I think it is safe to say that Bucharest is not on most people’s list of top places to visit. I am sure you will find the likes of Paris, London, New York… and the list goes on. Don’t get me wrong, those are great cities, but sometimes you need to step away from the obvious choices and realise that there are other incredible cities out there. Bucharest is such a place and you should make the decision to discover this city.
Firstly, some of the basics. Bucharest still has four seasons, winter is cold and you may find yourself knee deep in snow, this can be ideal if you want to couple your city trip with a day skiing in one of the nearby ski resorts. My favourite time in Bucharest is spring to be able to enjoy the fresher air and the magnolias in bloom. Once we hit July-August summer is in full swing and you may be running for shelter as it gets very hot!
The architecture in Bucharest is diverse and reflects its dynamic history with French influenced Art Nouveau architecture from the early 20th century which lead to Bucharest being called ‘Little Paris of the East’ mixed with the distinct communist architecture and socialist modernism. Even as you make the trip into the city from the airport you will experience the mix of wide french style boulevards and the Arc de Triumf, but also buildings such as the Casa Presse (House of Press) dating from the communist era.
Bucharest is a city that comes to life with the sunshine, when spring arrives so do the many festivals. Whether you want to explore street food festivals or let yourself be absorbed in the classical music brought by the George Enescu festival, Bucharest has so much to offer.
Getting to Bucharest is easy, you will find flights to Bucharest Otopeni International Airport from most major european cities. Once you touch down the city center is a short taxi ride away. Taxi’s cost 1.39 Ron (30 euro cents) / KM and the trip to the city center will not cost you more than 10 Euros.
Around Piata Revolutiei you have a good selection of hotels, we recommend the Athenee Palace Hilton or the Hilton Garden Inn in the old town. Ideal for those of you, like us, who like to take advantage of the Hilton Honours program.
Now that you are settled in, I suppose it is a good time to welcome you to my city, welcome to Bucharest.
Whilst bucharest has an underground and bus network and taxis on every street corner (or Uber’s if you prefer) I recommend walking around the city, it gives you a much better perspective and you may find some truly unique corners of the city. Bucharest is a very safe city, so perfect for walking.
I recommend starting in Piata Revolutiei (Revolution Square) which holds such an important part of Romania’s recent history. This is where the 1989 Revolution started. In this square you will find the balcony from where Ceausescu addressed the people for the last time before he and his wife fled from the city from the rooftops by helicopter. In front of the infamous balcony you will find monument called ‘Eternal glory to the heroes of the Romanian Revolution of December 1989’ dedicated to the many who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of Romania.
In continuation of the communist history part of the tour, take a walk down to the Palatul Parlamentului (Palace of Parliament). The walk is about 25 minutes but if you head off the main streets you can go via the Cismigiu Gardens you will find yourself strolling through this picturesque park with many of the locals. Make the approach to the Palace from Parcul Izvor, this way you will be able to appreciate this truly enormous building from a distance as you approach.
The Palace itself is one of the biggest buildings in the world, it can be seen from the moon. Despite it’s styling, the construction was only started in 1984. It has 400 rooms and in addition to the 8 floors above ground, it has another 8 floors underground. Rumour has it, that the building has escape routes that would enable tanks to pass through them. The building is worth a visit but to do so, book in advance to ensure you have a tour in the best language for you and take note that security is strict and you will need your passport to get in, no other form of ID is accepted.
Once your visit is complete, take a walk back to the old town (20 min walk) or a short taxi ride. If you are getting hungry, the old town has a wide selection of restaurants and cafes, amongst my favourites are Infusion cafe & sports bar which offers a wide selection of drinks and food, Distrikt 42 for the design or Van Gogh for tea or lemonade.
Whist you are in the old center there are a few places to visit, Carturesti Carusel is a wonder in the old Center. Carturesti Carusel is the coolest bookstore that I know because of its design and atmosphere. Recently renovated, the place is more than a book store, of course it has the books but it has so much more, check the basement for the vinyl collection, the diverse gadgets for sale (an idea place to pick up some gifts) or walk up to the top to sip some coffee at the bistro whilst watching the shoppers browse.
Head over to the Stravropoleus Monastery which is an oasis of tranquility in the vibrant Old Center. It was build in the Brancovenesc style in 1724. It is a hidden treasure in Bucharest. The monastery is impressive in part for its small size. Take a wonder inside, if you are lucky you may be able to visit while the service is on.
Around the corner from the monastery is another one of Bucharest’s landmarks, Caru’ cu Bere. I recommend this restaurant for dinner, it’s lively and gets busy with both locals and tourists most days of the week, I recommend making a booking. Whilst there is plenty of seating try to get a table in the main room so you can enjoy the impressive neo-gothic style architecture, the stained glass windows and mosaic which recreates the interwar atmosphere. The food is traditional Romanian and the portions are big so make sure you have built up an appetite. You have plenty of choice but make sure you leave some space for dessert, papanasi and remember to finish your meal with some palinca.
Stay tuned! See you in my next article if you plan to stay more days in Bucharest.
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Photo credits: The Storyalist