The Palace of Parliament in Bucharest is definitely one of the places to visit on any trip to the capital city of Romania. It is one of our favorite memories. Granted, I was not impressed with the building from the outside. It is pretty imposing, and you almost get a sense of foreboding, thanks to the bland stone color. I’m pretty sure it was by design.
What l would like to call a “dick move” by the then leader Nicolae Ceausescu, the ultimate showoff to other tiny little dictators of the world. He got denied the chance to show it off as karma caught up with him and was executed before completion of this masterpiece. The palace of parliament tour was just over an hour long (abridged version thanks to a NATO conference), but it was very interesting and l recommend doing it.
Palace of Parliament Bucharest Tour: (Ceausescu Palace)
We were lucky that Calin had booked the tour in advance for us as stated in the Bucharest Guide post, so once we paid the entrance fee, we had just a few minutes to wait before our tour started. You definitely have to book ahead so you get into the right group. There is a minimum number of people required, I think 9. Some of the other languages offered in addition to English were German, Italian and Romanian. Our guide, a plucky little woman who spoke rapidly was quite knowledgeable and moved along at a brisk pace.
History of Parliament House:
- Following an earthquake in Bucharest in 1977 which killed over 1400 people in the city and damaged 30,000 plus buildings, Ceausescu began a plan to rebuild the city and the centerpiece of the project was to be the Peoples House. Original plan had been to be a duplicate of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.
- Work began in earnest in 1984 and the inauguration was attended by the dictator himself.
- Over 40,000 people were relocated from the area to build this gargantuan place. A hill named Uranus was leveled and about 35 factories and workshops were razed. Among other casualties on the construction were several monasteries, a hospital and the National Archives.
- According to the guide, about 100,000 people worked on the construction site and building was in shifts so work was being done 24/7. It is estimated that about 3,000 people lost their lives during the construction of the People’s House. I love the fact that it was peoples house, but they had no say in anything :-( . It was going to be his home.
- The building has 8 underground levels, including a bunker. There are about 1100 rooms with less than half being used currently.
Bucharest parliament: Interior rooms
Palace of Parliament Facts:
- It is the second largest administrative building in the world after the Pentagon.
- Almost entirely, the materials used in the building are all Romanian in origin
- The biggest chandelier in the palace is over 2 tons! Massive beauty it is too, one of the over 450 in the building.
- The most stunning collection of rugs l have ever seen, and the most insane sizes too. Over 2 million square feet in total. Machines were brought inside the building to weave some of the larger pieces. Truthfully, I think that was my favorite part of the tour, seeing the rugs as l love Persian rug designs. I used to go to rug auctions in L.A just to look and fantasize about owning some, and yes.. I purchased a few small pieces (most were eaten by moths in our storage unit :-( while my cousin and friend inherited the ones that survived).
- Ceausescu was a short man and ordered the steps to be built shorter than normal so he wouldn’t look diminutive coming down them..haha. It’s funny how a lot of dictators are often quite short, isn’t it?
- There are amazing works of art in the Peoples House
- Ceausescu cancelled an official visit to Nigeria because of the earthquake . I am relieved he never made it :-).
For visitors who don’t have their very own C. the Romanian to guide them, we recommend doing a tour with GetYourGuide as we found them excellent on our tour of Auschwitz and would definitely use them again. The website to the palace of parliament is here if you insist on DIY. Make sure to inquire if there are events happening that might hamper your visit.
I couldn’t help but remember when the revolution took place and Ceausescu, along with his wife Elena were captured and sentenced to death. I dug up the video recently to watch it again and l can see the joy of the people in the fact that the reign of terror was ending. I kept trying to figure out if the soldier in this video was crying at the hearing because he was relieved or because he sympathized with them. If you’re sensitive, don’t watch this because it shows them being shot. It felt surreal being at ground zero. Never in my life would l have pictured visiting a place of history such as this.
Nicolae Ceausescu never got to see the completion of the palace as he was executed on Christmas Day in 1989. He was the second and last communist leader of Romania. You can definitely still see the growing pains of the country, but they have come a long way and things can only continue to get better.
Bucharest Parliament Tour: Wrap up
The parliament palace tour is worth it and should be part of your Bucharest itinerary. The history is fascinating and shows you one of the examples of a mind of a mad, narcissist despot who cared nothing about the very people he was supposed to be serving.
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Have you been to Romania? If not, does the fascinating history entice you to visit?