The sixth largest city in the European Union, Bucharest, Romania, is home to many beautiful monuments and museums, but no building comes even close to the enormous Palace of Parliament. The second largest building in the world (after the United States’ Pentagon), the Palace of Parliament is a relatively recent addition to Bucharest’s city streets, but that does not make it any less impressive. Although the seemingly secretive building boasts a stone wall around its perimeter, it is welcoming towards tourists, offering guided tours every day. If you visit Bucharest, the Palace of Parliament should be the first, and largest, thing on your list.
6 years of around-the-clock construction, employing over 20,000 workers
Plans for the then-named “House of the Republic” were first made in the late 1970s, and ground was struck in 1984, during Nicolae Ceausescu’s time as President of Communist Romania. The land where the palace was built was originally filled with factories and workshops. A monastery and hospital were also housed there. However, the buildings were demolished and the land was leveled. Workers began immediately on what was supposed to be a two-year project but ended up lasting over 6 years, with half of the rooms still not completed. Overall, over 20,000 workers toiled on the palace, many working the third shift so that progress was being made around the clock. While the palace wasn’t close to being completed in 1989, when the Communist regime fell, officials decided to continue work on the building, and it opened in 1994. The cost totaled 1.75 billion USD, or 35 billion USD today, when adjusting for inflation.
Made entirely of Romanian materials
The result of years of hard work and is a mammoth building that is still half empty, only 400 rooms being occupied out of the planned 1,100. After the Romanian Revolution, the building was renamed The People’s House, or Casa Poporului. To the outside world, it is referred to as the Palace of Parliament. There is still much work to do on the building, but construction has slowed down significantly since the Communist era. It currently operates as the parliament building, and houses several museums, a convention center, and a nuclear bunker, located 8 floors underground. The building is constructed entirely of Romanian materials, including 1 million cubic meters of marble from Transylvania. The art that lines the halls is all by Romanian artists, and the 480 chandeliers are adorned with Romanian crystal.
A bevy of sightseeing options for the curious visitor
The Palace of Parliament is not hard to find, and is located in the center of Bucharest, a quick stroll from the Parcul Unirii and a 20 minute walk from the Old Town. The visitor’s entrance is on the northern side, across from the park. Tours are available daily between 10:00 hrs and 15:30 hrs. There are several ticket options for you to choose from. The Standard Tour is 25 / 13 RON adult / student ( 6.20 / 3.20 USD), but you can also add the Underground Tour or the Terrace Tour to your agenda, or do either separately. It is recommended by staff to take the Standard Tour along with the Terrace Tour, which offers a view of the city from atop the 12 story building. This package totals 30 / 18 RON ( 7.50 / 4.50 USD). The tour times range from 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the combination you choose.
Plan your trip wisely
Despite its convenient location, visiting the Palace of Parliament may require a bit of planning time. It is highly recommended to call the office to make a reservation. Not all tour options are always available, so it’s best to check ahead of time to ensure your preference. Arrive at least 10 minutes in advance so you can go through the mandatory security check, and don’t forget your passport! The Palace of Parliament is a fully-operating government building, and security holds your passports until the end of the tour. The guides are available in Romanian, English, and French. The guide will take you through the building, popping into rooms every so often to share pieces of Romanian history and facts about the building. The guides are filled with knowledge of the architectural style and history of the construction, and are very eager to answer any questions you might have. The tour ends in a room with a small, colorful art exhibition, which is a nice change of scenery before returning to the main office to claim your passport.
A fine combination of history, culture, and architecture
Despite its short and convoluted history, the Palace of Parliament is a must-see on your trip to Bucharest. Don’t forget to call ahead of time! And if you’re still feeling adventurous after the tour, check out the National Museum of Contemporary Art, located at the back of the building.
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