The world's most beautiful stately homes



Slide 1 of 53: Not all homes are simply bricks and mortar. Some are marble and gold, grand columns and ornate mosaics, and sweeping dining rooms filled with antique furniture. From sprawling estates with vineyards to elaborate palaces and UK properties that put Downton Abbey to shame (plus Highclere Castle, where the series was filmed), we peek inside the world’s most incredible stately homes.
Slide 2 of 53: This California landmark, perched above the state's ruggedly beautiful Central Coast, is the impeccably realized manifestation of one man’s ultimate dream. That man was publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst, who was inspired by the ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe he took with his mother as a boy.
Slide 3 of 53: While the lavish estate was born of Hearst’s imagination, it was the architect Julia Morgan who brought his vision to life. She worked with the newspaper owner from 1919 to 1947, painstakingly creating a majestic property filled with ornate details inspired by European architecture. They include the beautifully tiled Roman Pool indoors – one of two dreamy pools on the estate.
Slide 4 of 53: Each of the 165 rooms – including Hearst’s enormous, book-filled study – is uncompromising in its extravagance. The property sprawls over 127 acres on a hilltop Hearst named La Cuesta Encantada (The Enchanted Hill), which had its own airport and zoo. It’s no wonder Hollywood’s elite, from Charlie Chaplin to Carole Lombard, loved to hang out there.

Slide 5 of 53: Elegant Como House, in Melbourne, is one of Australia’s finest stately homes, built in 1847 and occupied by the Armytage family from 1864 to 1959. Now owned by Australia’s National Trust, the building showcases a blend of Australian Regency and classic Italianate architecture. 
Slide 6 of 53: The interior is filled with evidence of the owners’ luxurious lifestyle, from rare antique furniture to family heirlooms, with areas from chintzy floral lounge rooms to servants’ quarters all impeccably preserved. Discover more incredible places you won't believe are in Australia.
Slide 7 of 53: This Baroque-style masterpiece is St Petersburg’s most famous landmark, and among the world’s most lavishly lovely palaces. The mint, gold and ivory exterior looks like it’s popped straight out of a Wes Anderson movie, or perhaps fallen off a particularly extravagant wedding cake.
Slide 8 of 53: The inside is equally opulent, which is a big ask given the gilded promise of the exterior. The interior has a staggering 1,057 rooms, including the bold red Small Throne Hall (where ‘small’ is used as a relative term), plush with velvet and gold detailing.
Slide 9 of 53: The palace has 1,945 windows and 1,786 doors, and overflows with columns, artworks and statues, such as those that adorn the Jordan Staircase. It was the official residence of Russian Emperors until 1917, and no building in the city is allowed to overshadow it.

Slide 10 of 53: The Biltmore Estate takes over a large chunk of Asheville in North Carolina and is home to the largest privately-owned house in the USA, at 175,000 square feet (16,258sqm). In other words, it’s a pretty grand manor. The mansion was built for the fabulously wealthy Vanderbilt family between 1889 and 1895.
Slide 11 of 53: The estate itself is more like a village, albeit the village of dreams with a winery, manicured gardens bursting with bright blooms, and even an indoor bowling alley. Inside the main château-style house, the 250-odd rooms range from opulent bedrooms and a medieval-style banqueting hall (pictured) to the servants’ quarters and kitchens. Check out the spectacular American castles you never knew existed.
Slide 12 of 53: It’s hard to imagine a grander residence than the elegant Palace of Versailles, also known as the Château de Versailles. Every inch – and there are a lot of inches – is impeccably carved, smoothed and polished. This was France’s principal royal residence from 1682 until the French Revolution in 1789.
Slide 13 of 53: The interior is so dazzlingly beautiful it’s hard to know where to look. Literally so in the Hall of Mirrors, a central gallery that sparkles with chandeliers and is home to around 5,000 pieces of antique furniture and 6,000 priceless paintings.
Slide 14 of 53: The estate was added to by various monarchs over the years, most notably King Louis XIV, who constructed extra wings, grottos and neat-as-a-pin gardens. Other highlights include Marie Antoinette’s rooms, which are models of opulent Rococo-style decor with soft florals, green velvet and an eye-popping amount of gold. These are the world's most beautiful gardens.

Slide 15 of 53: Downton Abbey is set in a fictional Yorkshire country estate of the same name, but of course the Jacobean Revival-style building does exist in real life. Highclere Castle, used for the exterior shots in the TV series and film, is actually close to the town of Newbury, Berkshire.
Slide 16 of 53: Many scenes were also filmed inside, so fans might also recognize the rather grand entryway with its sweeping staircase and intricate internal balconies. The country estate actually belongs to Earl and Countess Carnarvon.
Slide 17 of 53: The castle’s 200-plus rooms are filled with antiques and enchanting details, such as the frescoed ceiling in the Music Room. The incredibly detailed scenes, painted by Francis Hayman in 1740, depict Athena, goddess of many things including war, wisdom and the arts.
Slide 18 of 53: Each evening, 97,000 lights illuminate the exterior of Mysore Palace, the official residence of the Wadiyar dynasty in the Indian State of Karnataka – making it appear even more majestic. The seat of the Kingdom of Mysore was completed in 1912, though it’s believed a fortress may have existed on the site since the 14th century.
Slide 19 of 53: The building – constructed from granite and pink marble – bursts with colorful details inside and out, from bold tiles and striped columns to ornate archways and stained-glass windows.
Slide 20 of 53: The marvelous mishmash of architectural styles includes Islamic, Neoclassical and Gothic Revival, and the opulence continues inside. Audience Hall, in shades of buttercup yellow, cream and gold, is particularly gorgeous, with elegant columns, chandeliers and an intricately painted ceiling.
Slide 21 of 53: This whimsical castle in Sozopol is the stuff of dreams and fairy tales, and its alternative name – ‘In Love with the Wind’ – only adds to its charms. It was designed by champion wrestler Georgi Kostadinov Tumpalov, who worked with a team of builders to craft the medieval-style structure from 20,000 tons of stone.
Slide 22 of 53: The fantastical exterior, rich with detail and surrounded by grounds with impressive topiary, is the highlight. There’s even a zoo, art gallery and winery on the estate. The rooms and outbuildings are equally surreal, filled with taxidermy, armor and intricately carved wooden furniture.
Slide 23 of 53: Perched on a hilltop in midtown Toronto, Casa Loma looks lovely from any angle and in any light. Built between 1911 and 1914, the Gothic Revival–style mansion is also a Hollywood star. Scenes from the movie Chicago were shot here and it was used as the location of Xavier’s school in the X-Men series.
Slide 24 of 53: Many of the 98 grand rooms burst with Edwardian opulence, with fine furniture, gold trims and soft, rich color palettes from buttercup to cornflower. But there’s even more to it than meets the eye – the mansion has two underground tunnels, plus a bowling alley in its basement.
Slide 25 of 53: Blenheim Palace is the only non-royal home in the UK to hold such a regal title, though the Oxfordshire estate has some pretty stellar connections. Sir Winston Churchill was born in Blenheim Palace – his parents’ second home – in 1874. The English Baroque–style mansion was built between 1705 and 1722, and is surrounded by impeccably manicured gardens designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, one of the UK’s most renowned landscape architects.
Slide 26 of 53: Each of the 187 rooms – plus a series of previously hidden rooms discovered under its iconic Grand Bridge in 2018 – is gorgeously opulent. But arguably the most awe-inspiring is the Great Hall, whose marble pillars soar upwards, past niches with statues, to the ceiling, painted by Sir James Thornhill around 1716.
Slide 27 of 53: The palace’s string of staterooms are rich in texture and detail, with tapestries and priceless portraits hanging on the walls, plush red carpets and gilded cornices. Pretty much everything is gilded, in fact, from the golden cherubs watching over the door to the golden chandeliers.
Slide 28 of 53: Oheka Castle, in Long Island, is certainly a handsome mansion. But it’s the stories surrounding the mansion, built between 1914 and 1919, that really enchant. The second-largest private residence in the US (after the Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina), it’s said to be the inspiration behind the glitzy manor in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby. It’s also featured in diverse productions from Citizen Kane to a Taylor Swift music video.
Slide 29 of 53: Even the name is fascinating – it’s an acronym of Otto Hermann Kahn, the financier who built the French-style château. He used the estate as a summer home, hosting lavish parties worthy of Jay Gatsby himself in rooms such as the library, in richly decorated jewel shades.
Slide 30 of 53: Palaces, as a rule, don’t tend to be hard on the eye. But few are so heart-flutteringly pretty as Pena Palace, whose butter-yellow turrets and brick-red towers rise above the treetops in hilly Sintra, just outside Lisbon. The multicolored beauty, an example of 19th-century Romanticism, was commissioned by King Ferdinand II and completed in 1854, and has been home to Portuguese royals through the years.
Slide 31 of 53: The exterior and grounds are filled with storybook details, from tiny gargoyles to hidden pathways weaving through forest. And the interior is equally striking and worthy of a fairy tale. The dining room and adjoining pantry, for example, have vaulted ceilings and walls covered with intricate tiles.
Slide 32 of 53: Built by William Cecil, Lord High Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth I, between 1555 and 1587, you might recognize the grand country home from several films, including Pride and Prejudice and The Da Vinci Code. Located near the historic and pretty town of Stamford in Lincolnshire, its exquisite exterior is one of the leading examples of Elizabethan stately homes.
Slide 33 of 53: The house’s main attractions, though, are its 18 staterooms that date back to the 1800s, when it was remodeled. It's also home to a notable art collection that includes several portraits of the Cecil family, Elizabeth I, Henry VIII and Oliver Cromwell. Outside, the Sculpture Garden and Deer Park are equally as regal as the house itself.
Slide 34 of 53: This majestic castle perched high in the Bavarian Alps was the brainchild of Ludwig II, King of Bavaria, who used it to hide away from the public eye. While heavy restoration work is ongoing, the whole castle was opened to the public in 1886, shortly after Ludwig's death. It's said to have inspired Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty castle at Disneyland, California too.
Slide 35 of 53: But the castle was also a dream world for its designer, Ludwig. Neuschwanstein’s interiors display Ludwig’s desire to escape into the medieval world that inspired the operas of German composer Richard Wagner. The castle is dedicated to Wagner and much of the art inside depicts the kings, poets and knights that appear in the composer’s work. Discover Germany's small towns and cities here too. 
Slide 36 of 53: This extravagant country home in Newport, Rhode Island, belonged to the wealthy Vanderbilt family. Inspired by the 16th-century palaces of Genoa and Turin, Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt’s grandson, Cornelius Vanderbilt II, commissioned the renovation of this once-wooden ‘cottage’ and transformed it into an Italian Renaissance-style palazzo. Its lavishly decorated rooms (think platinum, marble and intricate stonework) are among some of the most opulent in America.
Slide 37 of 53: The mansion features 70 rooms with a total floor space of 62,484 square feet (5,804sqm) arranged over five floors. The dazzling Morning Room, for instance, was built by artisans in France, shipped to the US and assembled on-site, and is adorned with wall panels made from pure platinum.
Slide 38 of 53: The biggest castle in the Netherlands, Utrecht’s spectacular De Haar Castle has all the traditional medieval trimmings you’d expect from such an imposing fortress, including drawbridges, moats, gates, towers and ramparts. Dating from the 13th century, the castle was then rebuilt at the end of the 19th century after it had fallen into disrepair in 1641.
Slide 39 of 53: The interior of the castle is particularly interesting as it's so richly ornamented with woodwork, it resembles an interior of a Roman Catholic church. The grand home's collection includes beautiful porcelains from Japan and China, several old Flemish tapestries and paintings and its most prized possession – a carrier coach of a woman of a shōgun (Japanese military dictator). It's one of the two last such coaches in the world with the other displayed in a museum in Tokyo.
Slide 40 of 53: Home to 285 rooms, 46 halls and 68 bathrooms, it’s safe to say that Turkey’s Dolmabahçe Palace is one of the world's most opulent palaces. The estate served as the seat of Ottoman Empire from 1856 to 1887, and 1909 to 1922, and its spectacular interior conceals a rather lavish secret. During the construction, Emperor Abdülmecid I wanted no expense to be spared, so a whopping 14 tons of gold were used to gild the palace's ceilings.
Slide 41 of 53: The palace's design is an eclectic mix of Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassical styles, but also has plenty of traditional Ottoman architecture details. Expensive materials, like Marmara marble and Egyptian alabaster, have been used throughout the palace and there are several 150-year-old bearskin rugs decorating the rooms, originally a gift from the Russian Tsar Nicholas I.
Slide 42 of 53: The enormous, breathtaking Château de Chambord, in France’s Loire Valley, was completed in the 17th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Recognizable worldwide as an emblem of the French Renaissance, the château isn’t just notable for its stunning architecture and lavish interiors, but also for its surrounding natural forest and French gardens.
Slide 43 of 53: Designed as a hunting lodge for King Francis I it was completed in 1547 and it's rumored Leonardo da Vinci played a part in the plans. After the French Revolution in 1792, some of the furnishings were sold but the château survived.
Slide 44 of 53: Although the château’s interior is as grand as the outside it’s the famous double staircase that's most alluring. The "double helix" serves all the château’s many floors and is designed so that if two people are using each staircase, they can see each other through the windows yet never cross paths.
Slide 45 of 53: One of the few real palaces in the USA, Iolani Palace was home to the Hawaiian monarchy in the 19th century. The royal residence was completed in 1882, a sumptuous property ahead of its time, complete with electricity and modern plumbing. Its architectural style is unique, dubbed “American Florentine” for its blend of traditional Hawaiian and Italian Renaissance features – its elegant columns and bold corner towers are most striking.
Slide 46 of 53: The interiors are equally as opulent, and the Throne Room is the plushest of them all. Red velvet curtains frame vast windows, chandeliers hang heavily from the ceiling and a pair of gilded thrones sit on a raised platform. King Kalakaua and Queen Kapi‘olani were the first royals to live here, moving in as soon as their regal abode was completed. The monarchy occupied the palace until 1893 when the then-leader Queen Lili'uokalani was overthrown.
Slide 47 of 53: One of the finest lasting examples of Japanese castle architecture, Himeji Castle in the Hyōgo Prefecture, dates to the 14th century. But the castle was lucky to survive. In 1871 it was put up for auction after the end of the Han dynasty feudal system. The buyer wanted to demolish the castle in order to develop the land but changed their mind when they realized the cost involved of destroying it.
Slide 48 of 53: Himeji also miraculously escaped damage during bombing in the Second World War and the Great Hanshin earthquake in 1995. Inside the castle’s interior is plain with little decoration, however, looks can be deceptive. Many of the castle’s walkways turn back on themselves to confuse invaders and even today’s visitors can end up bamboozled.
Slide 49 of 53: This fine Tudor palace in Richmond-upon-Thames dates right back to the 16th century. Its building was begun by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, who took a medieval manor house and set about converting it into a head-turning palace that was ambitious for its day. Such was its magnificence that King Henry VIII moved himself into the building less than four years after its completion, further renovating it to his liking.
Slide 50 of 53: When William III and Mary II came to power in the 1600s, they too made their mark on the palace, rebuilding parts in the Baroque style between 1689 and 1694 so it's now a brilliant glimpse into what life was like in the Tudor and Stuart eras and beyond. Apart from the palace itself, there is a tricky hedge maze, planted in the 17th century, and a stunning rose garden.
Slide 51 of 53: Built between 1238 and 1358, Granada's sprawling Alhambra is an impressive Moorish masterpiece. The name Alhambra comes from an Arabic phrase meaning red castle and was given due to the reddish hue of its towers and walls. It was described as "a pearl set in emeralds" by Moorish poets, referring to its location within the woods.
Slide 52 of 53: The Alhambra served as a royal palace and its exquisite gardens are home to many beautiful walkways and fountains. A palace and fortress complex rather than an individual stately home, Alhambra consists of a royal complex, several courts and halls and a collection of outlying buildings. Discover more secrets of the world's incredible castles
Slide 53 of 53: The Alhambra’s structures are elaborately decorated from floor-to-ceiling and it’s easy to imagine royalty walking through the fragrant gardens. Its beauty has inspired many works of literature and film including Washington Irving’s book Tales of the Alhambra.  READ MORE: Beautiful images of the world's abandoned castles

Home, grand home

Not all homes are simply bricks and mortar. Some are marble and gold, grand columns and ornate mosaics, and sweeping dining rooms filled with antique furniture. From sprawling estates with vineyards to elaborate palaces and UK properties that put Downton Abbey to shame (plus Highclere Castle, where the series was filmed), we peek inside the world’s most incredible stately homes.

Hearst Castle, California, USA

This California landmark, perched above the state’s ruggedly beautiful Central Coast, is the impeccably realized manifestation of one man’s ultimate dream. That man was publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst, who was inspired by the ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe he took with his mother as a boy.

Hearst Castle, California, USA

Hearst Castle, California, USA

Como House, Australia

Elegant Como House, in Melbourne, is one of Australia’s finest stately homes, built in 1847 and occupied by the Armytage family from 1864 to 1959. Now owned by Australia’s National Trust, the building showcases a blend of Australian Regency and classic Italianate architecture. 

Como House, Australia

The interior is filled with evidence of the owners’ luxurious lifestyle, from rare antique furniture to family heirlooms, with areas from chintzy floral lounge rooms to servants’ quarters all impeccably preserved. Discover more incredible places you won’t believe are in Australia.

Winter Palace, Russia

Winter Palace, Russia

Winter Palace, Russia

Biltmore, North Carolina, USA

Biltmore, North Carolina, USA

The estate itself is more like a village, albeit the village of dreams with a winery, manicured gardens bursting with bright blooms, and even an indoor bowling alley. Inside the main château-style house, the 250-odd rooms range from opulent bedrooms and a medieval-style banqueting hall (pictured) to the servants’ quarters and kitchens. Check out the spectacular American castles you never knew existed.

Palace of Versailles, France

Palace of Versailles, France

Palace of Versailles, France

The estate was added to by various monarchs over the years, most notably King Louis XIV, who constructed extra wings, grottos and neat-as-a-pin gardens. Other highlights include Marie Antoinette’s rooms, which are models of opulent Rococo-style decor with soft florals, green velvet and an eye-popping amount of gold. These are the world’s most beautiful gardens.

Highclere Castle, UK

Downton Abbey is set in a fictional Yorkshire country estate of the same name, but of course the Jacobean Revival-style building does exist in real life. Highclere Castle, used for the exterior shots in the TV series and film, is actually close to the town of Newbury, Berkshire.

Highclere Castle, UK

Highclere Castle, UK

Mysore Palace, India

Mysore Palace, India

Mysore Palace, India

The Castle of Ravadinovo, Bulgaria

This whimsical castle in Sozopol is the stuff of dreams and fairy tales, and its alternative name – ‘In Love with the Wind’ – only adds to its charms. It was designed by champion wrestler Georgi Kostadinov Tumpalov, who worked with a team of builders to craft the medieval-style structure from 20,000 tons of stone.

The Castle of Ravadinovo, Bulgaria

Casa Loma, Canada

Perched on a hilltop in midtown Toronto, Casa Loma looks lovely from any angle and in any light. Built between 1911 and 1914, the Gothic Revival–style mansion is also a Hollywood star. Scenes from the movie Chicago were shot here and it was used as the location of Xavier’s school in the X-Men series.

Casa Loma, Canada

Blenheim Palace, UK

Blenheim Palace is the only non-royal home in the UK to hold such a regal title, though the Oxfordshire estate has some pretty stellar connections. Sir Winston Churchill was born in Blenheim Palace – his parents’ second home – in 1874. The English Baroque–style mansion was built between 1705 and 1722, and is surrounded by impeccably manicured gardens designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, one of the UK’s most renowned landscape architects.

Blenheim Palace, UK

Each of the 187 rooms – plus a series of previously hidden rooms discovered under its iconic Grand Bridge in 2018 – is gorgeously opulent. But arguably the most awe-inspiring is the Great Hall, whose marble pillars soar upwards, past niches with statues, to the ceiling, painted by Sir James Thornhill around 1716.

Blenheim Palace, UK

Oheka Castle, New York, USA

Oheka Castle, in Long Island, is certainly a handsome mansion. But it’s the stories surrounding the mansion, built between 1914 and 1919, that really enchant. The second-largest private residence in the US (after the Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina), it’s said to be the inspiration behind the glitzy manor in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby. It’s also featured in diverse productions from Citizen Kane to a Taylor Swift music video.

Oheka Castle, New York, USA

Even the name is fascinating – it’s an acronym of Otto Hermann Kahn, the financier who built the French-style château. He used the estate as a summer home, hosting lavish parties worthy of Jay Gatsby himself in rooms such as the library, in richly decorated jewel shades.

Pena Palace, Portugal

Palaces, as a rule, don’t tend to be hard on the eye. But few are so heart-flutteringly pretty as Pena Palace, whose butter-yellow turrets and brick-red towers rise above the treetops in hilly Sintra, just outside Lisbon. The multicolored beauty, an example of 19th-century Romanticism, was commissioned by King Ferdinand II and completed in 1854, and has been home to Portuguese royals through the years.

Pena Palace, Portugal

The exterior and grounds are filled with storybook details, from tiny gargoyles to hidden pathways weaving through forest. And the interior is equally striking and worthy of a fairy tale. The dining room and adjoining pantry, for example, have vaulted ceilings and walls covered with intricate tiles.

Burghley House, UK

Built by William Cecil, Lord High Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth I, between 1555 and 1587, you might recognize the grand country home from several films, including Pride and Prejudice and The Da Vinci Code. Located near the historic and pretty town of Stamford in Lincolnshire, its exquisite exterior is one of the leading examples of Elizabethan stately homes.

Burghley House, UK

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

But the castle was also a dream world for its designer, Ludwig. Neuschwanstein’s interiors display Ludwig’s desire to escape into the medieval world that inspired the operas of German composer Richard Wagner. The castle is dedicated to Wagner and much of the art inside depicts the kings, poets and knights that appear in the composer’s work. Discover Germany’s small towns and cities here too. 

The Breakers, Rhode Island, USA

The Breakers, Rhode Island, USA

De Haar Castle, Netherlands

De Haar Castle, Netherlands

Dolmabahçe Palace, Turkey

Dolmabahçe Palace, Turkey

Château de Chambord, France

Château de Chambord, France

Château de Chambord, France

Iolani Castle, Hawaii, USA

Iolani Castle, Hawaii, USA

Himeji Castle, Japan

Himeji Castle, Japan

Hampton Court Palace, UK

Hampton Court Palace, UK

Alhambra, Spain

Alhambra, Spain

The Alhambra served as a royal palace and its exquisite gardens are home to many beautiful walkways and fountains. A palace and fortress complex rather than an individual stately home, Alhambra consists of a royal complex, several courts and halls and a collection of outlying buildings. Discover more secrets of the world’s incredible castles

Alhambra, Spain

The Alhambra’s structures are elaborately decorated from floor-to-ceiling and it’s easy to imagine royalty walking through the fragrant gardens. Its beauty has inspired many works of literature and film including Washington Irving’s book Tales of the Alhambra

READ MORE: Beautiful images of the world’s abandoned castles

Source: Read Full Article