An official residence is the residence at which the head of state, head of government, or other senior figures officially reside. Often, the residence is an important part of a country’s history; a palace or fortress used by Kings or Emperors for centuries. Because these buildings are still in use today access can be limited but they are worth visiting even if you can only see the exterior.
Below is a list of the most famous official residences in the world.
La Fortaleza, (The Fortress) is the current official residence of the Governor of Puerto Rico. It is the oldest executive mansion in the New World. The fortress was built between 1533 and 1540 to defend the harbor of San Juan, the first of a series of military structures built to protect the city.
The Koninklijk Paleis (Royal Palace) is one of 4 palaces in the Netherlands which is at the disposal of Queen Beatrix. It is located on the west side of Dam Square in the center of Amsterdam. The palace was built as a city hall during the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century and became the royal palace of king Louis Napoleon and later of the Dutch Royal House.
Originally built in the late 16th century, the Drottningholm Palace is the private and official residence of the Swedish royal family. The gardens and park areas surrounding the palace and its buildings are one of the main attractions for the tourists that visit the palace each year. The palace also includes an opera house, the Drottningholm Palace Theatre, which is still in use today.
Located in Vienna, the Hofburg Imperial Palace serves as the official residence of the President of Austria. It was the Habsburg’s principal winter residence, while Schönbrunn Palace was their preferred summer residence. From 1438 to 1583 and from 1612 to 1806, it was the seat of the kings and emperors of the Holy Roman Empire, thereafter the seat of the Emperor of Austria until 1918.
A large park-like area, the Imperial Palace in Tokyo is the main residence of the Emperor of Japan. During the height of the Japanese property bubble in the 1980s, the palace grounds were valued slightly more than the value of all the real estate in the state of California. The inner palace gardens and buildings are closed to the general public except on January 2 and December 23, when the imperial family makes a public appearance.
The Palacio Real (Royal Palace) of Madrid is the official residence of the King of Spain, although King Juan Carlos resides in the smaller Palacio de la Zarzuela, on the outskirts of Madrid. The origins of the palace go back to the 10th century, during which the Moors built a defensive fort on the site. The Royal Palace was built between 1738 to 1755 and King Carlos III took up residence in the palace in 1764.
Buckingham Palace in London is the main residence of Queen Elizabeth II although it is owned by the British state and is not the monarch’s personal property. The Forecourt of Buckingham Palace is used for Changing of the Guard, a major ceremony and tourist attraction. Between May and July the guard changes each morning at 11:30am. The rest of the year, the guard changes on alternate days, weather permitting.
Originally a Moorish fort, the Alcázar of Seville is one of the finest remaining examples of predominantly Mudéjar architecture in Spain. At the beginning of the 10th Century the original was build and was expanded during the following century by the ruling Almohades dynasty. Following the reconquest, successive kings added their own additions to the Alcázar. The upper levels of the Alcázar are still used today by the royal family as the official Seville residence.
The construction of the Grand Palace started in 1782 when the capital of Siam was moved from Thonburi to Bangkok. The palace served as the residence of the Kings of Thailand until the mysterious death of King Ananda Mahidol in 1946. His brother King Bhumibol Adulyadej who succeeded him moved permanently to the Chitralada Palace. The Grand Palace is however still the official residence and often used for royal ceremonies.
The White House in Washington D.C. is the official residence and office of the President of the United States. It was built between 1792 and 1800 and first used by President John Adams. After the 9/11 attacks it has become more difficult to visit the White House and today tours are available only for groups of 10 or more and must be requested up to six months in advance through your member of Congress or your country’s US Ambassador.
The Moscow Kremlin is a huge fortified complex which includes four palaces, four cathedrals, and the enclosing Kremlin Wall with Kremlin towers. The Kremlin serves as the official residence of the President of Russia. Although two thirds of the Kremlin territory are closed to visitors, the remaining third contains enough treasures to occupy several days of sightseeing.