Located on the banks of Dâmbovița River, Romania’s capital, Bucharest, is the industrial and commercial center of the country. It is the EU’s most populated city and the 10th largest. Approximately 2 million people live in the capital, but the actual figure is bigger than the official one by at least 800.000.

Bucharest is situated in south eastern Romania, in the Vlăsiei Plain, part of the Romanian Plain.

Bucharest is the most prosperous city in Romania and one of the main industrial centres and transportation hubs of Eastern Europe.

Novelties on Bucharest

Bucharest became in 1857 the first city in the world to use lamp oil for street lighting.

The Palace of Parliament is the second largest building in the world, after the Pentagon. Also it is the most expensive administrative and the heaviest building ever built.

Underground station Politehnica was plated with granite and marble slabs that contain 180 million year old fossils.

The Botanical Garden in Bucharest is the largest garden in Romania with over 10,000 species of plants.

The first horsecars were introduced in Bucharest in 1840, making it one of the first cities in the world to have such transportation.

The Melik House, or the Theodor Pallady Museum, on Spatarului Street 22, is the oldest house in the capital. It was built in 1750 by the Armenian Hagi Kevork Nazaretoglu and it presently hosts exhibitions of paintings by Theodor Pallady – over 800 drawings dating from the period the Romanian painter had studied in Paris.

The Royal Train, build at King Ferdinand’s request and finished in 1928, is one of the Railways’ jewels; it is perfectly functional and can be rent for 15,000 euros/day.

Filaret Train station was built in 1869 and is one of the oldest in Europe. The oldest one – Atocha, in Madrid – was built in 1851.

Mititeii (grilled seasoned minced meat rolls), a very popular traditional Romanian dish was “invented” late in the 19th century when Iordache Ionescu, the owner of the “La o idee” restaurant, ran out of intestines for casing the sausages so he was forced to cook the meat only with baking soda.

Edward Robinson, the American actor of Jewish descent known for its Hollywood movies “Double Indemnity” and “Ten Commandments” was born in Bucharest in 1893.

Union Square is one of the most transited places of the city.

What to do and visit in Bucharest?

A tour of the Palace of Parliament is one of the activities recommended by National Geographic Traveler.

An incursion into Romanian traditions, at the Village museum and old churches: Stravropoleos Church, Lady’s Church, Antim Church and the Church of the Holy Apostles.

What, how and where is the Danube Delta?

A visit to the Snagov Monastery, where the legend has it Dracula’s (Vlad Tepes) tomb lies. Also at Curtea Veche, in the Historical Center of Bucharest, you can find at least one shred of history dating back to around 1450.

Eat at a restaurant with traditional Romanian cuisine; minced meat in cabbage rolls with polenta and “mititeii” are a must.

Bucharest was first mentioned in documents in 1459.

What, how and where is the Danube Delta?

Cotroceni Palace has been the residence of the president of Romania since 1991, but it is a place with a far more reaching history.

InterContinental, a 5 star luxury hotel, is the tallest in Bucharest. The impressive view from the balcony heights makes it a popular accommodation for foreign dignitaries passing by Bucharest.

Cismigiu Gardens, considered by National Geographic “a pearl park set up round a romantic lake”, are a pleasant place for a tourist stroll.

You can’t miss out on Bucharest Historical Center (Old Town), full of indoor and outdoor pubs, bars, restaurants, discos and shop and people looking for a good time. The Historical Center buildings are architectural jewels, with out of the ordinary roofs, decorated with peculiar statues, bas-reliefs and various other patterns.

In the centre of the capital there is a small artificial lake – Lake Cișmigiu – surrounded by the Cișmigiu Gardens.

Visit the Botanical Garden! It is the perfect place to spend a pleasant afternoon in nature, but without leaving Bucharest. Walk on the shady alleys, breath in the scented air and soak your eyes with the views of exotic cactuses and other special plants.

The Romanian Athenaeum is one of the most famous buildings in Bucharest, grandiose and elegant. Even if you are not a classical music aficionado, the Athenaeum will offer you a free sample of beauty. In the small park in front of it, standing in the shadow on a bench, you can contemplate its grandeur.

Bucharest is the second cheapest (least expensive) European capital. The malls, the clubs, the skating rinks, the summer gardens, the welcoming outdoor terraces of pubs, bars and restaurants, the lively parks, the merry and hospitable people, who mostly speak fluent English, make Bucharest one of the capital youngsters love most.

Bucharest finally became the permanent location of the Wallachian court after 1698.

A journey back to Bucharest’s past

According to the legend, Bucharest was established by a shepherd name Bucur. According to another, more probable, version, Bucharest was founded by ruler Mircea cel Batran at the end of the 15th century.

The settlement was confirmed on September 21st 1459 in a document issued by Vlad Tepes (the Impaler), ruler of Wallachia.

On October 14th 1465, Bucharest becomes the residence of ruler Radu cel Frumos’s court.

In 1659, under the rule of Gheorghe Ghica and on Turkish orders, Bucharest becomes the capital of Wallachia, marking the beginning of its development. Paved roads with river stones are introduced (1661), the first institution for superior education is founded – The Lordly Academy (1694) and Palace of Mogoșoaia is built (Constantin Brâncoveanu, 1702), presently hosting the Museum of Brâncovan Feudal Art.

The Art Nouveau movement finds expression through new architectural style.

Important buildings and institutions

Between the two World Wars, Bucharest was known as the Little Paris because its resemblance to the French capital.

The Parliament, Government and Presidency are located in Bucharest. Also, numerous cultural institutions are headquartered here: the Romanian Academy (founded in 1866), over 60 research institutes, the University of Bucharest, The Politehnic Institute, The Medicine Institute, a lot of other superior education institutes, important public libraries (The Academy Library, founded in 1867, has approximately 8 million volumes; The National Library, founded in 1955, has 7 million volumes; The Central University Library).

As time passed by, the medieval substance of Bucharest was severely affected by destructions and fires. Moreover, during the communist regime the city tragically lost a series of monuments, especially churches.

From the nucleus of the medieval city upon the Dâmbovița only the vestiges of the Old Court (15th-16th centuries) with the Annunciation Lordly Church, dating back most likely to Mircea Ciobanul (1545-1554).

Churches and monasteries

Radu Vodă Monastery was built during Alexandru II Mircea’s rule (1568-1577, but was destroyed by Sinan Pasa in 1595, it was rebuilt and fortified in the 17th century by Radu Mihnea (1613-1620) and by Alexandru Coconul (1623-1627).

The church of Marcuta monastery (1586 -1587) also dates back to the 15th century. In 1773, the curch was renovated and decorated with mural paintings, and it went through a restoration process between 1945 and 1957. Other important testimonies of the 16th century, Alba-Postavari and Spirea Veche churches, were destroyed in the spring of 1984.

The Romanian Revolution of 1989 began with massive anti-Ceaușescu protests in December 1989.

During Matei Basarab’s period, Plumbuita Monastery (1647) was reconstructed following the model of Radu the Great’s construction at Dealu to commemorate the 1632 victory over the Ottomans. From the Lordly House built at that time only an interior side of the courtyard was preserved. The church had been built during Mihnea II Turcitul (1577-1583, 1585-1591), but suffered great damages in 1595.

The Patriarchy Church, with Saint Demetrius as patron, was erected under the rule of Constantin Șerban Basarab (1654-1658) and modelled after the episcopal church in Curtea de Argeș, with more massive proportions.

The 1679 Cotroceni Monastery was completely demolished in 1985. It sheltered the tomb of Șerban Cantacuzino and its church distinguished itself due to the harmonious proportions and a beautifully decorated iconostasis. Also a creation of Șerban Cantacuzino, The Lady’s Church (1683) has a mural paintings ensemble made by painters Constantinos and Ioan.

One of the important monuments of the Brâncovan style is the church of the Antim Monastery (1713 – 1715), a creation of Bishop Antim Ivireanu.

The Palace of Parliament is the second largest building in the world, after the Pentagon.

Under the Phanariot rulers, until 1821, Bucharest had known a powerful oriental influence, more obvious in the way public markets were set – according to the Constantinople model, that of the so-called Maidans – and in the architecture of private houses and famous inns. Illustrative of this influences is Manuc’s Inn, built in 1808 by an Armenian trader.

The influence of Paris, the European metropolis loved by Romanians, and that of the French Architecture School becomes decisive once the Stirbey Palace is finished by French architect Michel Sanjouand, in 1835.

The buildings of the Little Paris changed the appearance of the old city whose underground spaces were kept, being difficult to recover as a new urban structure was imposed.

The Palace of the National Bank (old section) is the creation of the architects Cassien Bernard and Albert Galleron and dates back to 1883-1885.

In the 30’s the first modern traces of the century make their appeareance; thus, The Palace of Telephones, a smaller north-American skyscraper like building, is erected on Calea Victoriei.

Between 1968 and 1970 Hotel Intercontinental was built and until 2004 it was the tallest tower-construction in Romania.

The era of Nicolae Ceausescu brought on serious changes in the urban structure of the capital. Construction of the new presidential palace and the Socialism Victory Boulevard meant the destruction of old districts Uranus, Izvor, Rahova and Antim.

The Romanian Athenaeum (the heart of the Romanian culture) was erected in the Episcopal Garden, land that belonged to the Vacarescu Family. The construction of the present building started in 1886; a part of the funds was gathered by public subscription, with the civic call “Give a leu for the Athenaeum”.

At Charles Garnier’s recommendation, the author of the Paris Opera, French architect Albert Galleron was entrusted with drawing up the building schematics. The façade has a 48 meter wide peristyle. The 6 columns of the peristyle are 12 meters high and are identical, dimension wise, to those of the Erechteum in Athens. Under the peristyle there are 5 mosaic insets that represent the 5 great rulers of the country: Neagoe Basarab, Alexandru cel Bun, King Carol I of Romania, Vasile Lupu and Matei Basarab. The building is 41 meters high. Inside, the concerts hall, 28,50 meters in diameter and 16 meters high, has a capacity of 600 seats on the floor and 52 loges (approximately 794 seats in total).

In 1935, at the initiative of George Enescu, funds were raised for the construction of the concert pipe organ, placed on the upstage.

The Athenaeum was consolidated and restored during 2000-2004, and was reopened in 2005, with the occasion of the 17th edition of the George Enescu International Festival.

In Berlin, on February, 13th 2007, the informal Council of the EU Culture ministers approved the entry of the Romanian Athenaeum on the European Heritage list. This was marked by a plaque placed on the building wall a month later, in March 2007.

The Palace of the National Military Circle is a building in Bucharest that hosts the central cultural institution of the Romanian Army, and it has a cultural-artistic role, as well as a symbol, representation and protocol one.

The construction works for The Palace of the National Military Circle began in 1911. The head planner of the monumental Palace of the National Military Circle was Romanian architect Dimitrie Maimarolu, who collaborated with V. Stefănescu and E. Doneaud. The beneficiary was the Military Circle of the Officers in the Bucharest Garrison, an organization of Romanian officers established on December, 15th 1876.

Palace Halls

The Marble Hall it was designated from the start for the most important events, it can be considered as one of the most successful achievements of the Romanian architecture. The ornamental motifs are of obvious antic inspiration, styled and worked in the époque style. Swords, stilettos (short pointed daggers), shields, lances, helmets, arrows, winged Victorias, deities of war all converge to the military range.

The Moorish Hall. An extension of the Marble Hall, it has quality wainscot walls, with discreet ornamental motifs. The ceiling is made of cassettes, decorated with gold plated styled floral motifs.
The Byzantine Hall. Created in a byzantine style, with elements specific to the traditional Romanian art. The hall is dominated by an arcade row that supports a cassette ceiling; the arcades are supported by a long row of columns refined by golden pargetted friezes.

The Gothic Hall represents a gothic architectural ambiance, characterized by pointed arches and simple chandeliers. The flooring is made in gothic Bavarian design.

The Norwegian Hall is inspired by the environment characteristic to Northern Europe, with Viking ships shaped chandeliers, wooden ceiling with beams that have corbel heads depicting fantasy animal faces, inspired by the Scandinavian mythology and creating the appearance of ancient Nordic interiors.

The Palace of Parliament in Bucharest was built between 1984 and 1989 and it is the most grandiose administrative building in Europe and the second biggest in the world, after the Pentagon, with a total area of 333,000 m², fact recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records, and as for the volume, with its 2,555,000 m³ it is the third in the world, after the Cape Canaveral space shuttle assembly facility in Florida, USA and Quetzalcoatl pyramid in Mexico.

The building of the Palace of Parliament is located in the central side of Bucharest, on Arsenal Hill, an artificial elevation.

This is where Dictator Ceausescu wanted the presidential residency, the one of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and those of some Ministries to be. The interiors are lavishly luxurious: huge marble stairs, ceilings with decoration lacing, mosaics in special colors, doors with beautiful carvings, entire rows of crystal chandeliers and lamps, carpets made on special orders, furniture to match these beauties and other more.

The building is structured on 6 levels and divided into 21 blocks with 1,100 rooms, of which 440 are offices, over 30 are halls and salons, 4 are restaurants, 3 are libraries, 1 is a concert hall and 2 are parking lots; and all the construction materials are from Romania.

In front of the Palace of Parliament opens wide the Constitution Square (it is frequently used for holding concerts, shows, parades and celebrations) from where initiates the Unirii Boulevard (former Socialism Victory Boulevard), that Ceausescu wanted to be wider than the Champs Elysees.

The halls and salons in the Palace of Parliament got their names, after 1989, from important events from the history of the Romanian people or from world renowned personalities.