The Presidential Palace or Merdeka Palace is the official residence of Indonesia’s president. Found in Medan Merdeka Utara Avenue in Central Jakarta, the building sits right across the Merdeka Square and the National Monument. It was built sometime between 1873 and 1879. During Dutch colonial times, it was where the Governor-General stayed, and in fact it housed 15 Governor-Generals before Indonesia was proclaimed independent.
The structure lies over a 6.5-hectare area that encompasses the entire palace complex. Aside from the Merdeka Palace, the complex includes the State Palace or Istana Negara, the Presidential Office or Bina Graha, State Secretariat or Sekretariat Negara, the Museum of the Presidential Palace, and the Baiturrahman Mosque. At present, the Merdeka Palace also serves as a place for holding meetings, state ceremonies, inauguration of state officials, inaugurating national conferences, and other state activities participated in by the president. The annual Independence Day ceremony is also held in this venue every August 17.
The Merdeka Palace was designed with neoclassical architecture, complete with Doric columns characteristic of European structures during that time. The building used to have two stories, but in 1848, the second story was taken out and the ground floor was expanded in order to give way to larger halls. This renovation did not only allow the building to accommodate more guests but also made it look more lavish as befitting a Presidential Palace. Final renovations were made in 1873, after which the building was left untouched up to this day.
Fronting the structure is a 17-meter tall flagpole surrounded by a beautiful fountain. The Presidential Palace has several rooms. The Credential Room is where ambassadors of foreign countries present their letters of credence to the president. In the same room, cooperation agreements with other nations are signed. The Reception Hall is where national meetings, state banquets, and state dinners are held. The hall features two important paintings: Pergiwa Pergiwati and Jaka Tarub. Both were done by Basuki Abdullah, a renowned master painter of Indonesia. The Reception Hall is the palace’s biggest room.
The Heirloom Flag Room, also called Regalia Room, is where the heirloom Indonesian flag is kept. This was the flag that was raised during the declaration of independence in 1945. The Jepara Room was President Sukarno’s study room. It was so named because most of the furniture used in the room was made from Jepara, a small town found in Central Java. The Raden Saleh Room features five paintings of Raden Saleh Syarif Bustaman, one of the best painters of Indonesia and after whom the room was named. Other rooms that can be found include the Residential Chamber, the First Chamber, the Guest Room, and the Bed Chamber. The palace also has a living room and kitchen.
The Presidential Palace is open to visitors. People who go to the palace go through a strict security check, as can be expected. If you will visit the Merdeka Palace, be sure to wear modest clothing. Women are advised to wear at least knee-length skirts or dresses instead of pants.