Bucharest's Victory Avenue

Bucharest's Victory Avenue, Bucharest, Romania (A)

Bucharest is a city of contrasts. Here, the spirit of the interwar years meets modernity and the elegance of neoclassic architecture rubs shoulders with communist era buildings.
If you could only see one part of Bucharest, the most representative choice would definitely be the Victory Avenue, one of the oldest and most charming streets of Bucharest, built in 1692.
Take this short tour on Victory Avenue and discover what Bucharest is all about.
Image Courtesy of Luisa.
How it works: The full article is featured in the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" on Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Download the app to your mobile device to read the article offline and create a self-guided walking tour to visit the sights featured in this article. The app's navigation functions guide you from one sight to the next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Sights Featured in This Article

Guide Name: Bucharest's Victory Avenue
Guide Location: Romania » Bucharest
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Article (A))
# of Attractions: 13
Tour Duration: 2.0 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.0 Km or 1.2 Miles
Author: Luisa Leizeriuc
Author Bio: Salut! I’m Luisa. I’ve been living in Bucharest for the last 6 years and ever since I moved here, I tried to discover as much as possible about this city. I work in advertising, but I love traveling, hiking, snowboarding, electro music and Irish coffee. I like to try a bit of everything and now I’d like to try to be your guide. Hope you’ll enjoy the ride!
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • The National History Museum
  • The Palace of the Savings Bank
  • Zlatari Church
  • The Macca-Villacrosse Passage
  • The Military Club
  • Casa Capşa historic restaurant
  • The Statue of Iuliu Maniu
  • The Memorial of Rebirth
  • The Revolution Square
  • The Palace of the Senate
  • The National Art Museum
  • Creţulescu Church
  • The Palace Hall
The National History Museum

1) The National History Museum

Our tour starts with the National History Museum, the most important history and archaeology museum in the country, both in size (it covers 8000 square metres and about 40 rooms) and in origin.

The monumental edifice built in neoclassic style by Alexandru Savulescu was initially created to host the Post Palace – the headquarters of the post office in Bucharest.

The museum itself was founded in 1970. Today, it contains more than 600,000 pieces of architecture, currency, historical documents, old books and postmarks.

The museum is about to be restored, however you can still visit some of the permanent exhibitions and the temporary exhibits hosted in the central hall of the building.

Among the permanent exhibitions, the most important ones are:

• The National Treasury Hall, an impressive collection of 3000 gold and silver items including jewelry and valuable Neolithic artifacts,

• Trajan’s Column – a 1 to 1 copy of the Roman monument representing Trajan’s Dacian wars between 101-102 A.D. and 105-106 A.D.

• Lapidarium – a collection of Greek, Roman and Medieval monuments, impressive sculptures and decorations.

The National Treasury Hall is the most impressive of all. Among its items are 12 pieces from the 4th century Pietroasele Treasure Collection that was described in 1867, at the World’s Fair in Paris, as the most precious treasure collection in the world.
The Palace of the Savings Bank

2) The Palace of the Savings Bank

Believe it or not, 13 seems to be a lucky number for Romanians’ savings. Because at number 13 of the avenue, stands the Palace of the Savings Bank, one of the main architectural attractions of the city.

As an institution, the Savings Bank was created in 1864 by Alexandru Ioan Cuza, the first prince of the national state of Romania. It had been housed in different mansions, until 1865, when they decided to build their own headquarters.

Less than 20 years after building the first Savings Bank, they outgrew it and decided to replace it with the Palace we see today. Paul Gotteareau, the French architect who designed the building, also created the plans for Cotroceni Palace, the residence of the Romanian president. Initially, the architectural plans for the Savings Bank were created for the Romanian Parliament, but that building was never built.

Before the Palace of the Savings Bank was built, the land belonged to The Church of Saint John. The church was surrounded by a graveyard where Ienachita Vacarescu, the author of the first Romanian grammar book (1787) was buried.

Today the general public is not allowed inside, so the only way to get in is via the Savings Bank Museum, which occupies the same building. Here one can admire old banking products from as far back as 1880, interwar money boxes and safe deposits, old postmarks, medals, badges or illustrations. The museum also hosts special cultural events.
Zlatari Church

3) Zlatari Church

Right next to the National History Museum, there is a small church, called Zlatari. The 10-floor communist era towers that press around it make it look even smaller.

The name of the church comes from the ancient Romanian goldsmiths’ guild – zlatar. These goldsmiths built a church on this site, during the 17th century. The little wooden church, established for the first time in 1667, became during the 18th century one of the richest monasteries in the country, with small shops, cellars and a widespread property.

After the earthquakes of 1802 and 1838, the church was rebuilt from the ground up in 1850. The architect responsible for the project was Xavier Villacrosse, whose name is also related to Macca-Villacrosse Passage that we’ll visit later on the tour. The inner walls were painted by the famous Romanian painter Gheroghe Tatarascu. The passage of time has left its mark on them, as you will see from their ‘unwashed’ appearance.

For the last 200 years, the most precious treasure of Zlatari Church has been the wonder-working hand of St. Cyprian. Every year, Christians from all around the country come to the small church to bow and pray to Saint Cyprian, because he is believed to protect them against enchantments and curses, to restore harmony to a family and to heal sicknesses of the body and soul.
The Macca-Villacrosse Passage

4) The Macca-Villacrosse Passage

The Macca-Villacrosse Passage is one of the most quiet and intimate places in downtown Bucharest. Here, you can always stop for a coffee, a water pipe or even a tasty meal at the Hungarian Bistro.

The history of the passage started almost 200 years ago when the Campineanu Inn was on this site. The inn was bought in 1831 by Petrache Serafim, an important person of his time. 30 years later, when Petrache’s daughter married Xavier Villacrosse, the chief architect of Bucharest, the inn was offered to them as a wedding present.

At first they wanted to build a Symphony Hall but eventually its place was taken by the Hotel Stadt Pesth – a fashionable spot where well dressed ladies came to meet well-to-do merchants.

The passage we see today was built in 1891, in order to connect the National Bank to Victory Avenue – the most important street of those times. The passage is a U-shaped covered street with two wings – the Villacrosse wing and the Macca wing (named after Villacrose’s brother in law). The passage buildings are decorated with stucco ornaments and the roof is made of golden glass, in order to protect it from the rain but also provide natural light.

For a time the passage hosted the Bucharest Stalk Exchange, but nowadays it is simply a mosaic of bars, shops, terraces and good times.
The Military Club

5) The Military Club

The Palace of the Military Club was built in 1912 to serve the social, cultural and educational needs of the Romanian army and to provide the officers and their families a place where they could pleasantly spend their spare time.

The officers did their part to help bring this Palace to fruition. In fact 80% of the funds were raised by voluntary officer donations.

The French neoclassic exterior of the Military Club houses 10 important halls, decorated in different styles - Norwegian, Byzantine, Gothic and Marble etc – plus a cinema and a performance area.

Over the years, its magnificent interiors have hosted banquets and pompous reunions. Official events, painting and sculpture exhibitions or book launches are still hosted today.

The Palace of the Military Club lies on the site of Sarindan Church, famous at its time for a miracle-working icon of Virgin Mary. Today, only the fountain in front of the palace – the Sarindan fountain - reminds people about the vanished church.

Now the main part of the building is off-limits to civilians, but the restaurant and the summer terrace is still open to the public, offering delicious meals for very affordable prices.
Casa Capşa historic restaurant

6) Casa Capşa historic restaurant

At first sight, Casa Capşa is just another of Bucharest’s pretty coffee shops. Nevertheless, everyone living in the capital knows that Casa Capşa was the most important symbol of the city until the mid 20th century.

In 1852, when Grigore Capşa set up his first sweet-shop, no one thought he would create such a sensation. Soon, though, this sweet-shop became the epicenter of political and cultural activity, hosting everyone from writers, actors and painters to politicians and diplomats.

In 1882 Grigore Capşa became the main supplier to the Royal House. His cakes seemed to satisfy the most discerning tastes, being awarded gold at Vienna (1783) and Paris (1889) Exhibitions. Moreover, Casa Capşa launched a new fashion in packaging and was the first sweet-shop in the country to serve ice-cream.

The Capşa brothers were also the first in Romania to serve absinthe – or as people called it, the green fairy.

In 1886, Grigore set up the Casa Capşa Hotel and established their famous coffee shop. Within 50 years, it was semi-officially “The coffee-shop of writers and artists”.

Even when the communists reduced it to a simple beer house, they couldn’t touch its reputation. That’s why, when the communist period ended, the Capşa Hotel was quickly renovated and reopened.

Its interior design was recreated, inspired by old pictures of the place, to restore the bohemian atmosphere of what was once “the only intellectual place on Victory Avenue”.

Nowadays, Casa Capşa still delights visitors with its sweets prepared to original recipes.
The Statue of Iuliu Maniu

7) The Statue of Iuliu Maniu

The statue created by Mircea Spataru was built in 1998 in the memory of Iuliu Maniu, one of the most important Romanian politicians, whose role in creating the state of Romania was essential.

Iuliu Maniu served three terms as Prime Minister of Romania between 1928 and 1933 and between 1926 and 1947 he was elected the leader of National Peasants’ Party for two terms.

Maniu spent his last decade opposing the Communist Party and the Petru Groza government. Although he obtained a decisive victory in the 1946 elections, eventually the communists came to power through widespread electoral fraud. From that moment on, the National Peasants’ Party was outlawed and Iuliu Maniu was accused of high treason and sentenced to life imprisonment. After his death, his body was thrown into a common grave, somewhere outside the city of Sighet.

In spite of all this, or perhaps because of it, Iuliu Maniu became the symbol of hope and freedom for all Romanians oppressed by the communist dictatorship.
The Memorial of Rebirth

8) The Memorial of Rebirth

One of the most controversial monuments in Bucharest is The Memorial of Rebirth – “the potato in the toothpick” or “the penetration monument” as the locals mockingly call it. It rises above the Revolution Square, right in front of the former Senate.

The monument sculpted in white marble recalls the 1989 revolution victims. It was created in 2005 by Alexandru Ghildus and combines many symbolic elements.

The main element is the Victory Pyramid, a 25 meter obelisk whose upper part is surrounded by “the Crown”. This Crown is a metaphor of human sacrifice during the revolution. Next to the Pyramid, there is the Memory Wall, where all the names of the revolution victims are written. Behind the Memory Wall spreads the Victory Path, an alley paved with oak tree logs, symbolising the road to democracy.

From the very beginning, the monument was harshly criticised especially because of the costs involved – over 10 million Euro – but also because of the location, of its questionable artistic value etc.
The Revolution Square

9) The Revolution Square

The Revolution Square is an important feature of downtown Bucharest, hosting valuable monuments and buildings like the Royal Palace, the National Art Museum, the Atheneum, the Central University Library, and also the home of the former Central Committee of the Communist Party etc.

Until the Romanian revolution, it was known as the Palace Square, because of the Royal Palace nearby. After 1989, though, the square was renamed.

For many years, this was one of those open spaces where Ceausescu, the former dictator, spoke to the masses. Thousands of people were looking up to his balcony, listening to his words and applauding with enthusiasm.

But this is also the place where the riot against Ceausescu’s dictatorship started in 1989, which eventually led to the end of the communist regime.
The Palace of the Senate

10) The Palace of the Senate

Although the story of this building started in 1912, it was brought into the service of the Ministry of Interior and Administrative Reform only in 1950. Eight years later, the Palace of the Senate was already housing the Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party.

After the 1989 Romanian revolution, the building became the official headquarters of the Romanian Senate. In 2005, though, the Senate moved into the House of Parliament building – the second largest building in the world and the most megalomaniac creation of the Ceausescu regime. Since 2006, the Palace of the Senate has been the headquarters of the Ministry of Interior and Administrative Reform.

Here, you can see the balcony where Nicolae Ceausescu, the Romanian communist leader, delivered his last speech on 21st of December 1989, trying to calm the angry population by promising a better life. A few hours later, both Nicolae and his wife fled by helicopter from the roof of the building, desperately trying to escape and save their lives.

No one really knows why they tried to save themselves this way when, they say – and at least a part of this is true - the Revolution Square covers a network of underground tunnels, connecting the Ministry of Interior and Administrative Reform to the Royal Palace.
The National Art Museum

11) The National Art Museum

The National Art Museum is Romanian’s leading art museum, exhibiting the largest collection of Romanian pieces of art in the country.

The museum was founded in 1950 on the site of the Royal Palace that was the residence of Romanian leaders for almost a century. In 1926, a fire seriously damaged the central part of the palace, so the building was demolished and then rebuilt in 1937 by the architect N. Nenciulescu.

The U-shaped palace has an inner yard and two entrances – one on the left, used once only by the king and his royal guests, and one on the right for the statesmen of those times.

During the 1989 revolution, the palace was once again seriously damaged and many pieces of art were totally or partially destroyed. The Palace reopened to the public in 2000, offering an impressive collection of over 100.000 works divided into two major sections:

• The National Gallery displaying the works of most important Romanian artists like Aman, Andreescu and Grigorescu

• The European Gallery, where one can admire paintings signed by world renowned artists such as Monet, Rembrandt, Renoir, El Greco, Rubens and Cezzane.
Creţulescu Church

12) Creţulescu Church

On the opposite side of the Victory Avenue lies a small red-brick Orthodox Church called Creţulescu Church. Built between 1720-1722, it is considered one of the most valuable and representative architectural monuments in Brancovenesc style. This style is easy to recognize by the staircase balconies guarded by columns and by the impressive flower ornaments. The patrons of this church are the chancellor Iordache Creţulescu and his wife, Safta, the daughter of Constantin Brâncoveanu, Prince of Wallachia.

In its early years, the church was part of Creţulescu Inn, guarding the city’s Northern limit. Later, the inn was demolished, in order to extend the adjacent Royal Palace.

Over time, the church has suffered serious damage. First the earthquakes of 1838, 1940 and 1977, and then the Romanian revolution of 1989 have almost completely demolished the little red-brick church. Despite these setbacks, the porch of the church still fascinates visitors with its original paintings in Brâncovenesc style while inside one can admire the frescoes created around 1860 by the famous Romanian painter Gheorghe Tătărăscu.
The Palace Hall

13) The Palace Hall

Right behind the National Art Museum, the visitor discovers another notable building with a concave-roof. This is the Palace Hall, a communist era building that once hosted the congresses of the Romanian Communist Party.

Built in 1960, the Palace Hall used to accommodate more than 4000 party members of the communist congresses. On its stage, Ceausescu delivered his vision of a multilaterally developed socialist society.

At present, the Palace Hall hosts many fairs and concerts (from Thievery Corporation and Gotan Project to the George Enescu International Festival).

Moreover, the entrance hall has a surface area of 2000 square metres and is often used as an exhibition space.

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