Romanian Palace of Parliament – Construction Madness

During the communist era, the idolatrization of the leader wasn’t an option, but a must. And the more important the leader, the bigger the impact on the surroundings, as monuments and buildings were designed as a constant reminder of his power and greatness.

As Romania had its share of communist regime (1947-1989), the Palace of Parliament (People’s House) in Bucharest, Romania, is just another example of a building designed for this purpose.

Palatul_ParlamentuluiKnown as Nicolae Ceaușescu’s dream construction, the project started with wiping out a large section of the central city. Have you ever heard of the expression: “moving mountains“? Most likely it was invented during that time, as large amounts of soil were moved, in order to create an artificial hill, for the building to sit on.

More than 700 architects and over 20,000 workers were at the location, 24 hours a day, for five years, in order to bring the project to life. Unfortunately, for Ceaușescu, he didn’t get to see his dream come true, as he was assassinated before the People’s House was finished.

Absolutely enormous construction which had swallowed tens of billions of lei, while many Romanians experienced a period of severe privations. One impressive investment is the glass ceiling of the ballroom, which can open to allow a helicopter to land inside the building! Probably this is the reason why, the building wasn’t very popular among citizens, at the beginning.

Still not impressed? Wait until you read the following.

Crazy Facts

The Building is 9 stories high (with 9 underground floors – 92 m – the legend says Ceaușescu used the underground tunnels as an escape path – other legends say he’s still living in the underground nuclear bunker) and has 1000 rooms: 440 offices, over 30 ballrooms, 4 restaurants, 3 libraries, 2 underground parking and a concert hall. Just to give you a more precise idea of the size of the People’s House, all the walking I did in the building, through the years, when I took friends and colleagues from abroad to the Palace for a tour, and I saw only 5% of the entire construction. And still, after you’re done with the tour … your feet hurt.

Interesting enough, in the 1980s, when lit, the building consumed a day’s electricity supply for the whole of Bucharest in only 4 hours!

Also, something we don’t do anymore nowadays, all the materials used to build the Palace were obtained domestically: marble, glass, wood, crystal, all coming from the Romanian mountains and forests. The crystals were used for the 480 crystal chandeliers found in the palace, the rooms are decorated with gold, and only the carpet covering the floor of Union Hall weighs 14 tonnes!

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The balcony from the image has a very funny story behind it. As the entire region was redesigned to fit the monstrosity (Ceausescu made sure that the street leading right up to the palace was constructed to be exactly 1 meter wider than the Champs Elysees in Paris – sorry France!), so were the apartment buildings surrounding the Palace, which are designed to amplify the sound coming from the balcony from which Ceaușescu planned to talked to the people. Because he never got the chance to use it, Michael Jackson is the only person who ever got the chance to speak to the Romanians from that balcony, during the famous embarrassing moment when he yelled: Hello, Budapest!‘ … (now, teleportation escalated quickly, as Budapest is all the way into Hungary, far far away 🙂 ).

According to the World Records Academy, the Palace is the world’s largest civilian building with an administrative function and the second largest building in the world after the Pentagon, in the United States. It’s also the most expensive administrative building and the heaviest building in the world. Taking about a record breaker!

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View over Bucharest, from the top floor of the Palace of Parliament

Nowadays the construction is a multi-purpose building, containing both chambers of the Romanian Parliament. Most of the income comes from renting the ballrooms out for special events. Unfortunately, the cost of maintenance is so high, that the Palace barely manages to pay the staff and electricity, water and gas bills. Also, the largest part of the building is permanently empty, as it has no particular use. Still, the Palace of Parliament remains an impressive reminder of the past era.

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26 thoughts on “Romanian Palace of Parliament – Construction Madness

    • Thank you, so much for your lovely comment! I wanted to share a few words about Bucharest, as most people have no idea about what they can see around here. The facts about the building are shocking though. So much money went into this construction …

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  1. I’m learning so much about your country ! I still can’t believe an helicopter can land inside the Ceaușescu. The story about Mickael Jakson is pretty hilarious. When I went to Budapest, I ordered some money at the bank and the employee thought Budapest was in Bulgaria so she ordered me Bulgarian money 😀 When I came back to pick it up, I let you imagine my face. People are often mixing all these countries, I don’t know why !!!

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    • Lol, your story is even more hilarious, Gin :))) I can’t believe such a thing can happen, especially when you deal with currencies. Budapest and Bucharest is pretty common. I also heard Romania is located in Africa :)))
      I’ve decided to share a few things on my blog about Romania as well, as most people have no idea about where it is on the map or what’s going on here 🙂
      About the building, it’s enormous. I took some of my friends from abroad there, a few times, and I still saw only a very small % of the construction. I don’t think someone has ever seen the entire thing. Considering the country’s financial situation, it’s pretty useless, as it eats a lot of money we don’t currently have. Besides, a lot of people lost their houses for this to happen, during the original construction… Communism madness I guess. Looking at the result, I can’t say it was worth it haha 🙂 Still, it’s impressive to see.
      Thank you for your lovely comment! Have a great day! x

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  2. This is such a well researched, well written and informative post. Wow, this palace is massive. It must have been so difficult for the common hard working citizen, to witness so much expense going into building this, while the people themselves did without so much.
    Thank you for sharing a part of your home countries history. You are a very gifted writer.
    ~Carl~

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    • Thank you so much for reading and for taking the time to leave a comment, Carl! I believe I have a long way until I can call myself a good writer, but I’m definitely working everyday to improve my skills.
      Yes, the building is absolutely huge! It was very hard on citizens, as some had to be relocated. But, a good part of the project is that they used local materials, which we don’t use anymore nowadays. Still, the Palace is pretty much useless, and eats a lot of money every month only for paying the bills. Pity, but I guess this happens with every similar construction which isn’t properly used (they could move all the state institutions inside it, but…yeah…) 🙂 Thanks again for sharing your thought! Very much appreciated. Have a lovely day! x

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  3. Impressive building and architecture! Wow, I hope to see it someday! Perhaps they can start renting one wing as a hotel or luxurious apartment to help the maintenance of the building. Such historical building like that must be very attractive to live in or even stay in for a night!

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    • Thank you for reading, Indah! It is indeed a very impressive building to see. You can rent out rooms, as a private person, but the costs are insanely high. I don’t think they will turn it into a hotel, as the Chambers of Parliament are there, but it might be a better idea to move all state institutions in there, and sell the rest of the buildings. That might get some money into the state’s pocket. Not sure if there’s an interest for such a thing though…. Have a lovely day! 🙂

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  4. Very interesting Lucy so much information! Fancy having a glass ceiling that can open to allow a helicopter to land – a little over the top! As you say the cost of maintaining it must be very high and not good for the economy. Am very interested to read posts about Romania – one of my daughter’s friends, here in Perth, is from Cluj. She says it has a very different feel to it than Bucharest. Cluj is nearer the mountains I think and is in Transylvania? Have a lovely weekend 🙂

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    • Thank you so much for reading! Yes, you are right. Such a building is really bad for the economy, but since when does the Romanian state care about wasting money? It’s a pity though, because this building has a lot of potential to return money, if used properly.
      You told me about your daughter’s friend before. Yes, Cluj is in the north-west, and is a much cleaner and nicer city overall. Still, as the financial situation is getting worse, so is the work places situation around the country. Cluj, as many other cities, as dying, as most young people leave and look for work abroad.
      I’ll try to write more articles about the situation in Romania, as I can see many bloggers want to find out more 🙂
      Have a lovely weekend and lots of hugs! x

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      • Thanks Lucy yes I find it very interesting so would love it if you could write some more articles about Romania! Sorry I had forgotten I’d mentioned my daughter’s friend before too many things to think about at the moment!! She has been in Australia for quite a few years now (her parents emigrated here I think when she was in her teens) and they obviously won’t go back now. One of her grandparents (think it’s her father’s mum) is Hungarian. I think Transylvania used to be part of the Hapsburg empire under the Kingdom of Hungary if I’m not mistaken (but I may be!). Have a lovely weekend too! 🙂 X

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      • Don’t worry, I know how it is when you talk to many people 🙂 Yes, you are right about Transylvania. It’s such a beautiful part of the country, both when it comes to landscape and also people. I always have such a lovely time there. I hope you’ll get the chance to visit it, one day.
        I’ll definitely write more. Actually, just now I’ve posted a new article about Romania. I think it’s worth it, to let as much as possible out there, as most people have no idea about where is situated and what they can see here.
        All the best! ❤

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      • Thanks Lucy and I’ll head over to read your new blog post after dinner. It’s evening here now and we’re expecting a big thunderstorm so have just been making sure everything is secure!

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  5. Lucy~ what a wonderful post and you put so much on it!… I really enjoyed it! … besides and neddless to say: the photographs are stunning!!!! All the best to you. Happy weekend ahead! Aquileana 😀

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