Bucharest has a growing cultural scene, in fields including the visual arts, performing arts and nightlife. Unlike other parts of Romania, such as the Black Sea coast or Transylvania, Bucharest's cultural scene has no defined style, and instead incorporates elements of Romanian and international culture.
Bucharest has landmark buildings and monuments. Perhaps the most prominent of these is the Palace of the Parliament, built in the 1980s during the reign of Communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu. The largest Parliament building in the world, the Palace houses the Romanian Parliament (the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate), as well as the National Museum of Contemporary Art. The building boasts one of the largest convention centres in the world.
Another landmark in Bucharest is Arcul de Triumf (The Triumphal Arch), built in its current form in 1935 and modeled after the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. A newer landmark of the city is the Memorial of Rebirth, a stylized marble pillar unveiled in 2005 to commemorate the victims of the Romanian Revolution of 1989, which overthrew Communism. The abstract monument sparked controversy when it was unveiled, being dubbed with names such as "the olive in the toothpick", ("măslina-n scobitoare"), as many argued that it does not fit in its surroundings and believed that its choice was based on political reasons.
The Romanian Athenaeum building is considered to be a symbol of Romanian culture and since 2007 is on the list of the Label of European Heritage sights.
Other cultural venues include the National Museum of Art of Romania, Museum of Natural History "Grigore Antipa", Museum of the Romanian Peasant (Muzeul țăranului Român), National History Museum, and the Military Museum.
In terms of visual arts, the city has museums featuring both classical and contemporary Romanian art, as well as selected international works. The National Museum of Art of Romania is perhaps the best-known of Bucharest museums. It is located in the royal palace and features collections of medieval and modern Romanian art, including works by sculptor Constantin Brâncuși, as well as an international collection assembled by the Romanian royal family.
Other, smaller, museums contain specialised collections. The Zambaccian Museum, which is situated in the former home of art collector Krikor H. Zambaccian contains works by well-known Romanian artists as well as international artists such as Paul Cézanne, Eugène Delacroix, Henri Matisse, Camille Pissarro and Pablo Picasso.
The Gheorghe Tattarescu Museum contains portraits of Romanian revolutionaries in exile such as Gheorghe Magheru, ștefan Golescu, Nicolae Bălcescu and allegorical compositions with revolutionary (Romania's rebirth, 1849) and patriotic (The Principalities' Unification, 1857) themes.
The Theodor Pallady Museum is situated in one of the oldest surviving merchant houses in Bucharest and includes works by Romanian painter Theodor Pallady as well as European and Oriental furniture pieces.
The Museum of Art Collections contains the collections of Romanian art aficionados, including Krikor Zambaccian and Theodor Pallady.
Despite the classical art galleries and museums in the city, there is also a contemporary arts scene. The National Museum of Contemporary Art (MNAC), situated in a wing of the Palace of the Parliament, was opened in 2004 and contains Romanian and international contemporary art. The MNAC also manages the Kalinderu MediaLab, which caters to multimedia and experimental art. There are also private art galleries throughout the city centre.
The palace of the National Bank of Romania houses the national numismatic collection. Exhibits include banknotes, coins, documents, photographs, maps, silver and gold bullion bars, bullion coins, dies and moulds. The building was constructed between 1884 and 1890. The thesaurus room contains notable marble decorations.
Performing arts are one of the strongest cultural elements of Bucharest. The most famous symphony orchestra is National Radio Orchestra of Romania. One of the most prominent buildings is the neoclassical Romanian Athenaeum, which was founded in 1852, and hosts classical music concerts, the George Enescu Festival, and is home to the George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra.
Bucharest is home to the Romanian National Opera, as well as the I.L. Caragiale National Theatre. Another well-known theatre in Bucharest is the State Jewish Theatre, which features plays starring world-renowned Romanian-Jewish actress Maia Morgenstern. Smaller theatres throughout the city cater to specific genres, such as the Comedy Theatre, the Nottara Theatre, the Bulandra Theatre, the Odeon Theatre, and the revue theatre of Constantin Tănase.
Bucharest is home to Romania's largest recording labels, and is often the residence of Romanian musicians. Romanian rock bands of the 1970s and 1980s, such as Iris and Holograf, continue to be popular, particularly with the middle-aged, while since the beginning of the 1990s the hip hop/rap scene has developed. Hip-hop bands and artists from Bucharest such as B.U.G. Mafia, Paraziții, La Familia enjoy national and international recognition.
The pop-rock band Taxi have been gaining international respect, as has Spitalul de Urgență's raucous updating of traditional Romanian music. While many neighbourhood discos play manele, an Oriental- and Roma-influenced genre of music that is particularly popular in Bucharest's working class districts, the city has a rich jazz and blues scene, and, to an even larger extent, house music/trance and heavy metal/punk scenes. Bucharest's jazz profile has especially risen since 2002, with the presence of two venues, Green Hours and Art Jazz, as well as an American presence alongside established Romanians.
There is no central nightlife strip, with entertainment venues dispersed throughout the city, with clusters in Lipscani and Regie. The city hosts some of the best electronic music clubs in Europe such as Kristal Glam Club and Studio Martin. Some other notable venues are Gaia, Bamboo, Fratelli, Kulturhaus and Fabrica.
There are a number of cultural festivals in Bucharest throughout the year but most festivals take place in the summer months of June, July and August. The National Opera organises the International Opera Festival every year in May and June, which includes ensembles and orchestras from all over the world.
The Romanian Athaeneum Society hosts the George Enescu Festival at locations throughout the city in September every two years (odd years). The Museum of the Romanian Peasant and the Village Museum organise events throughout the year showcasing Romanian folk arts and crafts.
In the 2000s, due to the growing prominence of the Chinese community in Bucharest, Chinese cultural events took place. The first officially organised Chinese festival was the Chinese New Year's Eve Festival of February 2005 which took place in Nichita Stănescu Park and was organised by the Bucharest City Hall.
In 2005, Bucharest was the first city in Southeastern Europe to host the international CowParade, which resulted in dozens of decorated cow sculptures being placed across the city.
Traditional Romanian culture continues to have a major influence in arts such as theatre, film and music. Bucharest has two internationally renowned ethnographic museums, the Museum of the Romanian Peasant and the open-air Village Museum.
The Village Museum, in Herăstrău Park, contains 272 authentic buildings and peasant farms from all over Romania.
The Museum of the Romanian Peasant was declared the European Museum of the Year in 1996, and displays textiles (especially costumes), icons, ceramics, and other artifacts of Romanian peasant life.
The Museum of Romanian History is another important museum in Bucharest, containing a collection of artefacts detailing Romanian history and culture from the prehistoric times, Dacian era, medieval times and the modern era.
Bucharest is the seat of the Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, one of the Eastern Orthodox churches in communion with the Patriarch of Constantinople, and also of its subdivisions, the Metropolis of Muntenia and Dobrudja and the Archbishopric of Bucharest. Orthodox believers consider Demetrius of Thessaloniki to be the patron saint of the city.
The city is a center for other religious organizations in Romania, including the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Bucharest.
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