Bucharest was my gateway into Romania and I was eager to see this city that has always -for some strange reason- been an object of my curiosity. The capital of Romania has been called the “Paris of the east” due to French architecture influence – but perhaps also because the pre-communist elite had the airs? I am not really sure but it definitelyhas architecture reminiscent of the French capital. In any case, Bucharest is a relative newcomer as a capital city having been picked as capital of Romania only in 1862. It is a city of over 1.6 million inhabitants – and it feels that way: a city with the weight of any capital city, with all the attributes of a European city, yet not quite a megalopolis or an international center.
There are too many photos to share so I will place them here in a gallery at the end so you can see some of what caught my eye in terms of architecture, monuments (especially to the 1989 revolution), streets, etc. Just click on the images to enlarge them! But first some thoughts on the city…
It is very interesting to see this architecture in Bucharest because it usually is mixed in with very different styles. It almost feels that either construction in the city skipped a few periods or styles as some parts have very different styled buildings next to each other. Maybe that is what some communism legacy does and what a deliberate demolition of old portions of a city will do (Nicolae Ceausescu, the communist dictator, razed parts of the city for his grandiose building, now the Parliament). I don’t know as I am not an expert either in architecture or Romania! This cacophony of styles gives it an interesting air… And/or perhaps, I needed to see more of the city than I got to?
Old Town Bucharest
Old Town Bucharest is charming like the older part of a any city and, at night, is very lively and a great place to go to have dinner, watching folks go by, and then stay for drinks and more people watching. We enjoyed a night out on a nice summer evening the night before our return home – good food, good wine, and lots of good laughs.
Not far from Old Town you encounter the grandiose communist buildings sponsored by Ceausescu – a madman of sorts yet independent enough to say no to the USSR whenever he felt like it. (How DID he get away with it??!!) In any case as I mentioned earlier, much of the older city was destroyed by him to pave way for these new buildings. It is sad to think that, until the early 1980s, the old district was much larger and probably containing some gems that are now lost.
Sights around Bucharest
Bucharest has a canal going through it (the Dâmboviţa river that goes through town was channelized in the late 1800s to prevent the flooding that the city suffered periodically) and nice parks, especially near the Romanian Arc de Triomphe. In that area you will tend to see foreign embassies and it seems a nice place to be if you live in Bucharest. The most grandiose building of the communist period already has an entire post to itself here so I will not add those pictures to the gallery here. Just know that around it are similar though slightly smaller buildings also built as part of Ceausescu’s grand plan. One of those was built to house guests of Mr. Ceausescu and now serves as a magnificent J.W. Marriott!
Unfortunately, I did not get to spend much time in Bucharest as the focus of my trip was elsewhere. However, I did get to see some of the key places around town, such as the former royal palace, a few churches, the monument to the revolution (eerie), and the balcony where Ceausescu stood in his final days trying to give a speech but, in a crucial moment in history, the crowd turned on him and the whole thing unraveled for Nicky (I remember watching that in the US in the news the day it happened!). I will end the post with the gallery of sights around Bucharest – enjoy!
(Click on the thumbnail to see the entire photo!)