Bucharest highlights

Bucharest, capital and biggest city in Romania

Bucharest is the capital of Romania and, at the same time, the largest city, industrial and commercial center in the country. Its population of over two million inhabitants makes Bucharest the sixth largest capital of the European Union.

The first mention of the locality dates back to 1459. In 1862, Bucharest became the official capital of Romania. Since then it has undergone many changes, and it has been the center of the cultural life. In between the two world wars, the ellegant architecture and the city’s cosmopolitan elite won Bucharest the nickname of “Paris of the East” (or Micul Paris – “Little Paris”). Today the capital has the administrative rank of a county (judet) and it’s divided into six districts.

Bucharest lies on the banks of Dâmbovita River. Several lakes, like Floreasca Lake, Tei Lake or Colentina Lake, stretch down Colentina River, in the northern area of the city. Downtown, another lake is to be found in Cismigiu Park. This lake, once a swamp, is surrounded by a garden organized after the plans of Carl F. W. Meyer. Besides Cismigiu Park, there are two other important parks: Herastrau Park (with the Village Museum) and The Botanical Garden (the largest in Romania, comprising 10,000 plant species).

The legend says that Bucharest was founded by a shepherd named Bucur. According to a more plausible story, the city was founded by Mircea the Elder at the end of the 14th century. The settlement was first mentioned in a document dated September 20, 1459, as one of the residences of Prince Vlad the Impaler. In 1659, under the reign of Gheorghe Ghica, Bucharest became the capital of Wallachia and its modernization began. The streets were paved with river stones (1661), and the first institution of higher education – Academia Domneasca – was founded in 1694. Constantin Brâncoveanu built the Mogosoaia Palace, that houses today an art museum – Muzeul de Arta Feudala Brâncoveneasca. In 1704, the sword bearer (spatarul) Mihai Cantacuzino opened the Coltea Hospital. The hospital’s building was damaged by a fire and an earthquake, and re-built in 1888.

In a short period of time, Bucharest grew economically and the number of handicraftsmen (grouped in guilds, or bresle) increased. The modernization continued. The first manufactures were opened, public water pumps were installed, and the population increased permanently (from 30.030 in 1798 to 60.587, according to the censuses).

The Romanian Atheneum

Gradually, many institutions appeared in Bucharest ( The National Theatre, The Cismigiu Garden, The Serban Voda Cemetery, The Academic Society, The Philarmonic Society, The University of Bucharest, the North Station, Grand Hotel du Boulevard, Universul Journal, The Botanical Garden, The Romanian Atheneum, The National Bank, and many cinemas, coffee houses and restaurants), as well as technological innovations (kerosene lighting, the first tramway, electric lighting, the first telephone lines).

Bucharest was the residence of the Ilfov county until the establishment of the Communist regime. In the inter-war era, Bucharest was called “Le petit Paris” due to its resemblance with the French capital, but under Communism it lost its charm. Nowadays, the real-estate development causes concern regarding the faith of the old buildings, especially the ones in the historical center.

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