Short History of Bucharest

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Bucharest has come a long way before becoming the city of today. The legend has it that Bucharest was founded by a shepherd named Bucur, but historical sources indicate that it was most likely established at the end of the 14th century by the medieval prince Mircea the Old. Bucharest was first mentioned in a written document issued, in 1459, by Vlad the Impaler. Two hundred years later it became the capital of Southern Romania, a separate political entity until the union of 1859.

Bucharest City

Bucharest developed quickly in the 19th century following the socio-political changes that led to the 1859 union and the arrival in 1866 of the Hohenzollern prince, Carol the 1st, who guided Bucharest towards modernity. In the beginning of the 20th century, after Romania won its independence and became a kingdom, Bucharest started a rapid growth, visible from its architecture to its politics and commerce. The capital reached its glory between the World Wars when it was known throughout Europe as the ‘Little Paris’ because of its architectural style and the capital’s elites’ use of the French language.

The Second World War marked, however, the abrupt end of this period, and Bucharest was bombed by both by the Allies and the Germans in 1944. Many of its landmarks were destroyed or severely damaged, not to mention thousands of local victims. But, this tragedy only preceded the event that completely changed the history of Bucharest in the 20th century, the coup d’état that brought the communist regime to power in 1947.

old town bucharest

The actions of the communist governments put an end to Bucharest’s interwar atmosphere, everything was nationalized and the elites died in imprisoned. A grey architecture, typical for Eastern communist regime invaded the capital, reaching its main point under Ceausescu’s regime when many emblematic constructions were demolished and tens of thousands of people relocated to make room for the Wold Record House of the People.

In late December 1989, Bucharest witnessed massive anti-communism manifestations with over 1,000 victims among the participants. The first year after the fall of the communist regime brought other manifestations, this time against the new neo-communist government and violent civil clashes. For much of the 90’s, the capital was marked by a transition process, followed by a rapid development beginning with the 21st century.

Symbolically, contemporary Bucharest is perhaps the best representation of today’s Romania, stuck between a conflicted past and a future it can’t decide upon, although the city itself is not at all similar to other parts of the country. Visiting it is without a doubt a great way to better understand its complexity as few other capitals have been marked by so many historical events as Bucharest.

Interested in a tour of Bucharest? We offer cultural, historical or communist tours of Bucharest. More tours on

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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