Bucharest – the “Paris of the East” – is the capital of Romania with almost 2 million inhabitants. The city was first mentioned in a document in 1459. Bucharest can be seen: impressive palaces, spacious parks, impressive museums, magnificent churches and stylish restaurants. Not to forget: magnificent boulevards. The wide boulevards are somewhat reminiscent of Paris. Much of the city was built during the reign of then party and state leader Nicolae Ceausecu (1965–1989), who wanted to raise the city’s prestige internationally. For this purpose, many parts of the old town were demolished to make room for imposing prestigious buildings. Particularly imposing is the Palace of Parliament, also known as the “House of the People” (Palatul Popului). It is the second largest building in the world after the Pentagon. In recent times, Bucharest is constantly changing. The cultural scene is constantly evolving and many an old neighborhood is moulting into a trendy district. From a culinary point of view, Bucharest’s cuisine promises a mixture of old traditions with influences from Austria and Hungary.
Tip 1: Palace of Parliament
A palace of insane size that nearly plunged Romania into national bankruptcy. Ironically, the gigantic structure was originally called “Casa Poporului” the House of the People. Dictator Nicolae Ceausescu initially had an entire neighborhood, including homes and churches, demolished to ensure that the streets and views within the city could be centered directly on the palace.
By the way, from there you can also reach Ceausescu’s private residence via a short walk, which you should also visit. While large parts of the population were impoverished, the communist dictator lived in splendor. However, Ceausescu did not live to see the completion of the Casa Poporului as he was executed during the revolution in 1989.
As a result, there were many discussions about whether the building should be completed at all and what purpose it should serve, as the cost at the time had almost completely depleted impoverished Romania. To give you an idea of how huge the palace really is, here are a few more facts for you: After the Pentagon, the Palace of Parliament is the second largest administrative building in the world. In its 360,000 square meters there are 5,100 rooms.
Tip 2: The Athenaeum
The Bucharest Athenaeum was built between 1885 and 1888 according to the plans of the architect Albert Galleron. Several architects subsequently gave the listed Athenaeum its current appearance.
The building site was originally intended for a circus with a ring. After that, the building was to become the seat of the Literary Society “Ateneul Român”, founded in 1863. For lack of financial means, after an appeal for donations, the building was transformed into a concert hall. From 1919 to 1920, the Athenaeum was the seat of the Chamber of Deputies. In 1924, during a reconstruction, a cinema hall and two round rooms were created in the basement. The concert hall is now home to the George Enescu State Philharmonic Orchestra.
The building is 41 meters high. The exterior of the Athenaeum is characterized by several architectural styles. The proticus with its Ionic columns has a corner risalit on both sides. Between the columns of the portico there are portraits of important princes of history on subsequently added round gold mosaics. The round vault of the entrance hall on the first floor is supported by 12 Doric columns. The large concert hall, which at the time seated 1,000 people, is 28.50 meters in diameter and 16 meters high. The fresco on the inside of the tambour of the dome is by Costin Petrescu and depicts highlights of Romanian history from Roman times onwards. In front of the portal, a bronze Mihai Eminescu (Romania’s poet prince) looks down. The building was last renovated between 2000 and 2004.
Tip 3: Arcul de Triumf
Arcul de Triumf is a triumphal arch in the Romanian capital Bucharest.
The structure was built in honor of the triumph in the First World War. A first predecessor was provisionally built of wood in 1878, after the country gained independence. This structure was replaced in 1922 by a larger, still provisional one made of wood and stucco – whereupon the famous Romanian musician and composer George Enescu wrote a mocking letter to the mayor asking when the capital would get a real triumphal arch.
The current Arc de Triumph was completed between 1935 and 1936 by Petre Antonescu on the model of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris to form a gigantic structure in the classical Roman style and inaugurated on the occasion of the national holiday on December 1, 1936 – an example of the fact that decades of bombastic provisional constructions have a long tradition in Bucharest. The Arcul de Triumf is decorated with numerous inscriptions and remarkable reliefs. Well-known sculptors such as Frederick Storck, Ion Jalea and Cornel Medrea contributed to the making of this monument. As in Paris, traffic flows from a series of major streets in a star shape towards the mighty arch.
Tip 4: Revolution Square
Revolution Square or Piata Revolutiei is the most famous square in Bucharest and is also one of the top sights. It is located in the immediate vicinity of the Athenaeum. On the Revolution Square in Bucharest you will find some pompous buildings, such as the University Library, the Art Museum or an Orthodox Church worth seeing.
At the same time, Revolution Square has a sad past. More than 1,000 people died there during the revolution against Dictator Ceausescu.
Tip 5: Old Town
The image of the old town is a completely unique one. Wonderful, sprawling old buildings alternate with disdainful socialist prefabricated buildings and modern office towers. This mix cannot be found in any other old town in Europe.
Thanks to an almost comprehensive restoration of those parts of the Old Town that do not consist of prefabricated buildings or office tower segments, the beautiful part has spruced itself up in such a way that it really lives up to its nickname “Paris of the East”.
Just as diverse as the architecture are the dining options: Whether Irish pubs, Fast-Food chains or Italian restaurants – every throat and palate will be satisfied.