In recent years, the capital of Romania has become one of the most popular places to visit in Europe. Bucharest, a vibrant, dynamic and highly entertaining place to visit, is a city of contrasts which makes it all the more interesting. Communistic, grey buildings clash with modern offices. Opulence is in contradiction with extreme poverty. Busy boulevards with heavy traffic run alongside quiet and airy streets where you can find cozy cafes and sophisticated restaurants. Without a doubt, Bucharest has so much history to offer and so many hidden gems just waiting to be discovered. To me, Bucharest has been my home for 32 years, so if you decide to visit it (which I strongly recommend you do), I’ve compiled a list of places that are, in my opinion, a must-see for anyone, tourist or not.
• Best places to eat
1. Restaurant Hanu’ Lui Manuc Str. Franceza, nr. 62-64, Bucharest, Romania
It is one of the best traditional restaurants in Bucharest. The fact that it has been around for over 210 years says a lot. It is located in the heart of the city, near the entrance to the Old Town. You will be able to enjoy Romanian authentic ambient completed by traditional songs and dances. The menu is rich and I guarantee that all the dishes are tasty, however, I would recommend the famous “sarmalute in foi de varza” (minced meat rolled in sour cabbage leaves).
2. La Cocosatu Str. Neagoe Voda,
nr. 52A, Bucharest, Romania
One of the hidden gems of traditional restaurants, it is said that La Cocosatu has the best “mici” (a sort of grilled minced meat rolls) in the country. So, if you visit make sure you order mici with loads of mustard and fresh bread. It’s to die for. Also, their other grilled dishes are great.
3. Caru’ cu Bere Strada Stavropoleos 5, Bucharest 030081, Romania
Translated as “the beer wagon”, it is located in a building with stunning architecture that will make you feel like royalty. It has a history of more than 130 years and has been visited by some famous names like Edward Kennedy, The Rolling Stones or Naruhito, the Prince of Japan. As for the food, I’ve eaten here numerous times and have never been disappointed. Whatever you choose from the menu, rest assured it will be delicious.
• Best places to stay in
1. Athenee Palace Hilton Bucharest Strada Episcopiei 1 – 3 | District 1, Bucharest 010292, Romania
Conveniently located in the heart of the city, it offers easy access to many of the local attractions, cafes, restaurants, shops, theatres, museums, all within walking distance. The rooms are spacious, with comfortable beds and generally everything you need for a great stay. On top of that, the service is beyond reproach.
2. Novotel Bucharest City Centre Calea Victoriei 37B | Sector 1, Bucharest 010061, Romania
One of the preferred places to stay for tourists, this 4-star hotel is right on Victoriei Street close to all the main attractions, including the popular Lipscani street where a lot of great pubs, bars and restaurants can be found. Besides a very cozy room, guests can enjoy the wellness center, an indoor pool with artificial waves, saunas and the fitness zone. Be sure to visit the hotel’s restaurant as well for a unique culinary experience.
3. InterContinental Bucharest Bulevardul Balcescu Nicolae 4
The InterContinental is a 5-star hotel and a landmark in Bucharest ever since it was built in 1970. Among other things, guest can enjoy the InterContinental Lounge on the 21st floor where you can have breakfast with a view, you can take a dip in the beautifully designed pool, with a breathtaking panoramic vista of the city on the 22nd floor, dine in the hotel’s restaurant, Modigliani, rated one of the best Italian restaurants in Bucharest. Everything is designed for the visitor’s comfort and pleasure, not to mention the fact that it is located in the city center. *If you are looking for really cheap accommodation, I would recommend staying in one of these centrally located hostels: Sleep Inn Hostel (€6.96/night), Podstel Umbrella (€9.49/night), X Hostel Bucharest (€7.50/night), Antique Hostel Bucharest (€8.44/night).
• Best places to visit
1. Bucharest National Opera House 70-72, Mihail Kogalniceanu Boulevard, Bucharest, Romania
Built in 1950, the building that houses the National Opera is stunning both on the inside and the outside. The elegant neoclassical design of the outside is matched by the richly decorated interior. Opera and ballet lovers (it houses both) will not be disappointed as the performances are amazing.
2. The Palace of Parliament
You can’t visit Bucharest without seeing the People’s Palace (as it is colloquially known) and, to be honest, you can’t miss it as it is the second largest building in the world. To the Romanian people, it is the reminder of a bygone era when Ceausescu, the ex-dictator, and the communist party used to rule the country. But nonetheless, one cannot deny its grandeur and, if possible, I recommend getting a guided tour to visit the inside as well.
3. Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum Kiseleff Road 28-30 | In King Michael I Park, Bucharest 011347, Romania
This open-air museum has more than 300 traditional houses that have been brought here piece by piece from all over Romania. As you visit the museum you will be transported back in time through Romania’s rural architecture. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the Romanian culture better. After your visit to the Village Museum, be sure to take a stroll in Hearstrau Park located right next to the museum. It is one of the biggest parks in Europe with so many things to do.
4. Romanian Athenaeum Str. Franklin 1, Bucharest, Romania
In my opinion, it is one of the most beautiful and elegant buildings in Bucharest. You can have a tour of the inside for as little as 1 €, or enjoy a classical music concert on the most stunning concert stages in Romania.
5. Old Town
Probably the best area in Bucharest to visit as a tourist is the Old Town. This charming part of the city contains a variety of quaint shops, charming cafes, bars and pubs, and great restaurants. On top of that, there are many historic buildings and beautiful churches which are every photographer’s dream. I am confident that once you visit Bucharest you will fall in love with the city, its culture and the people. Take your time exploring it because it’s worth it!