A pool, a tennis court, a staff of servants and a ridiculous amount of square footage make a mansion a mansion, right? Wrong. Mansions come in a variety of shapes and styles. Some ramble across acres of land while others are more compact and quaint. Some look like skyscrapers and others resemble castles. Mansions, you see, are as different as their owners -- take 21st-century actor Sandra Bullock's Gothic-Victorian home and the 19th-century English governor Sir Thomas Maitland's seaside chateau as examples. A mansion's grandeur lies in its custom design. So without further ado, here is our list of the world's coolest mansions.
[See a photo recap of The World's Coolest Mansions]
Country singer Alan Jackson put his estate, Sweetbriar, on the market in 2009 for $38 million, according to The Real Estalker. It hasn't sold yet. The property, which contains six bedrooms, nine bathrooms, a 20-car garage, a lake and three ponds, sprawls over 135 acres in Franklin, Tenn., a suburb of Nashville. The Harpeth River also runs through Jackson's estate, alongside which there's even a two-bedroom log cabin for nights when he feels like "roughing it."
The late William Randolph Hearst, a figure whose influence in the 19th and 20th centuries extended from publishing to politics to art, built Hearst Castle in the early 1900s. Although it was never fully finished -- as a result of Hearst's deteriorating health in the 1940s -- it stands as homage to this larger-than-life man. There are formal gardens, a zoo complete with zebras, an airfield and even an upstairs suite inspired by the Doge's Palace in Venice. Did you know that it was also the inspiration for Citizen Kane's fictional Xanadu? Plus, one of the best things about the castle is that it's open for tours. You'll find it nestled in the San Simeon hills on California's central coast. For more information, visit Hearst Castle's website.
Mukesh and Nita Ambani, one of the world's wealthiest couples, custom-designed their home in downtown Mumbai for $2 billion. Their mansion, an awing 27-floor skyscraper, contains a lobby, a ballroom dripping with crystal chandeliers, several lounges and nine elevators. There is also an outdoor pool and a yoga studio. The Ambanis call it "Antilla," after a mythical island. Its shape is based off an Indian custom called "Vaastu," not unlike Feng Shui, where energy moves through a building based upon its architecture and the placement of furniture and other objects.
Actress Sandra Bullock's Gothic-Victorian home wins points for its relative quaintness, even though it reportedly cost a whopping $2.25 million, according to E! Online. Nestled in New Orleans' picturesque Garden District, the mansion contains five bedrooms, 4.5 bathrooms, a parlor and a ballroom. Plus, each room drips with Gothic Revival charm -- antique molding, embellished columns, marble mantels and more. Outside, there is an enormous pool and a huge lawn that will no-doubt serve to entertain Bullock's adopted son, Louis.
England's Queen Victoria and Prince Albert commissioned the building of Balmoral Castle in 1852, and it's been the Scottish home of the British Royal Family ever since. Inside, there are grand stairways blanketed in red carpets, rows of mounted deer heads, tartan textiles and a lavish dining room. But not only is the castle magnificent, the surrounding 50,000 acres of breathtaking gardens, hills and woodlands are too. Plus, when the royal family is not in residence, the castle and grounds are open to visitors. You'll find Balmoral about 100 miles north of Edinburgh in the Scottish Highlands. For more information, visit the Balmoral Castle's website.
Mount Lavinia makes it on this list for its romance and intrigue. Back in the 19th century when Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka) was part of the British Empire, English governor Sir Thomas Maitland built a grand home that overlooked the Laccadive Sea. But he didn't just want the place all to himself. No, he had fallen in love with a village girl called Lovina Aponsuwa, and he constructed a secret passageway that led from his home's wine cellar to Lovina's hut about 1,000 feet away in a nearby village. For six years, she scampered through the tunnel until 1811 when King George III ordered Maitland to leave Ceylon and take over the governorship of Malta. Today, visitors can experience Lavinia's five restaurants, pool and luxurious rooms by booking a night's stay at this mansion-turned-hotel. For more information, visit Mount Lavinia's website.
Formula One heiress Petra Ecclestone just purchased a mansion from Candy Spelling, wife of the late Aaron Spelling. And get this: She bought it for $85 million. But wait until you hear what that price includes: Reaching across 73,500 square feet, there is a beauty salon, a bowling alley, a pool, more than 100 rooms and a grand stairway inspired by the film, Gone with the Wind. There's also parking for more than 100 cars. You'll find it sprawling across five acres in Los Angeles' coveted Holmby Hills neighborhood.
Even respected religious figures need a place to vacation. Former Islamic leader of Yemen, Yahya Muhammad Hamidaddin, better known as Imam Yahya, had the country’s eastern Dar al-Hajar constructed in the 1930s as a place to spend summers. Since its construction, it's been nicknamed "Rock Palace" for its appearance of having grown from the rock promontory on which it stands. One of the neat things about this mansion are its secret passageways, built to protect Imam Yahya during times of trouble. Today, visitors can tour the eight-story palace and museum, where some say the greatest treasure is the ancient Arabic architecture itself. For more information, visit Yemen's tourism website.
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