Bucharest: 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 is unique in a way that goes beyond the usual travel stereotypes. With its eclectic, 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 on the continent according to Slate magazine.

Mysterious origins

The historical information regarding the origins of the city is scarce. While a popular legend places a shepherd named Bucur as the founder, the historians advance more accurate options. What’s sure is that Bucharest 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, in the area of contemporary Bucharest, to supervise the two commercial routes, but its ruins no longer exist today.

The first document that mentions the city of Bucharest 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, now the oldest monument in the capital, right in the heart of the Old Town. The princes that followed him used permanently or temporarily the Old Court as a princely residence until the 17th century when it gained the main political role.

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.

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

In the next 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.

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 interesting 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 many more local experiences.

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 located. A visit to the World Record Palace of the Parliament is also a recommended 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.

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 has, it all depends on your time. You can also enjoy a walk in central parks like Herastrau and Cismgiu, discover old streets with interwar villas or centuries-old churches.

For a complete list, check 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, but with churches around every corner. 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 hosts the largest number of Romanian students.

Even more, it’s cheap compared to Western European capitals. Plus, 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.

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