All over the planet, presidents, prime ministers, kings, queens, and other world leaders live in some of the most lavish residences known to humankind. Not only content with being the homes of national leaders, these landmarks also showcase architectural prowess, national pride and centuries of fascinating history. Here’s a selection of three magnificent homes where heads of state work, rest and play.
Buckingham Palace, London
Built as a townhouse for the Duke of Buckingham in 1703, today Buckingham Palace is arguably one of the most recognizable landmarks in the United Kingdom. Since 1837 it has been the primary residence of British monarchs and is currently occupied by Queen Elizabeth II. This castle-like neoclassical masterpiece has a 354-meter-wide facade, behind which are some 775 rooms and 1,514 doors. Works of art by Canaletto, Rembrandt, and Van Dyck decorate the exquisite halls. Incredibly, the palace survived World War I and was only hit by one bomb in World War II.
From July to September it is possible to experience the pomp of the palace on guided tours. Visit some of the state rooms and the glorious palace garden. Not to be missed is the free-to-watch Changing of the Guard ceremony, held every morning at 11 a.m. Soldiers dressed in bearskin hats march to a military band as they exchange positions outside the palace at the beginning and end of their shifts.
Palácio da Alvorada, Brasilia
Set on a peninsula overlooking Lake Paranoá is the modernist style Palácio da Alvorada. This has been the home of Brazil’s president since 1960. The palace is the work of Oscar Niemeyer, who was responsible for much of the architectural landscape of Brasilia, and it's regarded as a pioneer in Brazil’s modernism movement. Niemeyer used marble and glass to create curving columns that appear like an inverted colonnade outside a windowed facade. Bronze sculptures inspired by Brazilian folklore add decoration to an ornamental pool.
Inside, the first floor is home to the state rooms, dining hall, a banquet room designed by Niemeyer’s daughter, and a library of over 3,000 works of literature. The residential section occupies the second floor and features suites and guest rooms. Public access to the palace depends on the regulations set by the president in office.
At the western end of the Rajpath ceremonial boulevard is an enormous sandstone monument that blends aspects of colonial and Mughal styles. Revered English architect Sir Edward Lutyens designed Rashtrapati Bhavan with the help of Herbert Baker as a private residence for the British Viceroy. Unveiled in 1929 and utilized as a presidential office by the Indian government since 1947, it stands as both a legacy of imperial power and a celebration of Indian democracy. The palace dominates a 130-hectare estate, with 340 rooms and about 1.6 miles of corridors.
Self-guided tours allow visitors to experience the majesty and working life of the palace by peeking inside some of the state rooms. Browse exquisite art collections and learn about the palace’s history at Rashtrapati Bhavan Museum Complex. Stroll between bonsai trees, fountains, orderly gardens and rose bushes in the beautiful Mughal Garden. Request to attend the Changing of the Guard ceremony.