Is Bucharest still a “little Paris” as it was often described last century? While many buildings and districts in the historical city center have been heavily damaged or destroyed over the years, others have survived and thrived. Meanwhile, modern Bucharest has had a facelift. BR took a trip around town to capture the highlights.
By Oana Vasiliu
Bucharest’s Basarab Bridge was officially opened in mid-June 2011. The most important infrastructure project of the last 20 years links Nicolae Titulescu Boulevard, Orhideelor Highroad, Grozavesti Bridge, Vasile Milea Boulevard (for tramways) and Grozavesti Highroad. The EUR 160 million plus deal was signed back in 2006 and had an execution period of 45 months.
The last five years have seen the opening of the three largest shopping malls in Bucharest: Baneasa Shopping City (2008), AFI Palace Cotroceni (2009) and Sun Plaza (2010).
The new departure terminal of the Henri Coanda International Airport (Otopeni) in Bucharest was officially opened on November 6, 2012, following a EUR 52 million extension project. Following this investment, the airport’s departures terminal has increased its surface area by an additional 19,500 sqm from 20,000 sqm, 52 new check-ins have been added to the existing 52 and 8 new boarding gates have been opened.
The sculpture’s return
In December 2010, the local authorities unveiled the bronze equestrian statue of Carol I, in Revolution Square. The sculptor of the modern work was Florin Codre, while the original statue was the work of the famous Belgrade sculptor Mestrovic. The bronze monument stood there until 1948, when it was destroyed by the Communists. The new statue cost EUR 2.26 million.
The construction of the new stadium was completed on August 6, 2011, when it opened its gates to visitors after an investment of more than EUR 200 million. The venue covers 108,000 sqm and steel cables hold the roof in place. It hosts 55,600 people (20,000 in the lower tier and with over 360 seats for the press), with an expansion potential of up to 63,000 seats. The stadium has 94 entrances, allowing all spectators to leave in 20 minutes.
EUR 13 million has been invested in the modernization of the Grigore Antipa Natural History Museum since works started in early 2009. In September 2011, the museum reopened with info touch screens, 3D screenings, constellation projections and a reorganization of the over 2 million exhibits. The money for the renovation came from a loan taken out by the Ministry of Culture from the Council of Europe Development Bank and state funds, plus an estimated EUR 600,000 from structural funds.
Since the last week of March 2012, all low-cost flights to and from Bucharest were relocated from their hub at Aurel Vlaicu International Airport (Baneasa) to the Henri Coanda International Airport (Otopeni). Baneasa now hosts only VIP flights. Passenger traffic at Otopeni was estimated to increase by about 45 percent following the move.
Old town facelift
For more than 550 years, this thriving pedestrian area at the very heart of the city, with its intricate narrow streets brimming with small shops, terraces, cafes, bars and restaurants, has conveyed the image of a city in constant transformation.
A historical building representing an old market, a major commercial spot in the 19th century, has stood on Uranus Boulevard, the link between north and south Bucharest, for two years now.
Illegal parking and bicycle tracks
Illegal parking forces pedestrians into the street to walk around carelessly parked cars that don’t leave enough room to pass, and Bucharest still does not have enough parking lots.
Since 2007, 39 bike routes have been developed, although in the main a Bucharest cycle path is merely a strip of pavement with a picture of a bike painted on it. Currently, some of the cycle paths are technically illegal, even though Bucharest’s Street Administration put them in place.