Welcome to Bucharest, the charming, history-rich city and the Romania’s capital.
Sandwiched between 5 Eastern European countries and bordering the Black Sea, Romania may not be the first country that springs to mind when you are considering a short getaway. For many people, Romania means Dracula, but in fact, the country has so much more to offer than spooky stories from Transylvania.
If your home currency is the euro or dollar, then you may find yourself feeling pretty flush in Romania. Although the country is part of the EU, they do not use the Euro. Instead, their local currency is the Romanian Leu (RON) and there are about 5RON to every $1.54CAD. Essentially, Bucharest is a much more under-the-radar and cost-effective city escape destination compared to tourist traps like Venice or Paris.
Grab your camera, put on some comfy walking shoes and set out in any direction. Getting lost in Bucharest is the best, and most exciting way to discover the fascinating history and architecture of the city. Here are some places you should visit.
The Palace of Parliament is the world’s second-largest administrative building (after the Pentagon) and former dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu’s most infamous creation. Started in 1984 (and still unfinished), the 330,000-sq-metre building has more than 3000 rooms. Entry is by guided tour only (book ahead). Entry to the palace is from B-dul Naţiunile Unite on the building's northern side (to find it, face the front of the palace from B-dul Unirii and walk around the building to the right). Bring your passport.
About halfway up Şos Kiseleff you'll find the 27m Triumphal Arch. Based on Paris’ namesake monument, it was built in 1935 to commemorate the reunification of Romania in 1918. Sites of WWI battles are inscribed inside the arch, while King Ferdinand and Queen Marie feature on its southern facade. Heavy traffic makes it difficult to get anywhere close to the arch and the viewing platform is not often open to the public.
The exquisite Athenaeum is the majestic heart of Romania’s classical-music tradition. Scenes from Romanian history are featured on the interior fresco inside the Big Hall on the 1st floor. A huge appeal dubbed ‘Give a Penny for the Athenaeum’ saved it from disaster after funds dried up in the late 19th century. Today it’s home to the George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra and normally only open during concerts, but you can often take a peek inside.
The food in Romania has moved beyond humble soups and stews though. With dynamic and creative young chefs at the helm, Bucharest is seeing a gastronomic revolution like never before. Contemporary twists are bringing classic dishes (that are typically based around meat, fish, cheese and polenta), a new and flavoursome lease of life.
During the summer, when temperatures reach the mid to high 30’s, sitting out on the cobbled streets with a cold drink to watch the world go by, is a blissful way to absorb the Old Town’s atmosphere. Come night-time, the tables turn and the restaurants transform into brilliant nightclubs and bars, enticing you in with their special drinks offers and great dance music.
You may be surprised to hear that Bucharest actually has a thriving underground music and events scene. All year round (though especially in the summer), you will find a huge schedule of street parties, outdoor culture festivals, pop-up markets, music festivals and art projects. There’s one thing you won’t experience in Bucharest – and that’s boredom!
With a large boating lake, flower-filled borders and plenty of trees, Alexandru Ioan Cuza I believe to be one of the prettiest parks in Bucharest. It would be the perfect place for a picnic!
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