"...Forever the traveller and the wanderer, I always found Iaşi to be a restful place to stop by (...). I remember its cheerfulness as being entirely intellectual, presided over by the icon of my literary friends, gathered in debates and readings (...). A day spent in Iaşi was for me a discreet and finely nuanced celebration. In Iaşi I felt closer than elsewhere to the ideal place where everyone would like to spend their life. There was, in this royal city, enveloped in the melancholy of unbearably grand memories, more wit and more worship of all things intellectual than in any other Romanian centre..."
Iași is the second-largest city in Romania, after the national capital Bucharest, and the seat of Iași County. Located in the historical region of Moldavia, Iași has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Romanian social, cultural, academic and artistic life. The city was the capital of the Principality of Moldavia from 1564 to 1859, then of the United Principalities from 1859 to 1862, and the capital of Romania from 1916 to 1918.
Known as The Cultural Capital of Romania, Iași is a symbol in Romanian history. The historian Nicolae Iorga said "There should be no Romanian who does not know of it". Still referred to as The Moldavian Capital, Iași is the main economic and business centre of the Moldavian region of Romania.
At the 2016 census, the city proper had a population of 363,312 (making it the fourth most populous in Romania at the time). With 444,752 residents (as of 2016), the Iași urban area is the second most populous in Romania (after Bucharest), whereas more than 500,000 people live within its peri-urban area.
Home to the oldest Romanian university and to the first engineering school, Iași is one of the most important education and research centres of the country, and accommodates over 60,000 students in 5 public universities. The social and cultural life revolves around the Vasile Alecsandri National Theater (the oldest in Romania), the Moldova State Philharmonic, the Opera House, the Iași Athenaeum, a famous Botanical Garden (the oldest and largest in Romania), the Central University Library (the oldest in Romania), the high quality cultural centres and festivals, an array of museums, memorial houses, religious and historical monuments. The city is also known as the site of the largest Romanian pilgrimage which take place each year, in October.