The sovereign power of Europe’s royal families may be a thing of the past, but in the 21st century, modern royals continue to cast a spell over travelers.
Explore the streets of Copenhagen and that historical royal legacy comes alive.
The Danish royal family is the oldest in Europe. Following in their footsteps offers an entertaining way to enjoy the laid-back city of Copenhagen. A good place to start a royal tour is Christiansburg Palace where the affectionately nicknamed “Queen Daisy” hosts state functions. Paintings in the palace reveal how Danish royals are an intrinsic part of Europe’s bigger royal picture.
Back on the tourist trail, on board a glass-covered canal barge, you can spot the black granite façade of the Royal Library and the Royal Playhouse which played host to Hamlet, Denmark’s most famous prince on its opening night. Another royal must see is the changing of the guard on the cobbled square outside the elegant Amalienborg Palace, residence of the Danish royal family. Finally, don’t miss the tall towers and red stone of Rosenborg Castle, which house the Royal Collections and Crown Jewels.
Spanish monarchies have always made their mark on Madrid.
Madrid enjoys an embarrassment of cultural riches. The famous Reina Sofia Arts Center, a former hospital founded by King Philip II, houses Picasso’s famous Guernica painting, staggering collections of Dali and Miro masterpieces and exhibitions of contemporary works that are changed every three months. At the Prado Museum, Spain’s rich history is revealed through more than 1 300 of the greatest art works on earth including numerous royal portraits and famous paintings by Goya, Hieronymus Bosch, Rubens, Velazquez or El Greco.
Not far from the Prado is the relaxing Retiro Park, former royal hunting grounds and nowadays an elegant French-inspired garden decorated with endless lines of stone monarchs carved by 18th century artists. The Royal Palace is the official state residence of the Spanish Royal Family and still provides a dramatic backdrop to historic events. Across Plaza de Oriente and the statue of King Felipe IV are the former military barracks and gunpowder store, better known today as the Royal Theatre. It was completed in 1850 and its opening was attended by the opera-loving Queen Isabel II. The Plaza Mayor, build by King Philip II, is the perfect hot spot in which to enjoy a cool beer, but in the past it was also the focal point for celebrations, markets, bullfights, coronations and the occasional execution by the Spanish Inquisition.
Royal magic continues to cast a spell over visitors to the UK capital.
When Prince William turned to his new wife on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in 2011 and said: “I love you.” It was the tear-jerking happily-ever-after ending to a royal romance that had truly captivated the world. Today, there are hundreds of visitors thronging the golden gates of Buckingham Palace to photograph the balcony that was first made famous as a wedding kissing spot by that shy 19-year-old teacher, Lady Diana Spencer, and her new 32-year-old husband Prince Charles in 1981.
The giant statue of Queen Victoria shows the route that the happy couple took as they drove Prince Charles’ vintage Aston Martin from the wedding reception at Buckingham Palace to the royal residence of Clarence House. Round the corner from Clarence House are the 16th century brick towers of St James’s Palace built by Henry VIII. Closed to the public, the building is used for official royal business.
Close to St James’s are the glistening Royal coats of arms above select outlets on genteel streets such as St James’s, Piccadilly, Jermyn Street or Pall Mall, denoting they are official suppliers to the Royal Family. After an afternoon of intense window-shopping, it is time for hot tea and fresh scones at the Ritz. With its Louis XVI-inspired interiors the hotel has regularly played host to regal romance.