Barbu Ştirbei, ruling prince of Wallachia (1849-1853, 1854-1856), inherited a wide piece of land in Buftea, near Bucharest. One of his 9 sons, Alexandru Ştirbei, inherited the land in Buftea and built a palace there in 1864, on the design of a Swiss chateau and the original wooden staircases, shutters and roof create the atmosphere of a posh hunting lodge. Set over 24 hectares of park, the grounds are teaming with gingko, magnolia and cypresses, with oaks dating back 500 years.
Ştirbey Palace is one of the best examples of romantic architecture in Romania at the time of its accomplishment. The only information regarding the construction of the palace is found on the west side: the year 1864 and, above, the A-B-S letters, representing the name of Alexandru B. Ştirbey, are cut in the center of a circle accentuated by four arches with a Gothic profile.
The Gothic style, which is discreetly represented on the outside and more visibly so inside, is combined with decorations that talk about the interest in romantic searches of the European and Romanian architecture of the 19th century, all of these underlying the overall simplicity which confers this building its particular character. The interiors contain a rich decoration, with vast carved wood sections, everything being set around the interior staircase sculpted in oak and bearing the family blazon. The painted or sculpted wooden ceilings, the Neo-Gothic blazons above the doors, as well as the chimneys make the image complete about the interiors. Downstairs, in the central saloon, there are still very well preserved original windows and doors with their wooden frames, with oak gothic-like decorations, wooden beams, a fireplace of white Carrara marble, and the walls with classic wooden decorations.
As a consequence of his wife’s death, Alexandru Ştirbei built a monumental chapel in the park between 1885 and 1890, including traces of wall-paintings by neoclassic artist Gheorghe Tattarescu.
In 1895 however Alexandru died and his oldest son, Barbu Ştirbei, inherited the domain in Buftea. A passionate agriculturist, he founded a huge farm near the palace and started to buy pieces of land in the neighborhood, becoming one of the richest men in the country. During WW1 the palace sheltered Queen Maria and then it was bombed by German planes. Both Ştirbei family and Queen Maria retreated in Iaşi, and the palace was robbed by the German army, which also took it over, with the German Military Commandment settling in Buftea in January 1917. On March 5, 1918, the peace agreement with Austro–Hungary and Germany was signed in the palace. Time passed by, the German troops were defeated, the surrender peace in Buftea was canceled and Ştirbei family could return to their palace, restoring it.
The palace and all other belongings in Buftea were confiscated by the communist government after 1946 and between 1949 and 1952 it was abandoned, all valuables being stolen. The palace was however restored in 1959, being meant as a diplomatic residence and it hosted – among other important guests – Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the U.S.S.R., when he attended the 3rd congress of the Romanian Workers’ Party in 1960. In 1964, Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej and Nikita Khrushchev signed a deal to withdraw Russian troops from Romania in the palace Once again restored after the earthquake in 1977, the former owners regained the property after 1990 following a long dispute. In 2007, a consortium of Romanian investors, Bucharest Arena, purchased the property from the descendants of Ştirbey for nine million Euro and now intend to invest at least 30 million in its renovation.