Any tour of Bucharest will take you to the Revolution Square which is one of the city’s most interesting areas. Located in the very heart of the city, the square is surrounded by many buildings, each one with its own history and stories. Behind a small park, near the Hilton Athenee Palace Hotel, you will notice an imposing construction with Ionic columns and a beautiful dome. This is an emblematic building of Bucharest found on most of the postcards and strangely called the Romanian Athenaeum.
The history of this building is closely related to the activity of a cultural society named “Romanian Athenaeum” founded in 1865 by prominent figures of the local cultural and scientific life. One of their projects was to build an edifice to become a real temple of the Romanian arts, science and culture, so they initiated a national subscription campaign for fundraising using the slogan “Daţi un leu pentru Ateneu” (Give one leu for the Athenaeum).
The architecture is eclectic with a strong French neoclassical influence and the building was officially inaugurated on February 14th 1888 with works continuing till 1897 due to the occasional lack of funds.
Seen from outside the building consists of six Ionic columns and Greek-style decoration, giving the impression of a Greek Temple (hence the name), but the interior is even more impressive. From the ground floor you reach the concert hall by stairs made of Italian Carrara marble. The frescoes on top of the concert hall represent an open book of the Romanian history. The gilded dome also makes an outstanding impression.
Due to the formidable acoustics of the concert hall, the Romanian National Philharmonic Orchestra has been performing in this building from the building’s inauguration until the present.