Iasi is the largest city in eastern Romania 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.
Around 1564, Prince Alexandru Lăpușneanu moved the Moldavian capital from Suceava to Iași. Between 1561 and 1563, a school and a Lutheran church were founded by the Greek adventurer Prince, Ioan Iacob Heraclid.
In 1640, Vasile Lupu established the first school in which the Romanian language replaced Greek, and set up a printing press in the Byzantine Trei Ierarhi Monastery (Monastery of the Three Hierarchs; built 1635–39). In 1643, the first volume ever printed in Moldavia was published in Iași.
The city was burned down by the Tatars in 1513, by the Ottomans in 1538, and by Imperial Russian troops in 1686. In 1734, it was hit by the plague.
Between 1564 and 1859, the city was the capital of Moldavia; then, between 1859 and 1862, both Iași and Bucharest were de facto capitals of the United Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia. In 1862, when the union of the two principalities was recognised under the name of Romania, the national capital was established in Bucharest. For the loss caused to the city in 1861 by the removal of the seat of government to Bucharest the constituent assembly voted 148,150 lei to be paid in ten annual instalments, but no payment was ever made.
During World War I, Iași was the capital of a much reduced Romania for two years, following the Central Powers' occupation of Bucharest on 6 December 1916. The capital was returned to Bucharest after the defeat of Imperial Germany and its allies in November 1918.
Iaşi features historical monuments, 500-year-old churches and monasteries, contemporary architecture, many of them listed on the National Register of Historic Monuments. Notable architecture includes 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 centre (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).
The mid-1990s to early-2000s brought the first non-industrial glass curtain walled buildings (Romtelecom, Hotel Europa), while in 2012, in close proximity to the Palace of Culture, the Palas shopping mall and office complex was inaugurated.