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Avoid the Crowds: Explore the Royal Side of Europe with These UNESCO Sites

The Palace of Versailles was the principal residence of the French kings from the time of Louis XIV to Louis XVI.

Around Europe, many of the most beautiful sites have a royal connection. There are a range of castles, palaces, and gardens to visit – so many, in fact, that there is no need to visit the same few that everyone else does. Exploring royal parklands and gardens can be a wonderful way to gain a deeper understanding of royal opulence and wealth, as well as offering a window onto how people have tamed and utilized nature to make beautiful gardens and parklands over the centuries. To help you enjoy a sustainable, crowd-free experience, you may wish to enjoy one of these lesser known, royal UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The Royal Domain of Drottingholm, Sweden

Drottningholm Castle, UNESCO World Heritage Site
Drottningholm castle in Sweden at summer. Photo credit: mikdam/Bigstock

Drottingholm Palace is a well-preserved royal residence and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the private residence of the current Swedish Royal Family and was originally built in the late 16th Century. As well as the historic residence, here you will also find a Chinese Pavilion and gardens.

The Par Force Hunting Landscape of North Zealand, Denmark

The par force hunting landscape in North Zealand
Fallow Deer, in Dyrehave, Denmark. Photo credit: Lillian Tveit/Bigstock

Store Dyrehave (Large Deer Park) is one of the key areas of this hunting landscape. It was established as a hunting forest by King Christian IV and in 1628, a stone dyke was put up around it to keep in the roe deer. The forest was used for hunting and horse breeding. The star-shaped road system was used for the par force hunting of that time and was set out for Christian V, who had been inspired by a visit to the French King, Louis XIV. Today, visitors can enjoy walking on trails that lead through the forest and it is a popular place for outdoor recreation.

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The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, England

Palm House, An Iconic Victorian Glasshouse
The Palm House, an iconic Victorian glasshouse that recreates a rainforest climate for the exhibition of living unique collection of tropical plants from the tropical regions of the world, located at Kew Gardens, England. Photo credit: jiggotravel/Bigstock

Those who love plants and have an interest in botany will fall in love with Kew Gardens. These beautiful gardens are a haven for the largest collection of living plants to be found anywhere in the world! The gardens date from 1840 and are highly regarded by botanists, other scientists and plant lovers from all over the globe. They have been instrumental in the plant sciences and continue to be crucial for those studying plants today.

The Palace & Park of Versailles, France

The Palace of Versailles was the principal residence of the French kings from the time of Louis XIV to Louis XVI.
The Palace of Versailles was the principal residence of the French kings from the time of Louis XIV to Louis XVI.

The Palace & Park of Versailles are undoubtedly one of France’s premier royal attractions. The palace is a grand and elegant structure, that was the royal residence of the country from 1682 until the start of the French Revolution in 1789. Though this is far from a hidden attraction – in 2017, this place received more visitors than the Eiffel Tower – there are plenty of hidden corners to explore in the grand interiors and expansive gardens and parklands.

The Palaces & Parks of Potsdam and Berlin, Germany

The Orangery Palace In The Sanssouci Park in Potsdam, Germany is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Orangery Palace in the Sanssouci Park in Potsdam, Germany. Photo credit: Leonid Andronov/Bigstock

Potsdam boasts 150 buildings and more than 500 hectares of parks that were constructed or created between 1730 and 1916. The complex was a crowning achievement for the Prussian royalty and influenced more masterpieces all over Europe. Exploring the former royal capital and its outstanding gardens is a wonderful way to familiarize yourself with the top architects and landscape designers of the period. Begin at the Sanssouci Palace and then walk west through to the Orangery Palace and the enormous lawn in front of the amazing New Palace.

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The Castle & Gardens at Kroměříž, Czech Republic

The gardens and castle of Kroměříž are an exceptionally complete and well-preserved example of a European Baroque princely residence and its gardens.
Flower garden of Castle in Kromeriz, Czech Republic, baroque park in the geometric style of French gardens. Photo credit: miropink/Bigstock

There was first a residence on this site at the end of the 15th Century, but it was not until the 17th Century that the place was transformed into the Baroque palace with magnificent flower gardens that can be seen here today. When created, this spectacular example of landscape art became a model that influenced gardens all over the globe. Today, it is still considered to be one of the world’s finest, and best preserved, Baroque gardens.

Caserta Royal Palace & Park, Italy

Royal Palace Of Caserta a UNESCO World Heritage Site
The entrance of Royal Palace of Caserta. Built by the architect Vanvitelli, the historic owners were the Bourbon of Naples. Photo credit: Roberto Nencini/Bigstock

Caserta Royal Palace and its park was designed by Luigi Vanvitelli, one of the greatest Italian architects of the 18th Century. He combined the influences of Versailles with other influences from Rome and Tuscany to create this triumph of Italian Baroque, which is considered by many to have been ahead of its time. Here you can explore palatial buildings, extravagant gardens and natural forests that blend together into one amazing complex that inspires awe.

The Aranjuez Cultural Landscape, Spain

View at the Royal Palace of Aranjuez. The Royal Palace of Aranjuez is a residence of the King of Spain located in the town of Aranjuez.
View at the Royal Palace of Aranjuez. The Royal Palace of Aranjuez is a residence of the King of Spain located in the town of Aranjuez. Photo credit: milosk50/Bigstock

Within the enormous gardens of the Aranjuez Palace, the Spanish crown formed the continent’s most important collection of cultivated trees. This became a royal site in the late 15th Century and during the 17th and 18th Centuries, this place became a pleasure ground for the Royal Court. Today, visitors can walk in those royal footsteps and discover the riverside paradise with its thousands of exotic trees. The Tajo River cuts through the site, and water features elsewhere, too, in the form of fountains and waterfalls. Gardens of different styles can be found here, and from May to September, you can make a visit here even more special by taking the steam train here from Madrid.

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The Cultural Landscape of Sintra, Portugal

In the 19th century Sintra became the first center of European Romantic architecture.
In the 19th century Sintra became the first center of European Romantic architecture. Photo credit: danmorgan12/Bigstock

Epitomizing romance and the Romantic Movement, Sintra’s cultural landscape is a fairy-tale world of secret paths, glistening ponds, breathtaking vistas and secret caves, dotted with exotic and local architectural gems. Winding your way up through these hills, on a journey through nature, you can make your way to the National Palace of Pena, the epitome of the Romantic Movement, or to the National Palace of Sintra, which was the summer destination of choice for the nobility since the 15th Century.  

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