As someone who studied history and political science in college, the world’s largest parliament building, ‘The People’s Palace,’ in Bucharest, Romania had been on my bucket list for years. The Palace of the Parliament (Palatul Parlamentului) measures a staggering 3.7 million square feet (340,000 square meters) and is the second largest administrative building in the world, with only the Pentagon in the United States being larger. There was a lot we enjoyed about our week long stay in Romania, and the Palace of the Parliament in Bucharest lived up to its hype as a building that’s both seriously impressive, absurdly lavish and creepy at the same time.
While the exterior of the People’s Palace looks somewhat like a classical Greek revival building on steroids, the building’s interior is where you really see the excessive opulence. The building contains 1,100 rooms and is filled with thick marble columns, staircases & crystal chandeliers. There’s so many lights in the People’s Palace that most of the fancy chandeliers aren’t even turned on when not in use because the electricity bill would be too high. Even on our guided tour, most of the lights were turned off, giving a small sense that a giant Frankenstein was the real owner of the place.
When visiting the Palace of Parliament it’s important to call ahead and make an appointment and you have to bring your passport. Your passport will be held during the tour and returned to you upon completion (nice throwback to communism there). It’s also pretty staggering that the world’s largest administrative building that allows civilians has one of the smallest waiting areas. Expect to be a little crammed before going through security. But while you’re waiting you can buy coffee and snacks from a small stall. Tickets can be purchased with cash only by taking your reservation ticket into the gift shop. There’s a fee for taking photos and visitors are told that those who wander from the tour will be treated as threats and are subject to arrest.
Due to expensive, some Romanian officials in the past suggested moving parliament to a smaller building and converting the Palace of Parliament into the world’s largest casino. “There was speculation Donald Trump was interested in buying it” our guide said. Yes, there’s speculation that the man who finished 3rd in the bidding to buy the Buffalo Bills NFL football team (behind the Jon Bon Jovi group) can buy anything and I couldn’t believe that even in the Romanian Parliament we couldn’t escape Donald Trump’s name.
The 1980’s gradually saw a substantial decrease in the quality of life of Romanians due to the poor leadership and priorities of the Ceausescu regime. Aside from ordering the extravagant Palace of Parliament, during the 1970’s, the Ceausescu led government had borrowed heavily from the International Monetary Fund and other western organizations and during the 80’s he decided to repay the debt entirely. Romania gradually re-paid $13 billion in foreign loans through large scale shipments of agricultural and industrial exports, while too many were starving with food shortages and struggling to survive within Romania.
Ceausescu did not live to see the Palace of Parliament finished, as construction wasn’t fully completed until 1997. Along with being the world’s largest parliament, it stands as a testament to the greed and poor leadership that mired the end of Ceausescu’s regime, after the former peasant had been admired by so many Western regimes in the 1960’s and 70’s for balancing socialism, liberalism and fostering good relationships with western nations. For fellow political and history buffs, a visit to ‘The People’s Palace’ should be on your bucket list, as well as reading more into the compelling life and regime of Nicolae Ceausescu.
Entry fee: Standard tour 23 lei ($5.50USD)
Camera fee: 30 lei ($7.50 USD)