From New World Encyclopedia
Back view of the CEC Palace and the royal guard.
Back view of the CEC Palace and the royal guard.
Flag of Bucharest
Coat of arms of Bucharest
Coat of arms
Nickname: Paris of the East, Little Paris[1]
Location of Bucharest within Romania (in red)
Location of Bucharest within Romania (in red)
Country Romania
County None1
First attested 1459
 - Mayor Sorin Oprescu (Independent)
Area [2][3]
 - Municipality 228 km² (88 sq mi)
 - Urban 285 km² (110 sq mi)
Elevation 55.8–91.5 m (183.1–300.2 ft)
Population (2011 census)[4] [5]
 - Municipality Red Arrow Down.svg1,677,985
 - Density 8,518.6/km² (22,063.1/sq mi)
 - Urban Red Arrow Down.svg1,930,000
 - Metro 2,200,0002
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 - Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Postal Code 0xxxxx
Area code(s) +40 x1
1Romanian law stipulates that Bucharest has a special administrative status which is equal to that of a county;
2Bucharest metropolitan area is a proposed project.
Website: Official site

Bucharest (Romanian: Bucureşti) is the capital city, as well as the economic, administrative, and cultural center of Romania. It is located in the southeast quadrant of the country, and lies on the banks of the Dâmboviţa River. Bucharest, whose founding dates from 1459, became the state capital of Romania in 1862. Between the two World Wars, the city's elegant architecture and the sophistication of its elite earned Bucharest the nickname of the "Paris of the East" or "Little Paris" (Micul Paris).

The people of Bucharest suffered under the leadership of Nicolae Ceaușescu (1965-1989) along with their rural countrymen. During the 1980s, Ceauşescu's program of systematization was promoted as a way to build a "multilaterally developed socialist society," but caused the demolition of more than 20 percent of central Bucharest including centuries old churches and many historic buildings. These were replaced with Communist architecture style buildings, particularly high-rise apartment blocks. The best example of this is Centrul Civic (the Civic Center), including the Palace of the Parliament, where an entire historic quarter of the city was razed to make way for Ceauşescu's new constructions. Although many buildings and districts in the historic center were damaged or destroyed by war, earthquakes, and Ceauşescu's re-building program, many more survived. Bucharest is a city with a complex blend of old and new.

Bucharest produces nearly 21 percent of Romania's gross domestic product and 25 percent of its industrial production, and accounts for only nine percent of the country's population. While the city has extensive representative government, a significant problem remains in political corruption, which is seen as the most important justice-and-law related problem in the city.


The name "Bucur" (from "bucurie," meaning "joy") is of Thracian-Geto-Dacian origin. In Albanian, a language which has historical connections with the Thracian languages, "bukur' signifies "beautiful."

Bucharest is situated in the southeastern corner of the Romanian Plain, in an area once covered by the Vlăsiei forest, which, after it was cleared, gave way to a fertile flatland. 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, Văcăreşti and Sf. Gheorghe Nou.

The city has an area of 87 square miles (226 square kilometers). The altitude varies from 183.1 feet (55.8 meters) at the Dâmboviţa bridge in Căţelu, southeastern Bucharest, and 300.2 feet (91.5 meters) at the Militari church. The city has a relatively round shape. The Kilometre Zero of Romania is marked by a monument located in front of Saint George's Church in central Bucharest.

Bucharest has a continental climate, characterized by hot, dry summers, and cold, windy winters, when temperatures often drop below freezing. Temperatures in January range from 21.2°F (-6°C) to 33.8°F (1°C), and in July from 60.8°F (16°C) to 82.4°F (28°C). Summer temperatures are usually pleasantly warm with occasional heat waves, and humidity is low, but there can be occasional rainstorms. The rainiest seasons are spring and autumn. Total mean annual rainfall is 23.5 inches (597mm).

Bucharest is situated on the banks of the Dâmboviţa River, which flows into the Argeş River, a tributary of the Danube. Several lakes – the most important of which are Lake Floreasca, Lake Tei and Lake Colentina – stretch across the city, along the Colentina River, a tributary of the Dâmboviţa. In the center of the capital is a small artificial lake – Lake Cişmigiu – surrounded by the Cişmigiu Gardens.


The remains of Curtea Veche, the royal court in Bucharest during the Middle Ages.
Bucharest in 1837.
The 1847 fire.
Bucharesters greet Romania's new ally, the Red Army, in 1944.
The Palace of Justice in Bucharest.

During the Paleolithic era, small settlements existed in the thick forests of the location that became Bucharest. The Glina culture existed there during the Neolithic times, and the Gumelniţa culture included the region before the nineteenth century B.C.E.[6][7] During the Bronze Age, a third phase of the Glina culture (centered on pastoralism, partly superimposed on the Gumelniţa culture) and, later, the Tei culture evolved on Bucharest soil.[8]

In the Iron Age, the area was inhabited by the Getae and Dacians, who had commercial links with the Greek cities and the Romans. Bucharest was never under Roman rule, with an exception during Muntenia's brief conquest by the troops of Constantine I in the 330s C.E.

Slavs founded several settlements there, and the area was part of the First Bulgarian Empire between 681 and c.1000. The area was subject to the successive invasions of Pechenegs and Cumans and conquered by the Mongols during the 1241 invasion of Europe.

According to legend, the city was founded by a shepherd named Bucur (or, alternatively, a boyar of that same name). Its foundation has also been ascribed to the legendary thirteenth century Wallachian prince Radu Negru in stories first recorded in the 1500s.

First mentioned as "the Citadel of Bucureşti" in 1459 as one of the residences of the Wallachian prince Vlad III the Impaler (1431-1476), known for his exceedingly cruel punishments, which included impaling people alive on stakes. The Old Princely Court (Curtea Veche) was built by Mircea Ciobanul, which soon became the preferred summer residence of the court. It competed with Târgovişte for the status of capital after an increase in the importance of southern Muntenia brought about by the demands of the Ottoman Empire, and was viewed by contemporaries as the strongest citadel in its country.

Burned down by the Ottomans and briefly discarded by princes at the start of the seventeenth century, Bucharest was restored and continued to grow in size and prosperity. Its center was around the street "Uliţa Mare," which starting 1589 was known as Lipscani. Before the 1700s, it became the most important trade center of Wallachia and became a permanent location for the Wallachian court after 1698 (starting with the reign of Constantin Brâncoveanu (1689-1714)).

Partly destroyed by natural disasters and rebuilt several times during the following 200 years, hit by Caragea'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-centered 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 German socialist Ferdinand Lassalle (1825-1864) 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 center of the newly-proclaimed Kingdom of Romania. During the second half of the nineteenth 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," 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 Iaşi. After World War I, Bucharest became the capital of Greater Romania. As the capital of an Axis country, 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. On November 8, 1945, the king's birthday, the Soviet-backed Petru Groza government suppressed pro-monarchist rallies.

In 1977 a strong (7.4 on the Richter-scale) earthquake claimed 1500 lives and destroyed many old buildings. During Nicolae Ceauşescu's leadership (1965-1989) during the 1980s, over one fifth of central Bucharest, including churches and historic buildings, was demolished in his program of systematization - promoted as a way to build a "multilaterally developed socialist society." Demolition, resettlement, and construction began in the Romanian countryside, but culminated with an attempt to reshape the country's capital completely. Many historic and religious buildings were replaced with Communist-style buildings, particularly high-rise apartment blocks. The best example of this is Centrul Civic (the Civic Center), including the Palace of the Parliament, where an entire historic quarter was razed to make way for Ceauşescu's megalomaniac constructions. This is the world's second largest administrative building, after The Pentagon.

The Romanian Revolution of 1989 began with mass anti-Ceauşescu protests in Timişoara 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 in 1990 (the Golaniad), which were violently stopped by the miners of Valea Jiului known as (the Mineriad). Several other Mineriads followed, the results of which included a government change.


Romania is a semi-presidential democratic republic where executive functions are shared between the president and the prime minister. The president is elected by popular vote for a term of five years. The bicameral parliament of Romania consists of the senate, which has 137 members, and the chamber of deputies, which has 332 members. The members of both chambers are elected every four years under a system of party-list proportional representation.

Bucharest has a unique status in Romanian administration, since it is the only municipality that is not part of a county.

The city government is headed by a general mayor. The general council is made up of 55 elected councilors. The city is divided into six administrative sectors (sectoare), each of which has their own 27-seat council, town hall and mayor. The main city hall is responsible for the water system, transport, and the main boulevards. Sectorial town halls manage the contact between individuals and the local government, secondary streets, parks, schools and cleaning services.

The six sectors are numbered from one to six and are disposed radially so that each one has under its administration an area of the city center. They are numbered clockwise and are further divided into districts.

Bucharest's sectorial councils, the general council, and the mayors, are elected every four years by popular vote. Additionally, Bucharest has a prefect, who is appointed by central government, who is not allowed to be a member of a political party, and whose role is to represent the national government at local level.

The Municipality of Bucharest, along with the surrounding Ilfov county, forms the Bucharest development region, which is equivalent to NUTS-II regions in the European Union and is used by the European Union and the Romanian Government for statistical analysis and regional development.

Each of the six sectors has their own local tribunal, while appeals from these tribunals' verdicts, and more serious cases, are directed to the Bucharest Court of Appeals, the city's municipal court. Bucharest is home to Romania's supreme court, the High Court of Cassation and Justice, as well as other national courts such as the Constitutional Court of Romania and the National Military Tribunal.

Bucharest has its own municipal police force. Bucharest's crime rate is rather low in comparison to other Eastern European capital cities. Petty crime, however, is more common, particularly in the form of pickpocketing, which occurs on the city's public transport network. A significant problem in the city remains institutional corruption, which is seen as the most important justice-and-law related problem in the city.


Romania has a large, upper-middle-income economy, the 15th largest in Europe based on purchasing power parity. Bucharest is the most economically-developed and industrialized city in Romania, producing around 21 percent of the country's gross domestic product and about one-quarter of its industrial production, while only accounting for nine percent of the country's population. Almost one third of national taxes are paid by Bucharest's citizens and companies. In 2005, at purchasing power parity, Bucharest had a per-capita GDP of $US25,210, or 74.8 percent that of the European Union average and more than twice the Romanian average.

The city's strong economic growth has revitalized infrastructure and led to the development of many shopping malls and modern residential towers and high-rise office buildings. In September 2005, Bucharest had an unemployment rate of 2.6 percent, significantly lower than the national unemployment rate of 5.7 percent.

Bucharest's economy is mainly centered on industry and services, with services particularly growing in importance in the last 10 years. The city serves as the headquarters of 186,000 firms, including nearly all large Romanian companies.

An important source for growth since 2000 has been the city's property and construction boom. Bucharest is also Romania's largest center for information technology and communications and is home to several software companies operating offshore delivery centers. Bucharest contains Romania's largest stock exchange, the Bucharest Stock Exchange, which was merged in December 2005 with the Bucharest-based electronic stock exchange, Rasdaq.

The city has a number of international supermarket chains such as Carrefour, Cora and METRO. In 2008, the city was undergoing a retail boom, with a large number of supermarkets, and hypermarkets, constructed every year. There are also a large number of traditional markets; the one at Obor covers about a dozen city blocks, and numerous large stores.

Bucharest is the most important center for Romanian mass media, since it is the headquarters of all the national television networks as well as national newspapers and radio stations.

In Bucharest the average salary is $US1918 a month which is higher than that of Spain. Also as Romania is experiencing a real construction boom the average price for a central one bedroom flat is around $US1246 which puts the price of rent on par with Paris.

Bucharest's extensive public transport system is made up of the Bucharest Metro, as well as a surface transport system run by RATB (Regia Autonomă de Transport Bucureşti), which consists of buses, trams, trolley-buses and light rail. In addition, there is a private minibus system. Bucharest is the hub of Romania's national railway network. Bucharest is also a major intersection of Romania's national road network.

The city is served by two airports. Henri Coandă International Airport is the largest airport in Romania with five million passengers in 2007 and the main hub for the national operator TAROM. The smaller Aurel Vlaicu International Airport is used for charter flights and low-cost carriers.

Although it is situated on the banks of a river, Bucharest has never functioned as a port city, with other Romanian cities such as Constanţa and Brăila acting as the country's main ports. However, the Danube-Bucharest Canal, which is 45 miles (73km) long, was under construction in 2008, will link Bucharest to the Danube River and, via the Danube-Black Sea Canal, to the Black Sea.


Historical population of Bucharest
Year Population
1789 30,030
1831 Green Arrow Up (Darker).png 60,587
1859 Green Arrow Up (Darker).png 122,000
1900 Green Arrow Up (Darker).png 282,000
1918 Green Arrow Up (Darker).png 383,000
1930 Green Arrow Up (Darker).png 639,000
January 25, 1948 census Green Arrow Up (Darker).png 1,041,807
February 21, 1956 census Green Arrow Up (Darker).png 1,177,661
March 15, 1966 census Green Arrow Up (Darker).png 1,366,684
January 5, 1977 census Green Arrow Up (Darker).png 1,807,239
July 1, 1990 estimate Green Arrow Up (Darker).png 2,127,194
January 7, 1992 census Red Arrow Down.svg 2,067,545
March 18, 2002 census Red Arrow Down.svg 1,926,334
July 1, 2005 estimate Red Arrow Down.svg 1,924,959
January 1, 2006 estimate Green Arrow Up (Darker).png 1,930,390
July 11, 2007 estimate Green Arrow Up (Darker).png 2,088,500

Bucharest proper had a population of 1,931,838, according to 2007 official estimates. Adding the satellite towns around the urban area, the metropolitan area of Bucharest had a population of 2.6 million people. Bucharest is the sixth largest city in the European Union by population within city limits.

Bucharest's population experienced two phases of rapid growth, the first in the late 19th century, and the second during the Communist period, when a massive urbanization campaign was launched and many people migrated from rural areas. Ceauşescu's ban on abortion and contraception meant that natural increase was also significant.

Approximately 97 percent of the population of Bucharest are ethnic Romanians, with the second largest ethnic group being the Roma, which make up 1.4 percent of the population. Other significant ethnic groups are Hungarians (0.3 percent), Jews (0.1 percent), Turks (0,1 percent) and Germans (0,1 percent). Some other inhabitants of Bucharest are of Greek, Armenian, Lipovan and Italian descent. A native or resident of Bucharest is called Bucharester.

The official language is Romanian, an Eastern Romance language. English and French are the main foreign languages taught in schools.

In terms of religion, 96.1 percent of the population are Romanian Orthodox, 1.2 percent are Roman Catholic, 0.5 percent are Muslim and 0.4 percent are Eastern Rite-Catholic. Despite this, only 24 percent of the population, of any religion, attend a place of worship once a week or more.

As the most developed city in Romania, Bucharest has a broad range of educational facilities.

Society and culture

Bucharest's architecture is highly eclectic. The city center is a mixture of medieval, neoclassical and art nouveau buildings, as well as “neo-Romanian” buildings dating from the beginning of the twentieth century, and a remarkable collection of buildings from the 1930s and 1940s. A French influence on buildings meant Bucharest was once called "the Paris of the East," and the mostly-utilitarian Communist-era architecture is everywhere. Skyscrapers and office buildings were mainly constructed after 2000.

  • The Palace of the Parliament, built in the 1980s during the reign of Communist dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu, is the largest building in Europe and the second-largest in the world. It houses the Romanian Parliament (the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate), as well as the National Museum of Contemporary Art. It is also often used as a convention center.
  • The Memorial of Rebirth is a stylized marble pillar unveiled in 2005 to commemorate the victims of the Romanian Revolution of 1989, which overthrew Communism.
  • 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, Museum of Natural History "Grigore Antipa," the Museum of Romanian History, National History Museum, and the Military Museum.
  • The Museum of the Romanian Peasant, which contains a collection of artifacts detailing Romanian history and culture from the prehistoric times, Dacian era, medieval times and the modern era.
  • The open-air Village Museum, in Herăstrău Park, which contains 272 authentic buildings and peasant farms from all over Romania.

Art museums include:

  • The National Museum of Art of Romania, which features medieval and modern Romanian art.
  • The Zambaccian Museum, which contains works by Romanian artists as well as Paul Cézanne, Eugène Delacroix, Henri Matisse, Camille Pissarro and Pablo Picasso.
  • The Gheorghe Tattarescu Museum, which contains portraits of Romanian revolutionaries in exile, and allegorical compositions with revolutionary (Romania's rebirth, 1849) and patriotic (The Principalities' Unification, 1857) themes.

Bucharest is the location of the neoclassical Romanian Athenaeum, founded in 1852, which hosts classical music concerts, the George Enescu Festival, and is home to the "George Enescu" Philharmonic. Bucharest is home to the Romanian National Opera, the I.L. Caragiale National Theatre, and the State Jewish Theatre..

Bucharest is home to Romania's largest recording labels, 1970s Romanian rock bands, boy bands, and hip hop genres. While many discos play manele, a Turkish-influenced type of music that is particularly popular in Bucharest's working class districts, the city has an increasing jazz and blues scene, and, to an extent, eurodance/trance and heavy metal/punk.

One of the city's best known clubs is the Lăptăria Enache and the La Motoare, located above (on the rooftop of) the National Theatre, as well as Fire Club and Club A. The city also hosts some acclaimed electronic/house music clubs such as Bamboo and Krystal Club.

The National Opera organizes the International Opera Festival every year in May and June. The Romanian Athaeneum Society hosts the George Enescu Classical Music Festival at various locations throughout the city in September every year. Additionally, the Museum of the Romanian Peasant and the Village Museum organize a number of events throughout the year showcasing Romanian folk arts and crafts.

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 2000s also saw an increasing visibility of gay culture, with the opening of the Queen's Club, the first LGBT club in the city, in 2001, and the launch of the annual Bucharest GayFest in 2004. The city's first gay pride parade was held as part of the 2005 GayFest.

Looking to the future

The Bucharest area has been inhabited since the Paleolithic era. Settled by Slavs, once part of the First Bulgarian Empire, conquered by Mongols, Ottomans, Habsburgs, Russians, before it became the political center of the Kingdom of Romania, Bucharest has been occupied by Germany, bombed by the German Luftwaffe, and for 44 years was under a communist dictatorship. Post-Cold War Romania developed closer ties with Western Europe, eventually joining NATO in 2004 and the European Union in January 2007.

Bucharest's crime rate is low in comparison to other Eastern European capital cities. Petty crime is more common, particularly pickpocketing on the city's public transport network. However, while the city has extensive representative government, a significant problem remains in political corruption, which is seen as the most important justice-and-law related problem in the city.

In 2008, Romania had a large, upper-middle-income economy, and Bucharest was the most economically developed and industrialized city in the country. An important source for growth since 2000 has been the city's property and construction boom. Domestic consumption and investment have fueled strong GDP growth, but corruption and red tape continue to handicap its business environment.

Strong demand in European Union export markets pulled Romania in 2000 from a punishing three-year recession. Since Romania joined the European Union in January 2007, and plans to adopt the euro by 2014, Bucharest could look forward to increasing prosperity.



  1. Error on call to template:cite web: Parameters url and title must be specified. The Irish Times (5 May 2009).
  2. (English) INS. Romanian Statistical Yearbook (PDF). Retrieved March 21, 2012.
  3. Demographia World Urban Areas & Population Projections (PDF). Retrieved March 21, 2012.
  4. Bucharest at the 2011 census (in Romanian). INSSE (2 February 2012). Retrieved March 21, 2012.
  5. Urban Audit: Bucharest Profile. Retrieved April 14, 2011.
  6. Constantin C. Giurescu. 1976. History of Bucharest. (Bucharest: Pub. House for Sports and Tourism), 25-26
  7. Sebastian Morintz and D.V. Rosetti (Chapter I) "Din cele mai vechi timpuri şi pînă la formarea Bucureştilor". 12-18, in Muzeul de Istorie a Oraşului Bucureşti, Bucureştii de odinioară, Ed. Ştiinţifică, (Bucharest: 1959) (in Romanian)
  8. Giurescu, 26; Morintz and Rosetti, 18-27

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Giurescu, Constantin C. History of Bucharest. Bucharest: Pub. House for Sports and Tourism, 1976. OCLC 2410946
  • Livezeanu, I. "Luminita Machedon and Ernie Scoffham, Romanian Modernism: The Architecture of Bucharest, 1920-1940." Slavic Review 61 (2002): 388. ISSN 0037-6779
  • Morintz, Sebastian, and D. V. Rosetti, (Chapter I) "Din cele mai vechi timpuri şi pînă la formarea Bucureştilor". In Muzeul de Istorie a Oraşului Bucureşti, Bucureştii de odinioară, 11-35. Ed. Ştiinţifică, Bucharest: 1959. (in Romanian)
  • Murzin-Bencovski, Tatiana. Romanian Education About Romania.com. Retrieved April 30, 2020.
  • Romanian Tourist Office. Romania: Arts & Architecture. Retrieved April 30, 2020.

External links

All links retrieved November 22, 2023.


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