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”), Romania’s capital city offers the tourist an intriguing mixture of experiences. A city of great contrasts, Bucharest’s grey housing blocks from Ceauşescu’s brutal communist era clash with deliberately French style palaces with baroque clam-shaped canopies, a few medieval remains and 21st-century office buildings.
The quickest and easiest way of getting around Bucharest is by sleek and efficient metro or by bus. Trams and trolleybuses are another option but are much slower and less comfortable! There are plenty of sights to interest the tourist on a short break in this fascinating city.
The Arch of Triumph was initially built of wood in 1922 to honour 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.Calea Victoriei (Victory Avenue) is Bucharest’s oldest and arguably, most charming street. Built in 1692 to link the Old Princely Court to MogosoaiaPalace, it was initially paved with oak beams. Between the two world wars, Calea Victoriei developed into one of the most fashionable streets in the city. Stroll along this street to discover some of the most impressive and beautiful buildings in the Bucharest, including the Cantacuzino Palace, the historical Revolution Square, the Military Club, the CEC Headquarters and the National History Museum.
Revolution Square gained worldwide notoriety when TV stations around the world broadcasted Nicolae Ceausescu’s final moments in power on December 21, 1989 On the far side of the square stands the former RoyalPalace, now home to the NationalArt 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, KretzulescuChurch.
The Royal Palace was built between 1927 and 1937 in neoclassical style and 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 the RomanianNationalArt Museum.
Bucharest – a lively city, full of contrasts – well worth exploring for a few days.