For sheer romance, there’s nothing quite like sleeping in a palace. Yet as any persnickety maharaja can tell you, not all palaces are created equal. Choose poorly and you could spend a royal sum on a cold, drafty room that’ll have you wishing you could trade some square footage for some underfloor heating. Find yourself in one of these ten palace hotels, however, and you might start planning a coup in the hopes of making a permanent lifestyle change.
Jodhpur, Rajasthan — Still occupied by what remains of Jodhpur’s old royal family, Umaid Bhawan is, at about seventy years old, a relative newcomer in the world of Indian palace hotels. And its interiors reflect its vintage, sporting an authentic Art Deco look that lends it some genuine, quirky charm — and a personality quite apart from the often self-serious competition.
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Versailles — It’s not the Chateau de Versailles proper, but set five hundred meters away on the edge of Louis XIV’s royal estate, this cut-stone palace is awfully close. Indeed the Treaty of Versailles was written in Trianon Palace’s Clémenceau Room, though today the business at hand tends more toward dining in the Gordon Ramsay restaurant or taking a dip in the gorgeous pool.
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Rome — Once home to the Emperor Napoleon III, and owned today by a princess who lives next door, this two-suite palace is about as opulent as these things come. Enormous oil paintings, 16th-century tapestries, hand-stenciled walls, a bed set with velvet pillows and surrounded by silk drapes: believe it or not, this is all only the beginning.
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Mumbai — A hotel from the start, the Taj Mahal Palace was built for money, not love — but the lore of the place is scarcely less romantic than that of its wonder-of-the-world namesake. Conventional wisdom holds that this is the finest hotel in India, and the guest book reads like a Who’s-Who covering a century’s worth of travelers to the subcontinent.
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Bangalore — A full-scale model of the Royal Palace of Mysore, the Leela Palace Bangalore is all the more impressive given its setting in the heart of India’s tech capital. Surrounded by nine acres of tightly kept lawns and manicured hedges, with more than a few palm trees and waterfalls sprinkled in for good measure, it’s one of those urban oases that looks much more oasis than urban.
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Porto, Portugal — Porto’s Palácio do Freixo has something of a split personality — half of it’s housed in a salmon-pink flour factory, the other half in an 18th-century Baroque palace. Fortunately, it takes more inspiration from the latter, so while sitting by the pool along the breezy Douro River is one option, you can also keep things 18th-century by taking tea in a gilded hall of mirrors.
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Jodhpur, Rajasthan — From certain angles Raas almost looks like an extension of the towering, ancient Mehrangah Fort that serves as its backdrop. For the most part, however, it’s the rare Indian haveli with a thoroughly modern design sensibility, and though not lacking for luxury, at just nine rooms, it feels casual and intimate in a way that much larger palace hotels can never be.
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Paris — A full-scale chateau set right on the Place des Vosges, in the heart of the Marais? It seems too romantic to exist at all. Le Pavillon de la Reine was constructed as a royal residence, though the royals never moved in; instead it’s been a gathering place for figures of high society since the 18th century, and it maintains the same ambience by force of full-tilt historical décor.
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Udaipur, Rajasthan — Set in the middle of Lake Pichola, with the striking White City rising from the shores beyond, the Taj Lake Palace looks like something out of a fairy tale. It was built in 1740 as a summer retreat for royals, and with its old-world service and beautifully preserved details, it still has a regal air about it — set at a peaceful distance from the thrum of city life across the lake.
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