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Bucharest is the capital city of Romania, main political, administrative, economic, financial, banking, educational, scientific and cultural center of the country. With almost 2.2 million inhabitants, Bucharest is the third capital city in the region, after Athens and Istanbul, and the sixth capital city, in size, of the European Union.

The city passed from the period during which it was a citadel - Dâmbovitei Citadel – to the statute of princely residence of Vlad the Impaler Tepes in 1459, to the period when it became the capital city of the Romanian United Princedoms, and later, in 1862, Bucharest became the capital city of Romania. There were also very difficult periods – abdication of a king and the end of an entire kingdom age, two world wars during which it was bombed, the communist period, two powerful earthquakes, the one in 1940 and the one in 1977, this latter making many victims and huge material damages. Last but not least, Bucharest witnessed the bloody events in December 1989 that lead to the fall of communism and marked the passage to the democratic society, to the rule of law, with a market economy.

During the communist period, as part of a city “urbanizing” campaign launched by the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, a series of historical and architectural monuments, but also many churches were demolished.

Right now, Bucharest is a true metropolis. Crowded like Paris, agitated like New York, with high prices like London. Still, it’s a city worth seeing, full of history and symbols.

Legend of the city

The foundation of the city of Bucharest is wrapped in mystery. The legend says that Bucharest would be founded by a shepherd named Bucur, who would have established a village on the banks of the Dambovita river. According to another version, Bucharest was founded by Mircea the Old at the end of the 14 th century.

Archeological discoveries

In almost all the current neighborhoods of the city there were archeological discoveries attesting an antiquity of 150,000 years of the human settlements in this area. The digging made in the area where the Tei neighborhood is located right now demonstrated the existence of settlements dating back to the Bronze Age. Traces of several Geto-Dacian settlements were also discovered in the area where the Herastrau, Lacul Tei and Pantelimon neighborhoods are located right how.

“Little Paris”

The end of the 19 th century is the most flourishing period of Bucharest. During this period were built the elegant buildings in the French or Italian Renaissance style that can still be admired. The architectonic elements, but also the French influence from literature and art that was also sensed in the care Bucharest clubs and cafes, transformed the Bucharest of the beginning of the 20 th century into the “Little Paris” of the Eastern Europe.

Currently, besides the elegant buildings with French and Italian influence, orthodox churches in the Baroque style, villas in Second Empire style, but also the massive buildings from the communist age can be seen in Bucharest.

A city with many lakes

The Dambovita River crosses Bucharest, being a place of promenade for the inhabitants of Bucharest, having 12 bridges since 1889, out of which 7 made of stone and 5 made of iron. Several lakes spread along the Colentina river, within the perimeter of the city, such as the Floreasca Lake, the Tei Lake or the Colentina Lake, and in the center of the city there is another lake, in the CiƟmigiu Park.

The first illuminated city

Bucharest was the first city in the world illuminated on lamp oil, in 1856, being followed by Vienna, where the first lamps were installed only in 1859.


1870 – 1874 – The period of masked balls

·    In Bucharest, around 1871, somewhere on Victoria Street, there was « Hristodor’s Eating House », where one could eat boiled crabs, pilaff and crabs and fried chicken. Today, « Hristodor’s Eating House » no longer exists, but it remained as the first pub in Bucharest with Oriental cuisine.
·    The biggest fried crabs could be found at « The Mill with a Pond », near Floreasca Lake, in summer. 
·    Each ‘well-to-do’ family in Bucharest had their own doctor or general practitioner, who was paid by buying a sort of subscription (1 golden coin / year) and a priest – paid in the same way.
·    Target shooting – our modern Darts – was a sport practised by the high society in Bucharest. « In 1871, for the first time, there will be organised military target shooting sessions at the Target Shooting Society. »
·    Water was brought in people’s houses by WATER – CARRIERS. They would bring the water for a 50 – coin subscription per one watre – cart, or they would sell it directly in the street. The water was taken from Dambovita.
·    One of the most popular places in Bucharest is « Capsa House », founded in 1868. (Capsa House’s fame was eclipsed by « Nestor », somewhere on Victoria Street, too, but destroyed by the powerful earthquake in 1977).
·    In 1871, the entire high society in Bucharest would come and have an ice-cream at « Capsa House ». « Ladies would sit in carriages waiting along the street and they were served right there, while young civillians and officers were staying at the tables. »
·    The most important Cafe was « Fialkovsky Cafe ». People would talk about politics, they would play billiards (there were 2 tables) or backgammon or dominoes in a special room (Fialkovski Cafe no longer exists today).
·    Students and clerks might prefer going to « Fieschi Café”, somewhere on the Selari Street. (this café no longer exists today, either).
·    There were no shows in Bucharest during summer. High society always went out of Bucharest to visit their lands, to visit Paris or to relax at the baths in Austria (former Austro – Hungary).
·    In winter, “one of the greatest pleasures of the Bucharest people was to go sledging”.
·    In winter, too, every Thursday and Sunday they would organize “evenings with masked balls”

1880 – The horse race trend

·    Horse races were a real trend and they were organized only on Sundays.
·    Dambovita’s rectification was made by the French Boisguerin, who won the public auction.

1881- The Bucharest Ellite – a great fan of restaurants

·    It is the year when the paper factory Letea was founded (this factory is still in function today).
·    “Hugues” restaurant became one of the best restaurant of that period, the place where the Bucharets ellite would meet. One could have lunch with 7 – 8 lei at “Hugues” and at “Capsa”, in comparison with other resdtaurants where a lunch was only 3 – 4 lei.( “Hugues” restaurant no longer exists today).

1883- A new attraction-  skating

·    The Bucharest ellite discovered a new winter sport : skating. Their favourite place to practice this sport – Cismigiu Lake. Paid competitions were organised here, too.
·    It is the period of impressive balls, most of them being hosted in boyars’ private houses:
For example, the ball programmes in February:
“3rd February – great soirée at Prince Bibescu’s hotel ;
5th February – great masked ball at the Opera House (that is the National Theatre) ;
9th February – great peasant ball at the Furnica Society ;
10th February – great ball at Sutu’s hotel ;
11th February – great ball at Mr. Ion Marghiloman.

·    It is the epoch when alcohol was considered the most important smuggled product in Bucharest. One of the most ingenious smuggling methods was the one used by kerosene – vendors (people who sold kerosene for house illumination) : « they had double – bottomed cans. The kerosene was at the surface, while the alcohol, rum or brandy – at the bottom. » another method was used by the wood-choppers (people who brought woods for house heating) : « They used to put spirits in tin tubes placed inside the thick logs they had in their carts ».

1888- Fitting the Cismigiu Park

·    The Cismigiu Park was fitted by the Mayor of Bucharest at that time, Pake Protopopescu. He remained in the history of city as one of the best Mayors – he brought the electric street lighting system on the main boulevards and he introduced the first horse drawn trams. (The first horse drawn tram, called « tram-car », was inaugurated in 1872. After 22 years, in 1894, the first electric tram line in Bucharest - and one of the first in Europe - was opened to link the Cotroceni Boulevard with the Obor area.

1890- The electric lighting system in front of the Royal Palace

·    It is the year when the electric street lighting system was introduced, first in front of the Royal Palace (the present National Art Gallery), and when the telephone system was introduced.
·    A ball’s menu : « Ostenda oysters, Vestfalia ham, roe, Prague ham and tongue, games pate, pâté de foie gras, veal and pork chops in aspic, deer joint, beef fillet, lamb, turkey, pheasant, fruit, coffee, wine. »

1891- A love story

·    A love story was born between Prince Ferdinand and Elena Vacarescu, former bride’s maid of Queen Elisabeth. Their love was encouraged by the queen, but the council of ministers were absolutely against their mariage. A year later, Prince Ferdinand got married to Princess Maria de Edinburgh.

1894- Cinema – a shy appearance

·    First cinemas are opened, but with no success at the beginning. People started going to the cinema only around 1896.

1895- Flower Fight for charity

·    The great attraction of the year was « the flower fight » organised for charity purposes, on Kiseleff Street.

Between 1880 – 1895 – From riding a bicycle to riding a horse

·    Riding bicycles became an extremely popular activity. There was even a bicycle track on the right side of Kiseleff Street.
·    Subsequently, riding bicycles was replaced to riding horses, which used to cost 10 lei.

1896- 215 km in 60 hours

·    The first Bucharest – Pitesti – Bucharest marathon was organised. The competitors had to run 215 km in 60 hours.

1898- Fiddlers’ recognition

·    Romania was successful at the International Exhibition in Paris due to its traditional restaurants, and especially due to its fiddlers. The best – known Romanian fiddler was Cristache Ciolac. 

1901- A new attraction- boats on Dambovita

·    A new attraction in Bucharest – boats on Dambovita. A ship ride on the route Ciurel – Abator, with a 12 – meter length and 3 – meter width boat, cost 60 coins.
1906- Must replaced with beer

·    « Must – cellar » had an old tradition in Bucharest. At this open – air reunions, people used to drink must and to eat “mici” (small sausages broiled on the gridiron). As they produced too much litter, the Bucharest City Hall had to forbid them. Beer is more and more preferred to other drinks.
·    “Capsa” becomes a place frequently visited by politicians, named “capisti” from now on.
·    “Enescu”, located behind the Royal Palace, was the most popular restaurant during summer.
·    It is the year of the first car races in Bucharest.

1907- Oil turns world’s attention to Romania

·    Romania caught world’s attention. The third edition of the International Oil Congress was hosted in the Romanian Atheneum Concert Hall on the 26th August. The first two editions were organised in Paris and Liege.

1910- Aurel Vlaicu’s airplane

·    Aurel Vlaicu started his first tests to fly an airplane. His airplane ascended to 150 meters in height and had a speed of 120 km / hour.

1911- Not everything fashionable in Paris was accepted in Bucharest

·    Dress trousers created a sensation in Bucharest. Based on the idea of a Parisian, dress trousers were brought here by his agents. They sent models in the street, wearing the new item. But the Bucharest citizens did not like this idea and they started to chase the models and to tear their clothes apart.
·    The first horse competition in Romania took place in the famous Kiseleff Street. The competitors were awarded important prizes for that time: first place – 1000 lei; second place – 600 lei; third place – 400 lei.

This material is based on the famous work of Constantin Bacalbasa – « Bucurescii de altadata » (“The Old Bucharest”). The five – volume book (the last one - a photo album) recreats the history of Bucharest from 1870 to 1918 and includes historic confessions referring to the period up to 1921.