Here’s Why Bucharest Should Be Your Next City Break

Bucharest is Romania’s capital and its largest urban center. Once known as the ‘Paris of the East,’ Bucharest is the country’s undisputed industrial and economic center. Although it is one of Europe’s more affordable capitals, the city is often overlooked as a European travel destination in favor of Berlin, Budapest, Vienna, etc. While Romania has been part of the European Union since 2007, they are yet to adopt Euro.

Remnants of the communist era are still evident throughout the city as many centrally located buildings date back to that polarizing time. On the other hand, you can feel the urban and contemporary lifestyle arising in the city. The city on the banks of the Dâmbovița River is a mecca for foodies as the local culinary scene combines international trends with traditional fare, which is inspired by both Eastern and Western culture. The local nightlife is part of the Bucharest experience as well. Beautiful people party until dawn in the capital’s various nightclubs and bars.

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What to see in Bucharest

The Palace of the Parliament is the most emblematic building in Bucharest. It is a must-visit place if you want to understand the history of Romania. The complex is also the second-largest administrative building in the world, after the Pentagon. 

Old Town is a charming locale of cobblestone streets lined with culturally significant buildings occupied at the ground level by small shops, local restaurants, and casual bars. Central Bucharest also has plenty of green sanctuaries that are waiting to be explored. Locals of all ages enjoy gathering at the parks to socialize, play, and relax. You can easily spend an entire afternoon at Cișmigiu Gardens, which is an English-style garden, easily accessible from trams 22 or 44.

Calea Victoriei is a historic avenue and one of the most prestigious landmarks in the city center. Many of Bucharest’s top museums and luxury brands are located along this prestigious thoroughfare.

How to get around the city

While Uber is the most convenient way to get around the city, the metro system is also safe and affordable. Trams and buses will take you where the metro does not stop. If you are going to use a traditional taxi, try to use Meridian, Cristaxi, Speed Taxi, or Cobalcescu. You should not count on your driver speaking English. It’s best to download the Free Now or Star Taxi apps first. If you’re not a smartphone user, you should at least have your destination written down before entering a cab.

There are no metro trains between 11 PM and 5 AM. And unless you don’t mind being elbow to elbow, it’s best to avoid the M2 line during the morning and evening rushes.

Where to eat in Bucharest

With a 130-year history, Caru’ cu Bere restaurant is known as the soul of Bucharest.  The Beer Wagon serves traditional Romanian food in a historic building that has survived a state takeover, which included the plastering over of their famous indoor murals. Highlights include their roasted pork neck with braised sour cabbage, polenta, horseradish, and chili pepper. Reservations are recommended for this extremely popular destination restaurant.

If you’re looking for something less grand, La Mama is a small local chain with locations scattered throughout the city. If you stop at one of their locations for lunch on a weekday, you’ll likely see the typical office crowd enjoying their favorite Eastern European dishes. If you’re on a really limited budget, there are food trucks in most pedestrian areas as well. 

Bucharest was once known as the Paris of the East. For a bit of Paris, try the local chain, French Revolution. They are known for their impressive variety of small yet addictive eclairs. Their menu goes well beyond the traditional vanilla cream and chocolate you can find at any local bakery. Instead, locals head here for bourgeois flavors like salted caramel, calamansi, and raspberry mascarpone.  

Where to stay in Bucharest

As with any major city, lodging options range from luxury hotels to hostels or local apartments. Any of these options will tend to be more affordable when compared to those in Euro-zone capitals. Hotel Sir Colentina is located across Highway 2 from Parcul Plumbuita, which is bordered to the north by Lacul Plumbuita, or Lake Plumbuita. Sir Colentina is ideal if you want to have the city experience and be close to nature. Rooms are modern, clean, and start at around $30. The property is also easily accessible via Tram 21.

Where to enjoy nightlife in Bucharest 

Bucharest nightlife is not-to-be-missed either. Again, it is more affordable compared to other (non-Euro-zone) European capitals. Even in touristy spots, two pints will cost you less than a fiver. Most of the nightlife happens in the old town, where the bars and pubs are full of locals and tourists. Overall, the local club scene in the city offers a mix of basic, chic, luxurious, and high-class options at a reasonable cost. Romanian people love to go out dancing and drinking, and they are incredibly friendly, especially in the clubs. Don’t leave town without trying out tuică, which is a traditional spirit made from plums.

COVID-19 and Bucharest

As of today, Bucharest restaurants and bars are open at 30% indoor capacity. While we highly recommend holding off on leisure travel until everyone has had the opportunity to get the COVID vaccine, it’s your final decision. As for Romania, they are currently not accepting American tourists. As of January 26, these countries are. If you’re heading there from the EU, you’ll be expected to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.

Some tour companies, like Open  Doors and Urban Adventures, are currently running tours. Others, including Walk & Shoot, plan to start back up in the spring.

All pictures were shot with a Panasonic Lumix ZS100 4K Point and Shoot Camera.

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