The Birth of Bucharest
The legend says that the city of Bucharest was founded on the banks of the Dambovita River by a shepherd named Bucur, whose name literarily means joy.
As said, the city was first mentioned in 1459, in a document issued by the court of Prince Vlad the Impaler, the prince who inspired the creation of the world known character, Dracula. It was in those times that Bucharest started to grow as an important economic and political center of Wallachia. The Old Princely Court is the most important architectural complex which reminds of those times and it’s situated in the Old City Center.
The Birth of Modern Bucharest
In 1918, on the 1st of December, the Principality of Romania was created and Bucharest became the capital after a 2-year period when the capital of the Principality was transferred to Iaşi due to the fact that Bucharest was under German occupation during the First World War.
The megalomaniac projects of Nicolae Ceauşescu destroyed most of the historical landmarks of the city, and during the tragic earthquake that happened in 1977, Bucharest suffered further damage, with a lot of buildings being destroyed at that time. Still, there are many things to see wandering around the streets of Bucharest.
The Parliament Palace (otherwise known as the People’s House, Casa Poporului in Romanian) is the best example which illustrates the artistic vision of the communist regime. In the center of Bucharest, near Piaţa Unirii (Union Plazza), tourists can see the largest parliament building in the world!
The last violent historical episodes which have taken over Bucharest are the Revolution and the social commotions which took place in 1989 and in the early 1990s. Revolution Square (Piaţa Revoluţiei) is one of the sites that was part of the Romanian Revolution of 1989. There is a tall monument in the center of the square in memory of those who died during it.
Now, Bucharest is undergoing a constant and deep urban planning renewal. We think it’s the much awaited facelift. The bewilderingly miscellaneous picture of Bucharest is, in fact, comprehensive enough to accommodate both spectacular elevated touches and grotesque dull shades.
Universities in Bucharest
32 of the approximately 100 universities in Romania are based in Bucharest. As you can imagine, this makes the city also the most important student city in Romania with hundreds of thousands of students residing here. There are 3 main campus areas in Bucharest. Student life means libraries but also student pubs, clubs and many restaurants.
What can you see
Every imaginable recreational activity can be done in Bucharest. It was known as the little Paris in the period between the two World Wars. Naturally, some of its charm has remained intact.
The old city center is full of pubs, cafes and restaurants where thousands of people flock each day to escape the busy everyday life, to hang out with their friends or to take some nice pictures.
The heart of Bucharest, Old center (Lipscani) is a part of the city's historical part which was not demolished by Nicolae Ceauşescu. The area contains mid 19th century buildings, ruins of the Wallachian medieval court, churches, bank headquarters, a few hotels, clubs, restaurants and shops.
The Arch of Triumph (Arcul de Triumf), situated in the northern part of the city, and close to Herăstrău Park, is similar to the one in Paris, but it represents a national landmark, since military parades take place here each year during the National Day, on the 1st of December.
Close to it we have the Village Museum, an original open air museum created in 1934. It currently has around 300 traditional buildings (including churches, workshops, mills etc.) plus furniture, pottery, clothing gathered from villages in every region of the country in an effort to showcase the traditional way of life of the Romanians.
There are some other interesting museums with diverse themes, most of them being in Victory Place (Piața Victoriei in Romanian) or Victory Avenue (Calea Victoriei). The themes can be about biology (Antipa Museum), geology (Geology Museum), art (Recent Art Museum, National Art Museum), history (National Museum of Romanian History).
If shopping is your entertainment, you will be happy to find out that Bucharest is the capital city with the biggest number of shopping malls in Eastern Europe. Large complexes with hundreds of shops, cafés, restaurants and cinemas await residents and tourists alike.
Also, many parks wait for you to walk, many of them being big parks. There are a lot of them, including Herăstrău Park (now known as King Michael I Park), Cișmigiu Park, IOR, Tineretului Park and many more. Also, most of them have small lakes, so during summer the boats can be rented and this can be a way of relaxing with friends.
What can you do
As the capital city of Romania, in Bucharest you can find a large variety of events that attract young audiences from all around Europe. Although they comprehend numerous fields, we can safely assume that the cultural dimension is the most prominent when speaking about Bucharest’s distinctive events.
Film: BIFF, or Bucharest International Film Festival is one of the most prestigious national film festivals, as proven by the massive audience at its number of editions, with a number of 19 000 sold tickets (let alone the fact that the students had free entrance), and the positive reviews from the press. During the last decade, Bucharest International Film Festival had a series of prestigious guests such as Andrei Konchalovsky, Danis Tanovic, Nikita Mihalkov, Rutger Hauer, Jerzy Skolimovsky, Jan Harlan, Radu Mihaileanu.
- International Festival of Living Statues is a festival where actors and performance people come and perform as a living statue. There is a combination between the Romanian actors and the international ones and the themes chosen can be pretty similar or can be different between the countries that are involved. The festival is made in some of the most popular parks in Bucharest like Cișmigiu Park, IOR Park and King Michael I Park.
Music: Bucharest is also known for its music events, incorporating multiple genres and music styles, starting from classical music, jazz and moving to the folk songs and finally to famous rock ballads and world renowned pop songs.
What we can call a particularly interesting event, in the area of classical music, is the George Enescu International Festival. George Enescu is the first Romanian composer to have crossed the nation’s borders, reinterpreting traditional elements of the cultural Romanian heritage and adding the most noble influences of the international music, all these in a unique key. The festival usually takes place in September and is accompanied by a competition for young musicians. The George Enescu International Competition has a tradition of launching some of the great artists of our time on their way to fame. Alongside the Enescu Festival, the Competition reinforces Romania’s significance as a player in the international cultural arena. It represents not only an opportunity for the young aspiring Romanian and foreign musicians, but also a brand set out to speak about our cultural identity.
The Johann Strauss International Festival is also a well-known, annual event, held in Bucharest. This event is usually held in August and, for a week, concerts are held for the ones who are passionate about classical music.
Moving on to the jazz lovers, Bucharest is the host of the International Jazz Festival. This event is held in May, annually. Bucharest International Jazz Competition is ranked as the second jazz contest in Europe and the third in the world. Dedicated to professional musicians, the event successfully debuted in 2007, registering an unexpected participation for the first edition – 30 bands from 25 countries. The trend was maintained, the popularity of the event increasing significantly, rightfully earning the title as the most visible and strong competition in the region.
If you are looking to have fun and if you love rock or pop music concerts, EUROPAfest has also lined up some special events for you. EUROPAfest brings music to Romanian young people, while encouraging creativity, solidarity, talent, generosity and inspiration. Through EUROPAfest, Bucharest firmly places itself on the European map of music of all ages.
The Old Town transforms into a historic playground throughout the month of May as part of the Old Bucharest Festival. A market of traditional arts and crafts as well as hearty local food is set up every year. As for entertainment, expect outdoor concerts of Romantic music, 19th-century costumes, and horse-drawn carriages available for rides throughout the Old Town.
Every June, The Bucharest Street Music Festival takes place against the backdrop of the cobbled alleys and winding roads of the medieval old city. The event and the skilled artists involved evoke the music and traditions of the troubadours by performing Romanian folk music and medieval pieces.