Paris isn’t the only place in Europe that has a renowned Arc de Triomphe (Arch of Triumph) that is worthy of a trip to witness it with your own eyes. There is the Arcul de Triumf in the marvelous city of Bucharest, the largest and capital city of Romania and is essentially the main entry into this country that shares a border with Hungary, the Ukraine and Bulgaria. Bucharest is home to approximately 2.2 million residents according to 2012 statistics and measures 88 square miles (587 sq. mi for the metropolitan area). It is a city that is growing economically and in recent years has become more modern with large buildings being erected among the old buildings that are historically the treasures and the heart of Romania. Look in one direction and see the new and a simple turn of your head will set your eyes upon the classical architecture of the old. The old charm is evident in some of the city’s most popular landmarks, and here are just a few.
The Romanian Athenaeum or the Ateneul Roman is the grand concert hall that sits opposite the National Museum and its beauty stands out from among the harsher architecture of the old communist blocks. Hopefully you can enjoy a concert performance while you are there as it is renowned worldwide for its acoustics that even the most inexperienced ear for music could appreciate the elegant tones that ring through the hall. For the eyes, the frescoes inside are a delight and even the most perfect of pictures taken still could not capture and express what the naked eye can behold. The gold leaf accents on the ornately painted ceiling in the lobby are already breath-taking. Completed in 1888 with public funds, this building is a must-see in Bucharest.
The Village Museum or the Muzeul Satului is situated on the shores of Lake Herastrau in Herastrau Park, covering about 30 acres. Get a history lesson in the great outdoors and see what rural life was like. With 50 buildings displaying the old designs of thatched-roof barns to steep-roofed homes, you will be taken aback when you realize that these are not just replicated structures but are actual structures that were once located in various regions of Romania, have been carefully taken apart and shipped to its current site and carefully put back together and preserved as museum relics. This is a great site to tour to get a sense of the diverse past of Romania and its rich history. It is quite a large museum so you may want to plan spending the better part of a day here.
In the heart of the town centre you will find an oasis of tranquility in the form of the Cismigui Gardens, a great escape from the busy streets and the urban noise. Opened in 1860 but designed some 15 years before, this garden is the oldest park in Bucharest, covering about 17 hectares of land. There are over 30,000 specimens of trees and plant life brought in from all parts of Romania and some from Vienna. At the heart is an artificial lake. It is a haven for all who wish to take a break from the fast pace of life and enjoy a little part of nature.
Last but not least is the Parliament Palace or Palatul Parlamentului. This building is a must-see as it is the second-largest building in the world, following that of the Pentagon. This colossal structure, of which construction began in 1984, was originally built to be a palace for then dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu, but now houses Romania’s Parliament and serves as an international conference center. Inside it is decorated with stained-glass windows, crystal chandeliers, marble and gold leaf just to name a few of the luxuries. A tour is available but even if you don’t make it inside, the outside will shock you simply with its sheer size.