Bucharest Museums

Cantacuzino Palace

Grigore Cantacuzino was thought to be one of Romania”s wealthiest citizens in 1899. As Prime Minister, it was his wish to have the most elegant residence in Bucharest. The Cantacuzino Palace was built between 1898 and 1900 in eclectic French style. Combining a neoclassical architectural style with art nouveau elements, today, the palace houses the George Enescu Museum.

George Enescu Museum

The museum, housed in the Cantacuzino Palace, displays documents and various objects that belonged to the great Romanian composer and violinist George Enescu (1881-1955), including a Bach music collection he received as a gift from Queen Elisabeth of Romania. George Enescu studied at the Vienna Conservatory, where he met German composer Johannes Brahms and where he also gave his first concerts. In Paris, George Enescu graduated from the French Conservatory in 1899. His best-known works, the “Romanian Rhapsodies, earned him national and international fame.In 1936, his “Oedipe” tragic opera premiered in Paris and George Enescu was awarded the French Legion of Honour award for the composition. A member of the Romanian Academy and corresponding member of the Institute of France, George Enescu was the teacher of renowned violinist Yehudi Menuhin. Every two years, the Romanian Athenaeum celebrates the maestro by hosting the George Enescu International Festival.

The Royal Palace (Palatul Regal)

Built between 1927 and 1937 in neoclassical style, the palace was home to King Carol II and to his son, King Mihai I, until 1947, when the monarchy was abolished in Romania. It was inside the halls of this palace that King Mihai, aged 18, led a coup that displaced the pro-Nazi government during the World War II and put Romania on the Allies” side. Today, the former Royal palace houses the Romanian National Art Museum.

National Art Museum

Romania”s leading art museum was founded in 1948 to house the former Royal Collection, which included Romanian and European art dating from the 15th to the 20th century. Located in the neoclassical former Royal Palace, the museum currently exhibits over 100,000 works divided into two major sections. It”s National Gallery features the works of major Romanian artists.The European Gallery, comprising some 15 rooms, displays little-known art gems from the likes of El Greco, Monet, Rembrandt, Renoir, Breugels (father and son) Cezanne and Rubens. If you only have time to visit one gallery, make it the Romanian one. It is the most complete collection of Romanian works of art in the country and quite possibly, the world.

The Romanian Athenaeum (Ateneul Roman)

The Athenaeum was completed in 1888, financed almost entirely with money donated by the general public. One of the preeminent public fundraising campaigns ever in Romania, the “Give a leu for the Athenaeum” campaign saved the project after the original patrons ran out of funds.With its high dome and Doric columns, the Athenaeum resembles an ancient temple. The lobby has a beautifully painted ceiling decorated in gold leaf, while curved balconies cascade in ringlets off a spiral staircase.  Inside the concert hall, voluptuous frescoes cover the ceiling and walls. Renowned worldwide for its outstanding acoustics, it is Bucharest”s most prestigious concert hall and home of the Romanian George Enescu Philharmonic.

The Military Club

Standing guard imposingly, this neoclassical masterpiece, designed by Romanian architect Dimitrie Maimarolu, was built in 1912 to serve the social, cultural and educational needs of the Romanian Army. Banquets and official events are still hosted in the ballrooms, while the upstairs area is reserved for the army”s library, as well as offices and classrooms for officer instruction.

The main part of the building is off-limits to civilians, but the sumptuous restaurant and summer terrace is open to the public.The Military Club was build on the site of the former Sarindar Monastery (the name witch is preserved in the name of the fountain directly in front of the building).This is a building you can’t fail to notice when going around in the center of Bucharest.

I has always hosted the Cercul Militar National (Club of the National Army), with a library and lecture rooms, since its purpose has always been educational and cultural as well as social.Most of the building remains strictly reserved to army officers, but the restaurant and the terrace are open to the public. It has an excellent cuisine at reasonable prices. The decoration is superb and out of this age. It looks forbidding but enter by the door on the left up the steps. There is entertainment in the evening, so do not sit too close to the stage, and stay away from the area reserved for generals.

The Palace of the National Savings Bank

\r\nWith one of the most impressive neoclassical facades of Bucharest, this structure was built in the 19th century. The square-shaped palace has a large central dome with metallic ribs separated by glass, which allows natural light to come in. There are also four smaller domes. The arch at the entrance, with its Corinthian columns, is a highlight of any architectural tour of the city.

 Bucharest History and Art Museum

Housed in the neoclassical Sutu Palace(1834), the museum features some 300,000 artifacts, from coins, books, maps, engravings, paintings, arms and furniture to old traditional costumes. Among the most valuable exhibits are the document attesting for the first time the name of the city of Bucharest, issued by Vlad Tepes in 1459, and a sword set in precious stones that belonged to Prince Constantin Brancoveanu (1688-1714).Right in the heart of Bucharest, in the University Square, sits a much overlooked museum, despite its location in the very center of the city.

This museum lies in a building made (between 1833-1834) by the wealthy merchant Sutu Palace in a very elegant Neo-Gothic style Şuţu Palace. It is among the oldest boyar palaces still standing in Bucharest. The Sutu family, of Greek origins, gave Princes to both Wallachia and Moldavia. The luxury of Sutu Palace became legendary and was acknowledged and admired by the entire elite of the time.

It was said that it was the only place which rivaled the luxury of The Royal Palace.The highlight is probably the selection of maps of Bucharest through the ages, while there is also an original log from the Podul Mogosoaia: the forerunner of Calea Victoriei, in the days when the street was paved with logs. The exhibition is well captioned in Romanian and English, and while small an enjoyable hour can be spent here. You will leave feeling as though you want more, however.The stunning central hall has a monumental staircase that splits into two wings, between which lies a superb large mirror brought from Venice.

The interior decorations are the original ones, and were realized by the Romanian sculptor and decorator of German origin Karl Storck. Apart from its splendor, the palace attracts by housing the highly interesting exhibits of the History Museum of the City of Bucharest, among which the document issued by Prince Vlad III Dracula (Vlad Tepes “The Impaler” himself, identified by many with Count Dracula, Bram Stoker’s famous character) on September 20th 1459, mentioning for the first time Bucharest as a Princely residence.

Cotroceni Palace and Museum

A former royal residence built between 1679 and 1681 by Prince and Ruler Serban Cantacuzino, the palace was home to King Carol I, who made important changes in its architecture. At the end of the 19th century, Heir-to-the-Crown Ferdinand ordered the partial demolition of the palace, which was later reconstructed by French architect Paul Gottereau in neoclassical style. In 1977, Nicolae Ceausescu transformed it into an official guest house with the addition of a new wing.After 1990, the old wing of the palace became a museum. The Oriental Hall, the Norwegian Hall and the Queen”s Chamber are almost unchanged from the original design and are worth visiting. Very important collection of medieval art also can be seen here. The new wing serves as the seat of the Romanian Presidency.

Grigore Antipa Natural History Museum

Recently renovated, this museum is the largest natural history museum in Romania, housing collections of reptiles, fish, birds and mammals. More than 300,000 artifacts and specimens are on display, including a dinosaur fossil. A whole floor is dedicated to sea life and features examples of whales, dolphins and seals. The museum also contains a beautiful butterfly collection.

Museum of the Romanian Peasant

Opened in 1906, the museum features the richest folk art collection in Romania, with over 90,000 artifacts that trace the colorful and diverse cultural life of the Romanian people. The Pottery Collection includes some 18,000 items, representative of the most important pottery centres in the country. The oldest ceramic item found in the museumdates from 1746.

The Costume Collection comprises almost 20,000 traditional folk costumes, dating from the beginning of the 19th century.Exhibits show all aspects of everyday life: agricultural tools, carpets, icons, furniture, photographs and films. In one of the galleries, you can see a wooden church and in another, a wooden peasant house. Four more wooden churches stand in the outdoor museum area. In 1996, the museum was named European Museum of the Year. Visitors can buy regional handcrafts and textiles in the museum”s extensive gift shop.

National History Museum

Housed in a 1900s neoclassical building that once served as the city”s main post office, the museum offers a great introduction to the exciting history of Romania. In its 41 rooms, the exhibits recount the country”s development from prehistoric times to the 20th century. The highlight is the National Treasury Hall. Here visitors can enjoy a dazzling display of some 3,000 gold items, including jewelry and valuable Neolithic artifacts.

National Military Museum

The museum illustrates the most important battles for independence and freedom in Romanian history. The museum features collections of Oriental and Occidental weapons, Romanian and foreign uniforms, military medals and awards, trophies, artillery, canons and airplanes as well as a library of historical military documents.

The centerpiece is the 1989 Revolution exhibit, displaying mainly personal belongings donated by families of soldiers and civilians killed during the upheaval.

Village Museum (Dimitrie Gusti)

Founded by royal decree in 1936, this fascinating outdoor museum, the second largest in Europe. It features a collection of over 60 buildings representing the history and design of Romania”s rural architecture. Steep-roofed peasant homes, thatched barns, log cabins, churches and watermills from all regions of the country were carefully taken apart, shipped to the museum and rebuilt in order to recreate the village setting. Throughout the year, the Village Museum hosts special events where you will have a chance to witness folk artisans demonstrating traditional skills in weaving, pottery and other crafts. Folk arts and crafts are available at the museum gift shop.