Empire Builder King of Europe Backgrounder


St Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow, Russia

Located on Red Square, the 16th century St Basil’s Cathedral, with its spectacularly colourful domes, is one of Russia’s most iconic and beautiful buildings.  It also has great historical significance, since it was built by Tsar Ivan the Terrible in order to commemorate his greatest military victory, which led to the foundation of the Russian empire.


The Palace of Versailles, near Paris, France

In 1682 the vast and extremely grand Palace of Versailles, in the countryside just outside Paris, became the principal home of Louis the 14th, the so-called Sun King, and also the seat of the French government.


Catherine Palace, St Petersburg, Russia

The Russian royal family aspired to enjoying the same level of luxurious courtly life as at Versailles, and so, in the 1750s, Empress Elisabeth the 1st spent a fortune building the extraordinarily lavish Catherine Palace just outside St Petersburg as her summer residence.


Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria

Unwilling to be outdone by the magnificence and grandeur of other European palaces such as Versailles, in the mid-18th Century the Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa commissioned her own, almost equally enormous country palace just outside Vienna, Schönbrunn Palace.


The Louvre Palace, Paris, France

Following the French Revolution, the Louvre Palace, which had been the French kings’ main residence during much of the 16th and 17th centuries, was turned into a public art museum in 1793.  Initially, it was the Revolution’s greatest military leader, Napoleon Bonaparte, who rapidly expanded the Louvre’s collection, filling it up with numerous world-famous artworks that he seized as the spoils of war from Egypt, Italy and elsewhere.


The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Moscow, Russia

To commemorate Napoleon’s historic defeat in 1812, Russia’s Tsar Alexander the 1st built the world’s tallest Orthodox Christian church, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.


The Opera House, Vienna, Austria

In the 19th century, the Habsburg Empire’s capital, Vienna, was completely redeveloped, with a grand new circular boulevard replacing the city’s ancient medieval walls and moat.  Numerous opulent buildings were constructed all along it, of which one of the most magnificent was the Opera House.



The Parliament Building, Budapest, Hungary

While the Opera House was being built, Austria was defeated in battle by Prussia in 1866, one of the consequences of which was that the Habsburg Emperor Franz Joseph was forced to offer autonomy in domestic affairs to his empire’s restive province of Hungary.  To celebrate this major step towards independence, the Hungarians built a magnificent new Parliament Building, which when completed in 1904 was the world’s largest parliament.


The Winter Palace, St Petersburg, Russia

The stage for many of the most significant and dramatic events of the Russian Revolution in 1917 was the Tsars’ vast and luxurious Winter Palace at the heart of St Petersburg.


When To Go:


The best time to visit France, Austria, Hungary or the European part of Russia is during the summer (June to August), when the weather is at its most reliable.  Alternatively spring (April/May) and autumn (September/October) can also be very pleasant times to visit.


Getting There: International/domestic travel by air, sea, road  (max. 100 words)


Moscow has three international airports, Sheremetyevo, Domodedovo, and Vnukovo, whilst there are also direct flights to St Petersburg International Airport.  The main international airport serving Paris is Charles de Gaulle airport, the second busiest airport in Europe, whilst Vienna and Budapest also have international airports with direct connections to many countries.


Must See and Dos – e.g. attractions or activities along the way(max. 10)

1. St Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow, Russia

2. Catherine Palace, St Petersburg, Russia

3. The Winter Palace, St Petersburg, Russia

4. The Palace of Versailles, near Paris, France

5. The Louvre Palace, Paris, France


List any hotels, guesthouses, hostels, B&Bs featured or stayed in along the route:


Websites used to research show – include tourist office, museums, galleries, iconic buildings etc.






List any books you used to research/prepare show

1. Lonely Planet

2. Rough Guide