Discovering Bucharest: The Macca-Villacrosse Passage

Iulia Condrea | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Whenever foreigners talk about Romania and its capital Bucharest, I keep hearing the mention of the same tourist attractions; The Arch of Triumph and The People’s House. These are perhaps the most visited places in the capital and the symbols of this stunning city. What most tourists don’t know is that, even though these beloved places represent Bucharest, there are many more architectural jewels hidden in plain sight throughout the city which highlight the capital’s authenticity. Those who want to discover Bucharest to its core choose the path less taken and are certainly not sorry because of it. The Macca-Villacrosse Passage is a hidden tourist gem in the heart of Bucharest. Visiting it proves that those who are curious and dare to search, receive something marvelous as a reward.

An unusual passage

Finished in the year 1891, the Macca-Villacrosse Passage rivaled the similar existing passages from London and Paris. What made it unique was its curious shape of a horseshoe. Building the passage in this shape wasn’t the initial intention of the builders. The plan was to buy a hotel which stood between the two passageways and demolish it. However, the hotel was very profitable at that time, and the owner didn’t want to sell it. This made the task of the builders a bit harder since no passage with such a shape existed. They accepted the challenge, and the Macca-Villacrosse Passage became the first unofficial luxury mall of Bucharest

Picture © Credit to: flickr/ Ştefan Jurcă

When you visit the passage today, you can clearly see how dedicated the builders were. They made something unique and exquisite. The passage is mostly covered by yellow glass, giving the place a homey and relaxed feel. If in the past the passage was filled with a myriad of stores, today it’s filled with coffee shops, restaurants, a luxury jewelry store, and an old coin shop. One restaurant is especially famous for its Egyptian theme and goes by the name The Valley of the Kings. Make sure to check it out once you are there.   

Picture © Credit to: istock/ Florin1961

The passage’s name 

Some of you may be wondering about the origins of the name of this passage. The name Villacrosse isn’t Romanian, but from a region of Spain, called Catalonia. It belonged to Bucharest’s once famous Chief Architect, Xavier Villacrosse, who resided in Romania’s capital between the years 1840 and 1850. The name Macca belonged to the brother-in-law of Felix Xenopol, the builder who started the work on this interesting passage in the center of the city. Today, one of the entryways of the passage is called Macca, and the other Villacrosse.

Passage of firsts

The location of this architectural attraction and its unofficial title as the first luxury mall of Bucharest aren’t the only things that made this place stand out as passage of firsts. It is also famous for being the primary spot of the capital where hookah (an oriental tobacco pipe with flavored tobacco) could be smoked after the end of the Communist era. Up to that point, Romanians had only heard from foreign merchants about hookah smoking. What is also worth mentioning is that the passage hosted the very first stock exchange market of Romania.

Picture © Credit to: istock/ Nikolay_Donetsk

Discovering Bucharest’s pearls is always a fruitful quest. From the big attractions to the tiny ones, Bucharest offers a little something for everybody. One can enjoy street art at its finest, find the éclair paradise at the French Revolution, or experience medieval dining in Bucharest's Excalibur restaurant. Whatever you choose, rest assured that once you visit Romania’s capital, you will fall in love with it. While in the city center, remember the hidden gem of Bucharest, the Macca-Villacrosse Passage. Here, the past is embedded in the present, and the visitors can get a taste of what it was like to live in the old Bucharest. Find shade from the sun inside the passage and maybe smoke a hookah while admiring this unique creation

Picture © Credit to: istock/ ELENAPHOTOS

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