A building with 12 floors, 270 metres long and 245 metres wide; 48 metres visible above the ground and 15 metre buried below. It’s not often you come across a building larger than the Palace of the Parliament in Bucharest. When Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu ordered the construction of this extremely luxurious structure, a large section of the historic city centre of Bucharest had to pay the price. An entire neighbourhood, stadium, churches, convents and synagogues were levelled to make room.
When the building was constructed, the entire economy of the country served the palace. Everything was made with 100% Romanian materials. All marble production during construction was intended for the palace and tombstones for the dead would have to be made of other materials, such as wood. Nowadays, the palace houses the Romanian parliament, but even that is not large enough to fill it. So the building serves a number of additional functions, such as being frequently used as a conference centre. The west wind of the building houses the National Museum of Modern Art.
When talking about the construction of the Palace of the Parliament, the numbers are staggering. The design and construction of the building involved 700 architects and 20,000 workers. Only Romanian materials were allowed to be used, including a million cubic metres of marble, 3,500 tonnes of crystal, 700,000 tonnes of steel and bronze, 900,000 cubic metres of wood and 200,000 square metres of carpeting. The result is a giant that is a match for the pyramids of Giza in terms of volume. There are around 1,000 rooms and countless halls, walkways, monumental staircases and no fewer than 40 lifts. The total surface area is 340,000 square metres.
This makes the Palace of the Parliament the second largest building in the world, the first being the American Pentagon in Washington. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the palace is not only the heaviest, but also the most expensive building in the world. The small section open to the public alone is lavishly furnished. Giant crystal chandeliers, mosaics and gold leaf glitter from every angle – silver and gold have even been embroidered into the curtains.
In spite of all its gold and crystal, the palace has been described as a huge Stalinist wedding cake. But that’s not stopped anyone from holding an international conference, prestigious wedding, film shoot or fashion show here. Celebrities in particular have a soft spot for the palace. Michael Jackson concluded a press conference here with a moonwalk, after which he appeared on the balcony and shouted “I love you, Budapest” to surprised fans. The singer Shakira has also belted out songs in here and the presenters from ‘Top Gear’ have raced through the basement tunnels to show how immense this building really is.