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Unlike royalty, elected leaders don’t get to spend their entire lives in a palace. They do, however, get to enjoy the many perks of their position while they are in office. These often include a private plane, a holiday home or two, and a palatial primary residence. While some buildings only carry the title of “presidential palace” and may be used only for ceremonial and administrative purposes, these seven homes all serve as actual residences befitting the leader of their nations. From the modernist style of Brazil’s Palácio da Alvorada to the 16th-century digs of Italy’s Palazzo del Quirinale, read on to tour some of the world’s most magnificent presidential homes.
Élysée Palace (Paris, France)
The official residence of the French President is, as one might expect, a stylish example of classical Parisian architecture. Completed in 1722, Élysée Palace was once a private mansion that belonged to the Marquis de Pompadour. It survived the French Revolution and served various functions in the following decades, from dance hall to furniture storage depot and even the home of Napoleon. In 1874, it became the official residence for the Head of State.
Covering more than 11,000 square meters, the palace contains 369 rooms. A white marble statue commemorating the French Revolution greets visitors at the Hall of Honor. Foreign dignitaries attend state dinners in the Salle des Fêtes (Ballroom) and the Jardin d’Hiver (Winter Garden). Both rooms are elaborately decorated with crystal chandeliers and gold-leafed adornments throughout.
Rashtrapati Bhavan (New Delhi, India)
One of the world’s largest residences for a head of state, the Rashtrapati Bhavan mixes Indian and Western architectural styles with a distinctive red- and cream-colored sandstone facade. It was originally built to be the home of the British Viceroy during the era of colonial rule and was completed in 1929. The 340-room mansion covers a sprawling 200,000 square feet, with courtyards that divide it into separate wings. The wing formerly occupied by the Viceroy is now used to host foreign guests and state functions.
One notable example of the elaborate interior decor is the Ashok Hall. Wooden floors covered in red woven carpets contrast with a ceiling covered in oil paintings, including a massive leather painting of the Fath Ali Shah on a tiger hunt. Painted canvases adorn the walls as Belgian chandeliers cast a regal glow from overhead. The greater 320-acre estate surrounding the Rashtrapati Bhavan includes housing for staff, stables, and the Mughal Gardens, which feature fountains, reflecting pools, terraces, and the country’s largest collection of bonsai trees.
The Kremlin (Moscow, Russia)
Looking like something out of a fairy tale with its colorful combination of architectural styles, the Kremlin — which translates to “fortress in the city” — is the most recognizable symbol of Russia. Within its 68 acres are government offices, churches, museums, and the Grand Kremlin Palace, the official residence of the Russian leader (although he typically spends much of his time at one of his other homes in the city).
Designed by Konstantin Thon and completed in 1849, the Grand Kremlin Palace is considered a masterpiece of Russian architecture. More than 700 rooms fit into its 269,000 square feet. Although from the outside it appears to have three floors, there are only two — the upper floor has two levels of windows. Each of the five reception halls is named for one of the orders of the Russian Empire. In the 1990s, they were carefully restored to their original opulence.
Palácio da Alvorada (Brasília, Brazil)
The modernist style of Brazil’s Palácio da Alvorada may be polarizing to some, but it certainly stands apart from the classical architectural styles of the other buildings on this list. Built in the 1950s and designed by Oscar Niemeyer, the palace is a National Historic Heritage Site.
The marble-and-glass building has three floors totaling more than 75,000 square feet. Its simplistic symmetrical style is further highlighted by the use of water; exterior pools create a perfect mirror image and reflect light throughout the structure. Despite its serene appearance, one president and his wife refused to live there, claiming it had “bad energy” and might be haunted. The residence also contains administrative offices, a medical center, a movie theater, and a game room.
Presidential Palace (Hanoi, Vietnam)
Hanoi’s Presidential Palace is a reminder of Vietnam’s French colonial past. Designed by Auguste Henri Vildieu and completed in 1906, the building is a prime example of the European Beaux-Arts style. Its bright yellow exterior mirrors the tropical mangos which grow on the surrounding trees.
After Vietnamese Independence in 1954, President Ho Chi Minh refused to live there, instead building a traditional stilt house on the palace grounds. The stilt house is now open to the public, as are the gardens, which feature orchards and a carp pond. The palace itself is off-limits since it is used for official gatherings. Despite its ornate exterior, it is decidedly more modest than the other residences on this list, as it contains “only” 30 rooms.
The White House (Washington, D.C.)
The home of the U.S. President is instantly recognizable around the world. It is perhaps so familiar that the architectural beauty of the White House is often overlooked. The current White House, which combines neoclassical and Palladian styles, was rebuilt in 1817 after a fire destroyed its predecessor during the War of 1812. The addition of the West Wing in 1901 and further expansion (including the Oval Office) in 1909 made it into the building we know today.
Like many other presidential homes, the White House combines the functions of a private residence, an administrative office, and a space for entertaining foreign dignitaries. In total, it has 132 rooms on six levels. The living quarters undergo regular changes with each incoming first family. Over the years, the White House has had solar panels, a bowling alley, a movie theater, and a putting green.
Palazzo del Quirinale (Rome, Italy)
Palazzo del Quirinale has overseen centuries of history from its perch atop one of the Seven Hills of Rome. Once the home of popes and kings, it is now one of the official residences of the Italian President. Quirinale, as it is known familiarly, was originally designed as a summer escape for Pope Gregory XIII in the 16th century. Long before that, Roman temples and villas stood on the site, as evidenced by the mosaics that have been uncovered throughout the gardens.
Quirinale has undergone various changes over the years and is a treasure trove of classical Italian furnishings, art, and tapestries. At more than 1.1 million square feet, it is about 20 times larger than the White House. In addition to the presidential living quarters, the 1,200 rooms include suites for visiting guests, ballrooms for entertaining, a chapel built in the same shape and size as the Sistine Chapel, and halls for the regular music concerts.