8 Palaces/Castles in Europe You Never Thought of Visiting

Are you done visiting some of the most famous and colossal palaces of Europe, like Versailles Palace in France, Buckingham Palace in England, Schönbrunn Palace in Austria, or Alhambra in Spain? How about some other notable palaces or castles that Europe has to offer to its visitors that many people don’t know about? I have tons in my mind but here are 8 that are worth visiting and will surprise the guests with lots of secrets:

  1. Chateau de Godfrey de Bouillon, Belgium: Godfrey of Bouillon was one of the heroic knights from the 11th century and his castle is a major asset in Belgium. Built in the 11th century,  Chateau de Godfrey de Bouillon offers some thrilling views of Semois Valley, the river, and town below. Godfrey’s Chateau has a huge complex of medieval defense with old walls and stone buildings. Other than some exhibitions, tourists can see a medieval torture chamber and an underground prison. If you are in Brussels, this would make a nice trip to the Wallonia side of the country.
Godfrey's Castle and its surroundings in Bouillon, Belgium

Godfrey’s Castle and its surroundings in Bouillon, Belgium

2. Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen, Denmark:  This palace once used to be the official residence of the Danish Royal Family, but presently is used as the Danish Parliament and Supreme Court. The original building of Christiansborg Palace  dates back to 1167. At 106 meters high, the tower of Christiansborg Palace is the highest among all the other palaces in Copenhagen.

Entering Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen, Denmark

Entering Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen, Denmark

The Reception Hall consists of several important rooms of the castle, like the Throne Room, Great Hall, Dining Hall, Alexander Hall, and others. Each room is decorated with luxurious and elegant look. The beauty of the old furniture, tapestries, chandelier, art/paintings, decorative doors, lamps, vases, candle-holders, marble fire-place is beyond any expressions. If you have one day in Copenhagen, this would be the one place that one must visit.

Great Hall inside Christiansborg Palace, Copenhagen, Denmark

Great Hall inside Christiansborg Palace, Copenhagen, Denmark

3. Chateau de Blois in Loire Valley, France: This is one of many castles in the Loire Valley of France. Chateau de Blois was the residence of several French kings during the middle ages. Joan of Arc came here in 1429 to be blessed by the Archbishop before driving the English from Orleans. Also, this is where Queen Catherine de’Medici (wife of King Henri II) died in 1589. The main façade of this château was my favorite part. Interestingly, different parts of the palace features different era and style, like Gothic, Flamboyant, Renaissance, and Classicism.

One of the noble rooms of Chateau de Blois, France

One of the noble rooms of Chateau de Blois, France

4. Dresden Zwinger in Dresden, Germany: The palaces of Dresden Zwinger is the main attraction of the city. It’s a big garden surrounded by old Baroque palace buildings on all sides including Semper Building, Glockenspiel Pavilion (Clock Tower), Crown Gate, Rampart Pavilion, Nymphs’ Bath, and Marble Hall. This is a beautiful place to walk around and enjoy calm gardens and exquisite palace buildings.

Dresden Zwinger - Glockenspiel Pavilion (clock tower) on the right

Dresden Zwinger – Glockenspiel Pavilion (clock tower) on the right

5. Trakai Island Castle in Lithuania: The city of Trakai is beautiful  a lake resort area and the main attraction is the Trakai Island Castle. Sitting quietly on Lake Galve, construction of this Gothic masterpiece started in the 14thcentury. Upon entering to the main front courtyard, you can see beautiful fortress of red bricks in all three sides. Trakai History Museum is spread around the castle and linked via many arrays of wooden steps and dark spiral staircases. Soldiers’ barracks, Great Hall, and other small rooms are filled with some original furniture, decors, ceramics, potteries, and etc.

Trakai Island Castle on Lake Galve in Lithuania

Trakai Island Castle on Lake Galve in Lithuania

6. Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal:  The Pena Palace is the finest examples of 19th century Portuguese Romanticism and  is considered as the most important part of Cultural Landscape of Sintra.  Main façade of the castle is decorated with geometric patterned Moorish-style tiles and watch towers were built in various shapes, sizes, and colors making it look like a Disney fairy-tale castle. The oldest foundation of this place dates back to the 12thcentury. This is a great guided trip that can be taken if you are in Lisbon and have an extra day to roam around out the capital.

Breathtaking location of Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal...as we saw it from Queen's terrace

Breathtaking location of Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal…as we saw it from Queen’s terrace

7. Malaga Alcazaba in Malaga, Spain: Alcazaba de Malaga, a Moorish palace/fortress that has been standing on a hill since the Muslim era in Andalusia in 11th century and is one of the emblematic monuments of this town. The Nasrid Palace, Orange Patio and Patio de la Alberca (with a pool) are remarkable areas of Malaga Alcazaba. Among few other Moorish palaces of Spain, this Alcazaba is one of the best preserved palaces and a must-see.

Malaga Alcazaba - a Moorish castle in Malaga, Spain

Malaga Alcazaba – a Moorish castle in Malaga, Spain

8. Keukenhof Castle, The Netherlands: Many people don’t know about Kasteel Keukenhof in The Netherlands. Thousands of people from all over the word come to Keukenhof during the Tulip festival. When you are there, take a 5 minutes walk to this castle and you won’t be disappointed. The most amazing part of  Keukenhof Castle is that many of the furniture and belongings of this castle are from the original owners from the 17th century. It is a guided tour to visit inside the mansion but stay as long as you want in the garden.

An original Venetian chandelier, look at the detailed work

An original Venetian chandelier, look at the detailed work

Exterior of Keukenhof Castle

Exterior of Keukenhof Castle

The Best Cities To Visit In France (Other Than Paris)

I have absolutely nothing against Paris. It’s the city of l’amour, the birthplace of revolution, the home of the Mona Lisa, and was once the site of the world’s tallest building. (I’m sure I don’t need to tell you which one…) But though Paris should be on every new adventurer’s bucket list because, well, it is Paris after all, there are many more vibrant and gorgeous cities that this beautiful and cultured country has to offer beyond its uber-famous capital. And, with the French ETIAS visa waiver in effect, NOW is the time to visit!

  1. Strasbourg

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Strasbourg is right on the German border and – perhaps suitably – is also currently home to the European parliament. Walking through it is like stepping back in time in some ways, with its incredible gothic architecture, winding streets and old canals. It’s no wonder it’s thought of as being one of the greatest historical cities not only in France but in all of Europe.

  1. Nice

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Pronounced ‘Neess’ (for the unfamiliar), this Southern city resort sits right between the Mediterranean and the French Riviera, so temperatures can reach a toasty 74 Fahrenheit in the summer months. As you’d expect from a coastal city, its beaches are big tourist draw, particularly the sweeping Baie des Anges, which is right next to the renowned Promenade de Anglais. Farther into the city itself, there are lots of art galleries, museums, the historic ‘old town’ district, and – of course – the famous flower market.    

  1. Bordeaux

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Bordeaux is the place for wine enthusiasts! But as well as its vineyards, it’s also mainly known for its being home to one of the finest theatres of the 18th century, as well as a great collection of 17th – 19th statues and monuments in its ‘old’ center. Situated on the banks of the Gironde, Bordeaux was once a bustling port city in its heydey, and to a certain extent, it still is, as it’s become a popular spot for cruise liners to dock.

  1. Lyon

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If Paris is the city of love, then Lyon is the city of food – packed full of some of the best restaurants in the country. There’s also a fine selection of museums and shops, making it an attractive weekend getaway destination. Nestled between the Saone and Rhone rivers sits its historic center (listed as a UNESCO world heritage site) home to the busy urban piazza: Place Bellecour. The pleasantly contrasting “old quarter” – Fourviere – sits to the west of the Rhone.

  1. Toulouse

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You might also know Toulouse as La Vie En Rose (‘The Pink City’) thanks to the terracotta bricks used in most of it buildings. Toulouse is home to both another UNESCO world heritage site: the oldest canal in Europe (Canal du Midi), and also a hugely popular aerospace museum – truly making it a place to suit all holiday-maker’s tastes. The other must-see attractions include the Place du Capitole at the center of the city, the breathtaking St Sernin basilica, and the impressive Jacobins church and cloisters, and because of its Southern location near the Spanish border, it also has a distinctly Mediterranean feel – similar to Nice.   

 

Update Your Bucket List To Include These Breathtaking Locations

If you have had a bucket list of travel destinations for some time now, you will probably be making some very good progress on it. You may even be running out of ideas! But don’t worry, though; this is where this blog post comes in. Below is my list of some of the best destinations to visit this year. They are all very worthy of a spot on your bucket list!

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Picture: Pexels

Czech Republic

If you are a very keen traveler, you will have probably already been to Prague and seen all of its historic sites and attractions. But the city isn’t all there is to the Czech Republic, though! There are in fact a lot more locations dotted throughout the country that should be on your bucket list. For instance, how about heading to one of its many wine regions? Czech wine may not be too popular right now, but that is all set to change as its wine industry is improving year upon year. Take a trip to Moravia to sample some of the country’s best wines.

Iceland

Iceland is incredibly popular with tourists who want to glimpse the famous Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis. Not sure about what time of year can you see the Northern lights? Most travelers head there in the autumn and winter, when the longer nights give you a better chance of spotting them. These aren’t the only reason to head to Iceland, though. You can also chill out in a geothermal spa, or soak up the culture in the capital city, Reykjavik.

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Picture: Pexels

Hadrian’s Wall, England

Fancy a camping trip? Then why not head up to Hadrian’s Wall in England. It has been mentioned as one of the Lonely Planet’s travel picks for 2017, so you better get your trip booked quickly before everyone is trying to go! This ancient Roman wall was built to keep the Scots out of England by Emperor Hadrian. It is surrounded by some absolutely stunning countryside so there will be plenty of chance to go out hiking. There are also a number of Roman museums and dig sites dotted along the wall so you will be able to learn about the history of the area.

South Australia

When you think of holiday destinations in Australia, you probably instantly think of Perth, Melbourne, and Sydney. But there is so much more waiting to be discovered as well! Most notably, the state of South Australia. This state features a large wine country so there will be many chances of sampling some local tipples! Not only that, though, but there are also miles of beaches, and none of them are as busy and crowded as the famous ones on the west and east coasts. If you do fancy experiencing life in an Australian city, you can always make Adelaide, the state’s capital, your base for your trip.

Hopefully, this post has helped to stoke your inspiration for some exciting travel plans this year! Who knows where you will end up?!

Just finished making this video on our trip to the Islands of Malta & Gozo few years ago, hope it will inspire you to visit these islands by the Central Mediterranean.

Islands of Malta and Gozo – Thru My Lens

If you are planning to visit Malta, Gozo, & Comino, please check out these 2 following links for tips and suggestions.

Valletta and Gozo and Comino

 

Link

Itinerary Florence: the Chianti Wine Route – Discover Tuscany in a unique way

It’s considered to be one of the most beautiful panoramic drives through Tuscany: the Chianti Wine Route. Chianti is one of the oldest and famous wine regions in Italy. This route, the SR222 (Strada Regionale 222) passes five small Chianti Classico towns and is about 100 km’s (62 miles) long. For a long time it was the only road between Florence and Siena.

This winding road takes you along the most spectacular sceneries Italy has to offer. View the typical rolling Tuscan hills filled with tall cypress trees. And see thousands hectares of fertile soil, ready to grow the sangiovese grapes for the divine Chianti wines. Touring the area let’s you experience the true ‘la dolce vita’. Do some wine tasting, try out the olive oils, visit the medieval towns and enjoy the local specialities along the way. These little towns are also perfect for a daytrip from Florence or Siena.

Before you take this trip it’s wisely to book your rental car in advance. Find further information at EasyTerra. Also book a B&B or agriturismo, so you can literally can eat, sleep and drink Chianti. Do remember: it is not safe to drink and drive at the same time.

What’s a Chianti wine?
The Chianti is one of the most sold Italian quality wines, recognisable by it’s Black Rooster (Gallo Nero) Label. It used to be bottled in a typical curved wine bottle in a straw basket (called fiasco), nowadays it’s more and more produced in a standard shaped wine bottle.

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Typical Chianti wines bottles

Image Source: 123rf.com

The red wine is so special because of the use of sangiovese grapes. A minimum of 80% and up to a 100% must be used, supplemented by other grape varieties.

It has a characteristic intense aroma of fruit and flowers. A typical Chianti wine has a soft aftertaste and an intense color. The taste and quality can vary due to microclimates (height and location of the vineyard). The best Chianti’s come from the Chianti Classico region and have an DOCG-status to ensure the best quality.

Florence
Start your road trip in Tuscany’s capital: Florence. Or as the locals say Firenze. With millions of tourists a year visiting, it’s one of the most popular cities in Italy. And no wonder: it’s a perfect mix of history, art and culture. Book yourself a hotel and get lost in the city for a few days. Read more about Florence’s attractions.

After wandering around in Florence, it’s time to get into your car and hit the road: on to Greve.

Greve
Greve is also called ‘The Gateway into Chianti’, because it’s the first Clasico town to come across from Florence. The triangular square, Piazza Matteotti, forms the heart of the town. Each side is surrounded with small indoor shops, galleries and restaurants. There’s a large market held every Saturday.
Each year, around mid September, Greve organises the famous Expo del Chianti Classico. The Piazza gets filled for four days with stalls of all the local Chianti Classico wine producers. A tradition of nearly of half a century! For about €10 you can buy a empty wineglass, which you can refill 7 or 8 times.

If you can’t make it to the Festival, visit Le Cantine di Greve (Enoteca Falorni). Buy a ‘wine card’ for a certain amount and fill your glass with an automatic dispenser. You can choose from over 140 different kind of wines! To learn more about the history of Chianti’s wine culture, visit the Museo del Vino. For some historic sightseeing you walk or drive up (1,5km) to the old castle of Montefioralle, a medieval village nearby. On your way up you will see some great panoramic views.

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Cobbled street in Montefioralle – Greve

Image Source: 123rf.com

Don’t forget to check out the many small shops at the Piazza Matteotti like Antica Macelleria Falorni, an old butcher shop. And try some of the local delicacies. The shop has been there since 1809. And don’t miss La Bottega dell’Artigianato, a shop known for it’s hand-woven baskets and olive wood carved products.
Take a relaxing seat at one of the little bars and watch the town’s life go by.

Panzano
Next stop is Panzano. A little hilltop town situated exactly halfway between Florence and Siena. Due to it’s location is the perfect stop to take a look at the charming scenery of Tuscany.

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View – town Panzano

Image Source: 123rf.com

Take a walk through Panzano’s historic cobbled streets and visit the castle, built at the highest part of the town. The modern market square, Piazza Gastone Bucciarelli, is now a meeting place for the locals. Panzano has quite a few bars and restaurants who offer wine tasting. You can also visit Fattoria Le Fonti and Fattoria Montagliari, just a few minutes drive outside Panzano. At Fattoria Montagliari you can also take a cooking lesson or spend a night at their farm.

Panzano’s main attraction is the butcher’s shop, Antica Macelleria Cecchini, owned by butcher and chef Dario Cecchini. He’s a lively personality and very welcoming. Across the street is his restaurant, Solociccia, where you can try his famous specialities. He also runs Dario Doc. Make sure to make a reservation!

Panzano also has an annual Chianti Wine festival, Vino al Vino, held on the third weekend of September. Just like the Expo in Greve you can taste several local Panzano’s wine products.

Castellina
Castellina’s Rocca castle is the evidence of once being a strategic strategic headquarters between Florence and Siena. Despite multiple attacks and destructions of the city, the castle is still standing tall. Climb the tower of the castle and get a great view over the town and countryside. Inside the castle is the Archeological Museum of Chianti. Showing all kinds archeological findings from the region from the Bronze Age, Etruscan and Medieval times. Next to the castle, is the Via delle Volte, an arched passage round the eastern part of the city.
Here you can find small artistic and food shops.

Worth visiting is the church of San Salvatore, rebuilt after WW II, and displaying a 14th-century fresco of Lorenzo Bicci. Not far from Castellina’s center is the Etruscan excavation of Montecalvario, dating from the 6th century BC. You can enter the tomb and see four burial chambers facing the east, west, south and north. Some remaining tombs artifacts are shown in the museum.

In Castellina you can also do some wine tasting. Try visiting Gagliole and Villa Trasqua.

Radda
Radda is quite a small village situated upon a hilltop, situated 600 meters above sea level. Surrounded by woods and located between the valleys of the rivers Abria and Pesa. The streets are narrow and mostly traffic free, so you can feel free to wander around by foot. Radda is charming, peaceful, quiet and ideal for a short stop. The ancient city walls, cobblestone alleys and the cities architecture take you right back to the Middle Ages.

Like the Palazzo del Podestà (Palace of the Major), located in the middle of the town. It was almost destroyed in 1478, but it still has the original facade displaying the Medieval architecture. Or visit the Pieve di Santa Maria Novella, this Roman church is considered to be one of the best examples of Roman architecture in Tuscany.

Also visit the Castle of Volpaia, a sandstone castle with a rare dark color. Complete your visit with a glass of wine in it’s winebar. Other great places for wine tasting are: Castello di Albola and Casalvento Winery.

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Radda – View from Castelo Alboa

Image Source: 123rf.com

Gaiole
Gaiole is our last stop of the Chianti Classico towns before heading to Siena. Because of it’s position at the lower part of the valley, it has never been a strategic place like Radda or Castellina. So the Gaiola developed more into a marketplace for the nearby castles and churches.

One of these nearby castles is Castello di Brolio. Take the winding and narrow driveway of the Castello and watch this pentagonal fortress appear. For 8 euros you can enter the castle and gardens (wine tasting included) and enjoy the views of the Arbia valley. In the distance you can see Siena (20 km/12 miles away).
Or visit the Castello di Meleto. Nowadays it’s an hotel and also available for parties. You can get a guided tour at the ground floor of the castle which also has a theatre. At the end you can taste three wines. When you’re a hotel guest the wine tasting and tour are included. It’s the perfect place to spend the night and end your Chianti tour in a unique way!

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Chianti wine route

Image Source: 123rf.com

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