Elegant, chic and with a healthy dose of post-Cold War history is a recipe that has led increasingly sophisticated Bucharest to be branded everything from “Little Paris” to “The New Berlin”. Hype aside, the consensus is that Bucharest is more and more an exciting place to visit. Evolving after decades of political uncertainty, Bucharest is now alive and in bloom. With a glorious heritage and a now a cultural renaissance bringing attention back to the city, there’s never been a better time to sample this eastern delight.
Wondering what to see and do in Bucharest? Wander is the answer. Down the narrow streets of Lipscani is a great place to start. Then take in the sights at Bucharest’s quaint old quarter before heading onwards to the (in)famous 1,000 room Ceausescu’s Palace. Continue on to Revolution Square, where Communism was overthrown in 1989, then take your pick from one of Bucharest’s leading museums. Cismigiu Gardens makes a beautiful place to take a rest, or realise why Bucharest is compared to Paris while relaxing at one of the nearby restaurants and cafes.
Eat and Drink
The Old Town area around Strada Smardan is a popular starting point to sample Bucharest’s culinary delights. Meat and especially pork is a favourite part of local cuisine and fresh fish from the Danube is omnipresent on menus. Cafes are great places to eat and many have high-ceilings and non-pretentious attitudes. La Mama offers no-fuss Romanian food and has four locations around the city, while, for something a little more special, La Ceaunu’ Crapat is widely regarded as the best place in town for traditional fare and uses only local ingredients. Those with more of a thirst than a hunger should head to Lipscani, Bucharest’s leading party district which is frequented by rowdy young Romanians and tourists alike.
Where To Stay
Though hotels in Bucharest are typically aimed at business people, increased tourism has also lead to a boost in staying options for visitors on all budgets. As a general rule, the nicest hotels do tend to be in the heritage buildings since many of the communist era hotels have a somewhat eerie iron-curtain feel (admittedly part of their charm but not to everyone’s taste). Built in 1886, The Grand Hotel Continental is well located and as grand as it’s name suggest, while Dutch owned Hotel Rembrandt is far less expensive and just as comfortable. Hotel Christina offers something slightly more contemporary and is recommended for those that prefer modern luxury more than old-world charm.
Bucharest offers a surprisingly interesting range of shopping choices. Costumes and communist-era antiques are popular purchases for visitors and can be found filling the shelves of shops clustered around Lipscani. Those after something more elegant should visit the brand-name shops and increasing number of local boutiques along Piata Romana, Piata Unirii and Calea Victoieri, Alternatively Bucharest Mall recently underwent an expansion to add more shops and continues to be one of the city’s leading malls. For an interesting insight into the Romanian way of life, visit the stalls of Piata Amzei Market, which sell fresh food from all over Romania.
Bucharest Like a Local
Communist oppression perhaps affected nobody more than the gypsy people of Romania. Still a much-maligned ethnic minority, gypsy culture still plays a vital role in Romanian folklore and is best experienced at one the low-key music venues in Bucharest. Green Hours is a popular venue for live music while Godot Club is a better place to hear the fiddles, accordions and guitars that make up the backbone of the famous gypsy music. Unfortunately these days gypsy music is more and more confined to the mahalas (gypsy ghettos) on the outskirts of Bucharest so it’s a good opportunity to seek out this rich part of Romanian culture while you still can.