Romanian Athenaeum

Bucharest, Romania | C.1888

Photo Credit: Nick Pawsey

At the heart of Romania’s classical music tradition is the Romanian Athenaeum, or Ateneul Roman in Romanian. The concert hall is in the center of Bucharest, Romania and one of the most famous landmarks of the Romanian capital city. Constructed almost entirely on public funding, the building is very dear to locals.

In 1865, cultural and scientific advocates founded the Romanian Atheneum Cultural Society and, they agreed that a building must be created that was dedicated to art and science in Bucharest. The land that was chosen was an abandoned foundation of a former American Circus.

Opened in 1888, the ornate building design was inspired by Greek temples and designed by French architect Albert Galleron. The circular building supports a large dome under which is the city’s main concert halls and home of the “George Enescu” Philharmonic.

Work continued slowly on the concert hall until 1897. A large portion of the construction funds were raised by the public over a 28-year-long effort, of which the marketing slogan is still remembered today: “Donate one leu for the Ateneu!”

The overall style of the theater is Neoclassical and embellished with eclectic details. In front of the building there is a small park and a statue of Romanian poet Mihai Eminescu. Inside, the ground floor hosts an ornate conference hall as large as the auditorium above that seats 600 in the stalls and another 52 in box seating.

Recognized as a symbol of Romanian culture, in 2007 the building was inscribed on the list of European Heritage sites. It has hosted many famous musical acts and speakers and remains the most famous musical institution in Romania.

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