Although my travel experience isn’t the widest in the world, I have been fortunate enough to see many of the places and things on my bucket list! I’ve decided to start a new travel series with 5 of my top recommendations in different categories- I can’t promise that I won’t update them as I travel more, but I’m excited to share all of my favourite places with everyone! Today is all about castles- the homes of royalty and other important persons.
1. Schloss Charlottenburg
Schloss Charlottenburg, aka, Charlottenburg Palace, is one of the most fascinating places in Berlin to me! Understandably the city is dominated by Second World War and Soviet history, but I was drawn to the palace. (Is it shocking in the least? I think not!) Originally built in the 17th century, and then expanded further in the 18th century, it was made for Sophia Charlotte (the wife of Frederick III). Although it was nearly destroyed in the Second World War, the government has restored it and now it is a museum with beautiful gardens to relax in. The chapel is absolutely gorgeous (you can imagine an eighteenth century German composer rocking out here), the Chinese pottery collection is out of this world, and the gardens are so beautifully maintained that you can’t imagine all of the work that goes into it.
Who Should Visit: Anyone interested in Early Modern or German history, who loves a beautiful garden, or has a thing for blue porcelain!
2. Edinburgh Castle
Although Holyroodhouse is rich with Mary, Queen of Scots history, I would definitely recommend spending your day at Edinburgh Castle. Because Edinburgh Castle isn’t a royal residence anymore, you can walk throughout almost all of it, and move through a lot of Scotland’s history. My personal favourites are the rooms where Mary, Queen of Scots gave birth to James I, the doggie cemetery (it’s how all dogs should be remembered!), and the view down the Royal Mile is pretty spectacular. If you are particularly interested in older buildings, you need to spend a little time in St. Margaret’s Chapel. Built at the end of the thirteenth century, it very well may be one of the oldest buildings in all of Edinburgh! Plus if you time it right, you may be able to catch one of the military tattoos at the Castle.
Who Should Visit: Anyone interested in Mary, Queen of Scots, military history, or Scottish history! (Or anyone who just wants a fantastic view of the city…)
3. Hampton Court Palace
I’ve spoken before about my love of Hampton Court Palace, but it really is a one of a kind place that ties in so many different eras of history into one grand palace. Originally built by Cardinal Wolsey (right hand man to Henry VIII), it was given to Henry who enjoyed it as one of his countless palaces with his countless wives. (Cue: Divorced, beheaded, died…) After the Tudors, it rather fell into disrepair with William and Mary half scrapping the palace to make their own- which means that you now get to tour a medieval palace and a Baroque palace all in the same place. If you are anything like me and spent your formative years reading about the Tudors and their courts, it really is something else to stand in the Great Hall where Anne and Henry would have danced, or see stunning ceiling of the Watching Chamber in honour of Jane Seymour. Plus, you get a lovely train ride on the way there!
Who Should Visit: Anyone who loves English Royal history, watched the Tudors, or loves gardens.
4. Bunratty Castle
I’m going to be sharing more about Bunratty Castle in the next few weeks (the post is in the making), but I was lucky enough to spend a morning there with one of my best friends when she visited me in Ireland. It is a fifteenth century tower house that is in County Clare (close enough to the Shannon River), built by the MacNamara family. If you are at all interested in medieval Irish castles, it is a great example of a surviving tower house, and although it may be a little camp (it hosts medieval themed banquets), it gives you a great idea of what it would be like to actually live in a tower house. Dare I say, maybe not as grand as you imagine?? It’s a whole open-air museum village, so you can also see farms, a church, a school house, and many other buildings that range from the sixteenth century to the present.
Who Should Visit: Anyone who has said “My family is Irish/Kiss me, I’m Irish/any variation”, people interested in medieval castles, and anyone who is up for some goofy fun!
5. Kensington Palace
Ohhhhh, Kensington Palace. Be still my heart. Taking afternoon tea there is still one of the highlights of my adult life- the Orangery is absolutely gorgeous, and while it is an expensive tea, it’s not outrageous. But, I digress- the palace!! Kensington Palace is one of the newer palaces on the game- built for William and Mary by famed English architect Sir Christopher Wren, Kensington was meant to be a country escape. (And then London kept expanding annnnnnd here we are.) You can tour the King’s Apartments and the Queen’s Apartments, which are permanent exhibitions- they are some of the most thought provoking and creative exhibitions I have ever seen. I’ve visited no less than four times now, and I could certainly go again. They also host shorter exhibitions, like Fashion Rules, which focused on the fashion of the modern royals (specifically the Queen, Princess Margaret, and Diana, Princess of Wales). Plus, you may happen to spot Catherine or William, as it is their home base!
Who Should Visit: Anyone who is interested in the modern Royal Family, who is interested in fashion and textiles, who loves parks and gardens, or who wants to see what “country” opulence looks like!
What is your favourite castle?