10 Little-Known Palaces and Homes Where Royalty Play

How would you hide from the paparazzi, your scathing skeptics or needy subjects if you were a member of royalty? Would you own several homes far, far away from your domain? Or, would you show up unexpectedly with bodyguards and staff to a high-priced resort tucked neatly away in the Caribbean? It appears that some royalty maintain traditions where they show up at a summer home on schedule, a habit that tends to keep news about their travels low-key. Lately, however, it seems that some royalty have altered those well-known habits based upon political agendas or to simply break with generations-old customs. Why settle for the musty family summer palace when you can visit a new high-priced resort geared to royalty?

This ability to venture beyond tradition has led to another new trick for royalty and celebrities alike – if you can travel with staff, why not stay in the home of another multi-millionaire? This possibility has led some royals to stay in celebrity homes, palaces that belong to other royal families or in the homes of corporate CEOs who unabashedly rent their abodes for tens of thousands of dollars per week.

We discovered all the above choices when we picked a handful of royals to follow for their vacations and getaways. While the sites listed below are numbered and listed in alphabetical order, these organizational techniques do not indicate that we favor one getaway over another or that they are listed in order of value.

  1. Chateau CayxChâteau de Caïx: Queen Margrethe of Denmark is a real homebody. Although she visits other heads of state for political reasons, her heart stays with her homeland as she officially resides at Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen (where the Queen was born), spends summer at Marselisborg Castle near Århus, and uses Fredensborg Castle in North Zealand during the spring and fall. But, Queen Margrethe and her husband, Prince Henrik, also acquired a more private abode in 1974 when they purchased the Château de Caïx in Cahors, southern France. This latter home is the Queen’s true playground, where she can devote herself to her painting, graphic work and other artistic pursuits. Her works have been displayed at several exhibitions since 1988. This home also is a hideaway for her husband and his French relatives when he wants to escape Danish royal life, as this home originally belonged to his wine-producing family. Henrik was born to French parents, and his native tongue also is French.
  2. Marivent PalaceMarivent Palace (Palma de Mallorca): This is the traditional summer home for Spanish King Juan Carlos and his royal family. While kings usually grant aging castles and palaces to municipalities, this building was granted by the city to the king when he was a prince. King Carlos and his son, both ardent sailors, participate in the Yacht Regattas in August and the Royal Yacht is moored in Portals Nous. Palma is the major city and port on the island of Mallorca and capital city of the autonomous community of the Spanish Balearic Islands in Europe. In 2007, however, tradition was broken when Juan Carlos’ daughters, princesses Cristina and Elena, arrived in Budva, Montenegro to stay at the Iberostar Bellevue in August. Also known as the Budva Riviera, this coastal town is a tourist attraction and one of the oldest settlements on the Adriatic sea coast in southeastern Europe. The hotel is located along the spectacular Plaza Bellevue beach and is surrounded by unspoilt, green countryside. Located just a few miles from the center of Budva, a jet-set summer resort, this hotel has been historically marked as a destination for European royal families. Among the prestigious hotels located here is the “Milocer,” former residence of royal family Karadordevic of Serbia.
  3. Michael Appe's HomeMichael Appe home: Few individuals would know about this home or its location in the Town of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, unless they were born in the region, if they have too much money and a reason to hide away, or if they read the news about French President Sarkozy’s stay here in summer 2007. When French President and ex officio Co-Prince of Andorra, Nicolas Paul Stéphane Sarközy de Nagy-Bocsa (also simply known as Nicolas Sarkozy), visited this lakeside a town of around 6,000 residents 85 miles north of Boston last year, many learned that this area bills itself as the oldest summer resort in the U.S. Wolfeboro is a popular tourist destination because of its proximity to Lake Winnipesaukee. For residents, Wolfeboro represents a town with the seventh highest per capita income and the lowest crime rate in the country, the highest SAT scores for its students and – as a further benefit – a location in one of the lowest taxed states in the country. Like many current royalty, Sarkozy holed up in another multimillionaire’s home for his vacation, one that belongs to former Microsoft executive Michael Appe. Appe rents his 13,000-square-foot home for $30,000 per week, a fact that didn’t escape the notice of Sarkozy’s French critics. That amount equals one-third of the French president’s annual salary, another fact that might lead observers to understand that Sarkozy may not need his salary to stay afloat on Lake Winnipesaukee. Wolfeboro has a long history of hosting the rich and famous, including Monaco’s Prince Rainier and Princess Grace, author Kurt Vonnegut and actress Drew Barrymore.
  4. MustiqueMustique: The Island of Mustique was made private when it was leased for 99 years from the British Commonwealth by Scotsman Colin Tennant aka Lord Glennconner in 1958. He turned the island into a hideway for British royals and celebrities. He lost the island in the 1970s, but the island remained private thanks to the operation and ownership of the Mustique Company, an organization comprised of shareholders and villa owners who are dedicated to protecting this island’s natural beauty, tranquility and privacy. Comprised of 1,400 acres, Mustique is part of the Grenadines in the West Indies on the edge of the Caribbean. Prince William and his long-time girlfriend Kate Middleton escaped to this resort for a romantic getaway in 2006, and they stayed in a villa owned by John Robinson (a close friend of Kate’s parents), the multimillionaire founder of the Jigsaw fashion chain (where Kate once worked). A more recent trip by Prince William and Kate put them in the £1,785-per-night Villa Alumbrera, one of the island’s most opulent and secluded mansions, for a week. This villa is owned by the widow of Swedish mining tycoon Adolf Lundin. Other royalty who have frequented this island include Princess Margaret and Viscout David Linley. Prices range from $5,000 per week for a two-bedroom villa to $27,000 per week for a nine-bedroom villa, depending upon season. Single rooms range from $500 to $1,400 per night. The most popular ‘hangout’ on the island is Basil’s Bar, which also is home to the Mustique Blues Festival. Proceeds from the sale of the festival’s CDs and t-shirts fund the Basil Charles’ Education Fund, an organization that provides education for children who reside in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
  5. Nagarjung PalaceNagarjung Palace: One way to use a royal summer home is to house a former king within its walls. Although King Gyanendra of Nepal won’t be playing around here, at least he has a roof over his head. And, he can dream about all the former summers he spent at Nagarjung Palace. King Gyanendra of Nepal was dethroned in May 2008 by this country’s new Constitutuent Assembly, which abolished the Asian monarchy and declared Nepal a republic. Officials met with Gyanendra in June, and the former King asked the new government to find alternative accommodation as his former home was occupied by his son and his family. The Cabinet decided to allow Gyanendra to move to Nagarjung Palace, which is situated on a forested hill on the edge of Katnamdu. Gyanendra used Nagarjung palace as his summer home, as it is surrounded by walls and has remained off-limits to the public. The palace has been nationalized by the new government along with most of the royal assets. It’s unknown how long Gyanendra will remain at the summer palace, or if the public will be able to view the inside of this vacation home in the near future. The monarchy’s end was the culmination of a two-year peace process that saw communist insurgents give up their armed struggle, join mainstream politics and win the most seats in April elections.
  6. Necker IslandNecker Island: Before Sir Richard Branson became a “Sir,” he visited the British Virgin Islands to investigate real estate for his rock stars signed to his then new Virgin Label. Necker Island was the final island on his list, and he made such a lowball bid on the £3 million price tag for this 74-acre piece of real estate that he was evicted from the island. But, the owner, Lord Cobham, eventually settled for £180,000. Within three years and for $10 million, Branson built a 10-bedroom Balinese-style villa that crowns a hill above the beach. Each of the ten bedrooms contains open walls that provide a 360-degree view and cooling winds from any direction within the house. Built from local stone and Brazilian hardwoods, the retreat is decorated with antiques, art and bamboo furniture from Bali. With accommodations for up to 28 people, the entire resort rents for $47,000 per day. Famous figures who have stayed at Branson’s resort include the late Princess Diana, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Janet Jackson, Harrison Ford, Eddie Murphy and Oprah Winfrey. If you want to visit the island you can find a way to join a legitimate scientific expedition to study a rare species of gecko, which has full and unfettered access to the island. You can reach Necker via San Juan (Puerto Rico), St Thomas, Antigua or Barbados followed by a connecting flight to Beef Island, Tortola. From Beef Island there’s a 30-minute transfer via the Necker Island private launch. Necker Island currently is one of eight getaways now owned by Virgin Limited Edition
  7. Het LooPaleis Het Oude Loo: Het Oude Loo is not a palace as much as a “Lust-hof,” or retreat, located near Apeldoorn, Netherlands in Europe. Now owned by the state, the former royal residence was built starting in 1684 for Stadtholder William III and his consort, Mary II of England. For over three hundred years, Het Loo was the summer residence of the House of Orange-Nassau, which became the Dutch royal family. Queen Wilhelmina declared that when she died the palace would go to the State, and it did in 1962 when Wilhelmina died at this retreat. After a thorough restoration, Het Loo now houses a national museum and library devoted to the House of Orange-Nassau in Dutch history and its gardens recently have been renovated to match earlier representation. Yet, Het Loo remains habitable, as evidenced by the use of the palace by Japanese royalty who are close friends to the royal family of Netherlands. Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visited the Netherlands in October 1979 and May 2000 and stayed at the Het Oude Loo castle on both occasions. In the latest known visit, Japanese Crown Prince Naruhito and his family, on a two-week private trip to the Netherlands in 2006, visited former royal stables with Queen Beatrix and her family and stayed at Het Loo. This summer home is worth a visit by anyone who is interested in architecture, gardening and history. You can visit the park all year round, but the area around the castle is open only a few months a year.
  8. Sofiero PalaceSofiero Palace: This palace represents a royal retreat that has been given to the state, while the current royals in Sweden look to other resources for relaxation. Sofiero Palace was King Gustav VI Adolf’s summer residence throughout his adult life, and he bequeathed Sofiero to Helsingborg Municipality in his will in 1973 after he created one of the most spectacular rhododendron collections at this estate. Few Swedish palaces can boast a more beautiful European setting. Today, there are over 10,000 rhododendron bushes of 300 varieties and just as many hybrids on the grounds. In recent years, the park has hosted a wide range of events, including open-air concerts, garden displays, exhibitions, courses and craft fairs. The current King of Sweden, His Majesty Carl XVI Gustaf, is the grandson of King Gustav VI Adolf, and he became the heir apparent when his father died in an airplane crash one year after the he was born. King Carl XVI Gustaf is most well known as the presenter of the Nobel Prizes each year. He and his family tend to travel to various locations for their ‘play’ rather than to retreat to a summer palace. With that said, visitors to Sofiero often can bump into royalty when they attend gallery openings or other events held at this palace.
  9. The Glass VillaThe Glass Villa (Camli Kösk): Turkish presidents reside in the Çankaya Palace (shown at left), which takes its name from Ankara’s Çankaya district in the south of the capital. The palace, which was first used by Atatürk, has an important place in the history of Turkish politics. The compound, which has been enlarged in time with additional buildings and facilities, covers an area of over 400 acres. Designed by Seyfi Arkan, a Turkish architect, as a single-story modern residence during the mid 1930s, the Glass Villa is part of this compound and has served as a residence for Prime Ministers and Speakers of the Republican Senate until 1970. Through the years, the Glass Villa was extensively modified and extended, the latest having been completed in 1996. Since then, it serves again as a guest house for visiting heads of states as it once did in the 1950s. Although uncertain, we believe this may be the building where Queen Elizabeth II stayed on her recent visit to Ankara. Outside Ankara, Turkey has laid out the welcome mat country-wide to royals who wish to support Turkey’s bid to join the European Union (EU). So far as the West is concerned, Turkey can be said to be the most successful example of a Muslim country which has embraced democracy. Turkey closed its first chapter of negotiations with the EU in June 2006, and in May 2008, Queen Elizabeth II made her first visit to Turkey in 37 years. Despite France’s opposition to these developments, the French beauty, Marie Cavallier, joined Prince Joachim of Denmark in Turkey for a romantic getaway in summer 2007, where he proposed to her on bended knee. No matter if it’s Ankara, Bursa, Istanbul or some unknown hideaway, expect to hear about some royal getaway or real estate purchase news from this country over the upcoming seasons. The earliest date that Turkey could enter the EU, by the way, is 2013.
  10. Airlee BeachWhisper Bay: This new and exclusive development represents the typical resort that is replacing summer palaces and homes for many royals and celebrities. Located in Airlie Beach, near Queensland, Australia, this area – together with adjacent Shute Harbour – provides one of the embarkation points for both the Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef. Airlie Beach, has appealed to backpackers for years, so it historically has been a relaxed and low-key tourist destination. But, this feel is changing rapidly, thanks to developers such as Rory O’Brien’s $280 million-dollar Whisper Bay project. A horde of the rich and famous, who use jets and sails to travel to and from this resort, have bought into O’Brien’s development among other exclusive development enclaves located in this area. Airlee Beach residents and visitors now see the likes of Scottish actor Sean Connery, former Dreamworld boss John Longhurst, ex-league rugby star Matthew Johns, former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, and shipping multimillionaire Owen Glenn as they enjoy the area’s relaxing amenities. As a side note, Airlee Beach really doesn’t contain a beach – but it does sport a man-made lagoon.