When it comes to presidential residences, the White House is somewhat unremarkable. Granted, it’s one of the most famous buildings in the world. But it’s not very stylish (it is, literally, a plain, white house). Many presidential residences are much larger and more opulent; Turkey’s president lives in a compound that’s 30 times larger. Others look like an old beach cottage. As the White House prepares to welcome a new resident, here are some of the more unusual presidential and royal residences around the world.
10 Brazil: Palacio da Alvorado
Built in the late 1950s, the Palacio da Alvorada (Palace of Dawn) in Brasilia features a textbook modernist design. The building’s architect, Oscar Niemeyer, also designed the UN Headquarters in New York.
9. Burkina Faso: Palais Kossyam
Burkina Faso residents live on less than $5 a day. Yet this elaborate, fortress-like compound is the presidential residence. It’s fortified because residents of this West African nation usually do not like their president. Several recent presidents have either been assassinated, driven out of office in a coup d’état, or resigned and fled the country.
8. Iceland: Bessastaoir
Bessastaoir is about as modest a presidential residence as you’ll find. Built in the late 1950s, the site has a lengthy history dating back to its first occupation in the 9th century.
7. Kingdom of Tonga: Royal Palace
The Tongan royal palace resembles a modest New England summer cottage. Tongans have such respect for the kingdom’s royal family they refuse to refer to it as a “royal palace.” Instead, they use obtuse terms such as Loto-ʻā (meaning “inside the fence”) and Hangai Tokelau (“north wind against”).
6. Maldives: Muliaage
Completed in 1919, this bungalow-style building has filled several different roles for the Maldivian government, including the official presidential residence. A much more opulent presidential palace was built in the 1990s, but a subsequent president returned to Muliaage. It has been abandoned since his ouster in 2012.
5. Hungary: Sandor Palace
Allied air strikes virtually destroyed this 200-year-old building late in World War II, and it lay in ruins until restoration efforts began in the late 1980s. It is a modest presidential residence; Wikipedia notes it is the “37th biggest palace in present-day Hungary.”
4. Moldova: Presidential Residence
Since this seems to be the only residence in this story that does not have a grand name, we’ll give it a name: Suburban Office Park Tower. We’re guessing the president has enough seniority to merit a corner office in the tower.
3. Ghana: Golden Jubilee House
In a testament to the extreme volatility of African governments, the president of Ghana inaugurated the new Golden Jubilee House (aka The Flagstaff House) as the presidential palace in 2008. The subsequent president moved the residence elsewhere, but the next president moved back to The Flagstaff House in 2013. Stay tuned.
2. Turkey: Ak Saray
Ak Saray (Turkish translation: “White Palace”) has more than 1,100 rooms and cost more than $600 million. No wonder it sparked anger and controversy in Turkey even before it opened in 2014. Oh, a court also ruled its construction violated national law. No wonder critics have dubbed it Kac’ak Saray, with Kacak the Turkish word for “illegal.”
1. Czech Republic: Prague Castle
Now this is a royal residence. Built in the 9th century, Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world. Through the years it has served as the home of Holy Roman emperors, and Bohemian kings in addition to Czech presidents. There is also a secret room inside the castle that contains the Bohemian crown jewels, some of the oldest crown jewels in Europe.