Bucharest City: One of the Most Authentic Capitals in Europe

If you’d like to take a guided tour of Bucharest, check our tours on www.uncover-romania-tours.com

Bucharest City is unique in a way that goes beyond the usual travel stereotypes. With its chaotic, noisy and confusing look and mixed Western-Balkan atmosphere, today’s Bucharest is one of Europe’s most authentic capitals and the second coolest city of the continent according to Slate magazine.

Bucharest City

Mysterious origins

The information regarding the founding and origins of the city is scarce. While a popular legend places a shepherd named Bucur as the founder, the historians advance more options. What’s sure is that Bucharest City appeared at the intersection of two main commercial routes, one that linked the Balkan Peninsula with Transylvania and the Baltic ports and another one that linked the monasteries from Oltenia to the ports on the Danube. In the 14th century a fortress was built to supervise the two commercial routes, but its ruins no longer exist today.

Old Court Bucharest City

The first document that mentions Bucharest City dates from 1459, and was given by the famous Vlad the Impaler. This medieval prince established one of his residences here, in today’s Old Court, today the oldest monument in the capital. The princes that followed him used permanently or temporarily the Old Court as a princely residence.

From a small fortress to a capital

Bucharest developed mainly as a commercial city given its location, and gradually the expansion of the Ottoman Empire’s influence positioned the city as the main commercial center in Southern Romania. All merchants who wanted to trade between Transylvania and the Balkans went through Bucharest, and the city expanded even more in the 16th century due to these booming commercial activities. As a direct consequence, more and more inns and monasteries that often owned the inns appeared.

Bucharest City

Its economic importance, but also the proximity to the Danube where the Ottoman armies were stationed, led to Bucharest becoming the capital of Southern Romania in 1659. The old capital, Targovise, maintained a status of political importance, and was used mainly by the princes who fought the Ottomans.

Bucharest City

In the following centuries, Bucharest was the direct victim of numerous regional wars, fires and plague epidemics, earthquakes and political unrest. In 1859 it became the capital of the United Principalities, and in 1918 the capital of Romania after the union of Transylvania, Bucovina, Basarabia and Banat with the old Romanian Kingdom. In the first decades of the 20th century the capital developed tremendously, and architectural masterpieces, modern services and a thriving social life transformed it into one of the most important cities in this part of Europe. Nonetheless, the heavy bombing from the Second World War, but especially the decades of communism that mutilated its look changed the city almost entirely.

Bucharest Atheneum

What to see in Bucharest

Bucharest is Romania’s most visited city, and its very particular and chaotic mix of architectural styles and diverse cultural influences make it one of the most authentic capitals in Europe. You can choose from seeing and visiting historical and cultural attractions, art shows, taking long walks in parks and museum visits, going to concerts, parties and more local experiences.

old town bucharest

If you’re only spending a weekend, then you should definitely walk around the Old Town and Victoriei Avenue where most of the landmarks are locates. A visit to the World Record Palace of the Parliament is also a unique experience. If you’re interested in the history of communism in Romania, we also recommend Primaverii Palace, the residence of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, and the local exhibition of the Sighet Memorial.

Palace of the Parliament

If you want to visit at least two or three museums, we recommend the Village Museum, the Art Collections Museum and the National Museum of History. These are only a few of the many interesting museums Bucharest offers. You can also enjoy a walk in parks like Herastrau and Cismgiu, discover old streets with interwar villas or centuries old churches.

Cismigiu park

For a complete list, check our popular travel post Best Things to Do in Bucharest for the First Time Visitor

Visiting Bucharest will sure be a memorable experience as its contrasting and coexisting realities make it an original destination, modern yet traditional, luxurious yet poor as you move to the outskirts, glossy yet casual, full of parties and full of churches. We hope you’ll have a great time uncovering Bucharest, one of the most authentic capitals in Europe. 

Travel tips

Bucharest is a city that lives day and night with the same intensity and no wonder since it attracts most Romanian students.

Even more, it’s cheap compared to Western European capitals. You can enjoy a beer in a pub for 2 EUR or less, and you have daily low-cost flights to and from Bucharest.

Bucharest is a great starting point for one day trips to Transylvania or to main attractions in Southern Romania. Save at least one day for this if you’re only staying in the capital.

Continue reading more travel tips for Bucharest

If you’d like to take a guided tour of Bucharest, check our tours on www.uncover-romania-tours.com

About the author

Diana is a tourism consultant, tour guide, travel writer and amateur photographer, focusing on sustainable tourism practices and destinations. You can find Diana Condrea on Twitter and Google+

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