As keen observers of the British royal family will know, the late Queen Elizabeth II was extremely fond of spending time at her Scottish residence, Balmoral Castle. And why wouldn’t she have been? As vacation homes go, it’s a pretty dreamy place. But Britain’s royals actually have their hands on a bunch of remarkable vacation homes — and they’re not alone. Other royal families across Europe also vacation in some pretty incredible places. Let’s take a look at some of the most extraordinary boltholes of the blue-blooded elite.
It’s long been rumored that Elizabeth loved Balmoral Castle more than any of her other many properties. That idea has even been supported by one of the monarch’s own grandchildren. Speaking in 2016 in a documentary about the monarch, Princess Eugenie elaborated on what the estate meant to her grandmother.
Eugenie said, “It’s the most beautiful place on Earth. I think Granny is most happy there. I think she really, really loves the Highlands.”
The evidence would seem to bear Eugenie’s statement out. After all, the late ruler was known to spend an awful lot of time at Balmoral Castle each year. She’d usually set out for the Highlands around August, where she would remain for something like ten weeks. That would take her to October.
At Balmoral, it’s said she would spend time with her grandkids and enjoy barbecues and long walks across the estate. She even welcomed guests from outside the family.
The history of Marivent Palace is a slightly checkered one. It was first raised during the 1920s, but not for the Spanish royal family. It was initially built for a mogul named John Saridakis, who enjoyed the residence until his death in ’63. His wife then offered the palace to the local government, on the condition that it would become a museum bearing her deceased spouse’s name.
The local government agreed and the palace was designated as a museum, but in 1973 it reneged on that deal. The palace was donated to Juan Carlos and Sofia, who were, at that time, a prince and a princess respectively.
The heirs of the Saridakis family obviously had a big issue with this, so they brought the case to court. In the end, it was ruled that the many artworks, books, and furniture items inside the palace belonged to the Saridakis descendants. These were all removed and given to their rightful owners, but the palace itself remained with the Spanish royals.
The estate has since become a favorite of the royal family, whose members are known to spend their summers there. It’s especially beloved by Sofia.
The Prince and Princess of Wales — William and Kate — have been known to vacation in some lavish places, but this villa might be the most swanky of them all. Reports tell us they’ve taken several trips to an island in the Caribbean called Mustique, where they splash out tens of thousands of dollars on this five-bed property. A design company called Finchatton — whose owner is apparently a pal of William’s — is behind the villa’s decoration.
Believe it or not, despite the obvious extravagance and luxury of this villa, it’s reportedly one of the more understated properties on the island. The other places must be absolutely insane!
During their stays at this villa, William and Kate get to enjoy an infinity pool, a jacuzzi, and a private bar. The five bedrooms each have their own bathroom, while the kitchen is described by newspaper the Evening Standard as “professional-grade.” The decoration is tasteful and inspired by the colors of the beach, but the most important feature for the royals is surely the privacy the villa affords them.
Mustique is an extremely exclusive place, so William and Kate don’t have to fret about being spotted. As Jeanette Cadet, who works on the island, mentioned in 2018 to magazine Country & Townhouse, “Even Kate can go off for her morning run without her security detail.”
In 1935 after Prince Frederik of Denmark tied the knot with Ingrid, Gråsten Palace was handed over to the happy couple — who would later serve as the Danish King and Queen —as a summer house. Ingrid, in particular, became especially enamored by the property over the years. She was said to love assembling the family there for vacations.
Gråsten Palace has since been passed on to the daughter of Ingrid and Frederik. Queen Margrethe II, of course, is the present monarch of Denmark.
Gråsten Palace actually dates back to the 16th century, though it’s gone through several incarnations over the years. Buildings have burned down on the site and been rebuilt again, but the main building we see today comes from the mid-19th century. Nowadays it bears a white facade and impressive, Venetian doors.
The gardens are notably impressive, especially during the summertime. Once those flowers are in bloom, their colors are said to be mesmerizing.
Built between 1903 and 1906 Solliden Palace was originally intended to serve a very specific purpose. The Swedish crown princess at that time, Victoria, was afflicted by poor health, which meant she stood to benefit from time spent in places with a nice climate. Öland island, where Solliden Palace was raised, was identified as the ideal spot.
The property has since become a beloved residence of Victoria’s descendants, who enjoy spending their summers there. In fact, another Victoria in the family tends to spend her birthdays there.
Today there’s another person we know as Victoria, Crown Princess of Sweden. She is the direct heir to the country’s throne, as she’s the oldest of King Carl XVI Gustaf’s children. Victoria’s birthday is a big deal throughout Sweden, occurring on July 14. The date even has its own name: Victoriadagen.
People from all over Sweden and beyond descend upon Solliden on Victoriadagen, as a mark of respect to the crown princess. There, they get to enjoy the beautiful grounds of the palace.
Whenever the Belgian royal family feels like taking a summer break, they know just the place to go. They up sticks and head to Wallonia, one of the country’s three regions alongside Brussels and Flanders. Here, not far from a town called Ciergnon, stands one of their grand castles. It’s one of the clan’s favorite summer getaways.
The Royal Castle Of Ciergnon has played host to some big events over the years, notably the baptisms of King Philippe’s kids. Elisabeth, Gabriel, Emmanuel, and Eléonore were all Christened here.
The land upon which the castle stands was picked up by King Leopold I in 1840. His wife, Louise-Marie, had convinced him to get his hands on it. They built a hunting lodge there, with the main residence we see today arriving later. That was built by Leopold II, with the designs coming from an architect named Alphonse Balat.
Ever since the time of Leopold II, the Royal Castle Of Ciergnon has been a beloved vacation home to the Belgian royals.
Back in 2007 when he was Prince of Wales, King Charles III coughed up close to $1.5 million for a property in Wales. According to reports, he’d spent four decades looking for the perfect place: this, at last, was it. Charles had found himself a farmhouse in a place called Llwynywermod, which he duly began to renovate.
Charles reportedly arranged for much of the materials involved in the works to be sourced from the local area. The laborers trusted to carry out the works were also from the region.
Inside, the property looks lovely; the ceilings are high and adorned with wooden panels. There’s an antique-looking wood-burning fireplace in the living room, plus some nice furniture and ornaments scattered around the place. There’s a big window to let some natural light in, while electric light comes courtesy of bulbs arranged around a circular chandelier.
The gardens are arguably the best thing about the Llwynywermod property. Plenty of vegetables and other plants can be found growing there during the summertime.
Constructed between 1899 and 1902 Marselisborg Palace was then gifted to the Danish royal family “from the people.” This was to mark the wedding of Prince Christian and Duchess Alexandrine of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, who were later crowned as King and Queen. These two went on to enjoy the property as a summer vacation home, which is a tradition that remains within the Danish royal family to this day.
Denmark’s present monarch, Margrethe II, has been in possession of the palace since 1967, which is when her dad, Frederick IX, gave it to her.
Marselisborg Palace stands on land encompassing some 32 acres. This park is called Slotshaven, or the Palace Park in English, and it was modeled on traditional landscapes from England. In practice, that means you’ll find lots of well-maintained lawns and gardens there, with plenty of trees and ponds dotted around the place.
It’s actually possible to visit the park to enjoy all it has to offer, provided the royal family isn’t there at the time. The palace, on the other hand, is never accessible to visitors.
Though a fine residence in its own right, Birkhall is actually situated on the wider Balmoral estate. Constructed in 1715 it only became part of the British royal family’s portfolio in 1849. Prince Albert got his hands on the property, before giving it to his son Albert Edward.
Birkhall became a favorite residence among the royal family, especially from the point of view of Elizabeth, The Queen Mother. She reportedly called it a “little big house.”
It was after her husband’s death in 1952 that the Queen Mother started to spend her summers at Birkhall. Renovations were then made on the property, with particular care being taken to with regard to the gardens. When the Queen Mother passed away in 2002 the property was handed down to her grandson Charles.
In a 2013 piece for Country Life magazine, Charles was quoted as saying of Birkhall, “It is such a special place, particularly because it was made by my grandmother. It is a childhood garden, and all I’ve done, really, is enhance it a bit.”
Yet another incredible residence on the Balmoral Estate is Craigowen Lodge, which was once a favored summer house of Elizabeth. According to reports, Craigowen Lodge is really close to Balmoral Castle itself. We’re talking maybe a mile or something like that, so it really isn’t far at all.
Craigowan Lodge is sometimes characterized as a cottage, which makes it sound almost snug and quaint. Well, that may be the case, but it’s still reported to have seven bedrooms!
Elizabeth wasn’t the only royal to enjoy spending time at Craigowan Lodge. Following the announcement of their engagement, Charles and Diana paid a visit there and even posed for photos. These pictures, from May 1981, were actually the first official snaps of the couple since news had broken about their decision to marry.
After the wedding had taken place, Charles and Diana reportedly continued to spend time at Craigowen Lodge. Their kids William and Harry came along, too, once they were around.
Château de Cayx is a Danish royal residence in France that dates back to the 15th century. Standing in a hilly area close to the River Lot, the wider area in which this property stands is gorgeous: no wonder the royals love it so much. Vacations there must be the best.
It seems likely that the settlement here was initially established as a fort. Obviously the property has undergone an awful lot of changes since those early days.
Château de Cayx became a part of the royal portfolio in 1974 after Margrethe and her spouse Prince Henrik picked it up. Henrik actually had close ties to the area, as his family had resided only a few miles away for many decades. The prince himself moved around a lot growing up, but he clearly had a soft spot for Cayx.
Margrethe and Henrik arranged for lots of works to take place on the property, which ultimately transformed it. They even set up a vineyard there.
Travel south of St. Petersburg for about 15 miles, and you’ll reach the Catherine Palace. Once the summer house of the Russian royal family, this property took its name from Catherine I, who was the spouse of Peter the Great. A fairly modest building was originally raised here for Catherine, but daughter Elizabeth soon took control of the site and set out to leave her mark.
Clearly a person of extravagant tastes, Elizabeth organized a rebuild in 1743. The resulting palace was opulent to the extreme.
The facades of the palace were glittering and colorful. Elaborate sculptures could be found everywhere. An insane amount of gold was used to decorate the place. And how was all this funded? Well, with state funds. Elizabeth’s heir, Catherine II — a.k.a. Catherine the Great — was supposedly disgusted by the excesses the palace represented.
Catherine II, in fact, decided to invite an architect by the name of Charles Cameron to come in and rework parts of the palace. The results were a little less ostentatious.
Whenever King Phillipe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium feel the need to get away from it all, there’s one particular spot they love to visit. For more than a decade, the royal couple have taken their family to Île d’Yeu, a little island off the western coast of France. Here they enjoy activities like bike-riding, kitesurfing, and hitting the local stores.
For years the royal couple rented their accommodation whenever they stayed in Île d’Yeu, but by 2019 they wanted a vacation home of their own. So, they purchased a property on the island.
By their own lofty and extravagant standards, the royals considered their new property to be quite small. They wanted more space, as their security team would be with them on any trips they took to the island and would need to bunk up somewhere. So, they submitted a request to extend the house. This didn’t exactly go down well with the locals.
The request to extend attracted a great deal of opposition from people in the area. And it wasn’t for nothing: they feared the proposed development would disrupt the beautiful surroundings.
When Princess Margaret got married in 1959 she was gifted a property called Les Jolies Eaux on the small Caribbean island of Mustique. A new main residence was later constructed on the site, which was completed in 1972. The designs for this house were completed by Oliver Messel, who happened to be Margaret’s uncle-in-law.
The completed five-bedroom villa includes a drawing room, plus there are a pair of lodges on the site, too. Messel’s designs were inspired by the island’s natural beauty.
Margaret never owned another property besides Les Jolies Eaux, so it’s no surprise she made such regular use of it. She used to go there fairly frequently, bringing along her elite pals, too. She passed the property onto her child David in the mid-’90s, when he was getting married. Just a few years later, he sold it.
Nowadays, it’s actually possible to rent this former royal vacation home. All you need to do is cough up between $25,000 and $47,000 a week for the honor, if the rental prices of other villas on the island are anything to go by.
Sitting upon a big hilltop overlooking the Portuguese community of Sintra, not far from Lisbon, is the grand Pena Palace. A big tourist attraction today, this place was once the site of a monastery. But during the 18th century, a devastating earthquake wrought terrible damage to the site.
The monastery building itself, though, managed to escape destruction, much to the surprise of King Ferdinand II. And this got him thinking.
Ferdinand decided that he wanted this place to himself. He took control of the monastery, and works soon began to build the castle we see there today. The King wanted this place to serve as an elaborate summer house! When he died, his spouse Elisa Hensler took over for a while, before selling it on to King Luis I.
By the end of the 1880s the palace was under state ownership; classified as an ancient monument, the building was later turned into a museum.
Following the death of her husband, the Queen Mother learned of Barrogill Castle in Scotland. It was on the market, but it was in a terrible state. It didn’t even have electricity! All the same, the mother of Elizabeth found herself enamored by the castle and she bought it in 1952.
The Queen Mother wasn’t fond of the name of the castle, so she decided to give it a new one. The Castle of Mey was born, named after a village situated close by.
Of course, the name wasn’t the only change required. The castle was in poor condition, so it was heavily redeveloped to bring it up to royal standards. It’s said the Queen Mother was especially involved in the works outside the property, both in the gardens and on the facade of the castle.
Having helped to fashion a castle to her own tastes, the Queen Mother vacationed in the Castle of Mey for the rest of her life. The last time she stepped inside there was back in 2001 when she was 101 years young.
Few buildings are more reminiscent of a fairytale than Neuschwanstein Castle in the German state of Bavaria. In fact, it was almost explicitly designed to invoke old folk tales of princes and princesses. The castle was raised in honor of the Bavarian monarch Ludwig II, with works beginning in 1868.
Ludwig wanted his castle to serve as something of a monument to what he perceived to be the great monarchies of the past. He wanted to establish his own kingdom in the mold of these old societies.
Ludwig wanted his castle to serve as a personal property, his own private retreat: but that never came to be. He passed away in 1886, and within a matter of weeks the castle had been opened to visitors. Now normal people were able to wander around his envisioned private paradise.
Nowadays, Neuschwanstein Castle attracts so many visitors each year. Something like 1.4 million people annually are reported to stop in for a look around. It’s Ludwig’s nightmare!
Ever since 1862 the British royal family has been taking trips to Norfolk, which is a little more than 100 miles north of London. Here they have a property called Sandringham House, which is a place in which they’ve enjoyed countless occasions over the years. There’s one holiday above all, though, with which Sandringham House has become especially associated.
When Elizabeth was the head of the family, the royals used to spend Christmas at Sandringham. This, it seems, is a custom Charles looks set to maintain.
As for what Sandringham House is really like, we can turn to Harry. In his book Spare, he explained that the interior of the property is pretty warm, nowhere more so than the dining area. Harry wrote, “Much of Sandringham was balmy, but the dining room was subtropical.”
If anyone ever tried to open a window in the house, Harry explained, Elizabeth’s dogs would whimper and alert the monarch. “Is there a draft?” she would ask, which would lead an attendant to close the window immediately.
Not all royal residences need necessarily be on land: just ask the Danes. The royal family also enjoys summer trips on their yacht, which is the height of sea-faring luxury. It’s obviously fit for the excesses and whims of royalty, but the vessel also has some more practical uses, too.
In addition to helping the royals unwind, the yacht also engages in surveillance operations when it’s out in the water. It also helps with rescues at sea, plus it’s been used to train officials in the navy.
But in terms of a vacation home for royals, the vessel has everything you’d expect. On board is a study, a dining room, several bedrooms, and a lounge, all of which were decorated with input from the Queen herself. There’s unsurprisingly a massive crew on board the vessel, which seeks to help each voyage run as smoothly as possible.
It’s probably best not to think of the Royal Yacht Dannebrog as simply a boat. It’s more like a “floating palace,” as it’s been described by official sources.
Even if it wasn’t so closely associated with Dutch royalty, Drakensteyn Castle would still be notable in its own right. Take one look at the building, and its unique shape becomes extremely hard to ignore. Not many structures out there are a perfect octagon; they’re not usually surrounded by a moat, either.
But we also can’t quite ignore the connection to royalty. Drakensteyn Castle is owned by Princess Beatrix, who used to be the Queen of the Netherlands.
Beatrix purchased Drakensteyn in 1959 before she’d been crowned Queen. She started to spend time in the castle four years later, after a series of renovations had taken place. She remained in the house after her wedding in ’66, and she even raised her kids there. But it all changed when Beatrix took to the throne in 1981: she and her family then relocated to The Hague.
Following her 2013 abdication, Beatrix actually returned to live in Drakensteyn Castle after so long. She must really have a soft spot for the place.