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Old Town Bucharest’s History

Visit the Famous Spots of the Old Town in Bucharest

Mar 9, 2018 | Travel guide

history of bucharest old town

Bucharest is one of the most visited European capitals, due to its history and culture. Speaking of history, its vibrant and crowded Old Town area has plenty of historical attractions, restaurants, small shops and bars. Regardless of how much time you have to spend in this capital, here’s our recommendation on the top sites from Old Town Bucharest you shouldn’t miss. So inform your Bucharest airport taxi driver to drop you off in Old Town Bucharest, and make sure to pair this experience with a visit to the top restaurants in Old Town Bucharest.

Charming old streets

The narrow streets of Old Town Bucharest were once the main commercial streets of the city, while today they’re packed with a variety of bars and restaurants. The numerous merchants brought goods from all the corners of the world and sold their products to the elites of the capital. The houses’ distinctive architecture is also a sign of this important activity. They were aligned directly on the street and were decorated with a narrow façade in order to save space, while the traditional houses had a garden close to the street.

The most famous street here is Lipscani, which was named after Leipzig, the city from where the merchants brought their goods to sell here. Lipscani Street is located in the upper part of the Old Town Bucharest and intersects with Victoriei Boulevard right after you pass the National Bank of Romania on the left. Other streets with similarly suggestive names are Gabroveni, where merchants from the Bulgarian city Gabro were selling their goods, as well as streets like Selari, Blanari, Covaci.

Old local banks

The Old Town in Bucharest was once the financial heart of the capital. The most important banks, such as the National Bank of Romania inaugurated in 1890, were located here. Their striking headquarters once symbolized their power and importance, reaching its peak before the world crisis in 1929. Here you can admire the impressive Neo-Classic look of the National Bank from Lipscani Street, the Genovese style palace of the former Chrissoveloni Bank right across from it, the building of Marmorosch Blank Bank on Doamnei Street, or the former Banca de Credit Roman on Stavropoleos Street.

Numerous churches

Bucharest has a lot of old churches and the Old Town is no exception. Three of the most beautiful churches from the capital are located in this area and you should see at least one during your visit. Stavropoleos, Zlatari and Selari are exquisite religious monuments, even though they’re smaller than the contemporary churches. The Stavropoleos and Zlatari are old churches from the 18th century, while the Selari church dates back from the early 19th century. Stavropoleos is one of the best samples of the local ‘Brancovenesc style’, while Zlatari and Selari have distinguished interior paintings more than hundred years old, done by Gheorghe Tattarescu, one of the most popular religious painters in Romania.

Merchant accommodations (or inns)

Once located on the prosperous commercial route that linked the east and west of Europe, Bucharest’s Old Town was swarming with merchants. Hence, many of them stayed in the city on their long journeys, while others simply managed to inhabit the area. The inns were centrally located and fortified in the case of a potential attack, being the best accommodation option at the time.

Today, the visitors can admire just two 19th century inns - Manuc, located in front of the Old Court, and the Linden Inn on Lipscani Street. The first can be admired with a cold drink at its interior court restaurant, while the second one is a home to many small art shops. The ruins of an older inn, Serban Voda, are today covered with glass in front of the National Bank of Romania.

The Old Court

The Old Court today is the oldest landmark of the Old Town, being once the residence of medieval princes, including Vlad the Impaler. The Old Court was built in the 15th century, initially occupying a tiny part of the almost 25,000 m2 it reached during its maximum expansion once Bucharest became the capital of Southern Romania.

The court bloomed during the time of Prince Constantin Brancoveanu, and by the end of the 18th century it was abandoned, with its land sold to the merchants who completely reshaped this part of the city. Since 1972, the ruins of the Old Court are conserved as a museum.

The Old Palace of the Chamber of Commerce

Built by the design of architect Stefan Burcus and between 1908 and 1911, this remarkable building was initially the headquarters of the Trade Stock and was inaugurated in the presence of King Carol I and the royal family. What’s inevitable here are the detailed sculptures, including a lion surrounded by the carved representations of Industry, holding a hammer, and god Mercury holding an anchor, all done by Emil Becker, the sculptor of the Royal House.

Alexandru Dumitriu did the roof decorations, an artist who also worked on the roofs of the Atheneum, the Patriarchy, the City Hall and the main railway station Gara de Nord. This monument housed the National Library from 1955 until 2012, and today an antique market occupies its ground floor.
These are the historic highlights and main spots in Old Town Bucharest you shouldn’t miss, however do continue to wander around the streets, since you can come across unique structures, such as the very interesting numismatic museum and the Macca-Villacrosse Passage. Before boarding your airport transfers, make sure to pay a visit to the stunning Palace of the Parliament in Bucharest as well.