Bacău is the main city in Bacău County, Romania. It covers a land surface of 41 km². The city is situated in the historical region of Moldavia, at the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains, and on the Bistriţa River (which meets the Siret River about 8 kilometres (5 miles) to the south of Bacău). The Ghimeş Pass links Bacău to Transylvania.
The earliest known reference to the city dates from 1408, during the rule of Moldavian Prince Alexandru cel Bun. The etymology is unclear, but one possibility is being derived from the name of a medieval Hungarian innkeeper, Bakó, who, supposedly, had an inn on the current road from Bacău to Roman, whose lodging was, according to legend, the first in the town of Bacău. Interestingly, the "Bakó" word is a fairly common Hungarian last name, meaning "executioner" in Hungarian. Another theory suggests that the name may have a Slavic origin, pointing to the Proto-Slavic word byk, meaning "ox" or "bull", the region being very suitable for raising cattle; the term, rendered into Romanian alphabet as bâc, was probably the origin of Bâcău (БѪКЪУ in Romanian Cyrillic, a name by which the town is mentioned in several medieval documents).
From around 1591 to 1789, the city was home to the Roman Catholic Bishop of Bacău. That office was always held by a priest from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. During World War I and the occupation of Bucharest by the Central Powers, Bacău was the headquarters of the Romanian Army.
The city is about 300 km North of Bucharest. It is served by Bacău International Airport which provides daily direct links with the Romanian cities Bucharest and Timişoara, and international links with 11 cities in Italy and Germany. Bacau air traffic control centre is one of Europe's busiest, as it handles transiting flights between the Middle and Near East and South Asia to Europe and across the Atlantic.
Bacau has had to hire Chinese workers to fill the shoes of locals who have headed to the West. Many immigrants come for fixed-term contracts and return home instead of putting down roots here.
Bacău has a public university and several colleges. Two major Romanian poets, George Bacovia and Vasile Alecsandri were born here. The "Mihail Jora" Athenaeum and a Philharmonic Orchestra are located here, as well as the "G. Bacovia" Dramatic Theater and a Puppet Theater. Around Christmas every year, a Festival of Moldavian Winter Traditions takes place, reuniting folk artists from all the surrounding regions. The exhibition "Saloanele Moldovei" and the International Painting Camp at Tescani, near Bacau, reunite important plastic artists from Romania and from abroad. The local History Museum, part of the Museum Complex "Iulian Antonescu" has an important collection of antique objects from the ancient Dacia.