Bucharest is the capital and largest city of Romania, as well as its cultural, industrial, and financial centre. It is in the southeast of the country, on the banks of the Dâmbovița River, less than 60 km (37.3 mi) north of the Danube River and the Bulgarian border.
Bucharest was first mentioned in documents in 1459. It became the capital of Romania in 1862 and is the centre of Romanian media, culture, and art. Its architecture is a mix of historical (Neoclassical and Art Nouveau), 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 ‘Paris of the East’ (Romanian: Parisul Estului) or ‘Little Paris’ (Romanian: Micul Paris).
It is one of the fastest-growing high-tech cities in Europe, according to Financial Times, CBRE, TechCrunch, and others. UiPath, a global startup founded in Bucharest, has reached over $35 billion in valuation. Since 2019, Bucharest hosts the largest high tech summit in Southeast Europe (Romania Blockchain Summit).
Economically, Bucharest is the most prosperous city in Romania. The city has a number of large convention facilities, educational institutes, cultural venues, traditional ‘shopping arcades’ and recreational areas.
The city proper is administratively known as the ‘Municipality of Bucharest’ (Municipiul București), and has the same administrative level as that of a national county, being further subdivided into six sectors, each governed by a local mayor.
Bucharest has a growing cultural scene, in fields including the visual arts, performing arts, and nightlife. Unlike other parts of Romania, such as the Black Sea coast or Transylvania, Bucharest’s cultural scene has no defined style, and instead incorporates elements of Romanian and international culture.
Bucharest has landmark buildings and monuments. Perhaps the most prominent of these is the Palace of the Parliament, built in the 1980s during the reign of Communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu. The largest Parliament building in the world, the palace houses the Romanian Parliament (the Chamber of Deputies, and the Senate), as well as the National Museum of Contemporary Art. The building boasts one of the largest convention centres in the world.
Another landmark in Bucharest is Arcul de Triumf (The Triumphal Arch), built in its current form in 1935 and modelled after the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. A newer landmark of the city is the Memorial of Rebirth, a stylised marble pillar unveiled in 2005 to commemorate the victims of the Romanian Revolution of 1989, which overthrew Communism. The abstract monument sparked controversy when it was unveiled, being dubbed with names such as ‘the olive on the toothpick’ (măslina-n scobitoare), as many argued that it does not fit in its surroundings and believed that its choice was political.
The Romanian Athenaeum building is considered a symbol of Romanian culture and since 2007 has been on the list of the Label of European Heritage sites. It was built between 1886 and 1888 by the architect Paul Louis Albert Galeron, through public funding.
InterContinental Bucharest is a high-rise five-star hotel near University Square and is also a landmark of the city. The building is designed so that each room has a unique panorama of the city.
House of the Spark (Casa Scânteii) is a replica of the famous ‘Lomonosov’ Moscow State University. This edifice, built in the characteristic style of the large-scale Soviet projects, was intended to be representative of the new political regime and to assert the superiority of the Communist doctrine. Construction started in 1952 and was completed in 1957, a few years after Stalin’s death in 1953. Popularly known as Casa Scânteii (‘House of the Spark’) after the name of the official gazette of the Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party, Scânteia, it was made for the purpose of bringing together under one roof all of Bucharest’s official press and publishing houses. It is the only building in Bucharest featuring the Hammer and Sickle, the Red Star and other communist insignia carved into medallions adorning the façade.
Other cultural venues include the National Museum of Art of Romania, Grigore Antipa National Museum of Natural History, Museum of the Romanian Peasant, National History Museum and the Military Museum.