Famous Seats: Thrones and Castles




Since the establishment of social, political, and economic hierarchy, royalty has fascinated the common man. The lives of aristocrats seem far removed from normal provincial life, taking on a romantic, fairytale-like quality. Nothing cements this idea more than the majestic castles and sophisticated thrones of the ruling class. For centuries kings, queens, and other members of the aristocracy commissioned the construction of castles, whether for defense, for residence, or for a seat of government. The Normans in England built the first known castles using wood but, as time went on, castles used less wood and more masonry. Today, you can tour hundreds of historic castles throughout the world. Explore some of the most famous castles, as well as a few prominent royal thrones, virtually and without ever leaving your own seat.


  • Akershus Fortress in Norway - About three hundred years after King Hakon V constructed the fortress in the 1300s to ward off attackers, King Christian IV converted it into a beautiful Renaissance-style castle and royal residence.

  • Alcazar de Segovia in Spain - Walk through and around this mystical fortress with the museum's official virtual tour. Note that all text is in Spanish.

  • Alnwick Castle in England - Since the 1250s, the Duke of Northumberland and the Percy family have inhabited this iconic, Gothic-style British fortress. Warner Bros. shot the first two Harry Potter films at Alnwick.

  • Balmoral Castle in Scotland - Queen Victoria, who laid the foundation for the castle in 1853, called Balmoral her "dear paradise in the Highlands." Find out what Balmoral has to offer and how to visit.

  • Bodiam Castle in England - Bodiam was constructed in 1385 as a defensive fortification during the Hundred Years' War. The interior has deteriorated over the years, but the exterior maintains a picturesque English medieval appearance.

  • Buckingham Palace in England - A list on thrones and castles wouldn't be complete without mentioning Buckingham Palace. Comb the hallways of this regal residence and administrative headquarters with virtual tours on the official site of the British royal family.

  • An Interactive Educational Tour of Buckingham Palace in England - Google Expedition collaborated with the royal family to create a virtual tour for Buckingham Palace that is suited to students.

  • Chapultepec Castle in Mexico - This castle sits on a hill overlooking Mexico City. It started as an aristocratic residence, but has served a variety of other purposes since first construction.

  • Chateau de Chambord in France - This French chateau is set apart by its iconic French Renaissance architecture. This overview on the museum's website explores the architectural intricacies of the structure.

  • Chateau de Chenonceau in France - The most visited chateau in Loire Valley, Chenonceau was built and developed largely by women.

  • Chateau Gaillard in France - This "strong castle", built for Richard the Lionheart in the late 1300s, stood against France until the late 16th and early 17th century.

  • Chillon Castle in Switzerland website - The medieval Chillon Castle has stood on the shore of Lake Geneva since the 12th century and passed through the hands of three different families.

  • Conwy Castle in Wales article - Conwy Castle, one of the best preserved fortresses in North Wales, has been called the most magnificent of Edward I's Iron Ring castles.

  • De Haar Castle in the Netherlands - The De Haar Castle - the Netherland's largest - came into the possession of the de Haar family in 1391. It has undergone much rebuilding and many renovations through the centuries. From the 1890s to the 1910s the castle took on the richly-decorated, Neo-Gothic design that characterize it today.

  • Dover Castle in England - Founded in the 11th century, Dover Castle has been called the Key to England for its defensive significance. This article gives an in-depth look its strategic role through history.

  • Dragon Throne in China - The highly ornamental Dragon Throne was the seat of more than twenty Ming and Qing emperors.

  • Edinburgh Castle in Scotland - Edinburgh Castle has dominated the skyline of Edinburgh since the 12th century. The short articles and walkthrough videos on the museum's website provide a glimpse into the fortress's colorful past.

  • Heidelberg Castle in Germany - Though all in ruins now, Heidelberg Castle remains a dominant and impressive landmark and a valuable artifact of German Romanticism.

  • The Destruction of Heidelberg Castle in Germany - This animation recreates the castle's destruction during the Nine Years' War.

  • Himeji Castle in Japan - Himeji is Japan's best-preserved castle. Having served as a fortification against shoguns since 1346, in 1577 a preeminent Japanese general and politician turned it into a castle.

  • Information on the Hohenzollern Castle in Germany - Hohenzollern Castle, constructed as the ancestral seat of the House of Hohenzollern, sits proudly atop the same-named mount. King William of Prussia made it into the imposing Gothic-style fortress known today.

  • Hohenzollern Castle in Germany - This video shows aerial images of this impressive castle.

  • Kronborg Castle in Denmark - In 1574, King Frederic rebuilt the 15th century Krogen fortress to reflect the new Renaissance style. It is known worldwide as Hamlet's castle, from Shakespeare's famous play.

  • Malbork Castle in Poland - Malbork Castle, erected in the 13th century, originally belonged to the Teutonic Order during the Crusades. It is the world's largest castle by land area. The museum website provides a complete history of the fortress and photos of the interior.

  • Miramare Castle in Italy - Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximillian had Miramare Castle built in the mid-19th century to serve as a small, quiet residence for himself and his wife.

  • Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany - Called the Fairytale King, the withdrawn and extravagant King Ludwig II of Bavaria built a series of opulent castles to hide away in. Neuschwanstein is the most popular.

  • Osaka Castle in Japan - General Hydeyoshi used Osaka as a stronghold to quell wars and promote national unity. It has suffered destruction several times, both by natural disasters and by war, but has always been rebuilt.

  • Pena Palace in Portugal - The multi-faceted design of Pena Palace, a complex nestled in the Sintra Mountains, represents the best in the Romanticism style of architecture. It is one of Portugal's greatest attractions.

  • Prague Castle in the Czech Republic - Prague Castle is the world's largest castle complex and a composition of various architectural styles from over 1000 years of history.

  • St. Edward's Chair in England - Also called the Coronation Chair, British monarchs have sat at this ancient wooden chair to be invested with regalia and crowned since Henry IV in 1399.

  • Throne of Charlemagne in German - At the simple marble and bronze seat of Charlemagne in the Palatine Chapel, over thirty Holy Roman Emperors were crowned from the 10th century to the 16th century.

  • Warwick Castle in England - Explore Warwick Castle, one of the most famous and imposing castles in the world, with this interactive map on the official museum website.

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