History and overview:
The Romanian capital is a city that combines charming and stylish classic architecture with communist megalomania and a rapidly growing set of modern embellishments. It’s 1.9 million inhabitants live in Romania’s economic and political centre which is currently seeking space by extending beyond the city’s limits.
It has been rebuilt, changed and remodelled on numerous occasions and this constant trend to change is omnipresent in this metropolis.
Bucharest was first mentioned in the mid 15th century and became the capital of Romania in 1862. Its status as a culture, media and art powerhouse earned it the nickname ‘little Paris‘ in the late 19th century.
Throughout the 20th century, the city’s ancient centre was damaged by war, earthquakes and most of all by former Romanian President Nicolae Ceasescu’s systematization plan, which remodelled substantial parts of the city in communist architecture and implemented a socialist model of urban planning.
Hotel Intercontinental: The Hotel Intercontinental is arguably the best hotel in Bucharest but with its brutal architecture and oversized dimensions (the height was a shock to most inhabitants when it was built), it fits perfectly into the overall impression that Bucharest conveys. It’s seventies flair and its over the top style rooms are the most authentic way to feel like Ceausescu which makes it an ideal address to wake up in style in the Romanian capital. Check it out here
Hotel Ambassador: A more priceworthy, less flashy option, the Hotel Ambassador is also centrally located and a good place for a short stay with all the usual amenities. Check it out here
Pura Vida Hostel: The budget alternative for solo travellers. A great place to meet fellow travel enthusiasts and as a bonus, this little hostel right in the central nightlife area offers a sky bar on the roof. Check it out here
Cultural offer and activities
The Palace of Parliament: The one activity that definitely should not be missed is the Romanian Parliament building, the second largest administrative building in the world (just behind the Pentagon). Built by former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, it epitomizes the whole city which contains myriads of completely oversized infrastructure, such as the roads and other buildings which seem to be much bigger than they would actually need to be and lie empty.
It is situated at the end of Boulevard Unirii, which is the city’s largest and longest avenue and bigger than the Champs Élysées (of course!), the palace itself is so big that an entire city quarter had to be demolished in order to accommodate it. Next time you think you are wasting space or that your electricity bill is too high, think again: 70percent of this palace are unoccupied and its annual electricity bill amounts to a staggering 6M €! Guided tours are the only option when it comes to palace visits, they can easily be booked on site although the queue can be quite long.
Herăstrău Park, Arc de Triomphe & Village museum: (of course the AdT, located in Piața Arcul de Triumf, is bigger than the one in Paris). The leafy park is composed of several different areas and represents a beautiful spot for a walk. Its lake furthermore offers a nice contrast to the the concrete jungle of the city.
The largest park in Bucharest furthermore contains the village museum which covers some 15hectares of the shores of Herăstrău Park and will give you a nice impression of the history of rural Romania and the country’s village culture.
Romanian History Museum: (Calea Victoriei 12) An instructive place to learn about the different periods that marked Romanian history located in the former Postal Services Palace underneath which a large medieval archaeological site has recently been discovered.
Wine & Dine:
Caru cu Bere: (Strada Stavropoleos 5)
This well known Restaurant in the centre of Bucharest offers a lovely variety of traditional local dishes and delicacies in a lavishly decorated setting, definitely one of the top addresses in Bucharest when it comes to dining well. Be aware that it is a hotspot among locals and tourists so it is absolutely indispensable to reserve a table in advance.
Nomad Skybar: The Nomad Skybar is a stylish but cosy bar situated right in the busy Lipscani district. Although it isn’t actually a ‘sky bar’ (it’s located just a few meters above ground), it fulfils all the criteria to be considered a top nightlife spot. It’s design is contemporary and classy, its drinks selection is vast and its service is good (a pretty rare sight in Bucharest by Western European standards). It moreover disposes of a cool balcony which enables patrons to watch the nightlife going on in the streets below while enjoying some scotch and a cigar.
The Bermuda Triangle: (Lipscani district) A maze of small streets with an absolute abundance of bars, pubs and discos for every taste open basically 24/7. The strada Smardan is a good place to start as it leads straight into the Bermuda Triangle where the sheer number of nightlife options will make it hard to get out of the area again.
Final tips & verdict:
Most attractions in the city centre are easily reachable on foot. For places located outside of the city’s main core, the metro is an easy way to get around in addition to the cheap and ubiquitous yellow Dacia taxis.
Bucharest is a city that has a certain charm and a certain unique feel to it. It is definitely not the most attractive city in Eastern Europe but still well worth a visit, it is quite underrated and therefore much less touristy than other Eastern European capitals.