The cute little Stavropoleos Church started life in 1724 as an Orthodox monastery and inn, commissioned by the Greek monk Ioanichie Stratonikeas. It has an ornate exterior adorned with patterned frescoes, a colonnaded portal, elaborate carved wooden entrance doors and several small towers topped with tiled domes. Inside the church, every inch is liberally smothered with frescoes depicting biblical scenes and the golden altar screen is adorned with jewel-like images of Mary, Jesus and a clutch of saints.
Today the inn, which was used to finance the building of the monastery, is long gone, but the pretty church has survived several earthquakes and was restored in the early 1910s. Crammed among Bucharest’s plentiful Art Nouveau townhouses on the edges of the party-loving Old Town, it is a pleasant respite from the excesses of the city, with a delightful cloister filled with 18th-century tombs. A small community of nuns and monks still live there, and there are several sung services held daily along with regular concerts of Byzantine music; the church also has Romania’s largest collection of rare Byzantine musical scores in its library of more than 10,000 books. Other highlights of a visit include icons brought together from across Romania and fragments of original frescoes that were replaced during renovation.
Strada Stavropoleos 4, Bucharest. Admission is free. Open daily 7am–8pm. Take the metro to Universitate.