10 Seri Perdana (Malaysia)
Seri Perdana, the Official Residence of the Prime Minister of Malaysia, does not have the same historical significance, in terms of years, like the rest in this list since it was only built in 1999. However, what the Seri Perdana lack in age it more than compensates in terms of sheer magnificence and elegance. The Seri Perdana complex’s architectural plan is a unification of the finest of Islamic, Malay and European influences producing a unique composition that is more of an artwork by itself. The complex, which occupies an area of 17.2 hectares, was designed in such a way that it follows the contour of the landscape thus making it blend with its verdant surroundings and enhancing its beauty, creating a graceful symmetry that makes one think of the gorgeous buildings in the planet Naboo.
9 House of Pizarro (Peru)
The House of Pizarro, as the Government Palace of Peru is also known, is the Official Residence of the President. When Francisco Pizarro founded Lima in 1535 he built his “palace” (a two-story adobe building) on the same place where the Government Palace now stands, thus the moniker House of Pizarro. The original House of Pizarro was badly damaged in fires and earthquakes, thus requiring numerous repairs, reconstructions and remodeling through the centuries; the current structure is a reconstruction that was done in the 1930’s. Built in the French neo-baroque style of architecture it commands a striking elegance that commands the attention of any passerby, giving a taste of the old world in the new. It is open to the public, making it one of the best tourist destinations in Lima.
The location of the building itself is of historical significance to the Peruvians: the house of Taulichusco (the ruler of the Rimac Valley in the 1500’s) was there before Pizarro demolished it to make way for his palace, and it is where General Jose de San Martin declared the independence of Peru in1821. Pizarro was assassinated there by the son and supporters of Almagro (his co-conqueror of Peru whom he had executed) in 1541.
8 Prague Castle (Czech Republic)
If there is a word that can be best used to describe Prague Castle “stunning” would be one of them, “huge” would be another. Recognized by Guinness as the biggest ancient castle in the world, Prague Castle covers a jaw dropping area of almost 70 000 square meters. The first building constructed in the Prague Castle dates back to 870 B.C., with later structures constructed over time, making the castle buildings represent almost every architectural design of the past millennium. It was the seat of power of the Kings of Bohemia and several Holy Roman Emperors; now it serves as the Official Residence of the President of the Czech Republic.
The castle complex has several churches and palaces, most of them are converted to museums open to the public, and one of these is a museum crammed full of toys from ancient Greece to Barbie dolls.
The Toy Museum’s Barbie collection is one of the biggest in the world, with a sample of almost every Barbie doll produced. The Second Defenestration of Prague, which started the Thirty Year War, happened in Prague Castle. It was said that the men who were thrown out of the window survived because they fell into a dung heap.
7 Rashtrapati Bhavan (India)
The Rashtrapati Bhavan (Hindi for President House) was intended to be the Viceroy’s House of British India in New Delhi but after the Independence of India in 1947 it afterwards served as the President’s residence. Construction started in 1912 and completed in 1929, it boasts a classical design that harmoniously melds the best of British and Indian architectural styles. It is built in a vast area that covers 130 hectares and has not just the buildings but also lush gardens and soothing open spaces. The entire structure itself was constructed using 700 million bricks and three million cubic feet of stones, and topped by a big dome inspired from the Roman Pantheon.
Hardly any steel is used in its construction.
6 Apostolic Palace (Vatican)
The Pope is not only the Head of the Roman Catholic Church but also the Head of State and Government of the Vatican, an independent country inside the city of Rome, and his Official Residence is the Apostolic Palace. The Apostolic Palace maybe the most recognizable in this list next to the White House due to the current media fanfare of Papal Elections and Catholic Church scandals, but many non-Catholic’s does not know that it is the Official Residence of the Pope and not just an annex of St. Peter’s Basilica. It is officially called the Palace of Sixtus V, in honor of Pope Sixtus, who started the construction, in 1589, of the current version of the Palace which came into disrepair during the Avignon Papacy.
The Palace has not just the Papal Apartments, where the Pope actually lives, but also the Vatican Museums, the Vatican Library (of Angels and Demon’s fame), the Sistine Chapel, etc. The Palace houses priceless artwork and codex’s collected over the two thousand years of the Church’s existence, most of them are available for public viewing, making it worth a visit while in Rome.
The Apostolic Palace maintains a cattle enclosure within the palace itself, producing fresh milk for the Pope and other palace residents. The current Pope, Pope Francis I, refuses to use the Papal Apartments and instead stay in far less luxurious accommodations in a guest room in a Catholic dormitory within the palace complex. He is the first Pope in over a century to not live in the Papal Apartments, he is said to be doing this as an example of humility and simplicity to the Catholic flock.
5 Palácio Nacional de Belém (Portugal)
If America has the White House and South Korea has the Blue House, Portugal has first dibs on pink. Palacio Nacional de Belém is the President of Portugal’s Official Residence and its walls are all in pale pink, and it looks oh so pretty in it.
Built during the 16th century by a merchant it was later purchased by the Royal Family of Portugal to serve as their vacation home to escape the hustle and bustle of Lisbon. In following years it was used as quarters for visiting foreign delegations until the monarchy was abolished in 1912, passing its ownership to the government who used it as the Official Residence of the President, but most did not use it preferring instead to use their own private residences.
The Most Serene House of Braganza is the official name of the now defunct Royal House of Portugal. It is related to the Royal House of Windsor (changed from House Saxe-Coburg and Gotha by King George V during World War 1) through Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha; he sired the last four monarchs of Portugal.
4 Palais de l’Elysée
The word French has become synonymous with sophistication, luxury and grace. It is no surprise that the Official Residence of the French President embodies all three and more. Built in 1722, the Palais de l’Elysee has changed hands from commoners, to noblemen, to royalty. It was even once the residence of the Marquise de Pompadour, the mistress of King Louie XV. It was also once the residence of Napoleon Bonaparte. An excellent example of the French classical style, it is crammed full of all the glitz and glamour that comes with the trappings of royalty, from a majestic rounded courtyard, gold plated doorknobs, to paintings and statues made by European masters.
Napoleon Bonaparte signed his abdication there when he was defeated in the battle of Waterloo. There was once an underground passage, long since demolished, that connected the Élysée and the Tuileries Palace, and it was used by Napoleon III to discretely meet his mistress.
3 Blue House (South Korea)
For many westerners and, some easterners, the mention of South Korea brings images of a dancing tubby guy in dark shades wearing a glitzy suite of some sorts and shouting “oppa gangnam style”, all the while a horde of hot girls in tight short dresses dance in the background. South Korea enjoys new-found international fame as the cool and hip sister country of the odiously tasteless warmongering North and its more odious despot with tasteless hairstyle. And also, kimchi. But, aside from all that, we practically do not know anything more about South Korea, for starters, most people don’t know what’s South Korea’s counterpart to America’s White House.
While the Americans have the White House, the South Koreans have the Blue House. Blue, is the official motif of the Official Residence of its President, called Cheong Wa Dae (청와대) in Korean which literally means the pavilion of blue tiles. The Blue House is an excellent example of the elegance of Oriental Architecture with its gentle slopping tiled roofs, down to its magnificent pillars. The design is based on that of Korean Royal palaces which seem befitting since it is built on the sight of a Royal Villa (built in 1104 B.C.).
The Main Building and its two annexes are covered with a total of 150,000 traditional Korean blue roof tiles. The blue roof tiles are well-known for their unique color and their outstanding durability. Following techniques similar to that of making fine pottery, they last for over 100 years and do not become discolored.
2 Kremlin (Russia)
Who, in this God’s blighted land, does not know or heard of the Kremlin? Not only does it get blown up in Ghost Protocol, it enjoys more silver screen fame than most Official Residences, mostly in Hollywood movies, second only to the White House. For several decades, during the Cold War, the Kremlin was the boogeyman that lurks in the shadows of the western powers’ darkest fears. The name itself triggers nightmares, to most westerners who lived through those times, of nuclear holocausts and bitter world ending wars. Those who lived behind the Iron Curtain had, at most, a love hate relationship with it. Dreading its all encroaching fingers that may find its way around ones neck, and glad to have it, in the few and far between times, it sends aid to fill ones empty and dry stomach, or removes from post a particularly atrocious local Soviet official.
The Kremlin, is a huge fortified complex in the heart of Moscow. Unlike most Official Residences, the Kremlin is a fortress complete with thick walls and tall towers, making it the most imposing Official Residence in this list. It has served, in one form or the other, as a fortified settlement since the 2nd century B.C. but was only come to be called as the Moscow Kremlin in the 14th century. What makes this place worth a visit, aside that of appreciating its marvelous architecture (included in the World Heritage List of UNESCO) and Cold War memorabilia are its museums (eight in all) that has tons of beautiful historical artifacts from Russian Tsar Regalia to fabulous paintings and fresco’s that decorates its magnificent cathedrals.
The word Kremlin means fortress. The Kremlin is said to be haunted by its previous occupants. There are several accounts of ghost sightings of Stalin, Lenin, Ivan the Terrible, among so many others. There is even an urban legend making the rounds that the ghost of Stalin usually appears when Russia is in deep crisis, wanting to bring order to the country. It seems even in death Stalin continues to be a bloody nuisance.
1 Hofburg Imperial Palace (Austria)
The Hofburg Imperial Palace, in Vienna, is one of the oldest continually used seat of government in this list, having been the official residence or offices of empires and republics since 1279. It once functioned as the Imperial Residence of the Holy Roman Emperor and, later on, as the Imperial Palace of the Austrian Emperor until the end of the empire in 1918. Nowadays it is used as the Official Residence of the President of Austria.
What makes this Official Residence really worth a visit, aside for ogling politicians (if you’re into that), is that the Hofburg Palace Complex has several free-standing and interconnected buildings that houses, among others: several museums, the Imperial Treasury (displays the Imperial Crown, Orb and Scepter of Austria, and the Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Empire), the National Theater, and the Imperial Library.
What the Hofburg lack in silver screen fame is more than compensated in its reach history. For more than five hundred years it has served as the center of power, culture and the arts for much of Central Europe, not to mention the occasional royal scandals and debauchery. There is almost everything for any tourist to make it worth a visit. For artsy folks, the Kunsthistorisches Museum, one of the museums in the Hofburg complex, houses one of Europe’s leading art collections with pieces by Caravaggio, Dürer, Rubens, Raphael, Rembrandt, and other renowned European masters.
Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France who wants her people to eat cakes according to the rock band Queen, was born here on November 2, 1755; she got her head cut off. In a twist of bitter fate, Napoleon Bonaparte, one of the guys that had Marie Antoinette and her family’s head cut off, courted her great-niece Archduchess Marie Louise, daughter of Emperor Franz I, in the Zeremoniensaal of the Imperial Complex.