Bucharest (“Bucureşti” in Romanian) is the Capital and the largest city of Romania, with a population of more than 2 million people. Thus it is the 6th largest city in the European Union. It also has a history that dates back to the Medieval Ages.
Even though the legends say that Bucharest has been founded by a shepherd named “Bucur”, its first official recognition took place in 1459, under the rule of Vlad al III-lea Drăculea, “The Impaler”, on which Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” character is based on. The former Prince of Wallachia changed the Capital from Târgovişte to Bucharest in an attempt for a better control of the country in the face of Ottoman attacks.
Since then Bucharest remained the Capital of Wallachia until 1859, when this historic region of Romania merged with Moldavia to form the first Romanian state, after the Crimean War. Then Bucharest won a strong contest with the biggest city in Moldavia, Iaşi (Jassy), to become the capital of the newly formed state, a position Bucharest kept after Romania’s Greater Union with Transylvania, Bukovina and Bessarabia in 1918.
At the turn of the 20th century, Bucharest was known as the “Little Paris” (“Micul Paris”), mostly because its attempts to duplicate the French Capital’s style and elegance. Even though un certain regard Bucharest managed to do this transformation, the city grew up being much more than a carbon copy of Paris.
Nowadays, Bucharest is a living testimony of Romania’s tumultous history, its eclectic architecture being the biggest clue in this sense. Byzantine, Renaissance, Venetian Classical, Art Nouveau or Art Deco buildings are trying to coexist with Communist era type of apartment blocks and Contemporary glass towers. This continuous reinventation of the Bucharest landscape is visible if you start from the Old City (“Centrul Vechi”) and reach the outskirts of the Capital. You can also see its cosmopolitanism by watching the different styles of clothing of Bucharest’s inhabitants or the very distinctive venues and bars you can find in our Capital, that can take you not only to Paris, but also to New York, London, Madrid, the Middle East or the Rural parts of Romania.
Bucharest is also home for the largest building in the world, besides the Pentagon: The Palace of Parliament, formerly known as the “People’s Palace”. This huge landmark was built to feed the ego of former Communist dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu. For its construction, Romanian workers had to destroy a stadium and the whole Uranus district, which was comprised mostly with old, beautiful houses. Now the Palace is housing the Parliament of Romania with both of its chambers (the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies) and the Constitutional Court.
Bucharest also hosts the other executive and judicial institutions of Romania, like the Presidential Institution, housed in Cotroceni Palace and the Government, housed in Victoria Palace.
Bucharest has always excelled in both cultural and educational spheres, as well as in leisure and entertainment aspects.
The capital is currently home to no less than 16 public Universities, such as the University of Bucharest, the Academy of Economic Studies, the Polytechnic of Bucharest, the National School of Administrative and Political Studies, Carol Davila University of Medicine and Pharmacy, renowned both in Romania and across the borders for the research and educational work in their respective fields.
Bucharest is also the birthplace of many worldwide acclaimed personalities such as: Mircea Eliade (historian of religion and philosopher), Maia Morgenstern (actress), Ilie Năstase (tennis player), John Houseman (actor and film producer), Henri Coandă (inventor of the first jet engine), Nicolae Paulescu (discoverer of pancreatine), Dinu Lipatti (pianist), Tudor Arghezi, George Călinescu, Camil Petrescu, Mircea Cărtărescu (writers) and many others.
From a cultural standpoint, Bucharest is the headquarter of all national television networks and newspapers and it has a remarkable number of theatres and operas. The Atheneum, the Arch of Triumph, the National Theater, the Village Museum, the Antipa Museum, the Military History Museum, Victoria Palace, Cotroceni Palace, the University Square, the Opera House, the Revolution Square are just some of many tourist objectives which you should not miss during your stay in Bucharest.
The nightlife in Bucharest is also something you should be aware of. With tens of clubs, pubs and restaurants clustered in the Old City Center (the Lipscani Area) and also its cheap prices and well-educated English speaking youth, Bucharest became a city break attraction not only for Europe, but for people all over the world.
As every big city, Bucharest also has its downfalls. It has a big urban fauna that consists in stray dogs and cats, the offsprings of animals abandoned during the Communist makeover of the city. Bucharest is also the most traffic congested city in the European Union and the sixth most congested city in the world. It also has a problem with taxi drivers who will try to make you pay more for the taxi ride if they see you are a foreigner.
But all of these are part of Bucharest’s charm and will make your visit in our nation’s Capital one full of surprises and great memories. If not, you can always drink a cheap beer in Centrul Vechi and forget all about them.