Bucharest: One of the Most Authentic Capitals in Europe

Diana Condrea
Diana Condrea
Diana is a tourism consultant, tour guide, travel writer and amateur photographer. You can find Diana on LinkedIn

Discover Bucharest City with a private guide. Check our tours on www.uncover-romania-tours.com

Located on the Eastern border of the EU, Bucharest was for centuries a city of contrasts. Today more than ever before. Romania’s capital 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 interesting cities to visit.

Old Town Bucharest

Lipscani Street

Bucharest and its mysterious origins

The historical information about the origins of the city is scarce. We know for a fact that Bucharest had an important location, at the intersection of two important commercial routes. One linked the Balkan Peninsula with Transylvania and the Baltic ports and the other one connected the monasteries from Oltenia to the Danube ports.

By the 14th century, a fortress surveilled the two commercial routes. While the site no longer exists today, researchers place it on the territory of today’s capital.

A more clear historical image appears starting with the 15th century. The first document that mentions Bucharest dates from 1459, issued by the famous Vlad the Impaler. The medieval prince had there one of his residences, the Old Court, now the oldest monument in the capital. The court was permanently or temporarily used by the many rulers that followed. It’s only in the 17th century that the Bucharest Court gained political preeminence once the city became the capital.

The discount is available on selected properties and applied to the original price of a room before taxes, charges and additional fees. Book between 18 November 2021, 9:00 (UTC+1) and 1 December 2021, 9:00 (UTC+1) inclusive. Valid for stays with check-out dates until 30 June 2022 inclusive.

From a small fortress to a capital

Taking advantage of its location, Bucharest developed as a powerful commercial city. It became the capital of Southern Romania in 1659, but its boosting economy wasn’t the only factor considered. Its proximity to the Danube where the Ottoman armies were stationed worked well in the favor of the Turks in case of urgent military intervention.

Thanks to its geographical position, Bucharest was a passage point for all merchants who traveled from the Balkans to trade in Transylvania. The expansion of the Ottoman Empire’s influence boosted, even more, its commercial power. As a direct consequence, many inns, often owned by monasteries like Zlatari and Stavropoleos, appeared to serve the foreign merchants.

Stavropoleos Monastery

Stavropoleos Monastery

In the following centuries, Bucharest faced many wars, fires, plague epidemics, earthquakes, and unrest. Its political role continued to increase as it became the capital of the United Principalities in 1859 and the capital of Romania in 1918.

However, the city lives its most intense transformation in the 20th century. In the first decades, monumental buildings, 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 WW2 and the decades of communism changed it entirely. Today, it’s impossible to discover its story or understand its often confusing look without considering its time as a communist capital.

Attractions to visit in Bucharest

Bucharest is Romania’s most visited city. Take your pick from historical and cultural attractions, attend art shows, concerts, and discover its off-the-beaten-track attractions and local life.

Carol-Park-Bucharest

Carol Park

If you only have a weekend, start with the Old Town and Victoriei Avenue. Add the World Record Palace of the Parliament to your list if you have the time. Visit also the former house of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu if you’re keen on learning more about communism.

Palace of the Parliament

The Palace of the Parliament

Don’t miss the open-air Village Museum and the National Museum of History if you’re staying for more than a weekend. These are just two of the many interesting museums in Bucharest. If you have more time, include also the Museum of Art Collections or smaller places like the Storck Museum.

Visiting Bucharest will sure be a memorable experience. Its contrasting realities make it an original destination, modern yet traditional, luxurious yet poor, glossy yet casual, full of parties but with churches around every corner.

We hope you’ll have a great time uncovering one of the most authentic capitals in Europe.

Check also our Best Things to Do in Bucharest for First-Time Visitors.

Where to stay in Bucharest

Don’t forget to book your accommodation in time to be sure you get the best deals. You can find below a hand-picked selection of our favorite places to stay in Bucharest.

If you prefer a central hotel, our recommendations are Hilton Garden Inn Bucharest, Mansion Boutique Hotel, Grand Boutique Hotel, and Grand Hotel Continental. Check also Epoque Hotel, Cismigiu Hotel, and Marmorosch Hotel.

Booking an apartment is also a popular and more budget-friendly option. While there are hundreds of choices, we can help narrow down your list. Our suggestions are Vila Cotroceni Boutique, University Central, Bucharest Residence, Diana’s Flat, and Studio Old Town.

If hostels are your thing, try Podstel Bucharest, or First Hostel Bucharest.

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