Bucharest General Information
Known for its wide, tree-lined boulevards, glorious Belle Époque buildings and a reputation for the high life (which in the 1900s earned its nickname of “Little Paris”), Bucharest, Romania’s largest city and capital, is today a bustling metropolis.
Romanian legend has it that the city of Bucharest was founded on the banks of the Dambovita River by a shepherd named Bucur, whose name literarily means “joy.”
His flute playing reportedly dazzled the people and his hearty wine from nearby vineyards endeared him to the local traders, who gave his name to the place.
House of the Free Press
(Casa Presei Libere) Address: Piata Presei Libere 1
An impressive edifice standing in the northern part of the city, since 1956, Casa Scanteii (as it is still universally known) was designed by architect Horia Maicu. There is no doubt that the building is a smaller replica of the Lomonosov University in Moskow – Russia (inaugurated in 1953).
Between 1956 and 1989, the House of the Free Press housed almost all of Romania’s capital printing presses and headquarters of print media companies.
Today, it carries out much the same function but the southern wing is now the home of the Bucharest Stock Exchange.
The Arch of Triumph
(Arcul de Triumf) Address: Piata Arcul de Triumf
Initially built of wood in 1922 to honor the bravery of Romanian soldiers who fought in World War I, Bucharest’s very own Arc de Triomphe was finished in Deva granite in 1936. Designed by the architect, Petre Antonescu, the Arc stands 85 feet high. An interior staircase allows visitors to climb to the top for a panoramic view of the city. The sculptures decorating the structure were created by leading Romanian artists, including Ion Jalea, Constantin Medrea and Constantin Baraschi.
Calea Victoriei (Victory Avenue)
Calea Victoriei is Bucharest’s oldest and arguably, most charming street. Built in 1692 to link the Old Princely Court to Mogosoaia Palace, it was initially paved with oak beams. The street became Calea Victoriei in 1878, after the Romanian War of Independence victory. Between the two world wars, Calea Victoriei developed into one of the most fashionable streets in the city.
Stroll along this street from Piata Victoriei to Piata Natiunilor Unite to discover some of the most stunning buildings in the city, including the Cantacuzino Palace, the historical Revolution Square, the Military Club, the CEC Headquarters and the National History Museum.
Cantacuzino Palace (Palatul Cantacuzino) Address: Calea Victoriei 141
Grigore Cantacuzino was thought to be one of Romania’s wealthiest citizens in 1899. As Prime Minister, it was his wish to have the most elegant residence in Bucharest. Using the designs of architect Ion Berindei, the Cantacuzino Palace was built between 1898 and 1900 in eclectic French style. Combining a neoclassical architectural style with art nouveau elements, it features wrought iron balconies, tall arched windows and a porte-cochere (an elegant wrought-iron doorway) flanked by two lions. Today, the palace houses the George Enescu Museum .
The square gained worldwide notoriety when TV stations around the globe broadcasted Nicolae Ceausescu’s final moments in power on December 21, 1989. It was here, at the balcony of the former Communist Party Headquarters, that Ceausescu stared in disbelief as the people gathered in the square below turned on him. He fled the angry crowd in his white helicopter, only to be captured outside of the city a few hours later.
The square’s importance stretches back long before the dramatic events of the 1989 Revolution. On the far side of the square stands the former Royal Palace, now home to the National Art Museum, the stunning Romanian Athenaeum and the historic Athenee Palace Hotel. At the south end of the square, you can visit the small, but beautiful, Kretzulescu Church.
The Royal Palace (Palatul Regal) Address: Calea Victoriei 49-53
Erected between 1927 and 1937 in neoclassical style, the palace was home to King Carol II and to his son, King Mihai I, until 1947, when the monarchy was abolished in Romania. It was inside the halls of this palace that King Mihai, aged 18, led a coup that displaced the pro-Nazi government during the World War II and put Romania on the Allies’ side. Today, the former Royal palace houses theRomanian National Art Museum .
The Romanian Athenaeum
(Ateneul Roman) Address: Str. Benjamin Franklin 1
The work of French architect Albert Galleron, who also designed the National Bank of Romania, the Athenaeum was completed in 1888, financed almost entirely with money donated by the general public. One of the preeminent public fundraising campaigns ever in Romania, the “Give a penny for the Athenaeum” campaign saved the project after the original patrons ran out of funds. With its high dome and Doric columns, the Athenaeum resembles an ancient temple.
The lobby has a beautifully painted ceiling decorated in gold leaf, while curved balconies cascade in ringlets off a spiral staircase. A ring of pink marble columns
is linked by flowing arches where elaborate brass lanterns hang like gems from a necklace. Inside the concert hall, voluptuous frescoes cover the ceiling and walls. Renowned worldwide for its outstanding acoustics, it is Bucharest’s most prestigious concert hall and home of the Romanian George Enescu Philharmonic.
Athenee Palace Hotel Address: Str. Episcopiei 1-3
Built in 1914 by French architect Teophile Bradeau, the Athenee Palace (currently a posh Hilton hotel) was made famous in Olivia Manning’s novel, Balkan Trilogy, as a centre of intrigue and espionage during World War II. British and German diplomats plotted, schemed and spied on each other in the epoch atmosphere of the hotel’s English Bar, while a host of rich and famous gathered and intrigued as their society collapsed around them. The hotel suffered heavy bombing during the war and consequently, was rebuilt in 1945.
Kretzulescu Church Address: Calea Victoriei 47
Nestled amid the other historical buildings in Piata Revolutiei, this small red-brick Orthodox church was built in 1722 by the great chancellor Iordache Kretzulescu and his wife, Safta (a daughter of Constantin Brancoveanu) in the Brancovenesti architectural style. The interior frescoes were executed around 1860 by the famous Romanian painter Gheorghe Tattarescu.
Royal Palace Great Concert Hall (Sala Palatului)
Located next to the Royal Palace, the concave-roof structure was built in 1960 to accommodate the 3,000 Communist party members who every five years attended the communist party congress. It was on this stage that Nicolae Ceausescu would deliver his vision of a multilaterally developed socialist society. Today, the massive auditorium plays host to various conferences and events, including some of the George Enescu International Festival concerts.
The Military Club
(Cercul Militar National)
Address: Blvd. Regina Elisabeta 21
Standing guard imposingly, this neoclassical masterpiece, designed by Romanian architect Dimitrie Maimaroiu, was built in 1912 to serve the social, cultural and educational needs of the Romanian army. Banquets and official events are still hosted in the ballrooms, while the upstairs area is reserved for the army’s library, as well as offices and classrooms for officer instruction. The main part of the building is off-limits to civilians, but the sumptuous restaurant and summer terrace is open to the public.
The Palace of the Savings Bank
(Casa de Economii si Consemnatiuni / CEC)
Address: Calea Victoriei 11-13
Boasting one of the most impressive neoclassical facades in the city, this structure was built in the 19th century to the design of French architect Paul Gottereanu (who between 1875 and 1900 designed more than 50 buildings in the city, to house the first Romanian Savings Bank. The square-shaped palace has a large central dome with metallic ribs separated by glass, which allows natural light to come in; there are also four smaller domes. The arch at the entrance, with its Corinthian columns, is a highlight of any architectural tour of the city.
Old Historical Center of Bucharest (Centrul Vechi al Orasului)
Perhaps the city’s unique charm can be best observed in the area known as Lipscani, which consists of a jumble of streets between Calea Victoriei, Blvd. Bratianu, Blvd. Regina Elisabeta and the Dambovita River. A once-glamorous residential area, the old city centre is now slowly being refashioned into an upscale neighborhood.
At the beginning of 1400s, most merchants and craftsmen – Romanian, Austrian, Greek, Bulgarian, Serbian, Armenian and Jewish – established their stores and shops in this section of the city. Soon, the area became known as Lipscani, named for the many German traders from Lipsca or Leiptzig. Other streets took on the names of various old craft communities and guilds, such as Blanari (furriers), Covaci (blacksmiths), Gabroveni (knife makers) and Cavafii Vechii (shoe-makers). The mix of nationalities and cultures is reflected in the mishmash of architectural styles, from baroque to neoclassical to art nouveau.
Today, the area is home to many art galleries, antique shops and coffeehouses. On a beautiful day, you can stroll down the narrow cobblestone streets and imagine the shopkeepers outside near their stores, encouraging people to buy their merchandise and negotiating prices with them. Don’t forget to stop by Hanul cu Tei, which is a rectangular courtyard between Strada Lipscani and Strada Blanari, home to an array of art and antiques shops.
Old Princely Court & Church
(Palatul si Biserica Curtea Veche)
Address: Strada Franceza 25-31
Museum open: Mon. – Sun 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.;
At the centre of the historic area are the remains of the Old Princely Court (Curtea Veche), built in the 15th century by Vlad Tepes, also known as Vlad Dracula. According to local lore, Vlad kept his prisoners in dungeons which commenced beneath the Princely Court and extended under the city. All that remains today are a few walls, arches, tombstones and a Corinthian column.
The Old Court Museum was established in 1972 when an archaeological dig revealed the remains of the fortress, along with Dacian pottery and Roman coins, evidence of Bucharest’s earliest inhabitants. The oldest document attesting to the city’s origin under the name of Bucuresti (Bucharest) was discovered here. It was issued on September 20, 1459 and signed by Prince Vlad Tepes.
Next to the palace stands the Old Court Church (Biserica Curtea Veche), dating from 1559 and considered the oldest in Bucharest. For two centuries, the church served as coronation ground for Romanian princes. Some of the original 16th century frescoes have been preserved.
(Hanul lui Manuc)
Address: Str. Franceza 62-64
Tel: (21) 313.14.11
Built between 1804 and 1808 by the wealthy Armenian trader Emanuel Marzaian (called by the Turks, Manuc Bey), the inn was witness in 1812 to the preliminary talks of the Peace Treaty that put an end to the Russian -Turkish War (1806-1812). A favorite meeting and resting place for tradesmen in those times, Manuc’s Inn has preserved to this day its old style and flavor. It now serves as a hotel with a restaurant, a wine cellar and a pastry shop.
The Beer Cart Restaurant
(Carul cu Bere)
Address: Strada Stavropoleos 3-5
Tel: (21) 313.75.60
Opened in 1879, this famous restaurant and beer house soon became one of the most popular meeting places for Bucharest’s literati who would gather to discuss matters of their time. Its neo-gothic architectural style is reflected both in the façades and the interior decorations: columns, arches, chandeliers, a wooden staircase, furniture and murals on the walls and ceiling.
National Bank of Romania
(Banca Nationala a Romaniei)
Address: Str. Lipscani 25 (
The National Bank of Romania (BNR) stands on the site of one of the most famous buildings in Romania: the Hanul Serban Voda, which from 1678 until 1883 was the home of various institutions ranging from a pub to an inn to a girl’s dormitory! After two fires gutted the building, however, the land was leveled and in 1883, work began on the BNR, completed to the designs of French architects Cassien Bernard and Albert Galleron in 1885. Built in neoclassical French style, the building boasts a facade with Corinthian columns and an enormous central banking hall. The passing of time has left its marks on the building, but it remains a classic worthy of admiration.
Buzzing with crowds and traffic from early morning until late at night, this area is one of the most popular meeting places in Bucharest. The square brings together some remarkable architectural masterpieces on each of its four corners, starting with theUniversity of Bucharest’s School of Architecture, the Bucharest National Theatre, the neoclassical Coltea Hospitaland its lovely church (1702-1794) and the Sutu Palace, now home to the Bucharest History Museum.
In the middle of the square, on a little island, 10 stone crosses pay respect to those killed during the 1989 revolution. Below the square is an underground passage with shops and eateries, allowing pedestrians to cross from one side of the square to another and to access the subway station.
University of Bucharest
Address: Blvd. Regina Elizabeta (near University Square)
Bucharest remains first and foremost a hub of higher education. The University of Bucharest was founded in 1864 by Alexandru Ioan Cuza, ruler of the newly united principalities of Walachia and Moldova. Work on the neoclassical building began in 1857 and finished in 1859.
Between the two World Wars, the libraries and corridors of the University hosted an impressive number of Romanian personalities, including Mircea Eliade, Emil Cioran, Eugène Ionesco, Sergiu Celibidache.
Year-round, you can find book merchants near the University building selling anything from antique books, records, discontinued newspapers and illustrated broadsheets from another age to secondhand books.
Address: Blvd I.C. Bratianu 2 (near University Square)
Famous for the grandiose balls held here in the 1900s, Sutu Palace was built in neogothic style between 1832 and 1834 by foreign minister Costache Sutu, to designs of architects Johann Veit and Konrad Schwinck. In 1862, the palace was redecorated by sculptor Karl Storck, who created three arcades and a monumental stairway; a huge Murano mirror was added in the hallway.
Only the painted ceilings, the stucco, the parquet flooring and the tile stoves have been preserved.
Since 1959, the building has housed the Bucharest History & Art Museum
Address: Calea 13 Septembrie 1,
Hours: Mon. – Sun.
10:00am – 4:00pm
Built by Communist Party leader, Nicolae Ceausescu, the colossal Parliament Palace (formerly known as the People’s Palace) is the second largest administrative building in the world after the Pentagon. It took 20,000 workers and 700 architects to build. The palace boasts 12 stories, 1,100 rooms, a 328-ft-long lobby and four underground levels, including an enormous nuclear bunker.
The Palace of Parliament it is the world’s second-largest office building in surface
(after the Pentagon) and the third largest in volume (after Cape Canaveral in the U.S. and the Great Pyramid in Egypt)
The crystal chandelier in the Human Rights Hall (Sala Drepturilor Omului) weighs 2.5 tons
Some of the chandeliers have as many as
7,000 light bulbs
When construction started in 1984, the dictator intended it to be the headquarters of his government. Today, it houses Romania’s Parliament and serves as an international conference centre. Built and furnished exclusively with Romanian materials, the building reflects the work of the country’s best artisans.
A guided tour takes visitors through a small section of dazzling rooms, huge halls and quarters used by the Senate (when not in session). The interior is a luxurious display of crystal chandeliers, mosaics, oak paneling, marble, gold leaf, stained-glass windows and floors covered in rich carpets.
Civic Centre (Centrul Civic)
Ceausescu’s building megalomania climaxed with the construction of the Civic Centre, an area located at the south end of the Palace of Parliament along Bulevardul Unirii. Bucharest had taken significant damage from the Allied bombing during World War II and the earthquake of March 4, 1977. However, neither of these events changed the face of the city as much as the redevelopment schemes of the 1980s, when eight square kilometres in the Old Historical Centre of Bucharest were leveled, including monasteries, churches, synagogues, a hospital and a noted Art Deco sports stadium. Some 40,000 people were evicted with only a single day’s notice to make room for the construction of these Stalinist apartment buildings topped with neoclassical follies.
(Biserica Sfintii Apostoli)
Address: Str. Sfintii Apostoli 1
One of the oldest churches in Bucharest (with parts dating back to the 16th century and a steeple built in 1715), the Apostles’ Church is brimming with some rather strange portraits that are well worth seeing.
(Biserica Patriarhiei) Address: Aleea Dealul Mitropoliei (
Set atop one of the city’s few hills, known as Mitropoliei, the Metropolitan Church has been the centerpiece of the Romanian Orthodox faith since the 17th century. The church was built by Constantin Serban Basarab, ruler of the province of Walachia between 1656 and 1658, to a design inspired by the Curtea de Arges monastery. It became the Metropolitan Church in 1668 and the seat of the Romanian Orthodox Church in 1925.
The Byzantine interior, containing the most dazzling of the city’s iconostasis, as well as a couple of exquisitely carved side altars, bestows great beauty on the services presided over by the Romanian Patriarch. A huge crowd gathers here for the Easter midnight service.
The outstanding bell-tower at the entrance was built in 1698 and restored in 1958. Next to the church, and closed to the public, is the Patriarchal Palace(1708), residence of the Teoctist, supreme leader of the Romanian Orthodox Church.
Address: Str. Stavropoleos 4
The Stavropoleos Church was built in 1724 by the Greek monk Ioanikie Stratonikeas. Featuring a combination of Romanian and Byzantine architecture, it has a beautiful façade and a delicately carved columned entrance. Surrounded by a peaceful garden, it is an architectural jewel, with beautiful frescoes and wood-painted icons. The mass (in Romanian) is worth viewing if you can find room in this small and cozy church.
St. Joseph’s Cathedral
(Catedrala Sfantul Iosif)
Address: Str. G-ral Berthelot 19
Constructed in red brick between 1873 and 1884, this Roman Catholic cathedral
is an architectural masterpiece combining both gothic and Roman elements.
Organ recitals are held every week.
St. Nicolas Church
(Biserica Sfantul Nicolae)
Address: Str. Ion Ghica 9
Built in 1909 by the Russian Tsar Nicholas II for 600,000 gold rubles, this Orthodox Church has a wooden, gold-gilded iconostasis allegedly modeled after the altar in the Archangelskiy Cathedral in Moscow.
Bucharest is home to one of the oldest and most important Jewish communities in Romania. Sephardic Jews arrived here in the 16th century. Around the beginning of the 17th century, during the Cossack uprising, the first Ashkenazi Jews came from Ukraine and Poland. A sacred brotherhood, a charity box and a prayer house were registered in 1715.
Some of the synagogues built during the 18th and 19th century also featured ritual baths (mikve). By 1832, 10 holy houses had been established. Their number would increase significantly before the end of the century, almost every one having its own Rabbi and cult performers.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Jewish population in Bucharest numbered 40,000 people with 70 temples and synagogues. From this great number, only a few survived the brutality of history – fascism and communism – and two still serve the city’s present Jewish community.
Dr. Moses Rosen Museum of the
History of the Jewish Community in Romania
(Muzeul de Istorie al Evreilor din Romania)
Address: Str. Mamulari 3
Open: Mon. – Wed. & Fri. – Sun. 9:00am – 1:00pm; Thu. 9:00am – 4:00pm
Housed in the magnificently preserved Great Synagogue (1850) in the city’s historically Jewish neighborhood, this museum traces the history of Romania’s Jewish population. The displays include a collection of books written, published, illustrated or translated by Romanian Jews; a small collection of paintings of and by Romanian Jews (many of the same artists’ works hang in the National Museum of Art) and memorabilia from Jewish theatres including the State Jewish Theatre.
The museum also contains a large collection of Jewish ritual objects from Romania, collected by Rabbi Moses Rosen (1912-1994), the late Chief Rabbi
of the Romanian Jewry.
Address: Str. Sfanta Vineri 9
Tel: (21) 312.21.96
Built in 1857, the red brick temple
(noted for its magnificent Moorish turrets, choir loft and organ) is the largest active synagogue in Bucharest.
Services are held every day at 8am and 7pm.
On Saturday, they are held at 8:30am and 7pm.
Yeshoah Tova Synagogue
Address: Str. Tache Ionescu 9 (map)
In a busy side street going towards Piata Amzei from Magheru Bulevard stands the only other functioning synagogue in the city apart from the Choral Temple. Services take place at Sabbath hour on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Bucharest Jewish Community
(Comunitatea Evreilor din Bucuresti)
Address: Str. Sf. Vineri 9 -11
Tel: (21) 313.17.82
Art Collections Museum
(Muzeul Colectiilor de Arta)
Address: Calea Victoriei 111
Tel: (21) 212.96.41
Founded in 1978, the Art Collections Museum, a branch of the National Art Museum, houses private collections donated over the course of time. Collections include European as well as Oriental art works.
Bucharest History & Art Museum
(Muzeul Municipiului Bucuresti)
Address: Blvd. I.C.Bratianu 2
Tel: (21) 315.68.58
Open: Wed. – Sun. 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.; Closed Mon. & Tue.
Housed in the neoclassical Sutu Palace(1834), the museum features some 300,000 artifacts, from coins, books, maps, engravings, paintings, arms and furniture to old traditional costumes. Among the most valuable exhibits are the document attesting for the first time the name of the city of Bucharest, issued by Vlad Tepes in 1459, and a sword set in precious stones that belonged to Prince Constantin Brancoveanu (1688-1714).
Communist Iconography Museum
Address: Sos. Kiseleff 3 (inside the Romanian Peasant Museum)
A compact, but fascinating, cellar room inside the Peasant Museum is home to a collection of communist-era busts (including that of Lenin), paintings and memorabilia.
Cotroceni Palace & Museum
(Muzeul National Cotroceni)
Address: Str. Geniului 1
Tel: (21) 317.31.07 or 430.44.85
Open: Tue. – Sun. 9:00am – 5:00pm; Closed Mon.
Admission charge (Guided tours are available in English)
Note: Guests are received by appointment only; please call for reservations.
A former royal residence built between 1679 and 1681 by Prince and ruler Serban Cantacuzino, the palace was home to King Carol I, who made important changes in its architecture. At the end of the 19th century, Heir-to-the-Crown Ferdinand ordered the partial demolition of the palace, which was later reconstructed by French architect Paul Gottereau in neoclassical style. In 1977, Nicolae Ceausescu transformed it into an official guesthouse with the addition of a new wing.
After 1990, the old wing of the palace became a museum. The Oriental Hall, the Norwegian Hall and the Queen’s Chamber are almost unchanged from the original design and are worth visiting. Very important collection of medieval art also can be seen here. The new wing serves as the seat of the Romanian Presidency.
George Enescu Museum
(Muzeul National George Enescu)
Address: Calea Victoriei 141
Tel: (21) 318.14.50
Open: Tue. – Sun. 10:00am – 5:00pm; Closed Mon.
The museum, housed in the Cantacuzino Palace, displays documents and various objects that belonged to the great Romanian composer and violinist George Enescu (1881-1955), including a Bach music collection he received as a gift from Queen Elisabeta of Romania. A world-class violinist, Enescu studied at the Vienna Conservatory, where he met German composer Johannes Brahms and where he also gave his first concerts. In Paris, Enescu graduated from the French Conservatory in 1899. His best-known works, the Romanian Rhapsodies, earned him national and international fame. In 1936, his Oedipe tragic opera premiered in Paris and Enescu was awarded the French Legion of Honor award for the composition. A member of the Romanian Academy and corresponding member of the Institute of France, George Enescu was the teacher of renowned violinist Yehudi Menuhin. Every two years, the Romanian Athenaeum celebrates the maestro by hosting the George Enescu International Festival.
Grigore Antipa Natural History Museum
(Muzeul National de Istorie Naturala)
Address: Sos. Kiseleff 1
Tel: (21) 312.88.63
Open: Tue – Sun 10:00 am – 8:00 pm (last admission 7:00pm). Closed on Mondays.
Recently renovated, this museum is the largest natural history museum in Romania, housing collections of reptiles, fish, birds and mammals. More than 300,000 artifacts and specimens are on display, including a dinosaur fossil. A whole floor is dedicated to sea life and features examples of whales, dolphins and seals. The museum also contains a beautiful butterfly collection.
Minovici Museum of Ancient Western Art
(Muzeul de Arta Veche Apuseana)
Address: Str. Dr. Minovici 3
Tel: (21) 665.73.34
Note: The museum is currently closed.
In addition to the small renaissance art collection of Dumitru Minovici, who made barrels of lei in the oil business in the 1930s, the museum features Belgian tapestries, Dutch furniture, Swiss stained glass, a complete library and Italian paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries.
Museum of the Romanian Peasant
(Muzeul Taranului Roman)
Address: Sos. Kiseleff 3
Tel: (21) 317.96.60
Open: Tue. – Sun. 10:00am – 6:00pm; Closed Mon.
Opened in 1906, the museum features the richest folk art collection in Romania, with over 90,000 artifacts that trace the colorful and diverse cultural life of the Romanian people. The Pottery Collection includes some 18,000 items, representative of the most important pottery centres in the country. The oldest ceramic item found in the museum bears the inscription 1746. Equally impressive, the Costume Collection comprises almost 20,000 traditional folk costumes, some dating from the beginning of the 19th century, giving visitors insight into the styles and traditions of the Romanian peasants.
The displays dip into all aspects of life in the Romanian countryside. Exhibits of agricultural tools, carpets, icons, furniture, photographs and films build up a complete picture of Romanian folk culture. In one of the galleries, you can see a wooden church and in another, a wooden peasant house. Four more wooden churches stand in the outdoor museum area. In 1996, the museum was namedEuropean Museum of the Year. Visitors can buy regional handcrafts and textiles in the museum’s extensive gift shop.
National Art Museum
(Muzeul National de Arta)
Address: Calea Victoriei 49-53
Tel: (21) 313.30.30
Open: Wed. – Sun.. 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (May – September);
Wed. – Sun. 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. (October – April); Closed Mon. & Tue.
Admission charge (English guided available)
Romania’s leading art museum was founded in 1948 to house the former Royal Collection, which included Romanian and European art dating from the 15th to the 20th century. Located in the neoclassical former Royal Palace, set amid a wealth of historic buildings such as the Romanian Athenaeum, Kretzulescu Church and the Hotel Athenee Palace-Hilton, the museum currently exhibits over 100,000 works divided into two major sections. Its National Gallery features the works of major Romanian artists, including Grigorescu, Aman and Andreescu. There is also a roomful of early Brancusi sculpture, such as you won’t find anywhere else, demonstrating how he left his master, Rodin, behind in a more advanced form of expression. The European Gallery, comprising some 15 rooms, displays little-known art gems from the likes of El Greco, Monet, Rembrandt, Renoir, Breughels (father and son) Cezanne and Rubens. If you only have time to visit one gallery, make it the Romanian one. It is the most complete collection of Romanian works of art in the country and quite possibly, the world.
National Geological Museum
(Muzeul National de Geologie)
Address: Sos. Kiseleff 2
Tel: (21) 212.89.52
Open: Mon. – Sun. 10:00am – 4:00pm
Impressive collections of minerals and quartz formations specific to the area are found here, including a well-presented geological structure of Romania.
National History Museum
(Muzeul National de Istorie al Romaniei)
Address: Calea Victoriei 12
Tel: (21) 315.82.07
Open: Tue. – Sun. 10:00am – 6:00pm; Closed Mon. (May – September);
Tue. – Sun. 9:00am – 5:00pm; Closed Mon. (October – April)
Housed in a 1900s neoclassical building that once served as the city’s main post office, the museum offers a great introduction to the exciting history of Romania. Spread throughout 41 rooms, the exhibits recount the country’s development from prehistoric times to the 20th century. The highlight is theNational Treasury Hall where visitors can enjoy a dazzling display of some 3,000 gold items, including jewelry and valuable Neolithic artifacts.
Among the displays are the 12 pieces of the 4th century Pietroasele Treasure Collection. First presented at the 1867 World’s Fair in Paris, it was considered the most valuable treasure collection in the world (the tomb of Tutankamon had not yet been discovered). One year later, the collection was displayed at the Second Annual International Exhibition in London and in 1872, at the International Exhibition in Vienna.
National Military Museum
(Muzeul Militar National)
Address: Str. Mircea Vulcanescu 125-127
Tel: (21) 638.76.30
Open: Tue. – Sun. 9:00am – 5:00pm; Closed Mon.
Founded in 1972, the museum illustrates the most important battles for independence and freedom in Romanian history. The museum features collections of Oriental and Occidental weapons, Romanian and foreign uniforms, military medals and awards, trophies, artillery, canons and airplanes as well as a library of historical military documents.
The centerpiece is the 1989 Revolution exhibit, displaying mainly personal belongings donated by families of soldiers and civilians killed during the upheaval.
National Museum of Contemporary Art
(Muzeul National de Arta Contemporana)
Address: Calea 13 Septembrie 1,
Tel: (21) 411.10.40
Open: Wed. – Sun. 10:00am – 6:00pm;
Closed Mon. & Tue.
Bucharest’s newest museum, the MNAC, as it is often called by museum-goers, displays works of Romania’s contemporary artists as well as many temporary exhibits by international artists. The museum is housed in a wing of the Palace of Parliament, the space which would have served as Nicolae and Ileana Ceausescu’s private apartment (where just the bathroom occupied 680 square feet, while the adjoining boudoir was three times that size).
National Museum of Old Maps & Books
(Muzeul National al Hartilor si Cartii Vechi)
Address: Str. Londra 39
Tel: (21) 230.44.68
Open: Wed. – Sun. 10:00am – 6:00pm; Closed Mon. & Tue.
Though it may not house the world’s biggest collection, this museum is worth a visit, especially if you are interested in old maps and books.
Romanian Railways Museum
(Muzeul Cailor Ferate Romane)
Address: Calea Grivitei 193
Tel: (21) 222.75.20
Open: Tue. – Sun. 9:00am – 4:00pm; Closed
Several engines and wagons are on display in the open-air section of the museum. Inside, you can find an 1869 Morse telegraph, memorabilia, turn-of-the-century pictures and some age-old Romanian railway uniforms.
(Muzeul de Arta Frederic Storck si Cecilia Cutescu-Storck)
Address: Str. Vasile Alecsandri 16
Telephone: (21) 317 38 89
Open: Tue. – Sun. 9:00am – 4:00pm; Closed Mon.
This museum pays tribute to the works of sculptor Frederick Storck, founder of the Romanian school of architecture, and his wife, Cecelia Cutescu-Storck, an artist and a keen advocate of enhanced recognition for women in the arts. Some 150 paintings and 250 sculptures are featured in the beautiful Storck residence, built in 1913 by a French architect after the plans of Frederick Storck.
Address: Str. Candiano Popescu 2 (inside Carol I Park)
Tel: (21) 336.93.90
Open: Wed. – Sun. 11:00am – 6:30pm; Closed Mon. & Tue.
This museum displays some 5,000 exhibits covering a wide range of industrial models: turbines, compressors, steam engines, the cylinder from the first steam engine that was used in a Romanian factory, as well as antique cars and motorcycles.
Theodor Pallady Museum
(Muzeul Theodor Pallady)
Address: Str. Spatarului 22
Tel: (21) 211.49.79
Open: Wed. – Sun.. 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (May – September);
Wed. – Sun. 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m (October – April); Closed Mon. & Tue.
Housed in the beautifully restored Melik house, built around 1750 by the rich Armenian Hagi Kevork Nazaretoglu, and currently, the oldest house in Bucharest, the museum features six Pallady paintings, a couple of his sketches and various other art objects.
Address: Sos. Kiseleff 28-30
Tel: (21) 317.91.03
Open: Mon. 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.;
Tue. – Sun. 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Founded by royal decree in 1936, this fascinating outdoor museum, the largest in Europe, covers some 30 acres on the shores of Lake Herastrau in Herestrau Park. It features a collection of 50 buildings representing the history and design of Romania’s rural architecture. Steep-roofed peasant homes, thatched barns, log cabins, churches and watermills from all regions of the country were carefully taken apart, shipped to the museum and rebuilt in order to recreate the village setting. Throughout the year, the Village Museum hosts special events where you will have a chance to witness folk artisans demonstrating traditional skills in weaving, pottery and other crafts. Folk arts and crafts are available at the museum gift shop.
Address: Str. Zambacian 21A
Telephone: (21) 230.19.20
Open: Sat. – Wed. 11:00am – 7:00pm; (May – September);
Sat. – Wed. 10am – 6pm (October – April); Closed Thu. & Fri.
The museum possesses the private art collection of Krikor Zambaccian (1889-1962). Names such as Andreescu, Grigorescu, Luchian, Pallady and Tonitza are famous in Romania, albeit less known outside the country, but the works, mainly following the Impressionist school, are of the highest quality. There are also several small sculptures that complement the canvases. Although Zambaccian was a big patron of the art of his home country, he also collected European works from artists such as Cezanne, Renoir, Delacroix, Corot, Derain, Matisse, Pissaro, Bonnard, Utrillo and Picasso. The museum preserves the initial display as it was conceived by the art collector himself.
Parks & Gardens
Address: Blvd. Regina Elisabeta (across from Bucharest City Hall)
Designed in 1845 by the German landscape architect Carl Meyer, the garden opened to the public in 1860. The name, Cismigiu, comes from the Turkishcismea, meaning “public fountain.” More than 30,000 trees and plants were brought from the Romanian mountains, while exotic plants were imported from the botanical gardens in Vienna. Cismigiu is Bucharest’s oldest park and a great place to stroll and enjoy a break from the hectic city. Set amid green lush lawns and winding paths, the park offers a lake with rowboat rentals, a beer garden, a playground for children, a chess area for amateurs and plenty of park benches for relaxing and people-watching.
Address: Sos. Cotroceni 32 (across from Cotroceni Palace)
Tel: (21) 410.91.39
Open: Mon. – Sun. 8:00am – 5:00pm
Opened in 1891, the garden features over 5,000 varieties of plants from Romania and around the world. The garden also encompasses a beautiful building in the Brancovenesc architectural style, housing the Botanical Garden Museum.
Here, you can peruse manuscripts, old botanical research devices and a collection of artifacts made of vegetal materials. Locals treat the gardens as a park, and on warm afternoons, you may see more young lovers than plants.
The huge greenhouses are open Tue, Thu, Sat, Sun, 9am – 1pm.
Carol I Park
(Parcul Carol I)
Address: Calea Serban Vodá
This large park is one of the most beautiful in the city and contains a massive monument that once housed the remains of communist leader Gheorge Gheorgiu Dej, as well as the eternal flame that marks the grave of the Unknown Soldier.
Designed by French landscape architect Eduard Redont in 1900s, the park offers pleasant walks down tree-lined paths, a good view of central Bucharest (from the monument) and plenty of photo opportunities. In summertime, the park’s Arenele Romane is the stage for open-air concerts.
Address: Sos. Kiseleff 32
Spread over some 400 acres, from the Arch of Triumph to the Baneasa Bridge,
the park is home to numerous attractions, including a boat rental complex, tennis courts, and a rather old-fashioned fairground. In the summertime,
many terraces open up on the shores of the lake.
For an overview of the park, take a ride around the lake on the ferry or rent your own boat. The park is also home to the Village Museum.
The area surrounding the park holds even greater treasures.
The streets between Bulevardul Mircea Eliade and Soseaua Kisileff contain extraordinarily beautiful houses in architectural styles ranging from 19th century neoclassical to 20th century art nouveau and modern luxury villas.
This is where Bucharest’s elite once lived – and still do today.