Live like a queen: Ten famous palaces you can actually stay in

If you'll never get an invitation from royalty, you can at least check into these genuine palace hotels for a taste of regal living.

SCHONBRUNN PALACE, VIENNA, AUSTRIA


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palaces you can stay in

Photo: Austria Trend

Although the adjacent imperial guesthouse has long been a hotel, you can now stay in the east wing of Schönbrunn, the gilt- and cherub-laden summer palace of Austrian emperors. The single suite has a salon, drawing room and two bedrooms, and provides magnificent outlooks over expansive baroque gardens and splashing fountains. With a horse-drawn carriage ride thrown in, you'll feel like a happy Hapsburg. See schoenbrunn.at

CIRAGAN PALACE, ISTANBUL, TURKEY


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palaces you can stay in

Photo: Kempinski

The Ottoman sultans knew a thing or three about luxe living, although you can out-do them by arriving at the Çırağan Palace Kempinski by helicopter. The hotel is fabulously sited on the Bosporus and flanked by swimming pools and lush lawns. Tuck into Ottoman cuisine at Tuğra restaurant, wallow in the OTT marble hammam, and lounge at the gazebo over Turkish coffee and pastries. See kempinski.com

LE GRAND CONTROLE, VERSAILLES, FRANCE


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Photo: Chateau de Versailles

Okay, this isn't the actual palace, but you can stay on the Versailles estate in a mansion built at the same time, and which once housed Jacques Necker, Louis XVI's finance minister. It has just 14 guestrooms in historical style (though thankfully with modern plumbing) as well as a spa and Alain Ducasse gastronomic restaurant. Guests get exclusive behind-the-scenes access to the palace. See airelles.com

ROYAL MANSOUR, MARRAKESH, MOROCCO


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palaces you can stay in

Photo: Royal Mansour

Finally, a hotel owned by a king (Mohammed VI) still on a throne, though you won't find him at the reception desk. Wedged into the medina's old walls, the property looks towards the snow-capped Atlas Mountains and is bewitchingly beautiful thanks to its traditional tiling, stucco work and opulence. You don't get a room but a whole house with private butler, and the service is impeccable. See royalmansour.com

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RAMBAGH PALACE, JAIPUR, INDIA


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Photo: Taj Hotels

The maharajas of Jaipur once called this vast, elegant and turreted palace home, and today you might still rub shoulders with real and Bollywood royalty at the Polo Bar. VIPs are welcomed by a pair of elephants. Mughal architecture combines with French chandeliers, gigantic four-poster beds, polo memorabilia and British-era knickknacks; a Victorian train carriage is now a bar. Peacocks strut through gardens that sprawl for acres. See tajhotels.com

GRITTI PALACE, VENICE, ITALY


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palaces you can stay in

Photo: Gritti Palace

A doge isn't quite a king, although the doges mightn't have agreed. Still, this fifteenth-century palace on the Grand Canal treats you like one. The go-to choice of celebrities and aristocrats is, as you might expect of Venice, encrusted with chandeliers, Murano glass, painted ceilings, artworks and period furniture. It's so plush that if you sink into a sofa you might never get up again. See marriott.com

AMAN SUMMER PALACE, BEIJING, CHINA


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palaces you can stay in

Photo: Aman Hotels

This former nineteenth-century guesthouse of the imperial family is tucked into a corner of the sprawling Summer Palace and consists of a series of courtyards and enclosed gardens replete with Ming Dynasty furnishings and wooden lattice screens. You also get top-notch restaurants, a contemporary spa and flawless service. Indulge your inner princess with tea at the water pavilion as you're serenaded by traditional Chinese musicians. See aman.com

ROSERSBERG PALACE, ROSERSBERG, SWEDEN


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palaces you can stay in

Photo: Rosersberg Palace

This elegant palace on the outskirts of Stockholm was once owned by Karl XIII. Guestrooms inhabit several wings, including the former theatre, and manage the trick of being stylishly contemporary while still having an echo of times past. You can dine in a posh French restaurant and make the most of the wonderful historical baroque-style gardens and parkland, filled in late spring with lilac blossoms. See rosersbergsslott.se

UMAID BHAWAN PALACE, JODHPUR, INDIA


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Photo: Taj Hotels

Colossal Umaid Bhawan, built in the 1930s in striking Art Deco style, is one of the world's largest private residences, still partly occupied by Jodhpur's royal family. The rest is a swanky hotel whose lobby sits under a 32-metre-high dome and whose retro suites are sumptuous with antique furniture and artworks. Enjoy the maharaja lifestyle over afternoon tea and croquet in the manicured gardens. See tajhotels.com

BUSSACO PALACE HOTEL, LUSO, PORTUGAL


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Photo: Almeida Hotels

You'd think some fairy queen had designed this little palace of neo-Gothic arches, gorgeous plasterwork and absurd romance, set among formal gardens and reflected in a swan-paddled pond. It was in fact built in 1885 as a hunting lodge for Portuguese royals, complete with anachronistic gargoyles and suits of armour. You can still dine like a king on suckling pig in the banqueting hall. See almeidahotels.pt

Brian Johnston has travelled as a guest of numerous tourism offices and travel companies.