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Iconic communism in Bucharest: the Palace of Parliament


The biggest communist landmark in Bucharest, erected on Ceausescu’s orders, the Palace of the Parliament, has colossal dimensions. To have an idea, just like the Great Wall of China and the Pentagon, the Palace of the Parliament can be seen from the moon.

Before you buckle up for this grandiose experience, you need to know that it contains more and bigger numbers than you imagine and will make your head spin. So, here’s in a nutshell what you need to remember:

The Palace of the Parliament is:

  • The second largest administrative building in the world (after the Pentagon);
  • The heaviest building in the world;
  • The most expensive building in the world.
The Palace of Parliament, the second largest building in the world

But, since noblesse oblige, the House of the People (as it is also called) goes hand in hand with enormous maintenance expenses. Maintenance alone is 6 million euro/year, and around 20% is covered from tourism. The cost amounts to a total of 1500 households, but is also the most visited attraction in the entire country.

Well, unlike other famous buildings, this one hasn’t got to be a Romanian landmark due to its beauty, but the Palace of Parliament is a (rather nasty) part of Romanian recent history, Ceausescu’s communist victory from his late years.

Bucharest at night with the Palace of Parliament in the background


Let’s begin with the beginning!
Planting the seed 
Size matters
What is inside
Putting thought into practice: Ceausescu’s dream
Materials used
Other records and curiosities
Instead of conclusion

Let’s begin with the beginning!

Being a military objective, entrance is possible only after passing a security gate like in the airport. You also need to have a valid ID or passport, otherwise you will not be allowed to visit! (driver’s licence or other licences are not accepted).

For more info about visiting hours and tickets click here. You have the option of a standard tour, or standard and underground tour that have similar prices, around 40-45 lei/8-9 euro, but those fascinated by this giant can also see much more if they go deeper into their pockets and pay 600 lei/around 120 euro for the panoramic-terrace tour, or even the fabulous 1575 lei/ around 315 euro for the standard and underground 35 tour.

We took the standard tour and I think it was enough to make an impression. For reservations, you can call 24 h prior to visiting. And pay attention to the tours, as not all of them are in English!

Planting the seed 

The idea of building something monumental occurred to Ceausescu after visiting North Korea. The Romanian dictator saw it as a competition and wanted to take the lead. The plan started to become reality after the earthquake from 1977, when the Romanian communist leader, a sort of capo di tutti capi in all possible areas, launched the megalomanic idea of a huge (bigger than huge to be precise!) building envisaged to shelter the country’s central management under one roof! The project also wanted to comprise the apartments of the presidential couple.

This mighty project needed an army of architects. One lady who was 28 at the time was appointed chief architect after submitting a contest. Anyway, she wasn’t alone, but teamed up with other 10 architects and had other 700 as subordinates. Ceausescu took part at the inauguration works in 1984. The construction lasted for around 13 years, until 1997, but no one can say this colossus is completely finished.

It is worth saying that the building of this monstrosity coincided with the times when Romania had paid off the external debt. To do this, the leader of the communist party had introduced a serious rationalization programme, and the entire population lacked basic things that ultimately led to a general atmosphere of dissatisfaction.

Size matters

Call it monstrosity, wonder of architecture or gigantic construction, everybody agrees this building impresses by size (!?). Yes, size does matter for the Book of Records. The Palace reaches a height of 84 metres, has a floor area of 365,000 square metres and a volume of 2,550,000 cubic metres. The Palace of the Parliament is the heaviest building in the world, weighing over 4 million tonnes and sinks by 6 mm every year.

Everything inside has colossal measures. For example, chandeliers weigh up to 5 tonnes, there are some rooms the size of a football field, or curtains are 16 m high and very heavy, of course. In case you were wondering, they are not taken down to be washed, but are cleansed through a steam system.

View from top; photo credit:
Huge corridor

What is inside

The initial plan of housing all the central administration vanished as fast as Ceausescu was overthrown. Nowadays, this impressive construction hosts the Chamber of Deputies, the Senate, three museums (among which the National Museum of Contemporary Art) and an international conference center. However, almost 70% of the Palace is still unoccupied!

It is said that the Palace goes 86 m underground, has a road system for cars and two anti-atomic bunkers (another obsession of Ceausescu) that cannot be penetrated even by radiations. This antiatomic shelter seems to comprise several apartments to host the dictatorial couple, a headquarters supposed to have phone connections with all military units and lots of pumps with filters. Here, in the episode dedicated to Romania, the three Top Gear presenters have a rally in the tunnels of the Palace of Parliament.

In 2008, it hosted the NATO summit and showed the entire world Ceausescu’s vision of what a powerful state means!

To pay the maintenance, the Palace also rents rooms for conferences

Putting thought into practice: Ceausescu’s dream

As in some Romanian legends where the vision has to turn into reality in the exact spot of your dream, the dictator asked for the safest area in case of an earthquake (he was, as you can imagine very scared of a possible one). Thus, he erected there the House of the Republic, as initially named.

We talk about a neighborhood with quiet houses on top of a hill. But it didn’t matter, cause his grandiose vision was about to be accomplished. The area stood witness to fine architecture and properties, briefly, all the pre-requisites once more to be a perfect victim of the communist system. So, he decides to demolish an entire neighborhood that comprises around 9,000 buildings together with many monasteries, churches, hospitals and other representative buildings. A few churches were saved thanks to the engineer who moved buildings with a concrete sole. The inhabitants were moved to grey blocks of flats and lost their identity to the whim of the system.

The architectural style could be called eclectic because the hundreds of architects who contributed to this building had to work on different sections. 20,000 of workers, soldiers or professionals worked to the erection of the Palace. The construction had to be complete by 1990, but according to the saying appetite comes with eating, Ceausescu kept modifying the project as he saw it, despite being a complete ignorant. Nobody discussed funding, as it came from the Communist Party.

Huge is the word

Materials used

Unlike nowadays, it is noteworthy that (almost) all the materials from the Palace of Parliament come from Romania, because the dictator was very patriotic and proud of his origins. The palace contains:

  • 3,500 tonnes of crystal;
  • 700,000 tonnes of steeland bronze for monumental doors, windows and chandeliers;
  • 1,000,000 cubic metres of marble;
  • 900,000 cubic metres of wood including walnut, oak, sweet cherry, elm;
  • 200,000 square metres of woollen carpets manufactured in Sibiu County of various dimensions (some of them so heavy that machines had to be moved inside the building to weave them);
  • mainly velvet curtains adorned with embroideries that can measure up to 16 meters and weigh up to 250 kg.

The (almost) only non-Romanian material that embellishes the building comes from Ceausescu’s friend, former Congo’s President, Mobutu Sese Seko, and that is mahogany wood, used for the doors.

Other records and curiosities:

  • The Palace of the Parliament has the biggest carpet in the world; it weighs 14 tonnes and was manually weaved in the building;
  • The Union Hall, the biggest room in the Palace has a ceiling suitable for helicopters to land or take off;
  • It has a total of 1100 rooms, out of which only 500 are used;
  • Over 20,000 labourers worked their fingers to the bone in 3 shifts for 7 years no matter harsh weather conditions;
  • Michael Jackson was the only famous person who addressed the audience from the balcony in 1996. Unfortunately he greeted the screaming and happy crowd by saying Budapest, instead of Bucharest!
  • Rooms of the Palace can be rented for different events, but weddings are forbidden!
  • The Palace was set for 2 movies: Amen happening during the Holocaust, and more recently The Nun, a horror movie, also filmed at Carta.

The view from the famous balcony

Instead of conclusion

I am no shrink, but this colossus compensates the complex of inferiority of the beneficiary, at least this is what connoisseurs say. The building is a sort of monument of the scars that the brutal communist politics left on the country, and it also mirrors the totalitarian view between people and their leaders.


Recommended by TTF:

  • An absolute must, a building featuring many traits that include it in the World Record Book;
  • A communist landmark;
  • Helps you understand Ceausescu’s megalomaniac dream;
  • Erected at the moment when people had to stand rationalization of food and basic services.


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