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.

Understand edit

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

Asia edit

China edit

  • 1 Chengde Mountain Resort (承德避暑山庄), Chengde. The summer residence of the early Qing Dynasty emperors, considered one of China's Four Great Gardens.    
  • 2 Forbidden City (故宫 Gùgōng), Beijing. The official residence of China's emperors during most of the Ming and all of the Qing dynasties. A   UNESCO World Heritage Site.    
  • 3 Mukden Palace (Shenyang Imperial Palace), Shenyang. It was built as the palace of the rulers of Manchuria. When they conquered China and became the Qing Dynasty, they kept this palace as well as the one in Beijing. A   UNESCO World Heritage Site.    
  • 4 Old Summer Palace (圆明园 Yuánmíngyuán), Beijing. It was built as an imperial garden and was destroyed by the French and the British at the end of the Second Opium War. Today the ruins are a tourist attraction.    
  • 5 Summer Palace (颐和园 Yíhéyuán), Beijing. This imperial garden was damaged by the French and the British at the end of the Second Opium War. It was repaired and expanded between 1884 and 1895 on the orders of Empress Dowager Cixi, who diverted funds intended for modernising the Chinese navy in order to do so.    
  • 6 Potala Palace (Podrang Potala), Lhasa. Home to kings from the 7th century CE, later the Dalai Lamas. The palace also houses many cultural relics including gold hand-written Buddhist scriptures, valuable gifts from the Chinese emperors and a lot of priceless antiques. A   UNESCO World Heritage Site.    
  • 7 Kong Family Mansion (孔府 Kǒngfǔ), Qufu. Home to the mainline descendants of Confucius in imperial times.    
  • 8 Meng Family Mansion (孟府 Mèngfǔ), Zoucheng. Home to the mainline descendants of Mencius in imperial times.  
  • 9 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, and expanded by later generations of Qiao's. This magnificent complex is laid out in the shape of the Chinese xi character, meaning "double happiness."    
  • 10 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.    

Indonesia edit

  • 11 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.    

Japan edit

During the Edo period, the samurai were the Japanese equivalent of European knights. Only samurai were allowed to have walled homes with a gate, while commoners were only allowed to live in much simpler dwellings.

  • 12 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.    
  • 13 Katsura Imperial Villa (桂離宮 Katsura Rikyū), Arashiyama. An imperial residence in Kyoto's western suburbs. The gardens can be visited by guided tour, but reservations should be made way in advance.    

South Korea edit

Korea was a monarchy until 1910 with a strict caste system. Only the nobility, known in Korea as the yangban (양반), were permitted to have houses with roof tiles, while commoners were only allowed to live in houses with thatched roofs.

Malaysia edit

  • 16 Istana Seri Menanti, Seri Menanti. Former royal palace of the state of Negeri Sembilan next to the larger Istana Besar that is the current residence of the sultan. It was built in the early 20th century in the traditional Malay architectural style.    
  • 17 Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, George Town. The former residence of the wealthy Hakka Chinese merchant Cheong Fatt Tze (known as Zhang Bishi in China, known for founding the first Western-style winery in Yantai), it is today a boutique hotel. If you are not staying here, you can visit by joining one of two guided tours per day.    
  • 18 Pinang Peranakan Mansion, George Town. The former residence of the Hakka Chinese tycoon and colonial administrator Chung Keng Quee is today a museum.    
  • 19 Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum, Malacca. Once the residence of a wealthy Peranakan (Chinese and Malay mixed raced) family, it is today a museum dedicated to Malacca's Peranakan heritage.    

Europe edit

Austria edit

  • 20 Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna. This Habsburg summer palace is comparable in grandeur to Versailles. The particular sociolect of the ruling Habsburgs was nicknamed "Schönbrunner Deutsch" after this palace. On the   UNESCO World Heritage Site.    
  • 21 Schloss Hellbrunn, Salzburg. Formerly a pleasure palace for the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, known for its gardens with its trick fountains and numerous other water features    

Finland edit

Kultaranta in Naantali

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 accessible in connection with irregular public events. Some house private and business events, or retreats, and might also welcome individual visitors.

  • 22 Kultaranta (Gullranda) (Naantali, south-west Finland). Presidential summer residence. There are guided tours to the garden.    
  • 23 Louhisaari (Villnäs slott) (Askainen, south-west Finland). Mansion from 1655 of the mighty Fleming family. Birthplace of Gustaf Mannerheim. Now a museum.    
  • 24 Söderlångvik (Kimitoön, south-west Finland). May–Sep daily. Country house of and now museum on Amos Andersson (1878–1961), an influential businessman, newspaper founder, member of Parliament and a patron of culture and the arts. The mansion includes his large art collection. Also park, restaurant, cottage accommodation and shop for the produce of the estate.  
  • 25 Tamminiemi (Ekudden) (Western Helsinki). Urho Kekkonen (President of Finland 1956–1982) got to stay in the presidential residence when he resigned and it was 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.    

France edit

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.

Germany edit

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.

  • 29 Schloss Nymphenburg (Munich). Originally one of the smaller residential palaces, now it is the biggest Baroque palace in Germany.    
  • 30 Schloss Neuschwanstein (Füssen, Bavaria). 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. However, it was the direct inspiration for Disney's Cinderella Castle.    

Italy edit

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.

  • 31 Royal Palace of Caserta (Palazzo Reale di 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.    
  • 32 Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale) (Venice). Residence of the Doge, the leader of the former Republic of Venice.    
  • 33 Palazzo Pitti (Florence). Residence of the famed Medici banking family, who were the de facto leaders of the Republic of Florence.    
  • 34 Palazzo Ducale, Mantua. Residence of the famed family Gonzaga, dukes of Mantua.    

Portugal edit

  • 35 Palace of Queluz, Queluz. A former royal palace built in the Rococo architectural style, known for its beautiful gardens.    

Russia edit

The Russian Empire was consolidated in the early modern era. The revolutions of 1917 gave rise to the Soviet Union.

The Russian term dacha (дача) is used to refer to holiday homes in the suburban countryside. For ordinary Russian citizens, this is usually nothing more than a simple wooden cottage, sometimes with a small vegetable garden. However, the dachas of the Russian elites often display over the top opulence.

  • 36 Winter Palace, Saint Petersburg. The former main residence of the Russian tsars, nowadays hosts one of the world's great art museums.    
  • 37 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.    
  • 38 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.    
  • 39 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, until 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.    
  • 40 Stalin's Dacha (дача сталина), Sochi. Built in 1937 as a summer vacation residence for then Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, it is now a museum, with some furnishings still dating back to Stalin's lifetime. It is the only one of many dachas that Stalin had ordered to be built for himself that is open to the public.  

Spain edit

  • 41 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.    

Sweden edit

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.

Turkey edit

  • 42 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, where the waters of the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus, and the Golden Horn meet and divide Europe from Asia.    
  • 43 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.    
  • 44 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.
  • 45 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. 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.
  • 46 Ishak Pasha Palace (İshak Paşa Sarayı), Doğubayazıt. A fortified complex commenced in 1685 by its eponymous pasha. It is perhaps the only Turkish palace outside the political centres of the Ottomans and the preceding Seljuks.    

United Kingdom edit

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. For some the first efforts at tourism and visitor attraction development, were motivated more by pressing economic concerns, than history or preservation!

In older grand houses, you might want to look out for interesting architectural features, such as celing-high carved panelling, long gallerys, and high but elaborately decorated ceilings amongst others. Some grand houses may even have concealed internal passages (more fancifully, to hide those for whom turbulent times were a concern, but more practically as a way for household staff access without causing disruption to residents or guests.)

  • 47 Chatsworth House, Derbyshire (A few miles from Bakewell). Massive and spectacular late-17th-century stately home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, open to public. The surrounding area offers flat riverside ambles, wooded hillside trails, famous fountain.    
  • 48 Hatfield House, Hatfield, Hertfordshire. The house has an extensive collection of pictures, furnishings and historic armour, and parks. Queen Elizabeth 1st spent much of her childhood here and there are many objects in the house associated with her.    
  • 49 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.    
  • 50 Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, 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.    
  • 51 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.    
  • 52 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.    
  • 53 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.    

North America edit

Canada edit

  • 54 Thousand Islands (on the Canada-US border). In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many wealthy folk built luxurious summer homes here. Most of those still stand and many of them have become museums or hotels.    
  • 55 Rideau Hall (Sussex Drive, Ottawa). Official residence of Canada's Governor General, and of the monarch when he or she visits. Tours allowed. Ottawa also has other official residences, including the Prime Minister's across the street at 24 Sussex.    
  • 56 Kingsmere (near Ottawa). The estate of an eccentric Prime Minister, with many statues and even small ruins imported from Europe.    
  • 57 Casa Loma (in Toronto). A European-style castle built in the early 20th century, once Canada's largest private home, now a tourist attraction.    

Mexico edit

  • 58 Chapultepec Castle, Bosque de Chapultepec (Mexico City). This was the royal residence of Emperor Maximilian and Empress Carlota 1864–1867. 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).    
  • 59 Palace of Iturbide (Iturbide Palace), Av. Francisco Madero 17 (Bosque de Chapultepec, Mexico City). Royal residence from 1779 to 1785, home of Emperor Agustin I.    
  • 60 Palace of Cortes (Palacio de Cortés), Francisco Leyva 100 (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 Cortés. The Cortés family continued to occupy the palace until the mid-18th century. 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 States edit

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; corporate CEOs, and mass-content creators (moguls and stars alike). 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.

  • 61 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. It is located at the top of a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean.    
  • 62 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, two of whom were among the signers of the Declaration of Independence. The grounds are lovely, with great views of the Hudson, and are home to lots of wildlife. The property also includes signposted trails.    
  • 63 Olana, Hudson, New York. The mountain-top villa of Frederic Church, 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.    
  • 64 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. Access to the Theodore Roosevelt Home is only by guided tour.    
  • 65 Mount Vernon. The home of George Washington, the first president of the United States.    
  • 66 Monticello, near Charlottesville, Virginia.. The home of Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers and the third president of the United States.  
  • 67 Winchester Mystery House.    
  • 68 Graceland, Memphis. The home of the late legendary rock star Elvis Presley.    
  • 69 `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.    

Oceania edit

Australia edit

  • 70 Martindale Hall, Mintaro in the Clare Valley. Built in the late 19th century for the wealthy pastoralist Edmund Bowman Jr. The coach house built to house the horses also survives. In addition to being open for tours today, it can also be hired as a event venue.    

New Zealand edit

  • 71 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. It was built by wealthy businessman William Larnach, who became a cabinet minister in the New Zealand Government. 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 also edit

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