Bucharest is situated on the banks of the Dâmbovița River, which flows into the Argeș River, a tributary of the Danube. Several lakes – the most important of which are Lake Herăstrău, Lake Floreasca, Lake Tei, and Lake Colentina – stretch across the northern parts of the city, along the Colentina River, a tributary of the Dâmbovița. In addition, in the centre of the capital there is a small artificial lake – Lake Cișmigiu – surrounded by the Cișmigiu Gardens. The Cișmigiu Gardens have a rich history, being frequented by poets and writers. Opened in 1847 and based on the plans of German architect Carl F.W. Meyer, the gardens are the main recreational facility in the city centre.
Besides Cișmigiu, Bucharest contains other parks and gardens, including the Herăstrău Park and the Botanical Garden. The park is located in the northern part of the city, around Lake Herăstrău, and includes also the site of the Village Museum. The Botanical Garden is the largest of its kind in Romania and contains over 10,000 species of plants (many of them exotic) and used to be once the pleasure park of the royal family.
Bucharest is situated in the south eastern corner of the Romanian Plain, in an area once covered by the Vlăsiei forest, which, after it was cleared, gave way for a fertile flatland. As with many cities, Bucharest is traditionally considered to be built upon seven hills, similar to the seven hills of Rome. Bucharest’s seven hills are: Mihai Vodă, Dealul Mitropoliei, Radu Vodă, Cotroceni, Spirei, Văcărești and Sf. Gheorghe Nou.
The city has an area of 226 square kilometres (87 sq mi). The altitude varies from 55.8 metres (183.1 ft) at the Dâmbovița bridge in Cățelu, south-eastern Bucharest and 91.5 m (300.2 ft) at the Militari church. The city has an approximately round shape, with the centre situated in the cross-way of the main north-south/east-west axes at University Square. The milestone for Romania’s Kilometre Zero is placed just south of University Square in front of the New St. George Church (Sfântul Gheorghe Nou) at St. George Square (Piața Sfântul Gheorghe). Bucharest’s radius, from University Square to the city limits in all directions, varies from about 10 to 12 km (6.25–7.5 mi).
Until recently, the regions surrounding Bucharest were largely rural, but after 1989, suburbs started to be built around Bucharest, in the surrounding Ilfov county. Further urban consolidation is expected to take place in the late 2010s, when the “Bucharest Metropolitan Area” plan will become operational, incorporating additional communes and cities from the Ilfov and other neighbouring counties.