Romanians' vivid imagination and intense spirituality have always been expressed through their architecture. Fortunately, they also have strong preservation instincts, resulting in village museums that display bygone ways of life through found and restored peasant houses, elaborately carved gates, barns and other architectural elements. The best and most comprehensive of these is the Village Museum (Muzeul Satului) in Bucharest. Constructed by a visionary during the 1930s on a large tract within the city, this is a fascinating collection of more than 300 houses and other structures from every region of Romania. It also has a small museum and shop of fine Romanian crafts. Other such village museums well worth visiting are Museum of Wood (Muzeul Lemnului) in Campulung Moldovenesc and Museum of Peasant Techniques (Muzeul Tehnicii Populare) in Sibiu. Both have collections of early farm tools and household implements.
Monasteries, churches, synagogues, castles and palaces throughout the country, some dating from the 12th Century, depict the country's tumultuous history. Even its Communist era is expressed through Ceausescu's master planning and rebuilding of Bucharest. The best example of his testament to secularity is the Palace of Parliament — the world's second largest building after the U.S. Pentagon — whose 1,000 rooms reflect the country's best architects, artisans and building materials. Among the best examples of Romanian's Orthodox religion are the painted monasteries of Southern Bucovina, acclaimed as masterpieces of art and architecture, "perfectly in harmony with their surroundings and unique in the world for their painted exteriors." They hold UNESCO's Prix d'Or for "artistic, spiritual and cultural value." Of the five best known, the most famous is Voronet, also called the "Sistine Chapel of the East" whose blue exterior background lent its name to the color "Voronet Blue." These are essential sights for anyone interested in religious architecture, but they are only a few of Romania's architectural treasures.
Romania's Architectural Treasures, by location:
Palace of Parliament, Cotroceni Palace, Royal Palace, Patriarchal Complex, St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Cathedral, Italian Church, Russian Church, Anglican Church, Armenian Church, Great Synagogue, Choral Temple, Sutu Palace, Mogosoaia Palace.
Peles and Pelisor Castles (Sinaia), Iulia Hasdeu Castle (Campina), Hurez Monastery, Dinu Mihail Palace (Craiova).
Painted Monasteries of Southern Bucovina (Voronet, Sucevita, Moldovita, Humor and Putna), Ruginoasa Palace, Metropolitan Cathedral, Great Synagogue, Palace of Culture (Iasi).
Black Church (Brasov), Bran Castle (Bran), Brukenthal Palace (Sibiu), Hunedoara Castle (near Deva), Sighisoara Medieval Town, Sibiu — Old Town, Brasov — Old Town, Fortified Churches in Biertan, Harman and Prejmer.
Wooden Churches, Wood Museum, Sighet Synagogue (Sighetu Marmatiei), Satu Mare Synagogue.