When visiting Bucharest, one should pass over the concrete barrier and check the beautiful green parks the city has to offer. Our team has already designed a GREEN CITY TOUR discovering some of the most important green spaces of the capital, parks that we will describe in the following article.
Herastrau Park is not only the largest park in Bucharest but also the largest in-city park in Europe; it was laid out in 1930-36 on a marshland and it spreads for over 187 hectares around Herastrau Lake. Initially named after its patron, King Carol II Park was renamed during the communist era – “I.V. Stalin Park” – , and later came to be Herastrau, name that it still bears today.
The park is a land full of surprises: statues of important figures people, de Gaulle welcoming you at one of the entrances; the official residence of the Romanian Royal Family, “Elizabeth Palace”; historical monuments such as “Hercules defeats the centaur” sculpture; terraces and high-class restaurants such as the famous “Hard Rock”, pavilions and exhibition places, as well as a Summer Theater. As for the plant life, Herastrau Park holds the Expo Flora area, the Roses Island, Populus Island and the Japanese Garden. The lake, on the other hand, disposes of boats, hydro cycles and a ship tour for those who want to admire the surroundings, while others can enjoy the day fishing. And if the modern park makes you want to take a step back into history, you can visit the Village Museum, one of the first outdoor ethnological museums in the world.
Once a beautiful forest, the Kiseleff Park was created during the expansion of the city, following the plans of Karl Wilhelm Mayer (director of the Imperial Gardens in Viena) and inaugurated in 1847. The triangle formed by Ion Mihalache and Aviatorilor Boulevards plus Ion Mincu Street was once the favorite promenade place of Queen Mary. Today, it is surrounded by cultural institutes and museums such as: Museum on Natural History “Grigore Antipa”, the National Museum of Geology and Museum of the Romanian Peasant, the latter hosting the “New Cinema of the Romanian Directors” project. The small, green garden is the perfect location for cultural events and workshops, yet every day it becomes the meeting place of lovers, walking grounds for dog owners and a quiet rest place when in need of a break from the busy city.
After crossing Victory Avenue with all its landmarks we finally arrive at Cismigiu Garden. Right in the heart of the city, Cismigiu Park is definetly in our top 3 listings. Not only a haven of lawns, trees, flowers and lakes, but also proof of our tumultuous history. The history of Cişmigiu Park starts in 1779 when the prince of Wallachia at the time, Alexandru Ipsilanti, commissioned the construction of two wells in order to enhance the public water supply of the city. This was, as it were, a preparatory phase of the future park, since laying out a proper park was not the intent of the authorities at the time. However, the name of the present venue dates back to those times, deriving from the title of the official in charge with supervising the functionality of the wells (in Romanian, “cişmigiu”, deriving, at its turn, from “cişmele”), a certain Dumitru Siulgi. Also, the lake inside the park, formerly known as the Lake of Dura the Merchant (Dura Neguţătorul), started to be called the Cişmigiu Lake. Cismigiu is a large garden, first designed and laid out in 1845 by the German landscape architect Karl Meyer, but not completed until 1860. Highlights of the 17 hectare garden include the Roman Garden, laid out in the style of ancient Rome, the Writers’ Ring including busts of Romania’s most famous writers, the lake, which can be explored by rowing boat in summer or skated upon during the winter, Ion Jalea’s French Memorial in Carrara marble, which commemorates those French troops killed on Romanian territory during World War I, plenty of statues, a bridge and even the first newspaper stand ever built in the capital. Visitors can either relax on one of the benches, they can go to the historical restaurant inside the park, Monte Carlo, a venue which dates back to the early 20th century, restored subsequently to World War Two, or try one of the park’s many terraces.
Carol Park is not only close to the city centre but also a large green park that is almost unbelievable that is sometimes forgotten by many. The park was created for the “Romania in the World” exhibition which was held here in 1906. (The Technical Museum, to the left of the main entrance, is housed in one of the original exhibition pavilions). Designed by the French landscape artist Eduard Redont, the park is today dominated by the massive Monument to the Heroes of the Struggle for Freedom and Socialism (it stands 48 metres high) built in 1963. Until 1990, it was a mausoleum which housed the remains of communist leaders Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej and Petre Groza (it is today the site of the tomb of Romania’s Unknown Soldier). The park offers some pleasant walks along tree-lined paths, playgrounds and terraces, and a good view of central Bucharest from the monument. The open-air Arenele Romane in the west of the park, next to the observatory of the Astronomic Institute of the Romanian Academy, is a popular if rather rundown venue for concerts. Close by is the gorgeous Cutitul de Argint Church, built in 1796 and famous for its many exterior icons. On the other side of the park it is worth looking out for the medieval-looking Tepes Castle (which in fact dates from 1906), once a water tower but now used as offices by the Romanian Army’s veteran’s association.