Known for its wide, tree-lined boulevards, glorious Belle Époque buildings and reputation for the high life, Romanias capital was once known as the "Little Paris." Founded by Wallachian princes, Bucharest came into its own with Romanian independence in the late 19th century, when it was remodeled by French and French-trained architects. There is even an Arc de Triomphe on the elegant Soseaua Kiseleff, a boulevard longer than Paris' famed Champs-Elysees. Communist rule interrupted Bucharests cosmopolitan days, although the city continued to be a bustling business and cultural center.
Today Bucharest is experiencing renewed vigor. As the countrys major gateway, it is a natural starting point for a visit. The citys architecture remains one of its main attractions. Highlights include Curtea Veche church, the remains of the 15th century palace of Prince Vlad Tepes, Second Empire mansions, Orthodox churches and the 6,000-room Parliament House, a legacy of Romanias last Communist strongman, Nicolae Ceausescu.
The heart of the city is Piata Revolutiei, the site of the old Royal Palace. It lies halfway along Bucharests historic Calea Victoriei, the citys main city artery. The majority of sights are conveniently within walking distance of the Piata Revolutei and, to the east of the Calea Victoriei, the Piata Universitatii.
Must-sees include the National Museum of Art, housed in the former Royal Palace; the National History Museum on Calea Victoriei, featuring the Treasurys splendid gold collection; the magnificent Church of the Patriarchate, dating to 1657, and Herastrau Parks open-air Muzeul Satului (Village Museum), a stunning collection of village architecture and crafts from throughout Romania.
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