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21 Fun And Interesting Facts About Bucharest

Bucharest has had a very turbulent past as it has seen very prosperous times as well as extremely dark times. The capital of Romania has evolved through many phases to become the modern and vibrant city it is today. As a result the city has many faces which means that there are also lots of interesting stories to tell. Therefore we have gatherer 21 interesting facts you probably didn’t know about Bucharest.

Memorial plague on the wall of Manuc’s Inn

1. Bucharest Was The First Capital In The World To Be Illuminated With Kerosene

In 1856 the Romanian investor Teodor Mehedinteanu set up the first modern kerosene refinery in Ploiești and in 1857 he won the auction to become the contractual supplier for the public lighting in Bucharest. In the same year the first kerosene lights were installed, making Bucharest the first capital city in the world to be illuminated by gas lighting.

2. Michael Jackson Was One Of The First Celebrities To Visit Bucharest After The 1989 Revolution

Under the Communist reign, Romania was pretty much closed off from the west for decades. After the regime fell during the 1989 Revolution, the Michael Jackson was one of the first major western artists to perform in Bucharest. After his death in 2009 a monument was set up in the King Michael I Park to commemorate the musical contributions of the King of Pop. At the same time the street where the monument was erected was renamed to Michael Jackson Alley (Aleea Michael Jackson).

3. The Palace Of The Parliament Is The Heaviest Building In The World

A large part of the city had to be demolished for its creation, but once completed, the Palace of the Parliament had broken a couple of records. With a weight of more than 4 million tonnes, it is the heaviest building in the world. In 2020 the estate was valued at €4 billion which also makes it the most expensive building in the world. With a volume of 2,550,000 m3 it is also the largest administrative building in Europe and the second largest in the world, after the Pentagon.

4. The City Was Destroyed By A Fire

On 23 March 1847 a fire broke out inside a house near the Old Court (Curtea Veche). At that time many buildings were made of wood and a strong southern wind caused it to spread around rapidly which created the largest fire the city has ever seen. In total, the Great Fire of Bucharest destroyed 1850 buildings, a third of the city at that time. Since large parts of the commercial center had turned into ashes, a large redevelopment program was set up and despite the enormous disaster the city soon prospered again under the reign of King Carol I.

The Little Paris Museum in Bucharest

5. It’s Nicknamed ‘Little Paris’

After the fire had destroyed large parts of the city, a lot of inspiration was taken from Parisian architecture to rebuild the city. At that time, France’s economy was prospering and its lifestyle with rich architecture, designer clothes, and theater plays had become very influential in Europe. Since this period, called Belle Époque, fell together with the redevelopment of Bucharest, you can see this influence back in many buildings that make up the center of the city. Bucharest is therefore often called ‘Little Paris’ or the ‘Paris of the East’, since no other Eastern-European city resembles the same architectural influence from Paris.

6. It’s Other Nickname Is The ‘New Berlin’

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the East and West started to blend, the German capital became a melting pot of striking differences in architecture, with some rough edges, lots of street art, a rich cultural scene and a unique vibrant nightlife. Since Bucharest shows many similarities and has ondergone similar transitions in its recent developments people started referring to it as “Little Berlin” or the “New Berlin’.

7. It Has Its Own Arc De Triomphe

After Romania’s independence in 1878 a wooden arch was built to celebrate the victory. After the First World War (1916-1918), when the old monument was in dacay, a new and bigger monument was created in its place to commemorate the end of the war and the coronation of King Ferdinand (1914). Paris had already been the inspiration for many buildings in Bucharest and so it was decided to build a Triumphal Arch that looks very similar to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

8. It Was The Capital Of Wallachia

In 1659, under the rule of Gheorghe Ghica, Bucharest became the capital city of Wallachia, one of the historical provinces of modern day Romania. When Wallachia was united with Moldavia in 1859, Bucharest became the capital of Romania.

Grand Hotel Continental Bucharest on Victory Boulevard (Calea Victoriei)

9. Victory Boulevard Was The First Paved Road In The City

Victory Boulevard (Calea Victoriei) has always been an important street as it was the main trade route connecting Bucharest with Transylvania. In 1692, under the rule of Constantin Brâncoveanu, it was the first road to be paved for which wood was used. Althought the road was officially named Mogoșoaia Road at that time, it was often simply called Wooden Road.

10. Union Boulevard Is The Longest In Europe

Inspired by the famous Champs-Élysées in Paris, the systemization project to redevelop parts of the city included the construction of a similar long and wide boulevard. Union Boulevard (Bulevardul Unirii) stretches all the way from the Palace of the Parliament on Constitution Square (Piața Constituției), over a distance of 3 kilometers to Alba Iulia Square (Piața Alba Iulia) which makes it the longest boulevard in Europe.

11. Politehnica Metro Station Is Made Of 80-Million-Year-Old Fossils

At first sight Politehnica Metro Station looks like any other metro station but once you know about the secret that lies in its flatform floor, you will never look at it the same way. If you look closely you’ll see that the pinkish-brown marble floor has some rare unusual patterns. This is because the marble is made from limestone which contains fossils that are estimated to date back 80 million years!

12. Melik House Is The Oldest In The City

Melik House was built around 1750 in the style of a typical Wallachian peasants house. It is the oldest private building in Bucharest which still survives today and houses the Theodor Pallady Museum, dedicated to the works of the famous Romanian painter Theodor Pallady.

13. The City Is Named After A Shepherd Called Bucur

There are several theories trying to explain the name Bucharest, but the most remarkable of them is a legend about a shepherd called Bucur, who fell in love with a lady called Dâmboviţa. When they started a settlement near the river which now flows through Bucharest, he named it after her. For settlements, in Romanian it was quite common to name them after its founder by adding the suffix -ești and so București (Bucharest) was born.

14. The Famous ‘Mici’ Were Invented In Bucharest

Another remarkable story took place in the 14th century in one of the inns of the city. The popular inn stood at the place where you can now find Beraria Nenea Iancu and was frequented by several important people. One day it was so crowded that the cook ran out of guts to make sausages, but he didn’t want to disappoint his guests. So he used his creativity by mixing the meat with additional spices and cooked it on a skewers without the skin. His guests liked it and the skinless sausage quickly became a popular new dish called mititei or simply mici, which translates as ‘little ones’.

15. The Sky Tower Is The Tallest Building

The Sky Tower is an office building which was openened in 2012 on Calea Floreasca in the north of the city. With a height of 137 meters it is currently the tallest building in Bucharest and Romania. It has a restaurant on the 36th floor which offers the most spectacular views over the city.

16. Bellu Cemetery Is The Oldest Of The City

Until the middle of the 19th century, important people in Bucharest were buried in churchyards while the poor were buried outside the city. When the courtyards started to get full, the Șerban Vodă Cemetery, better known as Bellu Cemetery, was created in 1855. Known as the first and most authentic cemetery in Bucharest, Bellu Cemetery is the final place of rest of many important people including politicians, writers, artists, and other famous Romanians.

17. Cișmigiu Garden Is The Oldest Park

Cișmigiu Garden is a beautiful green park with an artificial lake and a popular place to relax in the center of Bucharest. The park was already created in 1847, which makes it the oldest park in the city.

Relocation of the Mihai Vodă Church – Image courtesy of the Museum of the Municipality

18. Large Parts Of The City Were Demolished During The Communist Era

The Great Fire was not the only time when a large part of the city got demolished. During his visit to North Korea, Communist leader Nicolae Ceaușescu was impressed by totalitarian architecture with large boulevards, squares, and massive buildings. When Bucharest was hit by a massive earthquake in 1977, Ceaușescu saw an unprecedented opportunity to turn the capital into a showpiece of socialist systemization. So instead of restoring damaged buildings, he decided to completely vacate a large part of the city by demolishing even more (historic) buildings and forcing a significant number of people to move. Luckily a few historic churches, including the Mihai Vodă Church and the Nuns’ Skete Church, were saved from demolition by moving them on a rails.

The coat of arms of Bucharest

19. Saint Demetrius Is The Patron Saint Of Bucharest

Saint Demetrius the New of Basarabov is the patron saint of Bucharest. He features in the city’s coat of arms and his relics are kept in the Patriarchal Catheral.

20. Colţea Hospital Was The First Hospital

In 1704, Colţea Hospital was set up as the first hospital in Bucharest and is now one of the top medical institutions in Romania. An earthquake destroyed the old building and in 1888 a the current Neoclassical building was constructed, which is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city.

21. Its Population Is Shrinking

After decades of exponential growth, the population of Bucharest started falling quickly as many people left the country after the revolution of 1989 and the acceptance of Romania into the European Union in 2007. At its peak more than 2 million people lived in the capital, but this is now less than 1.8 million and over the last few years the population continued declined with 0.5% per year. This is by far not as bad as in the rural areas of Romania as the capital is developing quickly and keeps attracting young people. The United Nations predicts that Bucharest’s population will turn back to growth in the next few years.

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