Palace of Versailles
More than a suburb of nearby Paris, more than one of the most ambitious architectural endeavors undertaken by man, more even, than one of the most dizzying, dazzling tourist sites in the Western world, the Palace of Versailles is an immaculately preserved symbol of history, in particular of the system of absolute monarchy that held sway throughout 17th century Europe. Versailles was once no more than a royal hunting lodge southwest of Paris, but in 1661, by the command of Louis XIV, plans were launched to renovate and expand it into something far more. By 1682, the king had established his royal court at Versailles, and concentrated all the power of France inside its resplendent halls. Today, visitors wander among an incomprehensible labyrinth of stunning gardens, through auspicious royal apartments, and within the Hall of Mirrors, one of the most famous rooms in the world.