Bucharest Belle Époque
Belle Époque was the 30-year period that ended suddenly with the outbreak of World War I in 1914. It was a time of prosperity and cultural and artistic flourishing, when people knew how to live beautifully and enjoy all that life had to offer.
1900 was the peak year of that period, in Romania mainly overlapping with the reign of King Carol the 1st. It was a time of industrial and technological development, innovation and progress.
During that time Bucharest slowly transformed into an European city with beautiful Victorian houses, paved streets and public lighting. But although Victorian art had made its mark mainly on the architecture of Romanian buildings, the Art Nouveau style was the flagship artistic movement of that time.
People were calm and happy, wealthy people were dressing following the latest fashion trends, they were traveling a lot, building beautiful houses and were speaking French.
For Romania, La Belle-Epoque was indeed a beautiful time, almost four decades of peace and remarkable achievements in all sectors of society that earned the country respect and prestige all across the continent.
Hidden on chic, less traveled streets, old boyars’ houses from Bucharest are a display of beauty and elegance. Some of them are housing today public or cultural institutions, others are still private residences or corporate headquarters, and the least fortunate of them, are still waiting for a rescuer.
Vibrant, modern Bucharest
But the capital city of Romania continues to redefine itself, merging its interesting history with a modern identity, trading belle epoque’s architecture for skyscrapers and balls for party clubs.
While it’s difficult to choose among the many places one could visit and spend time on while in Bucharest, here are a couple you should not miss:
- Downtown Bucharest with the University Library and the Royal Palace (old residence of Romanian’s kings, today home to Romania’s Art Museum)
- Bucharest Old Town, with it’s tiny, romantic streets packed with a variety of bars and restaurants. As the name implies, the area occupies some of Bucharest’s earliest settled ground with the oldest structures dating from the 15th and 16th Centuries.
Refurbished and brought back to life during the last decade, the area is a very pleasant place to walk by during the day and getting entertained during the evenings.
- Palace of the Parliament, or People’s House as it was initially called by Ceausescu, the former dictator who built it, the building is the second largest administrative building in the world, after The Pentagon! As a visitor you’ll have access to some of the most representative halls, where you’ll get to learn more about how this building came about to be, you’d admire huge rugs and curtains made by nuns in monasteries, and eventually cross your path with some of Romania’s today’s politicians.
You can make a reservation here
- Village Museum
- Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler) Castle in Bucharest. You read it right, even if you do not
have the time to see the original in Poienari, this replica built in 1906 should do the trick. The building was just a “cover up” for a water reservoir that King Carol I considered it was to ugly and needed a makeover. The architect’s solution was to build a replica of Vlad the Impaler’s Castle in Poienari around it. You can’t get inside as a tourist (it is a military objective), but you can certainly enjoy it from outside and take as many pictures as you like.