Namedy Castle, Andernach, Germany. Liechtenstein City Palace, Vienna, Austria. Photo: Suzie Blake
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Wurzburg Residential Palace, Germany.

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Perhaps it’s because we’re raised on fairytales and movies featuring chivalrous knights that we find castles and palaces so appealing. Certainly, they remain travel’s greatest drawcards, grandly encapsulating centuries of ever-changing history, architecture and art. At the same time, they reflect the power, wealth and eccentricity of owners both past and present. The most famous castles and palaces of Europe draw in the biggest crowds, but the old continent has many more intimate offerings. Here are six must-visit regal residences. Namedy Castle, Andernach, Germany

WHY WE LOVE IT This once moated castle, surrounded by some of the finest scenery along the Rhine River, has had many illustrious owners and was acquired by the princes of Hohenzollern in 1908. It has an imposing elegance that blends a medieval core with late 19th-century residential additions, and succeeds admirably in combining history with a family home. The castle is also lively with concerts and other cultural events.

DON’T MISS The red-walled Knight’s Hall is splendid, especially the two statues of knights in full armour that stand on either side of the huge fireplace. The elegantly restored Hall of Mirrors has a gleaming parquet floor that will make you want to run and slide.

INSIDER TIP Both Namedy Castle and Majestic Imperator (right), a train that offers unsurpassed luxury in lavish imperial style, are among APT’s Royal Signature Experiences available exclusively on select APT Collection river cruises. Château De Cazeneuve, Aquitaine, France

WHY WE LOVE IT Once home to the kings of Navarre and later Henry IV of France, this medieval castle, a new APT Royal Signature Experience for 2017, sits in a splendid park overlooking gorges. Its moats, towers and irregular shape give it the appearance of a

castle from the age of chivalry. Now owned by the dukes of Albret, it retains the feel and heritage of a family home.

DON’T MISS Fine tapestries, a romantic bedroom in the Louis XVI style, a secret passageway and a walkway on the ramparts above the river allow you to indulge in knightly fantasies. Dozens of fine pieces of furniture are on display. Also impressive are the kitchens where servants toiled over huge brass pots. Peek into the cellars, where bottles of fine Bordeaux wines mature.

INSIDER TIP Save time to stray beyond the English-style gardens and into the 16 hectares of woodland, where you might spot deer and pheasants. Liechtenstein City Palace, Vienna, Austria

WHY WE LOVE IT This superb aristocratic residence, owned by the princely Family of Liechtenstein, is an architectural gem in a city not short of fine palaces. It recently opened to the public after extensive renovations and was the first baroque building of importance in Vienna, setting the standards for glorious stucco ceilings, ornate parquet floors and rich gold-leaf decoration.

DON’T MISS Despite the opulent rooms, the staircase is the place to linger: it’s one of the grandest baroque beauties in Austria. Artworks from the early 19th-century Biedermeier period are notable. Guides might also point out innovative 19th-century improvements such as an early intercom system and ducted heating.

INSIDER TIP Concert performances at Vienna’s magnificent City Palace are available as part of APT’s Royal Signature Experiences. Château De Grignan, Provence, France

WHY WE LOVE IT Since the 11th century this formidable fortress has loomed over the olive groves of Provence, 80 kilometres from Avignon. Grafted on during the Renaissance is a more comfortable residential château that provides a contrasting Jekyll-and-Hyde appeal. The castle is famous for its associations with the Marquise de Sévigné, whose letters are masterpieces of French literature.

DON’T MISS The castle’s furnishings are mostly French and Italian, with some splendid examples of cabinetry and porcelain. Spend time on the château’s large terraces, one of which is the church roof, for lovely views over the red-tiled village of Grignan and the surrounding countryside’s oak forests and lavender fields.

INSIDER TIP Approach on foot though the village’s narrow lanes and 15th-century houses for an atmospheric arrival at the castle, which impresses with its mighty bulk. Residenz, Würzburg, Germany

WHY WE LOVE IT For centuries tiny but rich Würzburg was ruled by powerful prince-archbishops with an extraordinary taste for excess, including ceilings swarming with bare-breasted ladies. Barely an inch of this vast baroque palace escapes lashings of gold leaf and frescoes: it’s both outrageous and one of Europe’s great architectural, 18th-century masterpieces.

DON’T MISS Though the baroque might not quite be to modern tastes, some of the bedrooms are exquisitely decorated, and the reconstructed Mirror Cabinet is a gem of rococo harmony. The Tiepolo fresco above the main staircase, depicting the four (known) continents of the world, is so gorgeous it will give you a crick in your neck.

INSIDER TIP Recover from the shock of the baroque in the palace’s more austere wine cellar, where on weekends you can indulge in a wine tasting. Majestic Imperator, Austria

WHY WE LOVE IT It’s Europe’s palace on rails. The opulent Majestic Imperator train is inspired by the original designs of Emperor Franz Joseph I and Sisi’s (Empress Elisabath of Austria’s) own royal train.

DON’T MISS You can spend a whole day aboard the Majestic Imperator, travelling through the stunning scenery of Austria and Germany with a stop in Salzburg. Along the way passengers aboard this special APT Royal Signature Experience can not only just enjoy drinks and hors d’oeuvres but also musical performances.

INSIDER TIP A small pipe which once belonged to Emperor Franz Joseph is on display inside a glass show case aboard the train. The pipe’s authenticity was confirmed by the Emperor’s personal valet, Eugen Ketterl, in 1916. UNFORGETTABLE PEOPLE

Princess Heide

When Munich girl Heide Hansen married Prince Godehard von Hohenzollern in 1970 she not only became part of an illustrious dynasty of Prussian and German princes, kings and emperors, but took on the immense task of living in Namedy Castle.

The 14th-century building was falling apart and almost windowless. The couple spent decades restoring it from the roof downwards, raising money by opening it to the public and staging musical events. Princess Heide deals with the massive challenge of maintaining an historic castle with straightforward practicality. She jokes that some visitors expect her to be wearing a tiara and ballgown, which isn’t her style; expect to spot the royal owner in pants and sensible shoes. Look out when at Namedy for her one indulgence, a collection of miniature porcelain shoes modelled on haute couture footwear. Princess Heide has a son Karl and a daughter Anna, who now helps with the running of the castle.

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