of the houses and ridges of the roofs to window frames, timber joints, and doorways. Paintings, calligraphy, and Qing Dynasty furniture also decorate the houses.    

IndonesiaEdit

  • 10 Kraton Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat, Yogyakarta. The palace complex was built in 1755–1756 for Hamengkubuwono I, the first Sultan of Yogyakarta. The main court showcases the grandeur of the Sultan's monarchy, while the residence is more homely, showcasing the royal family's luxurious lifestyle. There are regular free performances of music and dance.    

JapanEdit

  • 11 Kyoto Imperial Palace (京都御所 Kyōto-gosho), Central Kyoto. The palace is a reconstruction (dating from 1855), though the Emperor doesn't spend much time there, and the guided tour doesn't enter the palace buildings, only peeking at them from the outside, but nevertheless, it provides interesting insight into the lives of the Imperial Court and it's the only Imperial site in Kyoto that offers English guides.    

South KoreaEdit

  • 12 Gyeongbokgung (경복궁 (景福宮)), Seoul. Official residence of Korea's kings during the Joseon Dynasty.    

EuropeEdit

AustriaEdit

  • 13 Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna. Inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, this Habsburg summer palace is comparable in grandeur to Versailles. The particular sociolect of the ruling Habsburgs was nicknamed "Schönbrunner Deutsch" after this palace.    

FinlandEdit

Finland was made a republic on independence, and the Finnish nobility in Swedish and Russian times was rather poor, so the mansions are not as spectacular as in Central Europe or even Sweden. A few mansions are museums, while many are mostly available in connection with events.

  • 14 Kultaranta (Gullranda) (Naantali, south-west Finland). Presidential summer residence. There are guided tours to the garden.    
  • 15 Louhisaari (Villnäs slott) (Askainen, south-west Finland). Mansion from 1655 of the mighty Fleming family. Birthplace of Gustaf Mannerheim. Now a museum.    
  • 16 Tamminiemi (Ekudden) (Western Helsinki). Urho Kekkonen got to stay in the presidential residence when he resigned and it was subsequently made a museum. The new residence, Mäntyniemi (Talludden) and the presidential palace (Presidentinlinna, presidentens slott) are harder to pay real visits, but can be seen from the street.    
  • 17 Turku castle (Turun linna, Åbo slott) (Turku, south-west Finland). John III of Sweden lived here before becoming king and he built a new storey for his household. The castle houses the historic museum of Turku.    

FranceEdit

France has for most of its long history been a feudal monarchy (see Kingdom of France) with a wealthy noble class known for their great châteaux.

GermanyEdit

A Schloss (pre-1998 spelling in Germany and Austria Schloß) is usually a representative building that serves either as the main residence of a minor blue blood or a secondary residence of a higher ranking blue blood whereas a Residenz is the main residence and usually in the capital. Germany was not unified until 1871; and until then had been a collection of small German-speaking states that were frequently at war with one another.

  • 21 Nymphenburg palace, Munich. Originally one of the smaller residential palaces, now it is the biggest Baroque palace in Germany.    
  • 22 Neuschwanstein Castle (Schloss Neuschwanstein), Hohenschwangau. Built on the orders of King Ludwig II of Bavaria to resemble a medieval castle. It's not actually a castle because it does not have functional fortifications.    

ItalyEdit

Italy was not unified until 1871; from the fall of the Roman Empire until then, the Italian peninsula was made up of collection of small city-states that were often at war with one another.

  • 23 Royal Palace of Caserta. A former royal residence constructed for the Bourbon kings of Naples. It was the largest palace and one of the largest buildings erected in Europe during the 18th century.    
  • 24 Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale), Venice. Residence of the Doge, the leader of the former Republic of Venice.    
  • 25 Palazzo Pitti, Florence. Residence of the famed Medici banking family, who were the de facto leaders of the Republic of Florence.    

RussiaEdit

  • 26 Winter Palace, Saint Petersburg. The former main residence of the Russian tsars, nowadays hosts one of the world's great museums.    
  • 27 Catherine Palace, Saint Petersburg. A Rococo-style palace that was the main summer residence of the Russian tsars, named after Catherine the Great. Particularly known for its grand ballroom.    
  • 28 Peterhof Palace, Saint Petersburg. Baroque-style palace commissioned by Peter the Great, known for a beautiful series of fountains known as the Grand Cascade just outside the main palace building.    
  • 29 Khan's Palace, Bakhchysarai, Crimea. From the 15th century, this was the seat of the Crimean Khanate, the longest surviving successor state of the Mongol Empire, although it later became an Ottoman protectorate. The palace lost its administrative status after Crimea was annexed by Russia in 1783. It is a large complex (the very name of the town that has grown to surround it means "the palace gardens") with much Ottoman aesthetic influence.    

SpainEdit

  • 30 Palacio Real, Madrid. Official residence of the King of Spain. The King does not live here, however, and it is primarily used for state ceremonies. Open to the public when not in use for official functions.    

SwedenEdit

See also: Nordic monarchies

In Sweden, the word slott (from German Schloss) is used for a sometimes fortified residence for a king or a local ruler. Palats is used for palace-styled townhouses. Neither word has a fixed definition. Castles and fortresses primarily for defence are called borg (medieval) or fästning (later).

Most castles and fortifications in Sweden were made for the Swedish Empire of the 16th to 18th centuries.

Stockholm quay palace tour includes palaces of royals, nobles and merchants from several centuries.

TurkeyEdit

  • 31 Topkapı Palace, Sultanahmet, Istanbul. The quintessential Ottoman palace was built over centuries starting from the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, and includes many mansions tastefully decorated with delicate tiles. It is on the Seraglio Point, ancient Byzantium's Acropolis, a literal junction of the world where the waters of the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus, and the Golden Horn meet and divide Europe from Asia.    
  • 32 Dolmabahçe Palace, Dolmabahçe, Istanbul. The Ottoman dynasty moved here in the latter half of the 19th century, when the westernization efforts reached a climax and the Topkapı Palace was found to be too manifestly oriental. As such, the building heavily incorporates the elements of Baroque, Rococo, and Neoclassical styles, much in fashion in Europe of the era.    
  • 33 Beylerbeyi Palace, Beylerbeyi, Istanbul. The Ottoman summer residence from 1861 is on an impeccable setting on the Asian bank of the Bosphorus, and is a relatively scaled-down version of the slightly earlier Dolmabahçe.    
  • Other Ottoman palaces in Istanbul include the İbrahim Pasha Palace on Sultanahmet Square (now housing the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, this belonged to a 16th century grand vizier of Greek descent who married to the sister of Suleiman the Magnificient, and was the only individual outside the dynasty in the entire Ottoman period who had his Istanbul residence called a "palace"), the Aynalıkavak Pavilion on the Golden Horn (the 17th century), the Linden Palace (the 19th century) and the Yıldız Palace (the 19th and 20th centuries) near Beşiktaş, and the Küçüksu Palace up the Bosphorus on the Asian Side (the 19th century). Most of the latter were country retreats with varying levels of European architectural influence. Elsewhere in the country, the 15th century Old Palace in Edirne (the imperial seat before the throne was moved to Istanbul, but most of which was blown up to avoid capture by the invading Russian army in 1878) and the 19th century Imperial Lodge in İzmit (which was a hunting manor in what should have been wilderness when it was built) are perhaps worth visiting if you happen to be nearby.
  • 34 Palace of the Porphyrogenitus (Tekfur Sarayı), Ayvansaray, Istanbul (northwest of the walled city). An annex to the much greater Palace of Blachernae, this is the best preserved Byzantine palace in the city. Dating back to the late 13th century and with walls of typical masonry of alternating marble and red brick rows, it is also one of the few surviving examples of late Byzantine secular architecture in the world. After being used for various purposes for centuries and staying derelict for most of the 20th century, it underwent an extensive restoration in the 2010s and now serves as a museum.    
  • Other Byzantine palaces in Istanbul are the Great Palace of Constantinople, an archaeological dig site with no interest to the passing visitor, and the Boukoleon Palace, an intact sidewall, partially obscured by ivies, of which stands along an abandoned rail line, in a rough area. Both are south of Sultanahmet Square.
  • 35 Ishak Pasha Palace (İshak Paşa Sarayı), Doğubayazıt. A fortified complex commenced in 1685 by its eponymous pasha, who belonged to a family which had its members hereditarily appointed as governors to the Ottoman eastern frontier. It is perhaps the only Turkish palace outside the political centres of the Ottomans and the preceding Seljuks.    

United KingdomEdit

See also: Monarchy of the United Kingdom

The first "grand houses" in the United Kingdom were predominantly residences for the monarchy, nobility, and sometimes prominent religious officials. Alongside the grand houses of these, are those that were built by those that had acquired their wealth either by favour, or by doing exceptionally well in trade or various industries (which developed from the 17th century onward). As well as being residences, the grand houses of some were also intended as a showcase for the artworks which the owners had "collected", or designs they had commissioned.

The peak for grand houses came in the early 20th century, after which many grand houses went into decline, before some were actively preserved.

  • 36 Chatsworth House (A few miles from Bakewell). Massive and spectacular late-17th-century stately home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire (inspiration for Pemberley, apparently), open to public, pay for parking but with free access to surrounding area (flat riverside ambles, wooded hillside trails, famous fountain. Restaurants, at old stables, cafe at car park in grounds.    
  • 38 Cragside, Northumberland. A later 19th-century Grand house constructed by the 1st Baron Armstrong, it was one of the first houses in England to be lit by hydro-electric power.    
  • 39 Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire. Although widely known as a birthplace of Winston Churchill, this extensive house and estate has been the ancestral seat of the Dukes of Malborough since the 16th century.    
  • 40 Osborne House, Cowes, Isle of Wight. Although officially a summer home for Queen Victoria, she used it as her main residence for some time after the death of Prince Albert, her husband. Now owned and operated by English Heritage, most of the well-preserved house and grounds are open to visitors year-round.    
  • 41 Hampton Court Palace, Richmond upon Thames, London, +44 8444 827777. Historic home to English kings such as Henry VIII, now open to the public. There are many attractions which can occupy a whole day visit, including 60 acres of gardens with the famous maze, the Tudor kitchens, the Chapel Royal, the Great Hall, Mantegna's Triumphs of Caesar paintings, and various exhibitions about Henry VIII.    
  • 42 Dumfries House, Cumnock, near Ayr (Scotland). 18th-century Palladian mansion with extensive collection of Chippendale furniture, and grounds. Nearby Culzean Castle, a magnificent 18th-century mansion designed by Robert Adam is also worth seeing.    

Middle EastEdit

North AmericaEdit

MexicoEdit

  • 43 Chapultepec Castle, Bosque de Chapultepec, Mexico City (Use the Metro subway to station Auditorio or Chapultepec). This was the royal residence of Emperor Maximilian and Empress Carlota from 1864-1867. The Mexican people weren't particularly fond of the idea of being ruled by European royalty and the short-lived empire was overthrown. Later, the castle served as a military academy, as a presidential residence, and now as home for the Mexican History Museum. The castle is beautifully maintained and offers commanding views of the entire city from its position atop Chapultepec (Grasshopper Hill).  
  • 44 Palace of Iturbide (Iturbide Palace), Av. Francisco Madero 17, Centro Historico, Mexico City. Royal residence from 1779 to 1785, home of Emperor Agustin I (previously Agustin de Iturbide, Count of San Mateo Valparaiso).  
  • 45 Palace of Cortes (Palacio de Cortes), Francisco Leyva 100, Centro, Cuernavaca. Built during the Spanish conquest between 1523-1526, this imposing looking structure appears to be more fortress than home, though this was the official residence of Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortes. Cortes and his wife, Doña Juana Zúñiga, lived in the home until Cortes' death in 1547. The Cortes family continued to occupy the palace until the mid-18th century. Emperor Maximilian enjoyed spending summers at the castle, which has since been used for various purposes, including a prison. Today, it houses the Museo Regional Cuauhnahuac and is a popular tourist attraction for the history of the building, the regional museum, and for an expansive Diego Rivera mural depicting the history of Morelos.  

United StatesEdit

See also: Presidents of the United States

In the United States, there is no nobility, but there has been a kind of quasi-nobility that has encompassed old landowning families like the Roosevelts, the robber barons of yesteryear and today, the uber-rich bankers and corporate CEOs, and the movie moguls and stars. Many of these people had mansions built in the New York area, including the Hudson Valley and Long Island, in the Los Angeles area, including Beverly Hills, and in Florida. There was also another type of grand house: The houses of large slaveholders in the antebellum (pre-Civil War) South. In both North and South, many of the grand houses are part of larger estates that can in many instances be visited.

  • 46 Hearst Castle, San Simeon, California. This palatial estate built by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst is one of the most visited attractions in California. See the amazing European architecture including the Spanish cathedral-like facade, the Neptune Pool, and the Roman Baths. Think of it as a museum where many of the centuries-old pieces are built into the structure of the building. It is located at the top of a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean.    
  • 47 Montgomery Place, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. 380-acre historic site overlooking the Hudson, including a grand mansion that was the property of the Livingstone family, whose ancestors migrated to New York from Scotland when it was a British colony in the 17th century and two of whom were among the signers of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The grounds are lovely, with great views of the Hudson, and are home to lots of wildlife. The property also includes signposted trails, the best of which is the Sawkill Trail, which you can follow to see a view of a beautiful little waterfall which was depicted in art starting in the 1820s.    
  • 48 Olana, Hudson, New York. The mountain-top villa of Frederic Church, one of the most prominent Hudson River painters and one of the United States' most significant artists. From the hilltop home there are sweeping views of the Catskills, the Hudson River, and the Taconic Hills. Grounds are open year round for walking, hiking, cross-country skiing, and other activities.    
  • 49 Sagamore Hill, Oyster Bay, New York. The summer home of President Theodore Roosevelt, a scion of a family of wealthy Dutch landowners who settled in Nieuw Amsterdam in the mid-17th century. Includes tours, a museum, and a visitor center. It is run by the National Park Service. From the website: Access to the Theodore Roosevelt Home is only by guided tour.    
  • 50 Mount Vernon. The home of George Washington, the first president of the United States.    
  • 51 Monticello. The home of Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers and the third president of the United States, and the founder of the University of Virginia.  
  • 52 Winchester Mystery House.    
  • 53 Graceland, Memphis. The home of the late legendary rock star Elvis Presley.    
  • 54 `Iolani Palace, Honolulu/Downtown, Hawaii. Iolani Palace dates back to 1882 and was the official residence of the Hawaiian Kingdom's last two monarchs. As a result of careful restoration and continued preservation, today's visitors to this National Historic Landmark in downtown Honolulu can experience one of the most precise historic restorations and learn much about Hawaiian history and heritage. Next to the palace is `Iolani Barracks, a small fortress-like building.    

OceaniaEdit

New ZealandEdit

  • 55 Larnach Castle, Otago Peninsula, near Dunedin. Billed as "the only castle" in New Zealand, it's very pretty but it's actually a manor house. Lanarch Castle has a rich and interesting but rather unhappy history. It was built by wealthy businessman William Larnach, who became a cabinet minister in the New Zealand Government, holding various portfolios, over a period of 25 years. He took his own life in the New Zealand Parliament Buildings in 1898. After the home was sold by the family it became first a lunatic asylum, then a hospital for shell-shocked soldiers and a nuns' retreat. In 1967 it was purchased by new owners and restored.    

See alsoEdit

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