With a population of 2,100,000 inhabitants, Bucharest is a bustling cosmopolitan city situated in the South of the country and dates back to the 15th century. Bucharest was for the first time historically recorded in the time documents in 1459 as residence-city of Vlad Tepes, ruler associated with Dracula’s legend. The vestiges of the original 15th-century walls and the throne room can still be visited today at Curtea Veche (The Old Court), central Bucharest, next to the Old Court Church, the oldest in Bucharest, dating from 1545. Bucharest developed around the Old Court and became the official capital of Romania in 1862.
The People’s Palace (Casa Poporului) is arguably Romania’s most famous building and was built during the darkest years of the Nicolae Ceausescu’s regime. The mind-blowing enormous building, second largest in the world after the Pentagon, covering 265,000 m2 and standing 84m above the ground, with 6,000 rooms on 12 floors, was originally designed to house all the institutions of the communist apparatus and as a tribute to Ceausecu’s cult of personality. Today however it is host to the Romanian Parliament, an international Conference Centre, and a Museum of Contemporary Art, although vast areas still remain unused. The vaulted ceiling of the largest room, Sala Unirii (Union Hall), is high enough to accommodate a helicopter. The hall’s 14 ton one-piece carpet was woven on the premises with machines designed specifically for the purpose. A staggering 3,500 tons of crystal were used for the building chandeliers, and the immensity of the building is completely marble-clad with world-famous Romanian marble of highest quality.
Nicknamed the Little Paris, Bucharest has its own Arc de Triumph, a monument erected in 1918 (refurbished in 1936) in memory of the World War I heroes. Standing 27 meters high, the Arc has a staircase which allows visitors to climb to the terrace on the top of the monument.
The House of the Printing Press (Casa Presei Libere) – nowadays headquarters to numerous newspapers, was originally built in Ceausescu’s era to accommodate the offices of the main Communist propaganda newspaper. The architecture is elaborate and futuristic, with a sky-scraping tower which is reflected in the mirror of the Herastrau Lake waters.
The Village Museum was founded in 1936 by sociologist Dimitrie Gusti as one of the first ethnography & folk art museums in the world within the compound of the lovely Herastrau Park. The outdoor museum displays over 300 original peasant cottages, farmsteads, windmills, watermills, lacustral houses on stilts – right on the lake shores, and churches from all over Romania. The museum a vibrant manifesto of the Romanian rural way of life, all houses are furnished and the visitor is opened a door towards a fabulous & captivating world of peasant art and spirituality.
Herastrau Park is stretching over 187ha and features a multitude of leisure opportunities from tennis courts, clubs and restaurants to landscaped gardens and labyrinthine shady alleys and promenades around Herastrau Lake - 77ha, where you can do boating, rowing and water-skiing all through the summer.
Other Bucharest landmarks and places of interest
The Palace Concert Hall (Sala Palatului ) with 5,500 seats, the National Theatre, National Opera House, the Romanian Athenaeum, the Elisabeta Palace (1936), Cotroceni Palace (1893).
One can also visit the National History Museum reflecting the multi-millenary history of the Romanians, the National Art Museum displaying priceless creations by Romanian & foreign artists, the Museum of Art Collections, the Romanian Academy (late 19th century), the Museum of Aviation, the Museum of Natural History exhibiting over 80,000 species of butterflies and a full skeleton of a Dinotherius, the Botanical Gardens, etc.