Iasi, with its population of 400,000 people, is the most important political, economic and cultural center of the province of Moldavia as well as one of the oldest cities in Romania. Located in the northeastern part of the country, Iasi was for many centuries the crossing point of the most important commercial routes linking Poland, Hungary, Russia and Constantinople.
Deeply rooted in history, Iasi has been the main center of Moldavian culture since 1408. The city prides itself with publishing the first Romanian newspaper and establishing the first Romanian university. Today, Iasi is home to five universities.
Over the past 500 years, history, culture and religious life have molded the city’s unique character. Iasi boasts an impressive number of Orthodox churches, almost 100, most of them located in the so-called Golden Plateau (Platoul de Aur). The oldest, the Princely Saint Nicholas Church, dates from the reign of Stephen the Great (Stefan cel Mare, 1457-1504). The finest, however, are the 17th century St. Paraschiva Metropolitan Cathedral and Trei Ierarhi Church, the last a curious example of Byzantine art, erected in 1635-1639 by Vasile Lupu. Its outer walls and twin towers are intricately carved in what many think of as stone lace.
Iasi is among the very few cities in the Orthodox world with more than 100 churches.
In 1565, Iasi became the capital of Moldavia and for a short period of time, from 1859 until 1862, the capital of Romania.
The Golden Plateau represents the nucleus of the city, around which the entire settlement developed over the centuries. With the Palace of Culture at one end and the Union Square (Piata Unirii) at the other, the Golden Plateau features churches and princely palaces on both sides of Stefan cel Mare si Sfant Boulevard, which runs right through its center. Many other important sites can be found on nearby streets.
Iasi by images
Palace of Culture: The most emblematic monument in the city is the striking masterpiece of neo-gothic architecture, inspired by the Palais de Justice in Paris. It was built between 1906-1925 on the ruins of a medieval royal court (1434) and had a grand opening overseen by Prince Ferdinand of Hohenzollern. Equally impressive is the Palace’s luxurious interior decoration, centred around its huge marble hall. Its 300 rooms house, among other things, four amazing museums and a public library. Address: Piata Stefan cel Mare si Sfant 1, www.palatulculturii.ro
Church of the Trei Ierarhi: The city’s most famous architectural adornment was built between 1637-1639 and has quite justifiably been called “an embroidery in stone”. The entire exterior surface of the building is covered with 30 friezes, with delicate sculptural decoration of Gothic, Renaissance and Oriental motifs. In 1882, after a series of destructive events, the original Byzantine wall paintings that adorned the interior of the church were removed and transferred to the nearby art museum, Gothic Hall. Address: Str. Stefan cel Mare 62, https://www.manastireasftreiierarhi.ro/
Botanic Garden: Established in 1856, the oldest and largest botanic garden in Romania can be found on lush green Copou Hill. It is a scientific and educational workshop with over 2000 species of vegetation and 21 km of shaded paths for walking. The rose (over 800 varieties) and orchid gardens are most impressive. Take a stop at the greenhouses with the flesh-eating and tropical plants. Address: Str. Dumbrava Rosie 7-9, www.botanica.uaic.ro
Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Parascheva: The largest Orthodox Church in Romania is an elegant structure in the neo-Renaissance style. Its construction began in 1833 and was completed in 1888. A year later the holy relics of Saint Parascheva, patron saint of Moldavia, were transferred here, turning the church into an annual place of pilgrimage for hundreds of thousands of the faithful. Its interior features exceptional stained-glass windows and wonderful paintings in a neoclassic style, featuring biblical scenes. Address: Blvd. Stefan cel Mare si Sfant 16, https://catedralamitropolitanaiasi.mmb.ro
“Vasile Alecsandri” National Theatre: The oldest theatre in Romania and one of the country’s most elegant buildings. It was built in the late 19th century according to designs by the Viennese architects Feller and Helmer, and is famed for its perfect acoustics. Its interior decoration is a wonderful example of French eclecticism. The theatre bears the name of its founder, the famous Romanian poet, theatrical writer and politician. Address: Str. Agatha Barsescu 18, https://www.teatrulnationaliasi.ro/
Golia Monastery: This stunning 17th-century monastery, located in the heart of the historical centre, is a monumental structure with strong Renaissance influences and Baroque elements. Inside, the eye is drawn to its luxurious decoration comprised of colourful Byzantine wall paintings, gold chandeliers and ornate woodcarvings. You must definitely climb the 102 steps to the monastery tower, to enjoy a panoramic view over the city. Address: Str. Cuza Voda 51
Copou Park: The first public park in Iasi was created in 1834 on the site of the city forest known as the Green Bridge, as it provided a passage between the vineyards, gardens and orchards. The most famous sight in this park is a 500-year-old linden tree, which bears the name of Mihai Eminescu. Legend has it that the national poet of Romania wrote most of his works in its shade. 51
Alexandru Ioan Cuza University: Romania’s first university was founded in Iasi in 1860 and is housed in a stunning building (1893 -1897) on Copou Hill. It is worth visiting the foyer of the building, known as the Hall of the Lost Footsteps. Its long, narrow hall is adorned with a series of exceptional romantic and allegorical wall paintings from 1967, by the painter Sabin Balasa. Address: B-dul Carol I 11, www.uaic.ro
Moldavian Ethnographic Museum: Spread out over 16 rooms in the west wing of the Palace of Culture, the amazing collection of the Moldavian Ethnographic Museum covers every aspect of traditional life in Moldavia. Don’t miss the room with the traditional New Year’s masks in the shapes of winter animals, and the impressive collection of wooden machines, such as the 19th-century olive mills and wine presses. Address: Piaţa Ştefan cel Mare şi Sfânt 1, Palatul Culturii, https://palatulculturii.ro/muzeul-etnografic-al-moldovei
Art Museum: In the Iasi Art Museum you will discover some of the most important representatives of modern and contemporary Romanian painting and sculpture (Nicolae Grigorescu, Theodor Aman, Octav Bancila, Oscar Han, Cornel Medrea), alongside the European Masters (Rubens, Veronese, and others). At the heart of this exceptional collection, with over 8,700 works, are 19th- and 20th-century paintings featuring landscapes and scenes of rural life in Moldavia. Address: Piaţa Ştefan cel Mare şi Sfânt 1, Palatul Culturii, www.palatulculturii.ro
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