Iași (Romanian pronunciation: [jaʃʲ]; also referred to as Jassy or Iassy) is one of the largest cities and municipalities in Romania. Located in the Moldavia region, 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 seat of Iași County and the main economic centre of the Moldavian region of Romania.
As of 2011, Iași itself has a population of 290,422 (the most populous in eastern Romania, and the fourth most populous Romanian city), the metropolitan area is home to 382,484 residents, while the population of the peri-urban area exceeds 500,000 residents. 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 65,000 students in 5 public and 6 private 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 Tătărași 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.
With historical monuments, 500-year-old churches and monasteries, contemporary architecture, many of them listed on the National Register of Historic Monuments, Iași is an outstanding educational center. Pieces of architecture include the Trei Ierarhi Monastery, part of the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Site, or the neo-Gothic Palace of Culture, built on the old ruins of the mediaeval Princely Court of Moldavia.
During World War II and the Communist era many historical buildings in the old city center (around Union Square area) were destroyed or demolished, and replaced by International style buildings and also a new mainly Mid-Century modern style Civic Centre was built around the Old Market Square (The Central Hall).