Calea Victoriei (Victory Avenue), located in the center of the Romanian capital, is one of the busiest streets during the week (as is the whole downtown at rush hours, actually) but also an ideal place for a Sunday afternoon walk, thanks to the numerous old buildings, museums, gardens, parks and terraces that you can find here.
This avenue was first known under the name of Podul Mogoşoaia (Mogoşoaia Bridge) and was inaugurated by Constantin Brâncoveanu in the 17th century, in order to ensure an easier transport route between his residence in Mogoşoaia and the Royal Palace in the centre of Bucharest.
For about one and a half century, Podul Mogoşoaia had a wooden pavement, which was later replaced with asphalt. Also, starting with de beginning of the 19th century, it was illuminated with oil lamps during the night – these were replaced with electric light bulbs before the end of the 19th century.
After the Romanian victory in the Independence War in 1878, the avenue – already one of the main streets of Bucharest – was renamed to Calea Victoriei (Victory Avenue) and became the most en vogue part of the city: there were more boyar (noble) houses, shops and inns, as well as state institutions and churches (all built in various architectural styles and each bearing the distinctive mark of its own, famous architect) than anywhere else in the city.
Inevitably, Calea Victoriei has also acquired the status of “favorite promenade of Bucharest”, especially during the 19th and early 20th centuries, when every weekend the Bucharesters would fill the cafes, restaurants and terraces around the avenue.
What to Look for
Unfortunately, time has left its mark on many of the older buildings and some of them no longer exist; they were replaced with modern, steel-and-glass façade buildings or luxury shops and hotels.
So what is there to see today on Calea Victoriei (a 2.5 km walk from Piaţa Victoriei to Piaţa Naţiunilor Unite)?
You can still discover (and photograph!) numerous architectural masterpieces of the past centuries, most of them turned into museums or historical monuments:
The house was built in 1821 by boyar Filip Lenş and offered to his wife as a wedding gift. In the 19th century, the house was considered one of the most beautiful buildings in Bucharest.
During the Crimean War, the building hosted the Russian Army Headquarters; the young lieutenant (and future writer) Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy was also a guest here, during the war.
In the late 19th century the lawyer Guna Vernescu took possession of the house, which bears his name ever since. The new owner renovated the house with consistent help from famous Romanian architects and painters of the time.
Today the building houses one of the most exclusive casinos in Bucharest and the Casa Vernescu restaurant.