Bucharest General Information

Southern Romania
190-295 ft (55-90 m)
City of Bucharest - 88 sq.miles (228 sq.km);
Metropolitan area - 587 sq.miles (1,521 sq.km)
500 BC
1459 AD
2.2 milion (2012)


Known for its wide, tree-lined boulevards, glorious Belle Époque buildings and a reputation for the high life (which in the
1900s earned its nickname of "Little Paris"), Bucharest, Romania's largest city and capital,
is today a bustling metropolis.

Romanian legend has it that the city of Bucharest was founded on the banks of
the Dambovita River by a shepherd named Bucur, whose name literarily means "joy."
His flute playing reportedly dazzled the people and his hearty wine from nearby vineyards endeared him to the local traders, who gave his name to the place.

House of the Free Press

(Casa Presei Libere)
Address: Piata Presei Libere 1

An impressive edifice standing in the northern part of the city, since 1956,
Casa Scanteii (as it is still universally known) was designed by architect
Horia Maicu. There is no doubt that the building is a smaller replica of the Lomonosov University in Moskow - Russia (inaugurated in 1953).
Between 1956 and 1989, the House of the Free Press housed almost all of Romania's capital printing presses and headquarters of print media companies.
Today, it carries out much the same function but the southern wing is
now the home of the Bucharest Stock Exchange.

The Arch of Triumph

(Arcul de Triumf)
Address: Piata Arcul de Triumf

Initially built of wood in 1922 to honor the bravery of Romanian soldiers who fought in World War I, Bucharest's very own Arc de Triomphe was finished in Deva granite in 1936. Designed by the architect, Petre Antonescu, the Arc stands 85 feet high. An interior staircase allows visitors to climb to the top for a panoramic view of the city. The sculptures decorating the structure were created by leading Romanian artists, including Ion Jalea, Constantin Medrea and Constantin Baraschi.

Calea Victoriei

(Victory Avenue)

Calea Victoriei is Bucharest's oldest and arguably, most charming street. Built in 1692 to link the Old Princely Court to Mogosoaia Palace, it was initially paved with oak beams. The street became Calea Victoriei in 1878, after the Romanian War of Independence victory. Between the two world wars, Calea Victoriei developed into one of the most fashionable streets in the city.

Stroll along this street from Piata Victoriei to Piata Natiunilor Unite to discover some of the most stunning buildings in the city, including the Cantacuzino Palace, the historical Revolution Square, the Military Club, the CEC Headquarters and the National History Museum.

Cantacuzino Palace

(Palatul Cantacuzino)
Address: Calea Victoriei 141
Admission charge

Grigore Cantacuzino was thought to be one of Romania's wealthiest citizens in 1899. As Prime Minister, it was his wish to have the most elegant residence in Bucharest. Using the designs of architect Ion Berindei, the Cantacuzino Palace was built between 1898 and 1900 in eclectic French style. Combining a neoclassical architectural style with art nouveau elements, it features wrought iron balconies, tall arched windows and a porte-cochere (an elegant wrought-iron doorway) flanked by two lions. Today, the palace houses the George Enescu Museum

Revolution Square

(Piata Revolutiei)

The square gained worldwide notoriety when TV stations around the globe broadcasted Nicolae Ceausescu's final moments in power on December 21, 1989. It was here, at the balcony of the former Communist Party Headquarters, that Ceausescu stared in disbelief as the people gathered in the square below turned on him. He fled the angry crowd in his white helicopter, only to be captured outside of the city a few hours later.

The square's importance stretches back long before the dramatic events of the 1989 Revolution. On the far side of the square stands the former Royal Palace, now home to the National Art Museum, the stunning Romanian Athenaeum and the historic Athenee Palace Hotel. At the south end of the square, you can visit the small, but beautiful, Kretzulescu Church.

The Royal Palace

(Palatul Regal)
Address: Calea Victoriei 49-53

Erected between 1927 and 1937 in neoclassical style, the palace was home to King Carol II and to his son, King Mihai I, until 1947, when the monarchy was abolished in Romania. It was inside the halls of this palace that King Mihai, aged 18, led a coup that displaced the pro-Nazi government during the World War II and put Romania on the Allies' side. Today, the former Royal palace houses the Romanian National Art Museum.

The Romanian Athenaeum

The work of French architect Albert Galleron, who also designed the National Bank of Romania, the Athenaeum was completed in 1888, financed almost entirely with money donated by the general public. One of the preeminent public fundraising campaigns ever in Romania, the "Give a penny for the Athenaeum" campaign saved the project after the original patrons ran out of funds. With its high dome and Doric columns, the Athenaeum resembles an ancient temple.

The lobby has a beautifully painted ceiling decorated in gold leaf, while curved balconies cascade in ringlets off a spiral staircase. A ring of pink marble columns
is linked by flowing arches where elaborate brass lanterns hang like gems from a necklace. Inside the concert hall, voluptuous frescoes cover the ceiling and walls. Renowned worldwide for its outstanding acoustics, it is Bucharest's most prestigious concert hall and home of the Romanian George Enescu Philharmonic.

Athenee Palace Hotel

Address: Str. Episcopiei 1-3

Built in 1914 by French architect Teophile Bradeau, the Athenee Palace (currently a posh Hilton hotel) was made famous in Olivia Manning's novel, Balkan Trilogy, as a centre of intrigue and espionage during World War II. British and German diplomats plotted, schemed and spied on each other in the epoch atmosphere of the hotel's English Bar, while a host of rich and famous gathered and intrigued as their society collapsed around them. The hotel suffered heavy bombing during the war and consequently, was rebuilt in 1945.

Kretzulescu Church

Address: Calea Victoriei 47

Nestled amid the other historical buildings in Piata Revolutiei, this small red-brick Orthodox church was built in 1722 by the great chancellor Iordache Kretzulescu and his wife, Safta (a daughter of Constantin Brancoveanu) in the Brancovenesti architectural style. The interior frescoes were executed around 1860 by the famous Romanian painter Gheorghe Tattarescu.

Royal Palace Great Concert Hall

(Sala Palatului)

Located next to the Royal Palace, the concave-roof structure was built in 1960 to accommodate the 3,000 Communist party members who every five years attended the communist party congress. It was on this stage that Nicolae Ceausescu would deliver his vision of a multilaterally developed socialist society. Today, the massive auditorium plays host to various conferences and events, including some of the George Enescu International Festival concerts.

The Military Club

Standing guard imposingly, this neoclassical masterpiece, designed by Romanian architect Dimitrie Maimaroiu, was built in 1912 to serve the social, cultural and educational needs of the Romanian army. Banquets and official events are still hosted in the ballrooms, while the upstairs area is reserved for the army's library, as well as offices and classrooms for officer instruction. The main part of the building is off-limits to civilians, but the sumptuous restaurant and summer terrace is open to the public.

The Palace of the Savings Bank

(Casa de Economii si Consemnatiuni / CEC)
Address: Calea Victoriei 11-13

Boasting one of the most impressive neoclassical facades in the city, this structure was built in the 19th century to the design of French architect Paul Gottereanu (who between 1875 and 1900 designed more than 50 buildings in the city, to house the first Romanian Savings Bank. The square-shaped palace has a large central dome with metallic ribs separated by glass, which allows natural light to come in; there are also four smaller domes. The arch at the entrance, with its Corinthian columns, is a highlight of any architectural tour of the city.

Old Historical Center of Bucharest (Centrul Vechi al Orasului)

Lipscani District

Perhaps the city's unique charm can be best observed in the area known as Lipscani, which consists of a jumble of streets between Calea Victoriei, Blvd. Bratianu, Blvd. Regina Elisabeta and the Dambovita River. A once-glamorous residential area, the old city centre is now slowly being refashioned into an upscale neighborhood.

At the beginning of 1400s, most merchants and craftsmen - Romanian, Austrian, Greek, Bulgarian, Serbian, Armenian and Jewish - established their stores and shops in this section of the city. Soon, the area became known as Lipscani, named for the many German traders from Lipsca or Leiptzig. Other streets took on the names of various old craft communities and guilds, such as Blanari (furriers), Covaci (blacksmiths), Gabroveni (knife makers) and Cavafii Vechii (shoe-makers). The mix of nationalities and cultures is reflected in the mishmash of architectural styles, from baroque to neoclassical to art nouveau.

Today, the area is home to many art galleries, antique shops and coffeehouses. On a beautiful day, you can stroll down the narrow cobblestone streets and imagine the shopkeepers outside near their stores, encouraging people to buy their merchandise and negotiating prices with them. Don't forget to stop by Hanul cu Tei, which is a rectangular courtyard between Strada Lipscani and Strada Blanari, home to an array of art and antiques shops.

Old Princely Court & Church

At the centre of the historic area are the remains of the Old Princely Court (Curtea Veche), built in the 15th century by Vlad Tepes, also known as Vlad Dracula. According to local lore, Vlad kept his prisoners in dungeons which commenced beneath the Princely Court and extended under the city. All that remains today are a few walls, arches, tombstones and a Corinthian column.

The Old Court Museum was established in 1972 when an archaeological dig revealed the remains of the fortress, along with Dacian pottery and Roman coins, evidence of Bucharest's earliest inhabitants. The oldest document attesting to the city's origin under the name of Bucuresti (Bucharest) was discovered here. It was issued on September 20, 1459 and signed by Prince Vlad Tepes.

Next to the palace stands the Old Court Church (Biserica Curtea Veche), dating from 1559 and considered the oldest in Bucharest. For two centuries, the church served as coronation ground for Romanian princes. Some of the original 16th century frescoes have been preserved.

Manuc's Inn

Built between 1804 and 1808 by the wealthy Armenian trader Emanuel Marzaian (called by the Turks, Manuc Bey), the inn was witness in 1812 to the preliminary talks of the Peace Treaty that put an end to the Russian -Turkish War (1806-1812). A favorite meeting and resting place for tradesmen in those times, Manuc's Inn has preserved to this day its old style and flavor. It now serves as a hotel with a restaurant, a wine cellar and a pastry shop.

The Beer Cart Restaurant

Opened in 1879, this famous restaurant and beer house soon became one of the most popular meeting places for Bucharest's literati who would gather to discuss matters of their time. Its neo-gothic architectural style is reflected both in the façades and the interior decorations: columns, arches, chandeliers, a wooden staircase, furniture and murals on the walls and ceiling.

National Bank of Romania

The National Bank of Romania (BNR) stands on the site of one of the most famous buildings in Romania: the Hanul Serban Voda, which from 1678 until 1883 was the home of various institutions ranging from a pub to an inn to a girl's dormitory! After two fires gutted the building, however, the land was leveled and in 1883, work began on the BNR, completed to the designs of French architects Cassien Bernard and Albert Galleron in 1885. Built in neoclassical French style, the building boasts a facade with Corinthian columns and an enormous central banking hall. The passing of time has left its marks on the building, but it remains a classic worthy of admiration.

University Square

(Piata Universitatii)

Buzzing with crowds and traffic from early morning until late at night, this area is one of the most popular meeting places in Bucharest. The square brings together some remarkable architectural masterpieces on each of its four corners, starting with the University of Bucharest's School of Architecture, the Bucharest National Theatre, the neoclassical Coltea Hospital and its lovely church (1702-1794) and the Sutu Palace, now home to the Bucharest History Museum.

In the middle of the square, on a little island, 10 stone crosses pay respect to those killed during the 1989 revolution. Below the square is an underground passage with shops and eateries, allowing pedestrians to cross from one side of the square to another and to access the subway station.

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