Old Town and City Centre Bucharest Romania


Stavropoleos Church Old Town – Diana Condrea

I’m becoming more comfortable using the metro and trams to get around town and learn about Bucharest. It’s a beguiling city, unlike any other I’ve experienced. After Romanians discover you’re a foreigner, they’re curious and cautious. It takes them time to warm up, but if they decide you’re OK, they’re open and great communicators. They don’t “mince with words”.

National Museum of Romanian – Daniela Ipanema Travels

Some Romanians speak a little English, and also know romance languages – French, Spanish, and Italian. I understand that some prefer foreigners not “trying” to speak Romanian – a combination of Latin and Slavic languages that most people mess up badly.

Monument of the Unknown Soldier  Carol Park – Daniela Ipanema Travels

I made a “dry run” of getting to the Opera House yesterday, since I have a ballet performance – Le Corsaire – tonight and don’t want to get lost or arrive late. The Opera House is on the outskirts of city centre, near the Dâmbovița River. After getting my bearings, I enjoyed a walk along the river. Autumn weather is crisp but warm in the sun. The riverside is gorgeous on a sunny autumn day!

Stavropoleos Monastery and Church Old Town – Daniela Ipanema Travels
Selfies and Photos

I bought a selfie stick and have it in my backpack. The smartphone is constantly in my hands, because I use mapping and other apps often. To access the heavy selfie stick, I have to stop, open the pack, take out the stick, and attach it to my iPhone. That sounds easy, but when you’re in a crowded, unfamiliar place with cars and swarms of people, it’s tricky and can be dangerous. Hopefully, before this trip is over, I will find the right place and time to take some interesting selfies. I took some of the attached photos, but online media shots are exceptional and much better than I can produce. Foreign travel keeps you on your toes, and stopping to take photos on busy streets isn’t always safe.

Euro Disguise Selfie
Traffic Gridlock

I noticed a massive number of bumper-to-bumper automobiles on the roads! There’s traffic gridlock all day, and definitely more people in cars than outside walking or biking. I made a comment about it and was told that most Romanians own two or more automobiles – maybe they’ve figured out how to drive more than one of them at the same time?

Chrissoveloni Bank – Facebook

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The Old Town area is “more or less all that’s left of pre-World War II Bucharest”.

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Spitalul Clinic Coltea – Energy Cities

Traveling via vehicle in Bucharest is a slow process reminiscent of other European cities where gridlock is an issue – Berlin, Rome, Istanbul, and Lisbon come to mind. Bucharest is unique, but parts remind me of Berlin, Buenos Aires, and Bogota. That comparison may not work for others.

Dracula Vlad the Impaler – In Your Pocket

There are many poor people and abandoned buildings throughout the city. You can see and feel the extreme effect Communism had on Romania. So far, I haven’t seen many immigrants. or any homeless encampments. There are several Turkish areas and restaurants. If you like döner kebap, you’ll find it in Bucharest.

Old Town Map – Travelminit
Old Town

Known as Centru Vechi, Old Town is bordered by Dâmbovița River to the south, Bulevardul Brătianu to the east, Calea Victoriei to the west, and Bulevardul Regina Elisabeta to the north. It’s the gem of the city.

Church Interior Paintings by Gheorghe Tattarescu – Wikiwand

The communists flattened a fifth of Bucharest city centre to make way for Bulevardul Unirii and Casa Poporului. Both “inspired by the architecture of the totalitarian regimes of the former socialist bloc“.

Macca-Villacrosse Passage – Itinari

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“Old Town was an important stop along the historic trading route from the Ottoman Empire in the south, to Leipzig, Germany in the north. The route took five months of traveling, and Bucharest was located midway.”

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Ceiling Macca-Villacrosse Passage Old Town – Photo © Wikipedia Octav Vladu

Bucharest has been under several different rulers, including Ottomans, Russians, and Germans. “The city changed beyond recognition after 1989, but nothing compared to the transformation of the Old Town / Lipscani area during the boom years of the late nineties.”

Dâmbovița River

Old Town was “once a no-go area with almost nothing to offer visitors”. It changed into “a lively entertainment district”. Much of the development was “ad hoc, and as is often the Bucharest way, posh restaurants and trendy clubs opened in buildings that looked like they might fall down”.

Building Along Dâmbovița River

After a horrific fire at Colectiv Nightclub in October 2015 where 64 people lost their lives, new legislation forced the closure of venues housed in buildings considered an earthquake risk. Old Town venues currently open are likely “as safe and secure as Bucharest gets”.

Houses Along Dâmbovița River
History

Bucharest was founded in the Old Town area. According to legend, “Bucur the Shepherd established the city between the Carpathian Mountains and Danube River in the 1300s. He built a church on the eastern bank of the Dâmboviţa River”. During the first reign of Vlad Ţepeş (1459-1462), there was a palace and court (Palatul Curtea Veche). The city of Bucharest grew around the palace.

Commercial Bank Romania

By the middle of the 17th century and until the end of World War II, Old Town was occupied primarily by merchants. After the war, rightful owners of houses and businesses were arrested by communist authorities, and their property was confiscated. Many of the empty buildings were occupied (legally or otherwise) by Gypsies, who remain in them today.

Stock Exchange Palace

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“What World War II didn’t destroy, communism did. The fact that anything in Bucharest survived at all is little short of a miracle.”

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Former Bank Edifice Lipscani Street – uncover-romania Diana Condrea
District Themes

Interesting districts in Old Town include:

  • Merchant Streets and Houses
  • Banks
  • Churches
  • Inns
  • Old Court
  • Macca-Villacrosse Passage
  • The Old Palace of the Chamber of Commerce
National Museum of Romanian History
Merchant Streets and Houses

Today, old, narrow merchant streets are packed with bars and restaurants. At one time, they were Bucharest’s main commercial streets where “merchants brought goods from all corners of the world and sold products to the elites of the capital”.

Bucharest Old Town – Diana Condrea

Merchant houses are “aligned directly on the street with a narrow façade to save space”. More traditional Romanian dwellings have a garden near the street, with the house in back. The best-known merchant street is Lipscani. It’s named after Leipzig, the German city where merchants bought goods. Other merchant street names include Selari, Blanari, and Covaci. Gabroveni Street is named for Gabro, a Bulgarian city.

Marmorosch Blank Bank – romania-insider
Banks

A century ago, Old Town was the financial heart of the capital city. The country’s most important banks like the National Bank of Romania, were located there. Banks were a “symbol of power and importance that peaked before the great depression and the world crisis of 1929”.

Banca de Credit Roman Stavropoleos St. – Wikipedia

Other impressive bank structures in Old Town include the Genovese-style palace of the former Chrissoveloni Bank, the building of Marmorosch Blank Bank on Doamnei Street, and the former Banca de Credit Roman on Stavropoleos Street.

Church Interior Painting of St. Dumitru by Gheorghe Tattarescu
Churches

Churches in Old Town are magnificent structures! Some of the most elegant include Stavropoleos, Zlatari, and Selari (Church of St. Nicholas Shelari). Each one is an “exquisite religious monument”! Russian St. Nicholas Shelari is especially striking!

Russian Church of St. Nicholas Shelari – In Your Pocket

Stavropoleos and Zlatari are “inn churches from the 18th century”. Selari dates from the early 19th century. Stavropoleos is considered “one of the finest representations of the local Brancovenesc architectural style”. Zlatari and Selari have “unique interior paintings from more than one hundred years ago by Gheorghe Tattarescu, a Romanian religious painter.

Saint Nicholas Selari Church – Wikimedia Commons
Inns

Merchants traveling the commercial route linking the east and west stayed in 19th century Old Town inns. The accommodations were “fortified in case of a potential attack”. Two of the old inns survived – Manuc, near the Old Court, and Linden, on Lipscani Street.

House Along Dâmbovița River

Built in 1808, Manuc Inn is the “oldest operating hotel in Bucharest”. It has a restaurant that serves traditional Romanian food. Linden has small retail shops, and Șerban Vodă Inn is enclosed in glass in front of the National Bank of Romania.

National Museum
Old Court

The Old Court was the “medieval residence of princes, including Vlad the Impaler”. It was built in the 15th century and “flourished during the time of Prince Constantin Brancoveanu”.  By the end of the 18th century, the Old Court was abandoned. Its land was sold to merchants. Since 1972, the ruins are “conserved as a museum”.

Manuc Inn Bucharest – Romania Tour Store
Macca-Villacrosse Passage

The stunning Macca-Vilacrosse Passage connects Old Town with Victoriei Avenue. It dates back to the end of the 19th century, when elegant “passages covered with colored glass were the fashion in Europe”. This “yellow glass-covered passage is one of the best-known images of Bucharest”.

Caru’ cu Bere Soul of Bucharest – virginia-duran
The Old Palace Chamber of Commerce

Designed by architect Ștefan Burcuș and built between 1908 and 1911, this “Old Palace of the Chamber of Commerce was initially the Romanian Stock Trade headquarters. It was inaugurated in the presence of King Carol I and the royal family”. From 1955 until 2012, the Old Palace housed the National Library. Today, the building is leased to businesses, with an antique market on the ground floor.

Façade University Palace Bucharest Emil Becker – Wikipedia

The beautiful French neoclassical building is noted for its detailed sculptures, including a “lion surrounded by the carved representations of Industry holding a hammer, and the God Mercury holding an anchor”. The sculptings were created by Emil Becker, sculptor of the Royal House. Another sculptor, Alexandru Dumitriu, created the Palace roof decorations. He also worked on the roofs of the Athenaeum, Patriarchy, City Hall, and Gara de Nord railway station.

Palace of Parliament Interior – Gerard Eder Flickr
Political Crisis?

I’ve read recent articles about Romania’s prime minister-designate, Nicolae Ciucă, abandoning plans to form a new government. This is because his National Liberal Party (PNL) “doesn’t have enough support in parliament to get his proposed cabinet approved”. A former army general, Ciucă was nominated by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis to resolve the country’s political crisis.

Romanian Prime Minister Designate Nicolae Ciuca – Digi24

The opposition Social Democrat Party (PSD) and the Junior Centrist USR Party refuse to back the proposal. More later…

Ted Coffee Co. – Wall-Street.ro
Ted Coffee Co.

I discovered Ted’s Coffee! The cafés are located throughout Bucharest, and the coffee is fresh and strong. A shot of Ted’s espresso keeps you going, when you need a boost, and they have delicious sandwiches too! It’s great having extended time to experience this special place. I still have much to explore.

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