Take a Virtual Tour of Europe's Most Incredible Palaces (the Queen's Home!) While Social Distancing
While Europe’s royal palaces are closed to visitors this spring amid the coronavirus pandemic, you can still peek behind a few regal curtains while you practice social distancing.
Thanks to virtual reality, you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your couch to follow in the footsteps of Queen Elizabeth II, Louis XIV of France, Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden or King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands.
So, if you have a sense of adventure — and an equally strong desire to break your cabin fever — here’s a selection of the best royal palaces you can check out now.
Buckingham Palace, London
You might not be able to kiss on the balcony like Kate Middleton and Prince William — or gawp at a flypast like Prince George — but thanks to the official Royal website you can follow in the footsteps of Prince Harry, Meghan Markle and the rest of the royal family around three of the palace’s most extraordinary rooms: the Throne Room, Grand Staircase, and White Drawing Room.
Given that there are 775 rooms in Buckingham Palace, including 19 Staterooms, 240 bedrooms, and 78 bathrooms, that still leaves a lot to be explored. But you’ve got to start somewhere!
Windsor Castle, England
With the Queen and Prince Philip self-isolating at Windsor, the 900-year-old castle is now closed to the public.
But you can still get a taste of what it’s like to visit the largest occupied castle in the world by taking in a virtual tour of a traditional State Banquet in St George’s Hall — the location for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s 2018 wedding reception.
Click on the relative links and you can also explore the huge expanse of the Waterloo Chamber and the gold-leaf filled Crimson Drawing Room.
The Queen’s official residence in Scotland is crammed full of history: Founded as a monastery in 1128, it was rebuilt in 1501 by James IV as a Palace for his new wife, Margaret Tudor – the sister of Henry VIII.
Mary, Queen of Scots later married two husbands in the Palace, while her private secretary David Rizzio was stabbed to death in her private apartments in March 1566 by a gang led by her husband Lord Darnley.
At other times Holyrood has served as the home for James I, Charles I, a force of Oliver Cromwell’s troops and Charles II — who was crowned in Scotland in 1651. Today the Palace plays host to Garden Parties and numerous social events.
You can experience a slice of this history by using the virtual tour to explore The Grand Stair. Other links lead you through the Morning Drawing Room and the Royal Dining Room.
The Palace of Versailles, Paris
No royal palace has quite the same history as Versailles. Rebuilt by King Louis XIV in 1631 the one-time hunting lodge became the official residence of the French monarch right up to the moment the French Revolution forced Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette to flee its gates in 1789.
With the King and Queen executed, Versailles became the Museum of the History of France and later played a key role as the location of the ill-fated peace treaty at the close of World War 1. More recently, it hosted the pre-wedding dinner of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.
In many ways, a virtual tour is easier than a physical visit: with 2,300 rooms spread over three miles, Versailles is HUGE.
The Royal Palace, Stockholm
The 600-room Royal Palace in Stockholm is the official residence of King Carl XVI Gustav.
Built during the eighteenth century on the spot where the ancient “Tre Kronor” castle burned down in 1697, it features five museums, the imposing Rikssalen (Hall of State) and a silver throne made for the coronation of Queen Kristina in 1650.
The official virtual reality tour provides a tiny taste of this by allowing you to explore an ornate hallway with a checkerboard floor and priceless Roman statues.
Royal Palace, Amsterdam
It’s provided the backdrop to glittering state occasions for more than two centuries and houses the throne room of the Netherlands, yet the Royal Palace began life as the rather more humble Amsterdam town hall.
This all changed when King Louis Bonaparte arrived in 1808 and transformed the building into a royal home. Today it is renowned for its collection of beautiful furniture, priceless sculptures and ornate marble galleries.
The virtual tour takes you right into the heart of the palace: the impressive 100-ft high Citizen’s Hall (Burgerzaal), which includes marble floors inlaid with three large circular maps, each over 19 feet in diameter, and an equally huge bronze sculpture of Atlas.