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The Romanian Athenaeum

One of the mandatory stops when in Bucharest, the Romanian Athenaeum, has been on the bucket list of travelers for more than a century, and for a good reason: it's one of the most spectacular buildings in the city, inside and out.

Is it a Theatre? Is it an Opera house? What is it exactly?

For sure a symbol of Romanian culture, the building was initially designed to become a place where Romanians should celebrate wisdom, therefore it got named after the Greek goddess of wisdom: "Athena".

The Neo-Classical building designed by French architect Albert Galleron was completed in 1888 (see his sketch in the opening picture). The project was quite pricy so locals were invited to donate money in a crowdfunding campaign to make it happen. The famous slogan "Dati un leu pentru Ateneu" (Donate a Lion - national currency - for the Athenaeum) is probably one of the most well known anecdotes connected to the building.

The budget had to cover the cost of expenssive marbles, intricate stucco moldings, the glas atrium and much more. Many of its beautiful decorations were designed to celebrate culture and history, especially Romanian people of culture and the history of the country. The great fresco, which stretches around the entire concert hall, is one of the key elements celebrating local history and depicting the process of "becoming Romania.

Today the building is known as the city's main concert hall and the home of the George Enescu Philharmonic and the George Enescu International Festival.

The concert hall, which is located in the dome of the building, is known for its outstanding acoustics, and is considered one of the most beautiful concert halls in Europe.

Just to give you a sample of the outstanding acoustic, and of the spontaneous vibes that acompany all Bucharest Vibes tours, watch an ad hoc concert filmed during a tour with a group of people from the music industry.

The pianist is Paul Gamurari, President of the Union of Composers and Musicologists and the soprano is Madalina Stan of the George Enescu Philharmonic and Bucharest National Opera.

If you’re curious to learn more about the Athenaeum and wish to visit it with one of our guided tours, you can either book the Bucharest Wow tour or tailor a tour of your own preferences.

If you wish to book a ticket to any concert at the Athenaeum we warmly recommend it, find a link to their schedule here.

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