Day 3. Romanian Athenaeum, Bucharest

After a good night’s sleep at the Mercure Bucharest City Centre we walked the short distance to the Romanian Athenaeum concert hall which stands on the edge of Revolution Square.  This ornate domed, circular building is an architectural gem and is the city’s main classical music venue.

Romanian Athenaeum, Bucharest
The Romanian Athenaeum

As well as being able to purchase tickets for performances it’s also possible to take self guided tours to view its ornate interior, gilded dome ceiling and impressive fresco artwork.  Entrance tickets are 10 Lei (£2) and need to be paid in cash.  We were unaware of this when we arrived at the ticket office and not having any cash with us as cards are widely accepted in Bucharest, we had to go in search of a cash machine.  Fortunately there was a bank quite near so we were able to obtain some cash to pay for our tickets.  Once inside the Athenaeum we were handed an informative leaflet and it was explained that we were permitted to wander around freely in any of the open areas of the building.

Rotunda, Romanian Athenaeum, Bucharest
The elaborate rotunda

The bank detour was definitely worthwhile as the building is absolutely beautiful.  Designed by Albert Galleron and opened in 1888, with Doric entrance columns, it is reminiscent of a Greek temple and has been classified as a National Monument since 2007.

Monumental staircase, The Romanian Athenaeum, Bucharest
The grand staircase leading up to the concert hall from the rotunda

The rotunda is a stunning example of Neo-Classical style architecture with its marble columns, mosaics and decorative sculptures.  Twelves Doric columns clad in stucco support the central dome.  The rotunda is enclosed by four spiral staircases in the middle of which there is a balcony with a view of the entire foyer.  Each staircase leads up to the circular concert hall which is even more impressive with a 75 metre long fresco illustrating 24 scenes of the most important moments in Romanian history.

The concert hall, Romanian Athenaeum, Bucharest
The magnificent concert hall

The auditorium has 794 seats in the stalls and boxes arranged in the form of an amphitheatre.  The view of the stage is perfect from each seat and the auditorium benefits from outstanding acoustics.  At the time of our visit the stage was set for an orchestral performance as it is home to the George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra.  This is one of Europe’s oldest orchestras which celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2018.

Athenaeum Concert Hall, Bucharest
The magnificent ceiling and wall frieze in the concert hall

I’d definitely recommend adding a visit to the Athenaeum to your Bucharest itinerary.  There is a link to the website here but it appears to be only available in Romanian.

The Arch of Triumph, Bucharest
The Arch of Triumph, Bucharest

On leaving the Athenaeum we strolled through the small park to the front and then caught a bus to view the Arch of Triumph which stands to the north of the city in the middle of a busy traffic intersection.  The 27 metre high arch was built to resemble the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and is decorated with the Royal crown and scenes from the First World War on its stonework.  The monument serves as a reminder of the Romanian Army’s victory in World War One and the Great Union of 1918 which was one of the most important events in Romanian history.  A military parade takes place around the arch to celebrate Romania’s National Day on 1st December each year.  At certain times the arch is open to visitors who can be rewarded with far reaching views from its upper balcony.

Herāstrāu Park, Bucharest
The lake in Herāstrāu Park

Herāstrāu Park was located nearby so we decided to visit there next.  The park was laid out in 1936 beside the lake to which it takes its name.  It’s the city’s largest park and one of the biggest in Europe.  Spread over 187 hectares the park is a popular spot for locals and being so big never seems overcrowded.  No park looks at its best in mid-winter but we enjoyed a stroll along the lakeside with its pleasure boats moored by the bank awaiting the warmer weather to resume their trips around the lake.

One of 12 sculpted heads on display in Herāstrāu Park, Bucharest
One of 12 sculpted heads on display in Herāstrāu Park

We came across a collection of 12 sculpted heads arranged in a circle.  Each statue is about 1.2 meters tall and shows the name of a famous person who was involved in the founding of the EU.  The monument designed by Ionel Stoicescu was unveiled on Europe Day, 9th May, 2006 when Romania was still a candidate for membership.

Bucharest skyline from Herāstrāu Park
Bucharest skyline from Herāstrāu Park

The park is also home to an open air museum comprising 300 buildings including homes, churches, farmsteads, workshops and windmills which have all been transported to the park brick by brick.  I always enjoy exploring open-air folk museums wherever I travel but will need to make a return visit to Bucharest as sadly it was closed for winter renovations when we were there with little to see from the locked gates.

The House of the Free Press, Bucharest
The House of the Free Press, Bucharest

We’d seen The House of the Free Press towering in the distance from the lake shore so before leaving the district we decided to walk round for a closer look.  The building was formerly called “Casa Scânteii” and is one of the city’s landmarks and a reminder of the communist regime.  It was constructed between 1952 and 1957 and served as the headquarters of the Communist Party’s official publication, Scânteia (The Spark).  Following the Romanian Revolution from 1989, the name of the building was replaced with the “House of the Free Press”.

Tree lined avenues in Bucharest
The city has some beautiful tree lined avenues

It was then time to return to the hotel to collect our luggage and make our way back to the airport for our flight home.

Lobby lounge, Mercure City Centre Bucharest
The lobby lounge of the Mercure City Centre Bucharest

Our weekend in Bucharest had been very enjoyable and despite many of the city’s attractions being closed over winter we’d had a fun time exploring the old town, parks and visiting the magnificent Romanian Athenaeum.

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38 thoughts on “Day 3. Romanian Athenaeum, Bucharest

  1. Wow, the Romanian Athenaeum is such a beautiful building! The grand staircase is beautiful, as is the ceiling … one can see so much detail here. And a beautiful photo of the Bucharest skyline. Well Marion, it seems you made good use of your time while visiting Bucharest.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello! I’m living in Romania and I’m happy with these your wonderful articles. I introduced your beautiful blog on my blog written in Japanese language which inform daily life in Romania to Japan. But actually I don’t like big city. I love countryside. So I wanted to introduce your good blog about Bucharest to Japanese people. If you feel unpleasant with my article, please notify me. Thank you! (by Tora Kichi – nick name)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, that intricate detail in the art and architecture is really stunning! I think I would end my visit here with terrible neck pain from staring up in wonder and awe at all these places. I really loved seeing this beautiful city with you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. An amazing concert hall. I love touring these buildings as they are always show pieces. The Arch of Triumph is interesting to see as are the other obviously Communist era state buildings. No matter which part of the former USSR you see, they are very similar. Thanks for sharing Marion. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The Roman Athenaeum has got to be one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve seen. Marion, you did such a wonderful job of photographing it too. A trip to Bucharest is definitely on my “Europe” list, so thank you for sharing your trip and insights. Happy Easter.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The Romanian Athenaeum looks so stunning and elegant. I can only imagine what it would be like to attend a performance here. It’s too bad that the open air museum was closed as it sounds like it would have been interesting to explore.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow, what an iconic building and a must-see architectural gem. I love the Romanian Athenaeum’s majestic baroque cupola. It would be an amazing experience to attend one of the symphonic concerts or chamber music concerts held there. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I also had a brief visit inside the Romanian Athenaeum, and I can vouch it’s stunning! Love the ornate interior, and it was certainly a highlight of my time in Bucharest. Glad you enjoyed it!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The concert hall is absolutely stunning, a majestic architecture with an elegant decoration. Although it is designed for concerts, visiting the venue when it is empty gives it more magnitude.

    Liked by 1 person

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