Bucharest (Romanian: București) is the capital city, industrial, cultural, and financial centre of Romania. It is the largest city in Romania, located in the southeast of the country.
Bucharest was first mentioned in documents as early as 1459. Since then it has gone through a variety of changes, becoming the state capital of Romania in 1862 and steadily consolidating its position as the centre of the Romanian mass media, culture and arts. Its eclectic architecture is a mix of historical (neo-classical), interbellum (Bauhaus and Art Deco), Communist-era and modern. In the period between the two World Wars, the city's elegant architecture and the sophistication of its elite earned Bucharest the nickname of the "Little Paris of the East" (Micul Paris). Although many buildings and districts in the historic centre were damaged or destroyed by war, earthquakes and Nicolae Ceaușescu's program ofsystematization, many survived. In recent years, the city has been experiencing an economic and cultural boom.
According to January 1, 2009 official estimates, Bucharest proper has a population of 1,944,367. Theurban area extends beyond the limits of Bucharest proper and has a population of 2 million people. Adding the satellite towns around the urban area, the metropolitan area of Bucharest has a population of 2.15 million people. According to unofficial data, the population is more than 3 million. Bucharest is the 6th largest city in the European Union by population within city limits.
Bucharest is also a center for various other religions and cults in Romania, including the main Romanian-ethnic Catholic organization, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Bucharest.
Economically, Bucharest is the most prosperous city in Romania and is one of the main industrial centres and transportation hubs of Eastern Europe. The city has a broad range of convention facilities, educational facilities, cultural venues, shopping arcades and recreational areas.
The official city name in full is The Municipality of Bucharest (Romanian: Municipiul București).
A native or resident of Bucharest is called Bucharester (Romanian: bucureștean).
Bucharest's history alternated periods of development and decline from the early settlements of theAntiquity and until its consolidation as capital of Romania late in the 19th century.
First mentioned as "the Citadel of București" in 1459, it became a residence of the WallachianprinceVlad III the Impaler. The Old Princely Court (Curtea Veche) was built by Mircea Ciobanul, and during following rules, Bucharest was established as the summer residence of the court, competing withTârgovişte for the status of capital after an increase in the importance of southern Muntenia brought about by the demands of the suzerain power, the Ottoman Empire.
Burned down by the Ottomans and briefly discarded by princes at the start of the 17th century, Bucharest was restored and continued to grow in size and prosperity. Its centre was around the street "Uliţa Mare", which starting 1589 was known as Lipscani. Before the 1700s, it became the most important trade centre of Wallachia and became a permanent location for the Wallachian court after 1698 (starting with the reign of Constantin Brâncoveanu).
Partly destroyed by natural disasters and rebuilt several times during the following 200 years, hit byCaragea's plague in 1813–1814, the city was wrested from Ottoman control and occupied at several intervals by the Habsburg Monarchy (1716, 1737, 1789) and Imperial Russia (three times between 1768 and 1806).
It was placed under Russian administration between 1828 and the Crimean War, with an interlude during the Bucharest-centred 1848 Wallachian revolution, and an Austrian garrison took possession after the Russian departure (remaining in the city until March 1857).
Additionally, on March 23, 1847, a fire consumed about 2,000 buildings of Bucharest, destroying a third of the city. The social divide between rich and poor was described at the time by Ferdinand Lassalle as making the city "a savage hotchpotch".
In 1861, when Wallachia and Moldavia were united to form the Principality of Romania, Bucharest became the new nation's capital; in 1881, it became the political centre of the newly-proclaimed Kingdom of Romania. During the second half of the 19th century, due to its new status, the city's population increased dramatically, and a new period of urban development began. The extravagant architecture and cosmopolitan high culture of this period won Bucharest the nickname of "The Paris of the East" (or "Little Paris", Micul Paris), with Calea Victoriei as its Champs-Élysées or Fifth Avenue.
Between December 6, 1916 and November 1918, it was occupied by German forces, the legitimate capital being moved to Iași. After World War I, Bucharest became the capital of Greater Romania. In January 1941 it was the place of Legionnaires' rebellion and Bucharest pogrom. As the capital of an Axiscountry, Bucharest suffered heavy losses during World War II, due to Allied bombings, and, on August 23, 1944, saw the royal coup which brought Romania into the anti-German camp, suffering a short but destructive period of Luftwaffe bombings in reprisal.
During Nicolae Ceaușescu's leadership (1965–1989), most of the historic part of the city was destroyed and replaced with Communist-style buildings, particularly high-rise apartment buildings. The best example of this is the development called Centrul Civic (the Civic Centre), including the Palace of the Parliament, where an entire historic quarter was razed to make way for Ceaușescu's megalomaniac constructions. In 1977, a strong 7.4 on the Richter-scale earthquake claimed 1,500 lives and destroyed many old buildings. Nevertheless, some historic neighbourhoods did survive to this day.
The Romanian Revolution of 1989 began with mass anti-Ceaușescu protests in Timișoara in December 1989 and continued in Bucharest, leading to the overthrow of the Communist regime. Dissatisfied with the post-revolutionary leadership of the National Salvation Front, student leagues and opposition groups organized large-scale protests continued in 1990 (the Golaniad), which were violently stopped by the miners of Valea Jiului (the Mineriad). Several other Mineriads followed, the results of which included a government change.
After the year 2000, due to the advent of significant economic growth in Romania, the city has modernised and is currently undergoing a period of urban renewal. Various residential and commercial developments are underway, particularly in the northern districts, while Bucharest's historic centre is currently undergoing restoration.
Bucharest is situated on the banks of the Dâmboviţa River, which flows into the Argeș River, a tributary of the Danube. Several lakes – the most important of which are Lake Herăstrău, Lake Floreasca, Lake Tei, and Lake Colentina – stretch across the city, along the Colentina River, a tributary of the Dâmboviţa. In addition, in the centre of the capital there is a small artificial lake – Lake Cișmigiu – surrounded by theCişmigiu Gardens. The Cişmigiu Gardens have a rich history, being frequented by famous poets and writers. Opened in 1847 and based on the plans of German architect Carl F.W. Meyer, the gardens are currently the main recreational facility in the city centre.
Besides Cișmigiu, Bucharest contains several other large parks and gardens, including Herăstrău Park and the Botanical Garden. Herăstrău is a large public park located in the north of the city, around Lake Herăstrău, and the site of the Village Museum, while the Bucharest's botanical garden is the largest in Romania and contains over 10,000 species of plants, many of them exotic; it was once a pleasure park for the royal family.
Bucharest is situated in the south eastern corner of the Romanian Plain, in an area once covered by theVlăsiei forest, which, after it was cleared, gave way to a fertile flatland. As with many cities, Bucharest is traditionally considered to have seven hills, in the tradition of the seven hills of Rome. Bucharest's seven hills are: Mihai Vodă, Dealul Mitropoliei, Radu Vodă, Cotroceni, Spirei, Văcărești and Sf. Gheorghe Nou.
The city has a total area of 226 square kilometres (87 sq mi). The altitude varies from 55.8 metres (183.1 ft) at the Dâmboviţa bridge in Căţelu, south-eastern Bucharest and 91.5 m (300.2 ft) at the Militarichurch. The city has a relatively round shape, with the centre situated approximately in the cross-way of the main north-south/east-west axes at the University Square. The milestone for Romanian's Kilometre Zero is placed just south of University Square in front of the New St. George Church (Sfântul Gheorghe Nou) at St. George Square (Piaţa Sfântul Gheorghe). Bucharest's radius, from University Square to the city limits in all directions, varies from about 10 to 12 km (6.25–7.5 mi).
Until recently, the regions surrounding Bucharest were largely rural, but after 1989, new suburbs started to be built around Bucharest, in the surrounding Ilfov county. Further urban consolidation is expected to take place when the Bucharest metropolitan area is formed in 2006, which will incorporate various communes and cities of Ilfov and surrounding counties.
Bucharest has a diverse and growing cultural scene, with cultural life exhibited in a number of various fields, including the visual arts, performing arts and nightlife. Unlike other parts of Romania, such as theBlack Sea coast or Transylvania, Bucharest's cultural scene is much more eclectic, without a defined style, and instead incorporates various elements of Romanian and international culture. Bucharest has an eclectic mixture of elements from traditionally Romanian buildings to buildings that are influenced by French architects. It is because of this French influence that Bucharest was once called "the Paris of the East" or "Little Paris."
Another well-known landmark in Bucharest is Arcul de Triumf (The Triumphal Arch), it was built in its current form in 1935 and modeled after the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. A newer landmark of the city is the Memorial of Rebirth, a stylized marble pillar unveiled in 2005 to commemorate the victims of theRomanian Revolution of 1989, which overthrew Communism. The abstract monument sparked a great deal of controversy when it was unveiled, being dubbed with names such as "the olive in the toothpick", ("măslina-n scobitoare"), as many argued that it does not fit in its surroundings and believed that its choice was based on political reasons.
The Romanian Athenaeum building is considered to be a symbol of Romanian culture and since 2007 is on the list of the Label of European Heritage sights.
Other cultural venues include the National Museum of Art of Romania, Museum of Natural History "Grigore Antipa", Museum of the Romanian Peasant (Muzeul Ţăranului Român), National History Museum, and the Military Museum.
In terms of visual arts, the city contains a number of museums featuring both classical and contemporary Romanian art, as well as selected international works. The National Museum of Art of Romania is perhaps the best-known of Bucharest museums. It is located in the former royal palace and features extensive collections of medieval and modern Romanian art, including works by renowned sculptorConstantin Brâncuşi, as well as a prominent international collection assembled by the former Romanian royal family.
Other, smaller museums, contain more specialised collections of works. The Zambaccian Museum, which is situated in the former home of Armenian-Romanian art collector Krikor H. Zambaccian contains works by many well-known Romanian artists as well as international artists such as Paul Cézanne, Eugène Delacroix, Henri Matisse, Camille Pissarro and Pablo Picasso.
The Gheorghe Tattarescu Museum contains portraits of Romanian revolutionaries in exile such asGheorghe Magheru, Ştefan Golescu, Nicolae Bălcescu and allegorical compositions with revolutionary (Romania's rebirth, 1849) and patriotic (The Principalities' Unification, 1857) themes. The Theodor Pallady Museum is situated in one of the oldest surviving merchant houses in Bucharest and includes many works by Romanian painter Theodor Pallady as well as a number of European and Oriental furniture pieces. The Museum of Art Collections contains the collections of a number of well-known Romanian art aficionados, including Krikor Zambaccian and Theodor Pallady.
Despite the extensive classical art galleries and museums in the city, there is also a contemporary arts scene that has become increasingly prominent in recent times. The National Museum of Contemporary Art (MNAC), situated in a wing of the Palace of the Parliament, was opened in 2004 and contains a widespread collection of Romanian and international contemporary art, in a number of expressive forms. The MNAC also manages the Kalinderu MediaLab, which caters specifically to multimedia and experimental art. There is also a range of smaller, private art galleries throughout the city centre.
The palace of the National Bank of Romania houses the national numismatic collection. Exhibits includebanknotes, coins, documents, photographs, maps, silver and gold bullion bars, bullion coins, dies andmoulds. The building itself was constructed between 1884 and 1890. The thesaurus room contains notable marble decorations.
Performing arts are one of the strongest cultural elements of Bucharest, and the city has a number of world-renowned facilities and institutions. The most famous symphony orchestra is National Radio Orchestra of Romania. One of the most prominent buildings is the neoclassical Romanian Athenaeum, which was founded in 1852, and hosts classical music concerts, the George Enescu Festival, and is home to the "George Enescu" Philharmonic. Bucharest is also home to the Romanian National Opera, as well as the I.L. Caragiale National Theatre. Another well-known theatre in Bucharest is the State Jewish Theatre, which has gained increasing prominence in recent years due partly to the fact that it features plays starring world-renowned Romanian-Jewish actress Maia Morgenstern. There is also a large number of smaller theatres throughout the city that cater to specific genres, such as the Comedy Theatre, the Nottara Theatre, the Bulandra Theatre, the Odeon Theatre, and the Constantin Tănase Revue Theatre.
Music and nightlife
Bucharest is home to Romania's largest recording labels, and is often the residence of Romanian musicians. The city's music scene is eclectic. Many Romanian rock bands of the 1970s and 1980s, such as Iris and Holograf, continue to be popular, particularly with the middle-aged, while since the beginning of the 1990s the hip hop/rap scene has developed a unique sound and style indigenous to eastern Bucharest. Hip-hop bands and artists from Bucharest such as B.U.G. Mafia, Paraziţii, Verdikt, La familia, Bitză and Zale enjoy national and international recognition.
The eclectic pop-rock band Taxi have been gaining international respect, as has Spitalul de Urgenţă's raucous updating of traditional Romanian music. While many neighbourhood discos play manele, an Oriental- and Roma-influenced genre of music that is particularly popular in Bucharest's working class districts, the city has a rich jazz and blues scene, and, to an even larger extent, house music/trance andheavy metal/punk scenes. Bucharest's jazz profile has especially risen since 2002, with the presence of two thriving venues, Green Hours and Art Jazz, as well as an American presence alongside established Romanians. The city's nightlife, particularly its club scene grew significantly in the 1990s, and continues to develop.
There is no central nightlife strip, with many entertainment venues dispersed throughout the city centre, with a cluster in the historical centre. Among the most visited venues are Lăptăria Enache and La Motoare, located on the rooftop of the National Theatre, as well as El Grande Comandante and Club A. Most clubs and bars are located around the centre of the city, from the Piaţa Unirii to Piaţa Romană. Also, a large concentration of rock clubs can be found in the Lipscani area, the old part of the city, in the vicinity of Piaţa Unirii. The Regie area, located near Polytechnic University campus, hosts a number of clubs and bars, mainly targeted toward the student population.
The city also hosts some of the best electronic music clubs in Europe such as Studio Martin and Kristal Glam Club. During the summer, Zoom Beach Club is an outdoor club on the shore of a lake and has two separate dance floors. The Office is one of the most exclusive clubs in Bucharest and has a long tradition in clubbing. One of the best cocktail clubs in Bucharest is Deja Vu situated on Bălcescu Boulevard near the Italian church. Some other notable venues are: Gaia, Fratelli, Glamour, Tipsy, Cotton Club, Pat, andBamboo.
Bucharest's cultural life has, especially since the early 1990s, become colourful and worldly. Traditional Romanian culture, however, continues to have a major influence in arts such as theatre, film and music. Additionally, Bucharest has two internationally-renowned ethnographic museums, the Museum of the Romanian Peasant and the open-air Village Museum. The Village Museum, in Herăstrău Park, contains 272 authentic buildings and peasant farms from all over Romania. The Museum of the Romanian Peasant was declared the European Museum of the Year in 1996, and displays a rich collection of textiles (especially costumes), icons, ceramics, and other artifacts of Romanian peasant life.
The Museum of Romanian History is another important museum in Bucharest, containing a collection of artefacts detailing Romanian history and culture from the prehistoric times, Dacian era, medieval times and the modern era.
Cultural events and festivals
There are a number of cultural festivals in Bucharest throughout the year, in various domains, even though most festivals take place in the summer months of June, July and August. The National Opera organises the International Opera Festival every year in May and June, which includes ensembles and orchestras from all over the world. The Romanian Athaeneum Society hosts the George Enescu Festivalat various locations throughout the city in September every year. Additionally, the Museum of the Romanian Peasant and the Village Museum organise a number of events throughout the year showcasing Romanian folk arts and crafts.
In the 2000s, due to the growing prominence of the Chinese community in Bucharest, several Chinese cultural events have taken place. The first officially-organised Chinese festival was the Chinese New Year's Eve Festival of February 2005 which took place in Nichita Stănescu Park and was organised by the Bucharest City Hall. In 2005, Bucharest was the first city in Southeastern Europe to host the international CowParade, which resulted in dozens of decorated cow sculptures being placed at various points across the city.
Since 2005 Bucharest has its own contemporary art biennale, the Bucharest Biennale. The next edition will be in 2010.
Bucharest is the seat of the Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, one of the Eastern Orthodoxchurches in communion with the Patriarch of Constantinople, and also of its subdivisons, the Metropolis of Muntenia and Dobrudja and the Archbishopric of Bucharest. Orthodox believers believe that Saint Demetrios is the saint patron of the city.