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Why You Should Visit the Largest Ancient Castle in the World in Prague

Why You Should Visit the Largest Ancient Castle in the World in Prague

The castle has always been the seat of Czech monarchs as well as the official residence of the head of state. Looming above the Vltava's left bank, its serried ranks of spires, towers, and palaces dominate the city center like a fairy-tale fortress. Its history begins in the 9th century when Prince Bořivoj founded a fortified settlement here. It grew haphazardly as rulers made their own additions. Download the Prague Castle Travel Guide and Offline Map and make your way there now.

1. The Crown Jewels

Stowed away in a chamber of St. Vitus Cathedral, the Bohemian Crown Jewels include the St. Wenceslas crown, royal scepter, and coronation cloak. And the Republic isn't taking any chances with their safekeeping. Both the chamber door and iron safe inside have seven locks, the keys to which are held by seven people, including the President, Prime Minister, and Prague Archbishop. The President typically puts them on display every five years. When he does, all seven key holders must head over to the Castle for the unlocking process.

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2. Its History

A crucial Holocaust organizer, Reinhard Heydrich held court at Prague Castle starting in 1941. Terrified Czechs nicknamed him The Butcher of Prague. But a group of exiled Czech government officials decided to take action. Two Czech soldiers parachuted back into the country and headed for Prague, where they hopped on bicycles and rode toward the Castle. When they spotted The Butcher in his Mercedez convertible, they made their move, shooting and tossing grenades his way.

3. The Largest Castle in the World

The Prague Castle complex is enormous, with an area totaling of 753,474 square feet. That makes it the largest ancient castle in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. The complex extends down to the Lesser Quarter or Mala Strana, where several chateaux and palaces are found. Wallenstein Palace, for one, is home to the Czech Senate and includes 26 houses and six gardens.

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Outstanding Reasons to Visit the Hermitage Museum in Russia

Outstanding Reasons to Visit the Hermitage Museum in Russia

The Hermitage Museum does not disappoint and it certainly lives up to its reputation. You can get lost for days just soaking up all the treasures in its 360 rooms. And to think what's on display is a mere fraction of over three million items in their collection--this amounts to a comprehensive history of Western European art. Catherine the Great, one of the greatest art collectors of all time, began the collection. Visiting the museum requires planning so download the Hermitage Museum Travel Guide and Offline Map and start now!

1. Portrait of Soler

One of the most emotive paintings from Picasso’s ‘Blue Period’, Portrait of Soler is a picture of a young man sitting alone in a café, and is widely considered a comment on loneliness and isolation within the artist’s own life. Painted in 1903, using his good friend and patron, Soleras as his model, Picasso expresses melancholy through a powerful use of color, expression, and lighting – or lack thereof.

2. St. Luke Drawing the Virgin

A significant artwork by Belgian painter Rogier van der Weyden, St Luke Drawing the Virgin portrays an artist--perhaps a self-portrait of van der Weyden himself--sketching the Virgin Mary as she cradles baby Jesus. Interestingly, the canvas was initially two separate pieces, one half owned by Tsar Nicholas I, and the other by Alexander III. If you look closely, you can still see the vertical join.

3. Head of Athena

There are a number of sculptures of Greek Goddess Athena throughout the State Hermitage Museum, but the Head of Athena is arguably the most captivating. Dating back to the 2nd century, the marble is immaculately preserved, so her powerful and wise gaze continues to be as striking as it would have been when it was created.

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3 Compelling reasons to Visit Alhambra!

3 Compelling reasons to Visit Alhambra!

Built originally for military purposes, the name Alhambra comes from an Arabic root which means "crimson castle", due to the colors of the towers and wall that surround the entire hill of La Sabica. Interestingly enough, by starlight, the walls and towers look silver, but by sunlight, they transform into gold. The Alhambra was created as an "alcazaba" (fortress), an "alcázar" (palace) and a small "medina" (city), all in one. Download the Alhambra Guide and Offline Map to help you understand the distinctive features of the monument when you visit.

1.      It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Alhambra is regarded one of the finest palaces from its era and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. It welcomes over two million in 2014 alone and was declared the most visited monument in Spain. That's reason enough to visit Alhambra considering Spain's other impressive sights. Although the palace was built in the 13th century, its magnificence and beauty remain remarkably intact. The buildings feature intricate designs, detailed mosaics, and hand-carved cedar wood.

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2.      It is Home to Magnificent Monuments and Incredible Art

Seven halls at Alhambra is dedicated to a variety of exhibitions where you can learn about the Alhambra's interesting history. It is also considered to hold the best collection of Nasrid and Mudejar in the art world, so the Museum of Alhambra shouldn't be missed. As you walk your way through a labyrinth of passageways, you'll come across impressive monuments. One of the notable monuments is the Fountain of the Lions. It's a stunning piece to behold with its 12 marble lions sitting at the center of the courtyard in the equally mesmerizing Palace of the Lions.

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3.      The Stunning View

Having been built as a stronghold by the Arabs, the Alhambra sits on the hilltop and occupies the entire hill of La Sabica overlooking Granada. Expect wondrous views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the rolling hills of the Andalusian countryside. Asides from the views and architecture, visitors can also enjoy a stroll through the Generalife Gardens. It's an oasis of peace and tranquility that dates back 750 years. Although it began as a military fortress, the construction of the palace was eventually commissioned by the Nasrid dynasty and was home to the royal family before the Catholic Monarchs took hold during the Reconquista of 1492.

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What to See at the Palace of Versailles, Home of French Royalty

What to See at the Palace of Versailles, Home of French Royalty

The royal palace of Versailles with its expansive gardens and massively intricate architecture is considered one of, if not the most, famous attractions in the Île-de-France region of France. Built by King Louis XIV, it has been home to three generations of French kings and queens from 1682 until the beginning of the French Revolution in 1798. As a result, each monarch was able to add new additions to the palace estate making even grander and majestic than it originally was. There is a lot see at here as the entire estate is 2,014 acres and so it's best to plan ahead. Be sure to download the Palace of Versailles Travel Guide and Offline Map to help you to maximize your trip.

1.      Estate of Trianon

Thies intimate estate is famously associated with Queen Marie-Antoinette and thus fondly called the Marie-Antoinette estate. Construction of the estate started under King Louis XIV. It was once called the "Marble Trianon" for the unique pink marbles panels that adorned the palace's facades. Marie-Antoinette is known to seek refuge and spent most of her time away from the prying eyes of the royal court in the marvelous rustic-style cottages of the Trianon. The cottages are surrounded by marvelous gardens with ornate geometric flowerbeds and tens of thousands of flowers.

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2.      Hall of Mirrors

The Hall of Mirrors is the most prominent feature at the Palace of Versailles. It was originally built as a terrace that stood between the King and Queen's bedchambers. The open-air terrace overlooking the gardens was soon remodeled due to being exposed to bad weather. When the hall was finished it served as a passageway and waiting area to impress his guests. The Treaty of Versailles, which officially brought the First World War to an end, was signed here in the Hall of Mirrors on June 28, 1919.

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3.      Leto’s Fountain

The palace estate has eight majestic fountains that you can visit, but one of the notable ones is the Leto's Fountain. It was inspired by The Metamorphoses by Ovide. It illustrates the story of Leto, the mother of Apollo and Diana, protecting her children from the insults of the peasants of Lycia and pleading with Jupiter to avenge her. Jupiter agrees and turns the inhabitants of Lycia into frogs and lizards. The central marble pyramid depicts Leto and her children.

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