Romania is one of the lesser-known corners in Europe with a rich and fascinating history. It flanks the western shores of the Black Sea. Along with natural beauty, it has a rich cultural heritage and is home to eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The historic cities with medieval architecture blend well with its busy capital set in contemporary 21st-century architecture. There is a sprawling tangle of buildings which makes the planning of cities in Romania muscular. It has a variety of castles and churches which are accompanied by serene cultural landscapes. The extremely diverse built environment is a captivating combination of local traditions and global perspectives.
1. Peleș Castle
Peles Castle is in the Wallachia region in the town of Sinaia. Located in a mountainous and forested setting, it is a piece of art in the style of Neo-Renaissance architecture. It is an exquisite castle in Europe. Its construction was commissioned by King Carol I in 1873 and took ten years to complete. A total of 160 rooms showcase exemplary artwork and Murano crystal chandeliers. Each room has a different theme. A dazzling 19th-century interior with exquisite woodwork gives it a finished look. The royal family used it as a summer residence. This castle was the first of its kind in Europe to have electricity.
2. Palace of the Parliament
The palace was built under Nicolae Ceausescu, a Romanian communist politician and leader as a mission to have all the administrative bodies of the state in a single building. The building spreads over 365,000 sq. m. It is the heaviest building with heavy use of steel, bronze, marble, crystal, and wood while also functioning as the largest administrative building for civil use. A total of 100,000 workers assisted in the construction from 1984 to 1990. The building is in the modernist Neoclassical architecture style. Its design process involved a team of 400 architects. The building is so large in scale that it is visible from the moon!
3. Voronet Monastery
Voronet monastery is located in Bucovina and referred to as the Sistine Chapel of the East. The magnificent frescoes and blue color stand out prominently. The ‘Voronet Blue’ is a unique color that cannot be replicated even today. The painters made sure to add local symbols to represent the local culture. They created a storyline for even the illiterate from the village using the frescoes. The architectural style adopted was the Moldavian style which was derived from the one used in Moldavia. A few Gothic and Byzantine elements have also been a source of inspiration.
4. Black Church of Brasov
It is the largest Gothic church in south-eastern Europe. The name of this 14th-century Gothic Cathedral comes from a fire incident of 1689. It destroyed the interior furniture as well as the roof. The walls were black due to the smoke that led to it being called the Black Church even today with interiors renovated in the Baroque style. The altar of this church is in the Neo-Gothic style. Its bulky exterior contrasts the delicate inside of the church. A collection of over 100 Oriental carpets hanging inside make the whole atmosphere warm and inviting over the black color of the walls.
5. MARe Museum of Art, Bucharest
Being inspired by a villa in Bucharest, the museum was built in 2018. The design of this museum showcases the multiplication of space in a horizontal as well as vertical manner. The ground floor is fully glazed and looks inviting to the public. The contemporary design creates a juxtaposition in this area. As the ground floor is see-through, temporary exhibits are displayed while the first and second floors have permanent collections. The reasonably simple planning of the space has an intermediate void that hides some views overall creating a disturbance in the movement. It is a building design that roots from aspects that showcase the visitor the past through a contemporary style.
6. Digital Museum, Pecica
A building from the modern era that was constructed in 2013, it serves as a permanent digital museum; the first in Romania. The building’s distinctive form takes inspiration from the Fibonacci spirals. It uses high-end technology and can host any exhibition that can inform the visitors about the local traditions, history, and various other themes. The building is highly sustainable as it is located near natural greens and has a green roof that offers a serene panoramic view. The building orientation is such that along with the surrounding pavement, it forms a sun-dial.
7. Blaj Cultural Palace Refurbishment
First built in 1930, the palace went through a few changes in the 1960s when it was the city’s cinema while the upper floor served as a History and Ethnography Museum of Blaj. Unfortunately, in 1995, a violent fire burnt the building down. Until 2012, it could only serve as ruins when finally it’s reconstruction was initiated as a rehabilitation project. The new design included a multipurpose space for concerts, exhibitions, etc. The rehabilitation done in 2016 evokes the tragic history of the building with the brick cladding and the suspended ceiling. Moreover, the interior and exterior space serve the needs of the community.
8. Bran Castle
Also known as Dracula Castle. A building from the 14th-century in Gothic style and that rests on a cliff. Located on a precious historical site in Transylvania, the structure is built on four floors and exhibits ceramics, weapons, armor, and furniture. The public could first enter the museum of history and feudal art in 1956. Materials used are wood and stone with fortification using two rows of walls. Over the six centuries, the castle has undergone many architectural changes. Its link with the representative of Transylvanian legend- Vlad the Impaler, dons it the name of the Dracula Castle. It represents culture through an adventurous journey.
9. Churches of Moldavia
Eight churches of Moldavia from the 15th and 16th century have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993. The external walls have frescoes inspired by the Byzantine style. They grace the facade of the building beautifully. The integrity of the structure and the murals which are preserved offer an aesthetically pleasing experience. These churches also speak of the region’s past which was troubled due to the various battles with invaders. The paintings made by the local craftsmen in a palette of vivid blue and green hues formed an illustration of the Bible for everyone.
10. Horezu Monastery
Constructed in 1690, the Horezu Monastery is in the Brancovan style that is a synthesis of Byzantine & Northern Italian Renaissance architecture. The building is on a scenic site. It represents balance throughout the design. The painted decorative works inside and the sculptures in this monastery are intricate in detail. In the 18th century, a school of painting was established at the monastery. The entrance depicts mythological scenes that are made using the fresco technique. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
11. Wooden churches of Maramureș
There are around 100 wooden churches in Maramures of which only eight are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The site is culturally very significant. The churches were built in different periods, therefore, they are unique. These depict exquisite craftsmanship with timber construction as a vernacular expression of Romania. The slim clock towers in the west are the tall timber construction that forms a cultural landscape in the steep region of northern Romania.
12. Historic Centre of Sighișoara
A cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999, Sighisoara is a small fortified town from the medieval period. It was founded by craftsmen and merchants from Germany known as Saxons of Transylvania. Today, it is known for its architecture and urban monuments. Sighisoara is a preserved state where only minor interventions of reconstruction have taken place. It comes from the Byzantine-Orthodox culture that belongs to south-eastern Europe. The city is on a higher terrain which makes it a vantage point as well.
13. Village and Fortified Church from Viscri
The white fortified church was built around 1100. It is a unique Gothic church with a plain straight ceiling instead of a traditional vaulted one. Its isolation from the urban area still maintains a medieval background to it. It is an element of rural tourism. This UNESCO World Heritage site represents the unique Saxon architecture. Also, the villagers’ houses in the surrounding area were declared as historical monuments. The building contains farming equipment, artifacts, and furnishings. It is considered to be an unspoiled portion of Romania. It offers scenic views from the top.
14. Romanian Athenaeum, Bucharest
Romanian Athenaeum is an architectural marvel in Bucharest. It is an iconic landmark built in the 19th-century in the Neoclassical style. It also contains a few ideas of Eclecticism. It has a few romantic influences. The front facade is like that of a Greek Temple as six columns of the Ionic order are placed supporting a pediment. The ground floor consists of a hall supported by twelve columns of the Doric Order. This space is a concert hall that can accommodate up to 800 people. This monument is a symbol of pride for the nation. It is an elegant building that is considered to be a temple of Romanian art and culture.
15. Point Theatre
It is a restoration project of heritage, completed in 2015. The building is now functioning as a cultural center with exhibits from contemporary arts in various categories like exhibitions, screenings, etc. The three-floor building has a bar in the basement, cultural events take place on the ground floor and the top floor with a mansard roof has the theatre for plays. These spaces are flexible and used as multipurpose spaces. The finishes used are mostly crude and are balanced by the use of vegetation. The use of light and shadow has been done carefully. Overall, it is a non-conventional project.