Bucharest is the capital and largest city of Romania, as well as its cultural, industrial, and financial centre. It is located in the southeast of the country, on the banks of the Dâmbovița River, less than 60 km north of the Danube River and the Bulgarian border. It lies in the middle of the Romanian plain, on the banks of the Dâmbovița, a small northern tributary of the Danube.Although archaeological excavations have revealed evidence of settlements dating back to the Neolithic Period, the first written appearance of the name București dates from 1459, when it was recorded in a signed document of Vlad III , the ruler of Walachia. Vlad III built the fortress of Bucharest—the first of many fortifications—with the aim of holding back the Turks who were threatening the existence of the Walachian state.
Bucharest was first mentioned in documents in 1459. In the period between the two World Wars, the city's elegant architecture and the sophistication of its elite earned Bucharest the nickname of 'Paris of the East' or 'Little Paris' . Although buildings and districts in the historic city centre were heavily damaged or destroyed by war, earthquakes, and even Nicolae Ceaușescu's program of systematization, many survived and have been renovated. In recent years, the city has been experiencing an economic and cultural boom. It is one of the fastest-growing high-tech cities in Europe, according to Financial Times, CBRE, TechCrunch and others. UiPath, a global startup founded in Bucharest, has reached $7 billion in valuation. Since 2019, Bucharest hosts the largest high tech summit in Southeast Europe .In 2016, the historical city centre was listed as 'endangered' by the World Monuments Watch. As for the past two consecutive years, 2018 and 2019, Bucharest ranked as the European destination with the highest potential for development according to the same study.
According to the 2011 census, 1,883,425 inhabitants live within the city limits, a decrease from the 2002 census. Adding the satellite towns around the urban area, the proposed metropolitan area of Bucharest would have a population of 2.27 million people. Bucharest is the fifth largest city in the European Union by population within city limits, after Berlin, Madrid, Rome, and Paris. Economically, Bucharest is the most prosperous city in Romania. The city has a number of large convention facilities, educational institutes, cultural venues, traditional 'shopping arcades' and recreational areas.
Data and Facts
- The most popular and beloved Romanian dish – “mici” or “mititei”, was first invented in Bucharest, in the Old City area
- Bucharest is also called “Little Paris”. From 1900 – 1930 it was considered to be one of the most beautiful and modern European cities. And it was very similar to Paris in terms of architecture and lifestyle
- The Palace of Parliament is the second largest administrative building in the world, right after the Pentagon in the United States. It is also the most expensive and the heaviest building in the world
- Bucharest Telephone Palace was built in a style reminiscent of the American skyscrapers. It was actually the tallest building in the city until the ’70
- Politehnica subway station was built in 1983 and its floors are paved with gorgeous marble. Very few know that this marble actually is made out of over 80-million-year-old marine fossils
Bucharest has a unique status in Romanian administration, since it is the only municipal area that is not part of a county. Its population, however, is larger than that of any other Romanian county, hence the power of the Bucharest General Municipality , which is the capital's local government body, is the same as any other Romanian county council.
The Municipality of Bucharest, along with the surrounding Ilfov County, is part of the București – Ilfov development region project, which is equivalent to NUTS-II regions in the European Union and is used both by the EU and the Romanian government for statistical analysis, and to co-ordinate regional development projects and manage funds from the EU. The Bucharest-Ilfov development region is not, however, an administrative entity yet.
The city government is headed by a general mayor . Decisions are approved and discussed by the capital's General Council made up of 55 elected councilors. Furthermore, the city is divided into six administrative sectors , each of which has its own 27-seat sectoral council, town hall, and mayor. The powers of the local government over a certain area are, therefore, shared both by the Bucharest municipality and the local sectoral councils with little or no overlapping of authority. The general rule is that the main capital municipality is responsible for citywide utilities such as the water and sewage system, the overall transport system, and the main boulevards, while sectoral town halls manage the contact between individuals and the local government, secondary streets and parks maintenance, schools administration, and cleaning services.
The prefect is not allowed to be a member of a political party and his role is to represent the national government at the municipal level. The prefect is acting as a liaison official facilitating the implementation of national development plans and governing programs at local level. The prefect of Bucharest is Paul Nicolae Petrovan.
Bucharest's judicial system is similar to that of the Romanian counties. Each of the six sectors has its own local first-instance court , while more serious cases are directed to the Bucharest Tribunal , the city's municipal court. The Bucharest Court of Appeal judges appeals against decisions taken by first-instance courts and tribunals in Bucharest and in five surrounding counties . Bucharest is also home to Romania's supreme court, the High Court of Cassation and Justice, as well as to the Constitutional Court of Romania.
Bucharest has a municipal police force, the Bucharest Police , which is responsible for policing crime within the whole city, and operates a number of divisions. The Bucharest Police are headquartered on Ștefan cel Mare Blvd. in the city centre, and at precincts throughout the city. Although violent crimes fell by 13% in 2013 compared to 2012, 19 murders were recorded.
Although in the 2000s, a number of police crackdowns on organised crime gangs occurred, such as the Cămătaru clan, organised crime generally has little impact on public life. Petty crime, however, is more common, particularly in the form of pickpocketing, which occurs mainly on the city's public transport network. Confidence tricks were common in the 1990s, especially in regards to tourists, but the frequency of these incidents has since declined. However, in general, theft was reduced by 13.6% in 2013 compared to 2012. Levels of crime are higher in the southern districts of the city, particularly in Ferentari, a socially disadvantaged area.
Although the presence of street children was a problem in Bucharest in the 1990s, their numbers have declined in recent years, now lying at or below the average of major European capital cities.
As stated by the Mercer international surveys for quality of life in cities around the world, Bucharest occupied the 94th place in 2001 and slipped lower, to the 108th place in 2009 and the 107th place in 2010. Compared to it, Vienna occupied number one worldwide in 2011 and 2009. Warsaw ranked 84th, Istanbul 112th, and neighbours Sofia 114th and Belgrade 136th .Mercer Human Resource Consulting issues yearly a global ranking of the world's most livable cities based on 39 key quality-of-life issues. Among them: political stability, currency-exchange regulations, political and media censorship, school quality, housing, the environment, and public safety.
Bucharest is the centre of the Romanian economy and industry, accounting for around 24% of the country's GDP and about one-quarter of its industrial production, while being inhabited by 9% of the country's population.Almost one-third of national taxes is paid by Bucharest's citizens and companies.
The living standard in the Bucharest-Ilfov region was 145% of the EU average in 2017, according to GDP per capita at the purchasing power parity standard .
Bucharest area surpassed, on comparable terms, European metropolitan areas such as Budapest , Madrid , Berlin , Rome , Lisbon or Sofia . and more than twice the Romanian average.
After relative stagnation in the 1990s, the city's strong economic growth has revitalised infrastructure and led to the development of shopping malls, residential estates, and high-rise office buildings. In January 2013, Bucharest had an unemployment rate of 2.1%, significantly lower than the national unemployment rate of 5.8%.Bucharest's economy is centred on industry and services, with services particularly growing in importance in the last 10 years. Bucharest is also Romania's largest centre for information technology and communications and is home to several software companies operating offshore delivery centres. Romania's largest stock exchange, the Bucharest Stock Exchange, which was merged in December 2005 with the Bucharest-based electronic stock exchange Rasdaq, plays a major role in the city's economy.
International supermarket chains such as Kaufland, Lidl, Metro, Selgros, Penny Market, Carrefour, Auchan, Cora, Profi, and Mega Image are all operating in Bucharest. The city is undergoing a retail boom. Bucharest hosts luxury brands such as Armani, Versace, Ralph Lauren, Dior, Prada, Chanel, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, and Gucci. It corporations Amazon, Microsoft, Oracle Corporation or IBM are all present in the Romanian capital. The top ten is also dominated by companies operating in automotive, oil & gas , as well as companies in telecommunication and FMCG.
The city has a number of international supermarket chains such as Kaufland, Auchan, Mega Image, Carrefour, Cora and METRO. At the moment, the city is undergoing a retail boom, with a large number of supermarkets, and hypermarkets, constructed every year. For more information, see supermarkets in Romania. The largest shopping centres in Bucharest are AFI Cotroceni, Băneasa Shopping City, Bucharest Mall, Plaza Romania, City Mall, Mega Mall, Park Lake and Unirea Shopping Center.
With a population close to 2.5 million and an infrastructure for startups that is under development, Bucharest has the potential to become a regional hub for entrepreneurs on the long term. The challenge is significant as the city will have to support the growth of the startup ecosystem that comprises everything from private equity funds to startup accelerators, networks of business angels and co-working spaces. Bucharest ranks 86th out of 110 cities in a study of the city’s attractiveness to people born over 1997-2012, namely Generation Z. These are the people that might consider starting a business in the coming period. The ranking published by Nestpick places London top, followed by Stockholm and Berlin.
Bucharest’s best score of close to 84 points was obtained for connectivity, with the city boasting some of the fastest broadband speeds in the world. Telecom companies have already tested 5G, the new wireless technology that could be launched commercially next year, in the city. The greater transfer speeds provided by 5G could unlock a new wave of startup innovation, which could also support the growth of the local entrepreneurial ecosystem, say commentators.
Munteanu says that Bucharest has the «critical mass» to become a startup hub, meaning that the city is big enough.
By summer, the municipality was running a deficit of more than EUR 210 million and started to cut spending. The initiative designed to help entrepreneurs was axed late in spring.
The capital could increase its appeal to startup founders by further growing and engaging with the local global tech communities, building a stronger academic institution presence in the ecosystem and increasing the qualifications of the existing local technical talent pool, suggested Florin Vasilica, transaction advisory services leader at professional services firm EY Romania. Already, there are some success stories of companies founded in Bucharest that made it big. UiPath, the robotic process automation startup, was founded in 2005 «in a tiny apartment» in Bucharest as DeskOver, says the company on its website. In 2012, the company pivoted to RPA and landed its first seed round in 2015. By 2019, it had reached a valuation of USD 7 billion after raising more than USD 1 billion from various investment funds. The company has developed a large R&D center in the Romanian capital.
After taking over Romanian smartwatch market Vector Watch, American fitness wearables producer Fitbit opened in Bucharest its largest research & development facility in Europe. These are some of the entrepreneurial companies that either have their roots in Bucharest or have developed their operations in the capital at a later stage. The range of offices offering flexible leasing terms has also grown significantly in the past few years, with new co-working operators launching in the city. WeWork, one of the pioneers of the co-working industry, also plans to open a location in the capital. By providing office space that can be leased for various periods ranging from one hour to one year, these nimble players have built their own communities of subscribers that include entrepreneurs, freelancers and remote workers.
The market for co-working spaces in Bucharest will reach a total surface of 50,000 sqm this year, according to real estate consultancies. Some of the largest office developers in the city have hurried to sign lease deals with co-working operators. However, the share of co-working spaces in the total office stock in the city stood at only 1.7 percent at the end of 2018, according to data from Colliers International Romania. Nonetheless, co-working players play a key role in the entrepreneurial ecosystem as they host the startups and welcome funds and other stakeholders that can engage with entrepreneurs.
Bucharest has the largest transport network in Romania, and one of the largest in Europe. The Bucharest transport network is made up of a metro network and a surface transport network. Although there are multiple connection points, the two systems operate independently of each other, are run by different organisations the metro is run by Metrorex and the surface transport network by Societatea de Transport București. The two companies used separate ticketing systems until 2017, when a new smartcard was introduced alongside the old tickets, which allows travel on both the STB and the Underground. Bucharest has a fairly extensive metro system consisting of four lines run by Metrorex. In total, the network is 71.35 km long and has 53 stations, with 1.5 km average distance between stops. It is one of the fastest ways to get around the city.
Surface transport in Bucharest is run by Societatea de Transport Bucureşti and consists of an extensive network of buses, trolleybuses, trams and light rail. The STB network is one of the most dense in Europe, and the fourth largest on the continent, carrying about 1.7 million passengers daily on 85 bus lines, 23 tram lines, 2 light rail lines and 15 trolleybus lines. At times, however, it does suffer from severe overcrowding. STB is a reasonably efficient and a very frequently-used way of getting around Bucharest. As with the Metro, the system is going under a period of renewal. Some new features are the upgrade of tram/trolleybus infrastructure and the replacement of old rolling stock.
With a total route length of 1,374 km , the STB bus network is the most dense out of all the transport types in Bucharest. There are 85 bus lines , most of which operate in the Municipality of Bucharest. However, there are also 27 bus lines which provide services to the towns and villages which border Bucharest, in Ilfov county, and whose populations usually commute to Bucharest for work. The buses were delivered between June 2006 and April 2007. In January 2008, the first of a further series of 500 Citaro low-floor buses were put into service.
Trolleybuses supplement buses on the STB system network, which operates 15 trolleybus lines , measuring 164.1 km of routes on a 73.2 km network. During the 1990s, the fleet was updated with modern trolleybuses manufactured by Ikarus, in light blue and yellow livery, which have acoustic station announcements and digital display screens. These trolleybuses now make up the majority of the fleet. In early 2007, 100 wheelchair-accessible Irisbus Citelis trolleybuses were introduced on routes 61, 62, 69, 70, 86, 90, 91 and 92. Two distinct, non-interconnected networks exist in Bucharest, the main network and a relatively small Southern network in Berceni. Each of the two networks have their own separate trolleybus depots and are not connected in any way, in 1987 being separated after the opening of M2 metro line. The trolleybus network is currently being overhauled or expanded — a goal is to eventually unite the two networks.
Bucharest has several train stations throughout and around the city, the main one being Gara de Nord where trains to all destinations leave. Other main stations include Baneasa, Obor and Basarab. Gara de Nord is a relatively modern station. It was opened in 1872 and has undergone modernization and refurbishment several times. From here, trains leave to every destination in Romania and also other European cities. The other stations only see around five trains a day and are not considered «important» stations by CFR.
The city's municipal road network is centred on a series of high-capacity boulevards , which generally radiate out from the city centre to the outskirts and are arranged in geographical axes . The principal and thus most congested boulevards are Calea Victoriei, Bulevardul Unirii and Șoseaua Mihai Bravu, which is the longest in Bucharest and forms a sort of semicircle around the northeastern part of the old district. The pothole problem is notorious enough to have inspired a song by the band Taxi with a chorus «Cratere ca-n Bucureşti, nici pe luna nu gaseşti!» . However, in recent years, there has been a comprehensive effort on behalf of the City Hall to boost improvement of road infrastructure, mainly by resurfacing and widening roads, and repairing footpaths. Faulty urban planning will likely lead to an increase in traffic and parking problems, since new housing areas are built with houses and apartment buildings literally squeezed into existing small grid roads, a problem commonly identified in the «suburbs» of the city. Bucharest is one of the principal junctions of Romania's national road network, which links the city to all of Romania's major cities as well as to neighbouring countries such as Hungary, Bulgaria and Ukraine. Romania's three motorways currently in operation, the A1, the A2 which links the capital with the country's ports and seaside resorts on the Black Sea and the A3.
Since the fall of Communism in 1989, several Communist-era buildings have been refurbished, modernised, and used for other purposes.Perhaps the best example of this is the conversion of obsolete retail complexes into shopping malls and commercial centres. These giant, circular halls, which were unofficially called hunger circuses due to the food shortages experienced in the 1980s, were constructed during the Ceaușescu era to act as produce markets and refectories, although most were left unfinished at the time of the revolution.
Modern shopping malls such as the Unirea Shopping Centre, Bucharest Mall, Plaza Romania, and City Mall emerged on pre-existent structures of former hunger circuses. Another example is the conversion of a large utilitarian construction in Centrul Civic into a Marriott Hotel. This process was accelerated after 2000, when the city underwent a property boom, and many Communist-era buildings in the city centre became prime real estate due to their location. Many Communist-era apartment blocks have also been refurbished to improve urban appearance. The newest contribution to Bucharest's architecture took place after the fall of Communism, particularly after 2000, when the city went through a period of urban renewal – and architectural revitalization – on the back of Romania's economic growth. Buildings from this time are mostly made of glass and steel, and often have more than 10 storeys. Examples include shopping malls , office buildings, bank headquarters, etc.
During the last ten years, several high rise office buildings were built, particularly in the northern and eastern parts of the city.
Home to many highly skilled IT specialists, Bucharest surprises visitors with its architectural diversity, making it a playground of contrasts. From the medieval, neoclassical, and art nouveau inspiration to the Communist-era dominant features of the buildings, Bucharest shows its historical adaptations each era it has experienced.Romania ranks fifth in the world by broadband internet speed.
Ninety-nine percent of Romanian students learn two or more languages in upper secondary education and that ninety percent of the urban population speaks English. This explains why Romania is a great destination for anyone seeking to recruit a skilled workforce here. Bucharest alone boasts some of the top universities in Europe, which attract students from all over the world, annually producing around 2,195 IT&C graduates, more than any other city in Romania. The abundance of IT specialists with a high technical expertise make the region attractive for businesses looking for English speaking European developers.
Financial Times ranks Romania among Europe’s fastest-growing economies and one of the most promising European destinations for tech investors. Consumer prices, including rent in Bucharest are much lower than in other big cities in Western Europe, as well as commercial property, energy, and utilities. Bucharest also offers many advantages when it comes to company establishment procedures, particularly in terms of taxes and legal aspects. Consumer prices, including rent in Bucharest are much lower than in other big cities in Western Europe, as well as commercial property, energy, and utilities. Adobe, Intel, Microsoft, Electronic Arts and Amazon all have development offices in Romania, next to Bitdefender, a Romanian based company and the number 1 security product in the world. Add to this a well-developed internet infrastructure, and you’ve got every reason to start your company in this city.
Romania lacks business and product skills. Although in the past years we have seen a significant development of the marketing and product development skills, Romanian entrepreneurs have yet a long way ahead to acquire business skills, sales principles, and the capacity to raise investment on their own. Because of their well-developed technical skills, Romanian entrepreneurs have the capacity to iterate fast, and develop products with global potential. They are also early adopters, with great team management skills, which turns them into valuable assets for a startup success.
As funding is hard to find, startup founders usually target international investors. Romania is a big enough market to test products, although the customer behavior is different sometimes from the ones in a bigger market, and this has to be taken into consideration when launching a new product.The government is increasingly paying attention to the tech industry and tech entrepreneurs, particularly in the last few years. The fact that IT produces more than 6% of Romania’s GDP has raised awareness in the public administration and opened doors for support and innovation programs. There is still a long way to go in assuring good implementation, but the good thing is that there is a lot of proactivity and effervescence among the local actors, adding to the administrative pressure to improve things in this respect.
Social Wellness and Human Resources
As per the 2011 census, 1,883,425 inhabitants lived within the city limits, a decrease from the figure recorded at the 2002 census This decrease is due to low natural increase, but also to a shift in population from the city itself to its smaller satellite towns such as Voluntari, Buftea, and Otopeni. In a study published by the United Nations, Bucharest placed 19th in among 28 cities that recorded sharp declines in population from 1990 to the mid-2010s. In particular, the population fell by 3.77%.The city's population, according to the 2002 census, was 1,926,334 inhabitants, or 8.9% of the total population of Romania. A significant number of people commute to the city every day, mostly from the surrounding Ilfov County, but official statistics regarding their numbers do not exist.
Bucharest's population experienced two phases of rapid growth, the first beginning in the late 19th century when the city was consolidated as the national capital and lasting until the Second World War, and the second during the Ceaușescu years , when a massive urbanization campaign was launched and many people migrated from rural areas to the capital. Other significant ethnic groups are Romani, Hungarians, Turks, Jews, Germans, Chinese, Russians, Ukrainians and Italians. A relatively small number of Bucharesters are also the Greeks, Armenians, Bulgarians, French, Arabs, Africans , Vietnamese, Filipinos, Nepalis, Sri Lankans and the Indians. 226,943 people did not declare their ethnicity. In terms of religious affiliation, 96.1% of the population is Romanian Orthodox, 1.2% is Roman Catholic, 0.5% is Muslim, and 0.4% is Romanian Greek Catholic. Despite this, only 18% of the population, of any religion, attends a place of worship once a week or more.
The life expectancy of residents of Bucharest in 2015 was 77.8 years old, which is 2.4 years above the national average.
Bucharest has a growing cultural scene, in fields including the visual arts, performing arts, and nightlife. Unlike other parts of Romania, such as the Black Sea coast or Transylvania, Bucharest's cultural scene has no defined style, and instead incorporates elements of Romanian and international culture.
The city is a centre for other Christian organizations in Romania, including the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Bucharest, established in 1883, and the Romanian Greek-Catholic Eparchy of Saint Basil the Great, founded in 2014. Bucharest also hosts 6 synagogues, including the Choral Temple of Bucharest, the Great Synagogue of Bucharest and the Holy Union Temple. The latter was converted into the Museum of the History of the Romanian Jewish Community, while the Great Synagogue and the Choral Temple are both active and hold regular services.
Overall, 159 faculties are in 34 universities. Sixteen public universities are in Bucharest, the largest of which are the University of Bucharest, the Politehnica University of Bucharest, the Bucharest Academy of Economic Studies, the Carol Davila University of Medicine and Pharmacy, the National University of Political Studies and Public Administration and the University of Agronomic Sciences and Veterinary Medicine of Bucharest.
These are supplemented by nineteen private universities, such as the Romanian-American University.
Private universities, however, have a mixed reputation due to irregularities.In the 2020 QS World University Rankings, from Bucharest, only the University of Bucharest was included in the top universities of the world.