A legend says that Bucharest was founded by a shepherd named Bucur, who built a settlement amid the Vlasiei forest. But the history of Bucharest seems to begin 150.000 years ago, because archaeological excavations revealed the existence of old prehistoric settlements on the city’s location. Bucharest began as a fort on the Dâmboviţa River and it was recorded as a "citadel on the Dâmboviţa" river in 1368. The name of the city as we all know it today appeared for the first time in the history of Bucharest in a document issued from the chancellery of voivode Vlad Ţepeş (the Impaler) dating from 1459, September 20th. The Bucharest location on the trade routes across the Walachian Plain between the Carpathian Mountains and the Danube River stimulated the development of the city. In the 17th century, for the first time in the history of Bucharest, the city became the main economic center of Walachia and the official capital of Walachia in 1659.
The rule of Şerban Cantacuzino (1678-1688) was an important moment in the history of Bucharest because it was the period in which important buildings were risen: the voivodal houses in the Zlătari district, Măgureanu and Cotroceni churches, the great Inn "Şerban Voda" (demolished in 1890, now the National Bank of Romania). During the rule of Constantin Brâncoveanu (1688-1714) Calea Victoriei changed its face because of the new constructions and the increasing number of artisans.
In the 18th century, the Fanariotes, Greek origin rulers appointed by the Ottoman Empire, took the control of Walachia. The "Fanariotes’ epoch" in the history of Bucharest ended in 1821 with the people’s revolt conducted by the national hero Tudor Vladimirescu. Bucharest was in that period one of the few cities from Eastern Europe with palaces and mansions where guests played blackjack, poker, craps, roulette, baccarat and other games of chance.
In the 19th century, the history of Bucharest was marked by many changes. The number and variety of the manufactures increased and a new administrative structure was formed between 1806 and 1812. The "Manuc" Inn (1808) and the "Philantropy" Hospital (1812) were built in that period. The next important year in the Bucharest chronology is 1862. Bucharest was proclaimed the capital of the Romanian state, a result of the union between Walachian and Moldavian principalities.
9 May 1877 is an important day in the history of Bucharest because it’s the Independence Day of Romania. After achieving the independence against the Turkish occupation, Bucharest entered in an economical development stage. In 1896 the first electrical tramway was running from Obor to the Cotroceni Avenue and the first cinema was opened.
In the beginning of the 20th century, electric bulbs and petrol lamps lit Bucharest’s streets. After World War I, Bucharest became the capital of a greatly enlarged Romania with the Transylvanian region. The 1930s represented for the history of Bucharest a period of rapid urban development and due to this, Bucharest was called the "Little Paris". Romania sided with Germany in the World War II and Bucharest was damaged by Allied air raids. After the war the centre of Bucharest was rebuilt and new industrial and residential districts were laid out.
In 1947 the Communists came to power and Bucharest became the capital of the new Socialist Republic. Communist rule interrupted Bucharest's cosmopolitan days. The historic part of the city was destroyed and replaced by the Communist-style buildings, particularly high-rise apartment blocks. On March 4th, 1977 a strong earthquake destroyed many buildings in the centre of Bucharest and killed about 1.500 people.
In December, 1989, the communist era (the so called “golden epoch”) ended after the revolution that started in Timişoara and very quickly extended to Bucharest. This is the most recent event in the history of Bucharest and also a very important one because it represents the beginning of democracy after years of one of the most brutal communist dictatorships in the world.
The Coat of arms of Bucharest was created during the rule of Alexandru Ioan Cuza and features an eagle (the symbol of Wallachia) with a cross on its beak. On its chest it has a shield with the image of Bucharest’s patron, Saint Demetrius.
Treaty of May 28, 1812, at the end of the Russo-Turkish War
Treaty of March 3, 1886, at the end of the Serbo-Bulgarian War
Treaty of August 10, 1913, at the end of the Second Balkan War
Treaty of August 4, 1916, the treaty of alliance between Romania and the Entente
Treaty of May 6, 1918, the treaty between Romania and the Central Powers
Bucharest is home to the Romanian Orthodox Patriarchy and the Wallachian Metropolitan seat, of the Roman Catholic Archbishopric (established in 1883) and Apostolic Nunciature, of the Archbishopric and Eparchy Council of the local Armenian Apostolic Church, of the leadership of the Federation of the Jewish Communities of Romania as well as an important site for other religions and churches.
For much of Bucharest's history, its neighbourhoods were designated by the names of the more important Orthodox churches in the respective areas. The first major religious monument in the city was the Curtea Veche church, built by Mircea Ciobanul in the 1550s, followed by Plumbuita (consecrated by Petru cel Tânăr).
Constantin Şerban erected the Metropolitan Church (today's Patriarchal Cathedral) in 1658, moving the bishopric from Târgovişte in 1668. In 1678, under Şerban Cantacuzino, the Bishopric was equipped with a printing press, which published the first Romanian-language edition of the Bible (the Cantacuzino Bible) during the following year.
The large-scale urban development under Prince Şerban and Prince Constantin Brâncoveanu saw the building of numerous religious facilities, including Anthim the Iberian's Antim Monastery; in 1722, boyar Iordache Creţulescu added Kretzulescu Church to the city's landscape, during a period when most new places of worship were being dedicated by trader guilds.
Phanariote rulers consecrated several major places of worship, including, among others, the Văcăreşti Monastery (1720), a monumental late-Byzantine site, the Stavropoleos Church (1724) - both built under Nicholas Mavrocordatos -, Popa Nan (1719), Domniţa Bălaşa (1751), the one in Pantelimon (1752), Schitu Măgureanu (1756), Icoanei (1786), and Amzei (ca.1808). Another period of growth in the building of Orthodox religious sites was the inter-war one: 23 new churches were added before 1944
A local administration was first attested under Petru cel Tânăr (in 1563), when a group of pârgari countersigned a property purchase; the city's borders, established by Mircea Ciobanul, were confirmed by Matei Basarab in the 1640s, but the inner borders between properties remained rather chaotic, and were usually confirmed periodically by the Jude and his pârgari. Self-administration privileges were denied to Bucharesters and taken over by the Princes during the rule of Constantin Brâncoveanu and the Organic Statute period - in 1831, the population was allowed to elect a local council and was awarded a local budget; the council was expanded under Alexandru Ioan Cuza, under whom the first Mayor of Bucharest, Barbu Vlădoianu, was elected.
The guilds (bresle or isnafuri), covering a large range of employments and defined either by trade or ethnicity, formed self-administrating units from the 17th century until the late 19th century. Several isnafuri in the Lipscani area gave their names to streets which still exist. Although they lacked clear defense duties, given that Bucharest was not fortified, they became the basis for military recruitment in the small city garrison. Trading guilds became predominant over those of artisans during the 19th century, and all autochthonous ones collapsed under competition from the sudiţi wholesale traders (protected by foreign diplomats), and disappeared altogether after 1875, when mass-produced imports from Austria-Hungary flooded the market.
The Jewish community of Bucharest was, at least initially, overwhelmingly Sephardi (until Ashkenazim began arriving from Moldavia in the early 19th century). Jews were first attested as shop owners under Mircea Ciobanul (ca.1550), and despite frequent persecutions and pogroms, formed part a large of the professional elites for most of Bucharest's history, and the largest percentage of the total population after Romanians (around 11%). The main Jewish-inhabited areas were centered on the present-day Unirii Square and the Văcăreşti neighbourhood.
In World War II, Jews were the target of widespread violence during the National Legionary State, and, upon its close, many were attacked and had their property looted during the Iron Guard Rebellion - around 125 were murdered. A number of local Jews were deported to Transnistria by Ion Antonescu, but most remained on the spot and were forcefully assigned labor duties (cleaning out snow and sorting out the debris resulting from Allied bombings). The Jewish population was drastically reduced through aliyah.
Notable institutions of the community include the Bucharest Synagogue and the State Jewish Theater.
1789: 30,030 property-owners; 6,000 houses
1810: 42,000, of which 32,185 Orthodox Christians
1831: 60,587 property-owners; 10,000 houses