Which highlights and attractions are not to be missed on your holiday in Bucharest? Here you will find a list of the top 10 attractions in Bucharest!
Bucharest, Romania's capital, is a city of contrasts. The medieval metropolis with its wide boulevards was once called the "Paris of the Balkans". When the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu came to power, he had plane concrete buildings erected, to which many a historic building fell victim.
Nevertheless, some of the neoclassical gems have been preserved and one or two of Ceausescu's gigantic buildings are now among Bucharest's top sights.
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Athenaeum Concert Hall
The Athenaeum is often described as the most beautiful building in Bucharest. The columned porch with its triangular gabled stream is reminiscent of a Greek temple. In reality, the Athenaeum is a mixture of Gothic and neoclassicism. Its circular floor plan provides excellent acoustics and forms the perfect setting for unforgettable concert evenings.
The Bucharest Concert Hall was built in 1888 and largely financed by public donations. Under its dome, whose frescoes depict scenes from Romania's history, is the seat of the George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra.
The name of the Athenaeum - like that of the Greek capital Athens - is reminiscent of Pallas Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom. Unfortunately, the Athenaeum can only be visited in the context of performances - and these are usually sold out quickly due to their popularity. So if you want to attend a concert at the Athenaeum, you should secure tickets in advance.
Royal Palace and National Art Museum
Directly opposite the concert hall, on Revolution Square, is the former Royal Palace of Bucharest. It dates from the 19th century and today houses the National Art Museum of Romania. Until 1947, the Romanian King Michael I resided here.
Within its massive walls, works of art from a wide range of epochs are on display. One focus of the museum is on sculptures and paintings by Romanian artists, mainly from antiquity and the Middle Ages. In the second main section, extensive collections of European artists are presented with a total of 12,000 exhibits.
TheRoyal Palace hit the international headlines in 1989. The then dictator Nicolae Ceausescu wanted to give a speech to his people, with the result that he had to be taken to safety from the angry crowd by helicopter.
Palace of Parliament
One reason for the people's displeasure with their ruler was probably this: The enormous Palace of Parliament Bucharest's best example of Nicolae Ceausescu's megalomania. The "monstrous metaphor for immoderate tyranny" holds first place among the largest buildings in Europe and is the largest parliament building in the world. To build it, the communist dictator had an entire city district demolished in the 1980s and the population starved for years. Nevertheless, he called the gigantic building "Casa Poporului" - "House of the People".
The people lived in poverty, Romania was close to national bankruptcy and the tyrant wallowed in luxury. Ceausescu, however, did not live to see the completion of his magnificent palace - he was executed in December 1989 during the revolution. Since then, the building has also been called the Palace of Parliament and today houses the Chamber of Deputies of the Senate and the National Museum of Modern Art.
The approximately 5,100 rooms are mostly unfurnished, but with marble floors, precious carpets and gold-embroidered velvet curtains, they show the wealth that Ceausescu acquired at the expense of his people. The building is stunning to look at from the outside and guided tours of its interior are also available by appointment.
Not far from the Palace of Parliament (after all, the dictator did not want to have to walk far) is the former residence of Nicolae Ceausescu and his family. For almost 20 years, the Romanian president lived here with his wife Elena and his three children, two sons and a daughter.
Similar to the Palace of Parliament, Villa Ceausescu is (is) brimming with every conceivable luxury. The furniture in the 80 or so rooms looks antique, but was brand new and extremely exquisite, there was a private cinema in the basement, the toilet paper holders were made of gold and, of course, there was a swimming pool. Despite the pompous interior, the atmosphere of the property is impersonal and cool, almost depressive.
The elegant villa now functions as a museum and can be visited in its entirety. However, guided tours must be booked in advance.
Arcul de Triumf (Arc de Triumph)
As the "Paris of the Balkans", Bucharest, like the French capital, naturally needs a triumphal arch. And it has one. The Arcul de Triumf is located on the square of the same name and is an unmistakable copy of the Parisian Arc de Triomphe on the Champs Élyssés. At 27 metres, however, it is only about half as high as its French counterpart.
The Romanian Arc de Triomphe was completed in 1878, at that time in a wooden version. The monument was given its current appearance in 1936, when it was inaugurated on 1 December, Romania's bank holidays. It commemorates the reunification of Romania in 1918. The Arcul de Triumf is also the centre of the National Day celebrations. On 1 December, the parade is held here and the entire street is decorated with ribbons and flags.
Shopping and feasting are the order of the day in the Macca-Vilacrosse arcade, which is located on one of Bucharest's main streets, Calea Voctoriei. If you want to eat Egyptian or Chinese food in Romania's capital, this is the place to go.
The Spanish-sounding name and the Western European architecture of Arcades Street are no coincidence. Both go back to Mihalache Macca and his brother Xavier Vilacrosse. The latter married into an inn that previously stood on the site of the forked arcade street. The Catalan architect had the inn demolished and the passage covered with yellow glass built. It was completed in 1891. However, it only got its name in the 2010s, before that it was called Pasajul bijuteria ("Jeweller's Passage").
The Romanian Orthodox monastery of Stavropoleos in the historical part of the city is one of the most important architectural monuments of Bucharest. The Greek monk Ioanichie Stratonikeas founded the monastery in 1724 as a hostel for passing travellers and traders. The monastery was financed with the income from the caravanserai.
The church, dedicated to the archangels Michael and Gabriel, is the only building that has been preserved from the monastery to this day. A new building next to the church houses the nuns' living quarters, a library, a conference room and some icons and frescoes from the 18th century. Some of them were saved from other churches that were destroyed in the course of communist rule.
Besides the architecture worth seeing, the Stavropoleos Monastery is also famous for its church choir, which revives Byzantine music. Romania's largest collection of Byzantine music books is also housed here.
Those who need a break from sightseeing in Bucharest should spend it in the secluded Botanical Garden. Here you will find heavenly peace by the pond and lush greenery in the fresh air as a contrast to the noise and bustle of the city. Be prepared for an explosion of smells and colours!
The Botanical Garden was founded in 1860 by Alexandru Ioan Cuza near Cotroceni Castle. Since 1874, the more than 500 plant species have been looked after and maintained by the University of Bucharest.
Among the attractions in the Bucharest Botanical Garden are huge palm and banana trees, the almost 1000-square-metre rose garden with around 130 species, magnificent orchids, endangered European plants and Mediterranean plants.
Parcul Regele Mihai I al României (King Michael I of Romania Park)
Flower and plant lovers will also get their money's worth in the city park! The Parcul Regele Mihai I al României is the largest park in Bucharest and has been a natural monument since 2004. It is located in the north of the city and was created in 1936 on a former marshy area.
A good half of the area is taken up by the 0.7 square kilometre Herăstrău Lake, around which the park extends. A boat ride on the lake, a picnic among flowers or a walk under majestic trees make you forget the hustle and bustle of the big city.
Highlights of the King Michael I of Romania Park include the wonderful flower arrangements, the annual garden exhibition "Expoflora", the Rose Island, the Japanese Garden and the huge open-air museum Muzeul Național al Satului "Dimitrie Gusti".
Open Air Museum Muzeul Național al Satului "Dimitrie Gusti"
Visitors embark on a journey back in time to Romania's past centuries at the open-air museum Muzeul Național al Satului "Dimitrie Gusti". The village museum was founded in 1936 by Dimitrie Gusti, Victor Ion Popa and Henri H. Stahl in the city park just outside Bucharest's centre. With an area of over 100,000 square metres, it is one of the largest open-air museums in the entire Balkans.
Nearly 300 originally preserved buildings from all parts of the country represent rural life on the one hand and show the most diverse architectural styles of Romania on the other. The authentic farms, earth houses, wooden churches, workshops and mills provide a detailed insight into everyday life at that time. The tour ends with a stop at the café, where all kinds of delicacies show the culinary side of Romania.
PICTURES: The top sights of Bucharest