Beyond the monotonous looking blocks of flats, the capital hosts several impressive buildings, either part of its architectural heritage or of its recent history. We have selected some of them below.
The Palace of Parliament (opening photo)
This relatively new tourist landmark of the capital was erected in a traumatic change for the city as the picturesque Uranus neighborhood was almost entirely wiped out to make way for it. Some 20 churches were destroyed, 10,000 homes were demolished, and 57,000 families were moved from their homes in the process of having it built. Today, the mega construction dreamt up by late dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu is considered the heaviest building in the world, with 700,000 tons of steel, 1 million cubic meters of marble and 2 million tons of sand having been used for its construction, almost all of which were sourced locally. It covers 365,000 sqm, which makes it the second largest administrative building for civilian use in the world after the Pentagon building in the United States.
Manuc’s InnTwo centuries ago the capital used to have some 40 inns. Today, one of the few still standing is Manuc’s Inn, reminiscent of the commercial center of the old town, surrounded by streets named after the various merchants in the area. The architecture of the inn combines the Brâncovenesc style with modern elements. The unique windows of the inn’s Princely Hall are another interesting detail of the construction. The 20 windows, similar to the stained glass ones, are made up of four smaller windows, also made up of 42 smaller colored windows, making up a total of 3,360 glass pieces. Today, Manuc’s Inn hosts the restaurant with the same name, a Starbucks coffee shop and stores.
Vlad the Impaler’s Castle
The old network of fortifications
However, by the time Romania entered the First World War, the network had already been deactivated because of the costly maintenance and the insufficient garrison and appropriate equipment. The Jilava Fort, one the best known ones, served as a jail for political prisoners during communism. The forts, which are in various conservation stages, are not set up for tourist visits. Many of them are obscured by the overgrown vegetation or other developments. Sometimes, Arhiva de Geografie, a private initiative, organizes tours there.
Recognized as the residence of the longest use on Romanian territories, since the end of the 17th century to the present, the Cotroceni ensemble also encompasses ecclesiastic constructions (the Cotroceni monastery, the chapel), railway ones (the Cotroceni station), and funeral monuments. It served as the residence of several rulers of Ţara Românească (Wallachia) and later of the Romanian royal family. The future King Ferdinand I and his wife, the future Queen Marie, moved to the Cotroceni Palace in 1897, and the personalities of the two were later reflected in the way the space was furnished and decorated. Queen Marie, in particular, oversaw the improvements to the palace’s interior spaces. Here, King Ferdinand I signed in August 1916 Romania’s decision to enter the First World War on the side of the Entente (France, Russia and Great Britain) and against the Central Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungary). The Silver Bedroom of Queen Marie, the cabinet of King Ferdinand I (The Library), King Carol’s German Living Room are just some of the spaces that can be visited here. Today, part of it is taken up by the Presidential Administration.
Cantacuzino PalaceThis is one of the capital’s most beautiful buildings, located on an avenue known for the many architectural treasures it hosts. It was designed by architect Ion D. Berindey in French Baroque/Art Nouveau style. The palace was built for Gheorghe Grigore Cantacuzino, a Romanian politician and lawyer, who served as the country’s prime minister twice. After his death, his son Mihail G. Cantacuzino inherited the building. Upon his death, the palace passed on to this wife, who later married composer George Enescu. Today, it hosts a museum dedicated to the famed Romanian musician. The palace is beautifuly ornate both on the inside and the outside, and its entrance is bordered by the statues of two lions and and a shell-shaped awning.
(Opening photo: Shutterstock)