Bucharest: A Winter Weekend
December 20, 2018
by Leah Payne
If you’re looking for a city break that will have you yearning for more, Bucharest needs to be on your bucket list. A vibrant university city with plenty of atmosphere, but still holds close their history and culture. I was amazed at how much I actually crammed in and saw during my winter weekend. Whether it’s your first time or a returning visitor, there is always something new to be discovered in this city. This post particularly focuses on the top places to visit, eat and things to do during the WINTER.
Where to Visit
One can’t simply go to Bucharest and not go on a guided tour around the Parliament Palace, It’s literally a MUST. It is the second largest administrative building in the world after the Pentagon but yet it still looks as extravagant as a palace. The tour takes around an hour to complete and the guides are really informative about the history of Romania. Due to the fact that it is still a functioning government building, visiting hours can vary depending on the day and you have to book your tour in advance. When you are booking, please do not follow Michael Jackson’s mistake of thinking it’s Budapest as that is a completely different city and they will not let you enter. Make sure you have your passport on you on arrival and who knows, you might even see the Romanian president!
This is something to write home about. Bucharest is very much influenced by other cities, with architecture inspired by Germany, France, Greece and China. This is what sets Bucharest apart from other cities in Eastern Europe. The former Romanian leader had an obsession to be the better version of Paris, and this in essence produced what is known as Union Avenue. It looks exactly like the Champs Elysees in Paris, except it is exactly 1 metre wider! So it’s actually bigger than the original! To top it all of they have their very own Arc de Triomf.
Fine Arts Museum
The Romanians are very proud to be owners of some of the richest pieces of artwork, which are found in this museum. If you are an art lover, then make it a priority to visit. You can choose on arrival whether to go to the European exhibition or the Romanian exhibition but if time permits I definitely recommend doing both!
Take a step back in time by going to the Village Museum. Take a relaxing walk around the Herăstrău park and visit little houses that showcase the old Romanian lifestyle in the countryside. From here you can also see the outside of Elisabeta Palace, which is the current residence of the Romanian royal family.
What to Do
Hard Rock Cafe
If you still insist in keeping it American, then the Hard Rock Cafe is a good option for you. It is the largest Hard Rock in Europe and it hold many cool pieces such as Shakira’s trousers and John Lennon’s suit. You can grab your souvenir and then take a stroll around Herastrau Park, where it is located. Alternatively visit the Beer Hall right next to it that has many stalls, bars and performances.
Most of my recommendations can be applicable to your visit to Bucharest all year round. However the Christmas Markets in the city only start from December and they are dotted around the city rather than having one in a particular place. My favourite was located right outside the Parliament Palace. Grab some local treats like Kurtos-Chimney Cakes (my favourite is with cinnamon) and some mulled wine. Indulge yourself in individual stalls selling health products, traditional clothing and handmade artwork. At night it really becomes alive, with the stage full of national singers and performers – and buildings become lit up with projectors. It really creates a Christmas vibe that you cannot find anywhere else!
Where to Eat
Hanul lui Manuc
This was one of the best experiences of my life and if there is anything you do in Bucharest, it’s this! We went for dinner in this restaurant on Romania’s national day (December 1st) so there was already a house full of patriotic Romanians looking for some food. The night follows a programme every night which consists of listening to traditional Romanian music and watching traditional Romanian dancers. To end the night on a high note, a man came in with a pet parrot and some funky hats taking pictures of the customers. Not to mention the food was absolutely delicious at a really reasonable price.
I went here for lunch as soon as I landed. It’s located on the outskirts of the city but it was still in walking distance of the main city centre. This place was really cute with plenty of options to choose from. Have a light lunch followed with a freshly made smoothie or take a pick from the fresh collection of cakes and desserts! The Romanians really know how to fill you up!
Locanta Jaristea Restaurant
This hidden gem in the city is the perfect place to grab some lunch or a late night meal. With its quirky animal theme, it’s probably not recommended for vegans! You will find unusual dishes here like bear and wild boar, however when in Bucharest…! Again, if you dine here in the evening you should expect to see a traditional Romanian show.
This place was found as we were walking down a back street to get away from the Sunday night hustle and bustle of the Union Square. Take a leap back in time to Romania 100 years ago! The menu holds special recipes that have been forgotten over time and are named after Romanian tales. With a calm cabaret atmosphere and the friendly staff, it would be impossible to not return.
What I love about Bucharest is that there is always something happening, even when you don’t expect it. I must have accidentally walked in on about 2 plays and 3 concerts during my weekend and I am so glad I did. Move over New York, Bucharest really is the city that never sleeps.