18 Fascinating Satellite Photos Of Famous Castles

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Vote up the images that give you a new perspective on royal estates.

Castles were built to withstand not only the elements but also enemy sieges and the occasional fury of hungry commoners, so it's no surprise that many of them survived into the present day. Most of these have transitioned from royal residences into tourist attractions, and it's easy to understand why. Palaces, citadels, fortresses, and just really big chateaus hold an undeniable attraction to modern eyes.

The world's largest castles are fairy tales made real, physical evidence of an era far removed from the now. Seen from below, they inspire awe. Seen from above, with the latest in satellite technology, it becomes clearer how they've shaped the land around them. Check out these satellite pics of castles, and vote up the ones that give you a new perspective on the past.

  • Beijing's imperial palace was first occupied by the court of the Ming dynasty in 1420. The 178-acre compound is now a museum for China's art and history. 

    The palace was known as the "Forbidden City" because most Chinese subjects were once forbidden to enter the complex. Even members of the government and imperial family enjoyed only limited access.

    According to the Encyclopedia Britannica

    The architecture of the walled complex adheres rigidly to the traditional Chinese geomantic practice of feng shui. The orientation of the Forbidden City, and for that matter all of Beijing, follows a north-south line. Within the compound, all the most important buildings, especially those along the main axis, face south to honor the Sun. 

    1,013 votes
  • Also known as Shirasagijo, or White Heron Castle, Himeji was built up over several centuries, from the 1400s to 1609. Its more than 80 buildings are connected by several gates and winding paths that form a kind of labyrinth. 

    According to UNESCO,

    The principal complex of these structures is a masterpiece of construction in wood, combining function with aesthetic appeal, both in its elegant appearance unified by the white plastered earthen walls... and in the subtlety of the relationships between the building masses and the multiple roof layers visible from almost any point in the city.

    618 votes
  • Burg Eltz is not only a historical site but also inhabited by the same family that was first deeded the castle in 1157 AD. Located in Wierschem, Germany, the Eltz family has lived on the estate for more than 860 years.

    A survivor of the Thirty Years' War, possessing 80 rooms, and said to be haunted by ghostly medieval knights, Burg Eltz looks much like it did in the 16th century. 

    1,505 votes
  • 4
    562 VOTES

    Alhambra Castle is located in Granada, the last independent Muslim state to exist in Western Europe. A palace fortress, Alhambra takes its name from the reddish color of its walls (in Arabic, "qa'lat al-Hamra" means Red Castle). 

    Built on a plateau that overlooks the Albaicín quarter of the city, the castle was established in the 9th century, then built out by the Nasrid dynasty between 1238 and 1358. The Spanish conquered the land in 1492, and soon outlawed the practice of Islam, driving out Muslims or forcing them to practice in secret.

    562 votes
  • Originally the site of Louis XIII's hunting lodge, the monarch's son, Louis XIV, would eventually transform it into the new home of the French court. Louis oversaw the construction of a lavish palace containing pressurized fountains, about 350 apartments, and architectural works of art like the Hall of Mirrors.

    Perhaps Danish writer Louise Boisen Schmidt said it best:

    To the public imagination, Versailles is the epitome of opulence. It represents an age in French history of both France's rise as a fashion and power center as well as the dramatic — and bloody — decline of the monarchy.

    2,130 votes
  • Resembling a French chateau, Dunrobin belongs to the Dukes of Sutherland. It was first established in the 14th century, and is "one of the oldest continuously inhabited houses" in the United Kingdom.

    During the 20th century, it was used as a naval hospital during the first World War, and then later as a boys' boarding school from 1965-1972.

    732 votes