Bucharest the lovely and impressive capital of Romania is well-known for its wide, tree-lined boulevards. In the 1900s this city got the nickname of “Little Paris”. Today it is Romania’s largest city. There is a delightful legend about Bucharest. It says that once this city was founded on the banks of the Dambovita River by a shepherd whose name was Bucur. Bucur means “joy”. Everyone delighted in Bucur’s flute playing and local traders liked his hearty wine which came from nearby vineyards, so they named the place after this shepherd. In other words Bucharest translates as “The City of Joy”.
Bucharest also has its Arch of Triumph. This arch was originally built of wood in 1922 to honor the Romanian soldiers who fought in WW I. Later on the arch was redone in Deva granite in 1936. The Arch of Triumph stands at 85 feet high and was designed by architect Petre Antonescu. Visitors can climb up an interior staircase to the top where they can see panoramic views of Bucharest. The sculptures which decorate the arch are the art works of leading Romanian artists, among them Ion Jalea, Constantin Medrea and Constantin Baraschi
Take a stroll on the city’s oldest and most charming street Calea Victoriel or Victory Avenue. This street was built in 1692 to connect the Old Princely Court to Mogosoaia Palace and was at first paved with oak beams. It is now a most fashionable street and walking along it you can see impressive buildings like the Cantacuzino Palace, the Military Club, the CEC Headquarters and the National History Mussum. It will also take you to the historical Revolution Square.
Revolution Square got notoriety and worldwide attention when TV stations all around the world broadcast Nicolae Ceausescu’s final moments in power on December 21, 1989. On the far side of the square is the former Royal Palace which today houses the National Art Museum, the amazing Romanian Athenaeum and the historic Athenee Palace Hotel. On the south side of the square visitors can enjoy the lovely Kretzulescu Church.
The Romanian Athenaeum, Bucharest’s most prestigious concert hall was designed by French architect Albert Galleron and was finished in 1888. This building reminds visitors of an ancient temple since it has a high dome and Doric columns. In the lobby is a lovely painted ceiling that has been decorated in gold leaf. From an impressive spiral staircase curved balconies cascade in ringlets. Elaborate brass lanterns hang from flowing arches which link a ring of pink marble columns. Inside the concert hall, the ceiling and walls are covered by voluptuous frescoes. This is the home of the Romanian George Enescu Philharmonic.
Do take the time to enjoy the old historical center of Bucharest. The Lipscani District will lead you through a myriad of streets between Calea Victoriei Boulevard, Bratianu Boulevard, Regina Elisabeta and the Dambovita River. This was the area where merchants and craftsmen established their shops at the beginning of the 1400s. They were of all different kinds of nationalities and the area became known as Lipscani because of the many German traders who came from Leipzig, Germany. Other streets also gained their names from the different old craft communities and guilds – Blanari (furriers), Covaci (blacksmiths), Gabroveni (knife makers) and Cavafii Vechii (shoe makers). You’ll find a wide variety of architectural styles in this area from Baroque to Neoclassical to Art Nouveau. This is the place where you’ll find lots of art galleries, antique shops and coffeehouses. You’ll enjoy strolling along the cobblestone streets and stopping by the art and antique shops found in a rectangular courtyard – Hanul cu Tei.
Right in the center of the historic area you’ll find the remains of the Old Princely Court which was built in the 15th century by Vlad Tepes or Vlad Dracula. Local legend has it that Vlad kept his prisoners locked up in dungeons found underneath the Princely Court and which extended under the city. Today you can see a few walls, arches, tombstones and a Corinthian column. In 1972 the Old Court Museum was established after an archaeological dig discovered the remains of the fortress as well as Dacian pottery and Roman coins. Also discovered here was the oldest document which referred to the city’s origin under the name Bucuresti (Bucharest) issued on September 20, 1459 and signed by Prince Vlad Tepes. Beside the palace is the Old Court Church that dates back to 1559 and is looked upon as being the oldest in Bucharest. It used to serve as a coronation place for Romanian princes. You can still see the original 16th century frescoes.
Visitors can find most remarkable architectural masterpieces in each of the four corners of University Square – the University of Bucharest’s School of Architecture, the Bucharest National Theater, the neoclassical Coltea Hospital with its lovely church and the Sutu Palace which houses the Bucharest History Museum. This is the one of the most popular meeting places in the city. In the middle of the square is a little island upon which are 10 stone crosses representing those who were killed during the 1989 revolution. Underneath the square is an underground passage with shops and eateries letting pedestrians cross from one side of the square to the other and gives access to the subway station.
Located in the Neoclassical Sutu Palace is the Bucharest History & Art Museum which features around 300,000 artifacts. Among its most valuable exhibits are the document attesting to the name of the city of Bucharest for the first time and signed by Vlad Tepes and a sword with precious stones that belonged to Prince Constantin Brancoveanu.
Atop of one of the city’s few hills is the Metropolitan Church under the Romanian Orthodox faith since the 17th century. It was built by Constantin Serban Basarab, ruler of the Walachia province between 1656 and 1658. The design was inspired by the Curtea de Arges Monastery. The Byzantyn interior has one of the city’s most amazing iconostasis as well as intricately carved side altars. There is an impressive bell-tower that was built in 1698 and restored in 1958. Next door but closed to the public is the Patriarchal Palace which is the residence of the Teocists, supreme leader of the Romanian Orthodox Church.
When you are done sightseeing and want to relax and find some entertainment in the great outdoors go to one of the many parks in Bucharest like Herastrau Park. This park stretches from the Arch of Triumph to the Baneasa Bridge. Here you can find lots of attractions including a boat rental complex, tennis courts and an old-fashioned fairground. In the summertime visitors can find terraces in which to relax and people watch on the shores of the lake. This park also houses the Village Museum. The streets surrounding the park have wonderful homes built in various architectural styles as well as modern luxury villas.
Visiting Bucharest you can be prepared to see so much more as this city has many more treasures to offer its visitors.