Castle Or Palace? It’s Not Quite The Same Thing

Some of the most beautiful historical buildings in the world are castles or palaces. When visiting other countries most likely you’ll come across these magnificent buildings.

Although the words are often being used interchangeably there is a difference between the two in their design and purpose.

Castles were built first and foremost to defend, but also to provide a home for the king. When they stopped being used for that purpose – to defend in the battles – many of them were renovated in the luxurious residences of the royalty.

Palace is a very large impressive house that is an official home of a king, queen, or president. Palaces are built solely for the purpose of providing luxurious homes to the kings and royalty, to show the rich possessions and wealth. The architectural style of the palace should give the building elegance and beautifully designed elements.

The world’s largest residential palace is the Istana Nurul Iman, near Bandar Seri Begawan, capital of Brunei. Official home of the Sultan of Brunei and the seat of the Brunei government. The largest imperial palce in the world is located in Beijing, China

castle vs palace

The Palace of Versailles (Château de Versailles). One of the most visited places in the world, counting several millions visitors yearly. The Palace is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Palace of Versailles was never protective fortification as the medieval castles were. The term “chateau” means luxurious residence situated in a rural location in France.

Located in the region of Île-de-France, about 20 kilometres from Paris, the Palace was the royal residence of France until the start of the French Revolution. Later by order of King Louis-Philippe it became the Museum of the History of France.Today there are 2,300 rooms spread over 63,154 m2 in the Palace of Versailles. And from so many rooms, the most famous one in the Palace, The Hall of Mirrors was in fact built to replace a large terrace.

The Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, China was the residence of the Dalai Lama until the 14th Dalai Lama. At 3,500 metres above sea level Potala Palace is the highest palace in the world. It’s also a major center of buddhist spirituality and one of Tibet’s major attractions. Potala is divided into two parts, the Red Palace which is for religious practice and the White Palace for administrative use. The Dalai Lama lived in the White Palace. Today it is a museum and World Heritage Site.

castle vs palace

Buckingham Palace is the Queen’s official London residence. Elizabeth II is Queen of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms. Today the Palace is administrative headquarters and is used for many official events and receptions held by The Queen. This beautiful building in Neoclassical architectural style is not a private property of The Queen, but owned by the current monarch because of her position as queen.
The building was transformed into a royal palace by George IV in the early 19th century.
Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms of which 19 are State Rooms. The State Rooms at Buckingham Palace, used for official and state entertaining,
are open to visitors every summer for 10 weeks (from July – September 2019).
But, there are also available exclusive tours in spring and winter. Tours last about 2.5 hours but taking photos in the State Rooms isn’t allowed.

Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace is the ceremony where The Queen’s Guard hands over responsibility for protecting Buckingham Palace and St. James’s Palace to the New Guard. The Queen’s Guards are not allowed to move and they spend two hours on duty and four off. Watching the Changing of the Guard ceremony is free and no tickets are required. The ceremony begins at 11 a.m. and lasts for approximately 45 minutes.

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Castles were built out of stone without any decorations made of materials such as marble or gold as the palaces were. So castles have some parts and buildings structured for defense in case of attacks while palaces don’t include such constructions. Also, palaces were built all over the world way before castles became in use (somewhere before the 10th century).

Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the most popular castles in the world. The castle is located on top of a hill in Bavaria, Germany near the town of Fussen. It was built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria in the 19th century in a time when castles no longer had strategic and defensive purposes.
King Ludwig was a great admirer of Richard Wagner’s work, the composer. Many rooms in Neuschwanstein Castle were inspired by Wagner’s characters.
Walt Disney’s castle was inspired and designed after this castle. It certainly looks like from a fairy tale

castle vs palace

Windsor Castle is a royal residence at Windsor in the English county of Berkshire. Built in the 11th century It is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. Today The Queen of United Kingdom Elizabeth II spends most of her private weekends at the Castle. The Royal Standard is flown at royal residences only when the Queen is present and the Union Flag flies when the Queen isn’t there. It is open to visitors all year round. Visitors today can see the State Apartments, Queen Mary’s Doll’s House, and St. George’s Chapel, where Henry VIII is buried.

Castle is a large building or group of buildings strengthen with defensive works to protect against attack. Castles were primarily built with defense in mind. Besides that they provided living quarters for the king their main role was to protect from enemies. The owner of the castle didn’t live in the castle permanently instead he would move from one property to another. When wars and battles were on, the owner and his family would move into the castle along with the soldiers and other people that worked for him. So, castles had private rooms for the owner and his family, bedrooms, kitchens, cabinets, storerooms etc. But they also had a Hall for receiving guests, room for prayer or Chapel, and gardens for example.

castle vs palace

Mont Saint-Michel is an island (on high tide) and mainland commune in Normandy, France. On these 400 hectares live around 50 people. Millions of visitor will come during the year to stroll the narrow streets full of shops, to explore this island’s community and learn about its medieval history .

The island was a strategic fortification and the seat of the monastery. The Mont Saint-Michel and its bay are on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

If you observe the buildings of the medieval castles you’ll notice that they have towers, from where people that worked in the castle could see the enemies, or other people approaching from far away. In the defense, towers played the main role. They were mainly built of stone and included battlements and arrow slits for defense. From those narrow vertical gaps in castle walls or arrow slits, archers fired arrows on enemy attackers. At the top of the castle’s main wall, you can also see defensive stone walls with gaps, or battlements, from where the defenders fired their arrows or stones on the attackers. They were built around the shoulders height to protect soldiers of the enemy attacks. There are of course also the gatehouses (fortifications) that were built to protect the main entrance to a castle and would usually include drawbridge. These kinds of bridges were built over a castle’s moat and when raised prevent people from crossing.

Castles were built strategically. They were positioned in a way that the enemy would have many difficulties when approaching. Like on top of the hill from where the attackers could be spotted more easily from far. If the land was flat, an artificial moat would be constructed. That’s why most often they were located near a river or lakes. They were only built in Europe and the Middle East.

When powerful weapons showed up in the world such as cannon and other weapons that used gunpowder, somewhere in the 15th-century, castles were no longer built. Simply their defensive role was weakened. When castles lost their main purpose as a defensive fortification from the enemy, they become residencies.