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Located in the heart of Bucharest, the Romanian Athenaeum is an important cultural center and a must-see architectural gem.

With its majestic baroque cupola, the stunning edifice is surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens and delightful cafes and shops.

If you are planning a trip to Bucharest soon, make sure to include this iconic landmark in Romania in your travel itinerary. Here are a few interesting facts about the history of the building to get you even more excited about visiting.

120 Years of History

The Romanian Athenaeum was built between 1886 and 1888, but what not many people know about it is that it was built on the foundation of a former American circus.

The Athenaeum project capitalized on the existing ground on which the circus was supposed to be built, hence its circular shape.

Something which might also surprise you in regards to his historical monument is that it was almost entirely built through private funding.

After the original patrons ran out of funds, ordinary citizens came together and donated the money through a campaign called ‘Give a penny for the Athenaeum’.

At the end of the Second World War, after having withstood earthquakes and bombing, The Romanian Athenaeum underwent a modernization process, which included:

  • the restoration of the ceiling
  • adding new chairs
  • the installing of air conditioning
  • a change in how the lodges are distributed
  • the widening of the stages.

A Few Words About the Building’s Architecture

French architect Albert Galleron is the one who designed the prestigious building, the same architect who designed the National Bank of Romania. The design was inspired by the old Greek temples.

The style of the building is neoclassic, but it also incorporates elements of eclecticism and the XIX-century French architecture.

On the ground floor, you’ll find a grand marble hall with twelve Doric columns which support the concert hall. Resembling the famous ancient Greek-Roman amphitheaters, the concert hall can comfortably fit up to 800 people.

A Symbol of the National Romanian Culture

The Romanian Athenaeum is more than just a beautiful, historical building; it’s the heart of Romania’s classical music tradition.

Concerts which have been uninterruptedly held here by the Philharmonic since 1888, the building has also hosted:

  • conferences
  • painting expositions
  • symposiums
  • and other cultural events.

Many of Romania’s internationally-acclaimed personalities, scholars and artists have held lectures or concerts within the walls of the elegant building.

Over the years, the building has become a temple of Romanian art and culture, as well as a symbol of unity, cultural heritage and national pride.

For over half a century, the Athenaeum has been the headquarters of the George Enescu Philharmonic, the most famous musical institution in Romania.

Nowadays, the building hosts the world-renowned George Enescu classical music festival and international competition, held in honor of the celebrated Romanian composer George Enescu.

If you love both music and traveling, booking a trip to Bucharest and joining the festival is an excellent way to combine the two.

What’s more, thanks to its circular shape and grand cupola, the Romanian Athenaeum has outstanding acoustics. In addition to great sound, the building also offers the audience excellent stage visibility.  

Other Details You Should Know

If you don’t get a chance to attend one of the symphonic concerts or chamber music concerts the Athenaeum hosts throughout the year, know that you can just visit the building.

There is plenty to see to make your time worthwhile.

You can visit the reception hall and the Main Concert Hall where you canadmire scenes from the Romanian history featured on the collection of elaborate frescoes. It’s an excellent way to get a glimpse into the country’s past.

What’s more, you’ll also be able to discover the room’s exceptional acoustics

That being said, the best time to visit the Athenaeum is in the morning. That’s because there are usually concerts or rehearsals being held here in the afternoon.

The price of a ticket for an adult is 10 Romanian Lei (about 2.62 US Dollars).

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