Destinations, Travel Tips

The Palace of the Parliament in Romania – a megalomaniac wonder

What most of you know about Romania is probably related to Dracula, Nadia Comaneci or Nicolae Ceauşescu; and if you happen to know a thing or two about the dictator, then you may have heard as well about The Palace of the Parliament or The People‘s House, the way it was named in the communist era by the Romanians. The megalomaniac project conceived during the totalitarian regime now serves as a symbol for democracy as now both Romanian and European institutions and organizations have their ‘headquarters’ here. So what is it that makes this particular building so special? Well, it’s the first thing that comes into your mind when you see it: it’s big, really big. In fact it holds three Guinness Book records including for the most expensive and the heaviest administrative building in the world; it really is worth checking out.

First of all, its history will definitely prove of interest for many of you as communism has always had its dose of fascination. The most controversial project in Romania started to be built in 1983 following the plans of the 28 year-old architect Anca Petrescu. The House of the Republic (the name given by the dictator) had to be a replica to the constructions the presidential couple had seen in Korea. In fact, Ceauşescu was planning to build a new Bucharest after the 1977 earthquake, a real “state in the state”. The controversy was related to the fact that building the House would have been extremely expensive (an estimated 3 billion euros in 2006), even for a more developed country and Romania was experiencing severe economical difficulties at the time as  food and even warm water were rationalized. However, nobody could oppose and numerous people had to move house while old constructions including monuments were destroyed in order to make room for the new buildings. After the Revolution however, everything took a new turn.

Now, the Palace is not meant to please the presidential couple, but is both the place where the Parliamentarians work and also a tourist attraction, as it is open to visits from both national and international tourists, numerous guides being ready to help the astonished guests. The luxury offered by the building is hard to be described and even the word grandeur seems insufficient. The most expensive and luxurious materials were used both during the construction but also for the decoration. Marble columns, silk drapes, ivory, silver, gold and mahogany elements, nothing was considered to be too expensive. An interesting fact is related to the “Take Ionescu” hall as it has special orifices to allow natural air to pass. Ceauşescu didn’t trust air conditioning systems as he was afraid of poisoning. The Palace was also the “star” of some recent events: firstly you may have seen it in Costa Gavras‘ ‘Amen’ , secondly, the 20th NATO summit was held here.

So, if I’ve already aroused your interest you have nothing to lose if you want to visit the Palace of the Parliament as your time will be filled in a pleasant and interesting manner. If you get to Romania and you plan to visit the capital city, then there’s no way to miss it, literally. It is situated in Sector 5 and is at a 10-minute distance from Piata Unirii. Another way to get there is from Gara de Nord (the North Train station); all you have to do is take the bus 123 for 20 minutes. Not fond of buses? Get a cab, they’re are everywhere and they’re pretty cheap as well. You can also see the National Museum of Contemporary Art and the Park of Totalitarianism and Socialist Realism, both opened in 2004.

The Palace of the Parliament in numbers

-it has a length of 270 meters and a width of 240 meters, reaching a height of 86 meters. It also reaches a depth of 92 meters underground.
-its surface reaches 220 000 square meters, thus making it the second largest administrative building after the Pentagon.
-its volume reaches 2.550.000 cubic meters, which means that it’s 2% bigger than the one of Kheops‘s pyramid.
– 1.000.000 square meters of marble, 7.000 tons of steel, 200.000 square meters of glass, 3.500 square meters of leather, 20.000 tons of sand and 2.800 chandeliers were used for its creation
– 500 architects participated to the construction, while 20.000 workers worked in shifts, 24 hours/day

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