Bucharest, the largest city and capital of Romania is an architectural puzzle, where French 20th century palaces intermingle with boxy communist style buildings and modern glass towers. Bucharest is prettier, nicer, safer and more modern than you imagine. It is crowded and noisy as any capital, it has a great art scene, vivid night life, a remarkably tumultuous history, friendly warm people, mouth watering food and many touristic and not so touristic sites that are dying to be discovered.
1. Be amazed at the Parliament Palace, the second largest building in the world after the Pentagon. Called by the locals the ‘House of the People’ as it was constructed by the people with their own money for the megalomaniac communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu (1918-1989). Marvel at the ginormous building that was built on the site of an entire residential district and if you dare take the inside guided tour (don’t forget to bring your passport).
2. Tour Cotroceni Palace for a dazzling hour of Royal flamboyance. Built by a team of French architects in the 19th century at the demand of King Carol I of Romania, this Classic Venetian castle features a number of function rooms; many of which were decorated to the whims of Queen Marie, the English wife of Carol’s heir. You will also be able to view her astonishing art collection.
3. Explore Revolution Square for impressive architecture and a great history lesson. Revolution Square is located on Victory Avenue near the Romanian Athenaem – Bucharest’s Concert Hall for Classical Music, former Royal Palace which is nowadays the National Art Museum and the grand University Library. This area has a special vibe and meaning representing the freedom of the people from the monster of communism in December 1989.
4. Princely Court of Vlad The Impaler aka Dracula. In a small corner in the Old Town of Bucharest lies the ruin of Vlad Dracula’s Castle. You will be surprised to know that Bucharest was actually founded in the 15th century by this Romanian hero, when he was in need of a fortress protecting him from the Ottoman Empire.
5. Take a walk in Bellu Cemetery to admire the great pieces of art that decorate the tombs of Romanian noblemen, writers, artists, scientists and politicians. You can spend half a day wandering around the small alleys that tell so many stories and legends through life size statues, intricately embellished mausoleums and surprising items like the wing of an airplane decorating the resting place of a pilot.
6. Do some reading in the most beautiful bookshop in Europe. Carturesti Carousel bookstore located in the Old Town of Bucharest was opened in a superb historical mansion formerly called the ‘Carousel of Light’. Enjoy the great architecture, have a tea or coffee and flip trough books, music and souvenirs.
7. Spend the night at Cismigiu Hotel on the Broadway of Bucharest. The history of this hotel started in 1912 when it was called Palace Hotel and housed in it’s 200 rooms all the celebrities and officials visiting Bucharest. Take a walk on Regina Elisabeta boulevard to admire the Belle Epoque buildings and don’t miss Cismigiu gardens – Bucharest’s oldest park, after which the hotel was later named.
8. Indulge your music loving self with a concert at the Romanian Atenaeum. With wonderful acoustics, very talented musicians and an edifice that resembles a palace rather than a concert hall, you are definitely inn for a symphonic treat.
9. Have dinner at Caru cu Bere, the best traditional Romanian restaurant in Bucharest. Have dinner in this 1899 amazing beer hall built in Neogothic style and richly decorated with frescoes, stained glass windows, mosaics and wooden carved paneling. Try Romanian dishes like ‘Sarmale’ cabbage rolls stuffed with minced meat and polenta on the side, pork knuckle and sour krout, stews, soups and the freshest salads. Do not forget to try their house made beer or a glass of Romanian wine and last but not least, a piece of Chocolate cake that will make you to never forget this place.
10. In the evening explore the Old Town which comes to life after dark (no vampire pun intended ;). Have a drink at SkyBar while admiring Bucharest from above, make a stop at the Shoteria for a special drink or at Bicicleta (Bicycle) for a tasty smoothie.