Great Britain’s 10 Downing Street was originally a cheaply built townhouse. The German Chancellery is deliberately open, sending a message of transparency. The Kremlin was a medieval fortress, while Iceland’s official residence was built on land first settled around the year 1000.
Here are some of the places political leaders live and work, some of them impressive palaces, others more modest abodes, all reflecting aspects of their country’s history.
Many were once the homes of colonial rulers, palaces built in South and Central America to house governors from Spain, or the Netherlands, or Áras an Uachtaráin in Ireland where British viceroys lived.
Italy’s Chigi Palace had connections to Pope Alexander VII, while Lebanon’s residence is one of the last Ottoman structures in the country. The Chilean president Salvador Allende shot himself in that country’s palace during a major coup. Other leaders were overthrown, but refused to leave their homes until they were forced out.
Canada’s Justin Trudeau declined to move his family into the official residence because it was so poorly maintained. Other leaders for political reasons eschew the grandeur of palaces or villas to live more simply. For example, the current Mexican president opened up Los Pinos, or The Pines, to the public and decided to live elsewhere.
Some residences are tightly guarded, but other leaders invite the public inside—on holidays or even on a weekly basis—and have turned some part of the buildings into museums celebrating the country’s history or culture. In the United States, the presidential residence is the White House in Washington D.C. The site was selected by George Washington, the first president. President John Adams moved into the house in 1800, and it was rebuilt after the British set fire to it in 1814 during the War of 1812.
If you’ve ever wondered where heads of state and other political leaders live, take a look at these slides from around the world, in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Stacker compiled the list from government documents and news articles.
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Boris Johnson: 10 Downing Street
The London townhouse has been used as an official residence of the British prime minister since 1735. Built by George Downing, a diplomat who served at The Hague and whom the official British website describes as a miserly and at times brutal man, the house and its neighboring residences originally were cheaply built terraced houses. It was reborn as a regal residence in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, gutted and rebuilt in the 1950s, and renovated again in the 2000s.
Angela Merkel: Bundeskanzleramt
The German Chancellery, which opened in 2001 near the Reichstag in Berlin, is home to government offices and the official residence for the chancellor on the top floor. It stands on the banks of the River Spree where East and West Berlin meet. With its open architecture, it is meant to be a symbol of transparency.
Giuseppe Conte: Chigi Palace
Construction of Chigi Palace in Rome began in the mid-16th century and was sold to the Chigi family of Pope Alexander VII in 1659. It overlooks the 2,000-year-old Column of Marcus Aurelius. Once the home of papal Roman families, it has been the residence of Italy’s prime minister since 1961.
King Willem-Alexander: Huis ten Bosch Palace
King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands lives in Huis ten Bosch Palace in the Hague with his wife, Queen Maxima, and their three daughters. The palace is a royal residence and also is used for receptions and meetings. It is one of three royal palaces. Noordeinde Palace, also in the Hague, is where the king has his offices.
Pedro Sanchez: Moncloa Palace
The palace in Madrid is the official residence of the Spanish prime minister, and it is where the Council of Ministers meet. Pedro Sanchez has been prime minister since 2018, when he opened the palace to the general public for tours. Designed by architect Diego Mendez, it was built between 1949 and 1954 on the site of a former palace destroyed during the Civil War.
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Katerina Sakellaropoulou: Presidential Mansion
Katerina Sakellaropoulou, a judge and human rights activist, became the first woman to be chosen the president of Greece in 2020. Her official residence is in the heart of Athens, next to the Hellenic Parliament. It was constructed in 1897 as a palace for the crown prince, later became the official residence of the royal family, and began to be used as the presidential mansion in 1974.
Michael Higgins: Áras an Uachtaráin
The official residence of the president of Ireland was built in 1751 in Dublin and later was bought for the viceroys in charge of British rule over Ireland. A wing was added in 1849 for a visit of Queen Victoria. It is open to the public every Saturday.
Nicola Sturgeon: Bute House
Bute House on Charlotte Square in Edinburgh, originally the home of the Bute family, is the official residence of Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish global organization for human rights, raised questions in 2008 about whether a decorative chandelier that hangs in the house had been looted from Germany during World War II. The Scotish government reached no conclusion.
Vladimir Putin: The Kremlin
The official residence of Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin was originally a medieval fortress, later home to the Russian tsars until the capital was moved to St. Petersburg at the start of the 18th century. The government returned to the Kremlin in 1918. It overlooks Red Square and the Moskva River. Putin lives just outside of Moscow, on his Novo-Ogaryovo estate.
Xi Jinping: Zhongnanhai
The complex that includes the official residence of the president of China is Zhongnanhai, next to the Forbidden City in Beijing. The residence features Qing dynasty palaces on two lakes and is also known as the Sea Palaces. The complex is also the headquarters of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party and the State Council of the People’s Republic of China.
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Narendra Modi: Panchavati
The official residence of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is called Panchavati and is located at 7 Lok Kalyan Marg in New Delhi. The first prime minister to live and work on the 12-acre compound of bungalows was Rajiv Gandhi in the 1980s.
King Maha Vajiralongkorn: The Grand Palace
Thailand’s Grand Palace complex, which includes the palace, offices, and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, began being built in Bangkok in 1782 after King Rama I ascended to the throne. The Emerald Buddha housed in the temple was carved from jasper, probably in the 15th century, and had journeyed across numerous countries throughout the years. It has three seasonal gold outfits.
Lee Hsien Loong: Sri Temasek
Singapore’s prime minister’s official residence is Sri Temasek on the grounds of the Istana or palace in Malay. Sri Temasek, a bungalow, was built in 1869, and served as the residence of the colonial secretary when Singapore was a British colony. There is what is called a “moon gate” on the second level that separates the private areas.
Joko Widodo: Merdeka Palace
The Merdeka Palace or Istana Merdeka in Jakarta is the official residence of Indonesia’s president. Within the grounds is the State Palace or Istana Negara, built in 1796 during the tenure of Governor-General Pieter Gerardus van Overstraten while the Dutch ruled Indonesia.
Scott Morrison: The Lodge
Close to Parliament House in Australia’s capital of Canberra, The Lodge is more than 90 years old and was renovated in a project that ended in 2015. The current prime minister, Scott Morrison, splits his time between The Lodge and the second official residence, Kirribilli House in Sydney.
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Jair Bolsonaro: Alvorada Palace
The Alvorada Palace or Palace of Dawn in Brasilia is the official residence of the Brazilian president. It was designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer and built between 1957 and 1958. It has a library, music room, pool, chapel, medical center, and movie theater.
Saad Hariri: The Grand Serail
The Grand Serail in downtown Beirut is one of the last Ottomon structures left in the country, though it was badly damaged during the country’s 15-year civil war. The current prime minister’s father, Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, had it reconstructed along with the Hamidiyah clock in front of it.
Benjamin Netanyahu: Beit Aghion
The official residence of the prime minister of Israel is in Jerusalem and was designed by Richard Kaufmann, an Israeli architect, in the late 1930s for the merchant Edward Aghion from Alexandria, Egypt. In 1939, the Aghion family rented the house to the exiled King Peter of Yugoslavia. It also was used as a military hospital before it was bought by the Israeli government.
Abdul Fattah el-Sisi: Heliopolis Palace
Heliopolis Palace, built in 1910 as the Grand Heliopolis Palace Hotel, is the official residence of the Egyptian president. It’s in Heliopolis, a suburb of Cairo, east of the Nile River. Designed by a Belgian architect Ernest Jasper, it features a number of architectural styles: Moorish Revival, Persian, European neoclassical, and Islamic.
King Mohammed VI: Dar al-Makhzen Palace
The Dar al-Makhzen Palace is in the center of Rabat, in Morocco, the official residence of the king and his family. Built in 1864, it is also called the Palais Royal and includes a mosque, a library, and a college for members of the Moroccan royal family.
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Abdelmadjid Tebboune: El Mouradia Palace
The official residence for the Algerian president is El Mouradia Palace in Algiers, a Moorish villa.
Uhuru Kenyatta: State House
The official residence of Kenya’s president was built in the Kenyan capital Nairobi in 1907. The State House was known as Government House before Kenya achieved independence from Great Britain. It was the official residence of the governor of British East Africa.
Cyril Ramaphosa: Mahlamba Ndlopfu
The official residence for South Africa’s president is in Pretoria. Designed by Gerrit Moerdyk in a traditional Cape Dutch style, an Afrikaner architectural style, it was completed in 1940. It was earlier called Libertas. There is an entrance foyer, a grand staircase, two large reception rooms, and a dining room. It is surrounded by formal and informal gardens.
Egils Levits: Riga Castle
The Riga Castle, in the capital city of Riga, Latvia, sits on the banks of the River Daugava. Built in 1330, the castle was destroyed and rebuilt between 1497 and 1515. First used as the residence of the Latvian president in 1922, it was known as Pioneer Castle during the Soviet occupation.
Andrej Babiš: Kramář Villa
The official residence of Czech prime ministers, Kramář Villa is in Prague. A neo-Baroque villa with art nouveau features, it was built between 1911 and 1914 by Karel Kramář, who became the first Czechoslovakian prime minister. It has 56 rooms and has been the official residence since 1998.
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Andrzej Duda: Presidential Palace
The palace was built in Warsaw, Poland, in the 1640s by the Great Crown Hetman Stanisław Koniecpolski and his son Aleksander. It was renovated and rebuilt many times throughout the centuries, serving as a theater, a luxury hotel with a casino, and offices. Frederic Chopin performed publicly for the first time at the palace in 1818, when he was 8.
Jacinda Ardern: Premier House
Premier House was purchased in 1865, when New Zealand’s capital was moved from Auckland to Wellington. Originally a wooden cottage near the parliament, it was renovated and enlarged over the years, with a conservatory and ballroom added. Until 1990, it had been used as a children’s dental clinic for 50 years.
Emperor Naruhito: Imperial Palace
Built in 1868 in Tokyo, the Imperial Palace includes the emperor’s residence and the complex where he works. Beginning with the Empress Dowager Shoken in 1871, successive empresses have raised silkworms at the palace. It was built on the site of the former Edo Castle.
Moon Jae-in: Cheong Wa Dae
Cheong Wa Dae is also known as the Blue House because of the blue tiles on its roof. The official residence of the president of South Korea, it was built on a site of a royal garden in Seoul.
Guðni Jóhannesson: Bessastaðir
The official residence of Iceland’s president is Bessastaðir, which includes the residence, a reception room, apartments, and a church. It was settled in 1000; became a farm belonging to Snorri Sturluson, a politician and poet; served as a school; and reverted to a farm before being designated the president’s residence.
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Sanna Marin: Kesäranta
Finished in 1873, the villa was originally called Bjälbo and was the summer home of its designer, architect Frans Ludvig Calonius. Now within the boundaries of Helsinki, it was purchased in 1904, first to serve as a residence for Russian governor generals and after Finland gained independence, its prime minister. Its courtyard includes a seaside sauna.
Queen Margrethe II: Amalienborg
The winter residence of the Danish royal family, Amalienborg is four palaces around a courtyard and a statue of Frederik V, who built the complex on the 300th anniversary of the coronation of Christian I, the first king of the House of Oldenborg. Plots were given to four noblemen at the time and they agreed to build identical palaces.
Queen Elizabeth II: Buckingham Palace
George III bought what was then Buckingham House for his wife, Queen Charlotte, in 1761. The official London residence of the British kings and queens since 1837, Buckingham has 775 rooms, including 19 state rooms, 52 royal and guest bedrooms, and 92 offices. Queen Victoria first stepped out onto the balcony for the Great Exhibition. The Changing of the Guard draws thousands of tourists.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador: Los Pinos
Los Pinos, or the Pines, was the home of Mexico’s president from 1934, when then President Lazaro Cardenas rejected the Castle of Chapultepec as too extravagant. Then at the end of 2018, the current President Andrés Manuel López Obrador opened the complex to the public. He was living in his townhouse in Mexico City, then an apartment in his offices.
Martin Vizcarra: Government Palace
Government Palace was built on the Rimac River in Lima, Peru. Francisco Pizarro, who conquered the Incas and founded the city, began constructing a Spanish palace on the site in 1535. The current mansion, the official residence of Peru’s president, dates from the 1930s.
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Lenin Moreno: Palacio de Carondelet
Also known as the Palacio Presidencial or Presidential Palace, the building is the official residence of Ecuador’s president in Quito. It dates to the 1740s and Spain’s colonial presence in Ecuador. Reflecting French Renaissance and Spanish Baroque architectural styles, it was renovated beginning in 1799 by Baron Francisco Luis Héctor de Carondelet, after whom Simon Bolivar named the palace. Part of it was turned into a museum in 2007.
Justin Trudeau: Gorffwysfa
The residence, now simply called 24 Sussex Drive, in Ottawa, Canada, was built by a lumber baron born in Vermont. It was so neglected and in such poor shape that when Trudeau became prime minister he moved his family instead into Rideau Cottage at 1 Sussex Drive. The Georgian Revival brick house was built as an ancillary building to Rideau Hall, home of the governor general representing Queen Elizabeth II.
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev: Akorda
The residence of the president of Kazakhstan, Akorda, is in the capital, called Nur-Sultan since 2019. Construction began in 2001 and was completed three years later. Akorda, which means “white,” includes many meeting spaces, a ceremonial room, and a winter garden.
King Abdullah II: The Maqar
The compound of the royal court in Jordan is called the headquarters or “maqar” in Arabic. It contains numerous palaces, among them Raghadan, the first built; Basman, where King Abdullah has his offices; and Al-Qasr Al-Sagheer, where the National Security Council worked; as well as the royal cemetery.
Emmanuel Macron: Elysee Palace
The palace in Paris was completed in 1722 for Henri-Louis de la Tour d’Auvergne, the Comte d’Evreux. It later was bought by Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, the Marquise de Pompadour, and mistress of Louis XV, to whom she left it when she died. It has been the official residence of the French president since 1873.
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Armen Sarkissian: Presidential Palace
Armenia’s Presidential Palace was built in 1951 in Yerevan for the Council of Ministers when Armenia was a Soviet republic. It became the presidential palace in 1992. An Honor Guard Battalion of the Ministry of Defense performs ceremonial duties at the palace.
Harald V: Royal Palace
The king of Norway’s main residence is the Royal Palace in Oslo where he presides over the Council of State. Started in 1825, the palace officially opened in 1849 under King Oscar I. It was built in a neoclassical style with two wings and is surrounded by a park, one of Oslo’s first.
Kersti Kaljulaid: Presidential Palace
The Estonian government built the residence for the president in the 1930s, near the Kadriorg Palace and Kadriorg Park. A garden connects the two palaces and is used for ceremonies. In the summer, the garden is open to the public.
Mario Abdo Benitez: Palacio de Lopez
The 19th-century palace in Paraguay’s capital, Asuncion, was built between the 1850s and 1892 and designed by British architect Alonso Taylor. In 2014, architects warned that termites and bats were endangering the building.
Andrew Holness: Vale Royal
The official residence of Jamaica’s prime minister, Vale Royal, was built by one of the richest planters on the island. The government of Jamaica bought the house 1928 and it became the residence of the British colonial secretary. In the 1960s, it was rejected as the prime minister’s residence because it was too small, but was renovated in the 1980s.
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Wanda Vázquez Garced: La Fortaleza
La Fortaleza is the official residence of Puerto Rico’s governor. It was built between 1533 and 1540 as a fort in San Juan Harbor and initially had a circular tower and four stone walls. The original tower is called Torre del Homenaje or “tower of homage,” from a tradition in which the governor climbs to the top when times are perilous to pledge an oath of loyalty.
Muhyiddin Yassin: Seri Perdana
The Malaysian prime minister’s official residence, Seri Perdana was completed in 1997 on a 42.5-acre site near the capital of Kuala Lumpur. It is a mix of Malay, Islamic, and European architectural styles, and part of the residence is open to the public.
Sheikh Hasina Wazed: Ganabhaban
The official residence of Bangladesh’s prime minister is in the capital of Dhaka. During the Eid holidays, the public is admitted to meet the prime minister and other government officials.
Sebastian Piñera: El Palacio de la Moneda
Designed by the Italian architect Joaquin Toesca in the neoclassical style, the palace opened in 1805 in Chile’s capital of Santiago. For a time it was a mint, but has served as the official residence since the mid-1800s. It was damaged when a bomb was detonated during the 1973 coup in which President Salvador Allende killed himself. The building was later restored.
Rodrigo Roa Duterte: Malacañan Palace
The palace in the Philippines’ capital city of Manilla was first owned by Luis Rocha, a Spanish trader. It was built of stone with a bathhouse and gardens on the Pasig River. Under the Spaniards and later the Americans, it was enlarged and refurbished with wood paneling and chandeliers. In the late 1970s, then First Lady Imelda Marcos supervised extensive renovations. The current president works in the Malacañan Palace, but lives across the river.
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