The place of my childhood, Bucharest has always been the base for me in all of my travels. Recently I have truly found the pleasure of visiting this adventurous city because I have moved out and I am now living in Barcelona. So every time I go back there, I start to understand why so many people from across the world are considering to move there. Getting there is relatively easy (and inexpensive), no matter where you come from and the airport is well linked to the city (although the train can be rather slow so I recommend the bus). There are three main things that I suggest you follow when making a plan on how to visit Bucharest and what you can do there.
Visit the museums of Bucharest
Museums in Bucharest are pretty cheap and they offer a very good price/quality ratio. A very good example would be the Peasant Museum. You can even visit it on your way from the airport to the city center and it offers a very well documented history of the Romanian traditions and culture throughout the centuries in recent and not so recent history. Romania was under many foreign powers so there are many influences that make Bucharest taste different than its Eastern counterparts. I would also definitely recommend the Grigore Antipa National Museum of Natural History and while you’re there you can ask for directions for the other nearby museums that usually have some visiting promotion during the summer or the weekends.
Romanian culture and arhitecture
If you want to see the second biggest and the first heaviest building in the world, I recommend you go and visit the insides and outsides of the Palace of Parliament, or how most of the locals call it, “The People’s House”, or “Casa Poporului” The building’s architecture is both totalitarian and neoclassical so it will easily get your attention. It’s also located close to a few parks that I recommend visiting, especially the Cismigiu Park. There are many multilingual organized tours for the inside of this big palace. Usually, you can find at least a couple on weekdays and you get discounts for larger groups.
Bucharest in Europe
Bucharest used to be called the ”Little Paris of the East” and it is well remembered that around 100 years ago it would be common for the high class, but not only to greet each other in French and have at least medium studies in French and the French literature. Today, famous Bucharestian buildings such as Spitalul Clinic Colțea, Arcul de Triumf or the Continental Grand Hotel are proof that the Belle Époque architecture is part of the laying foundation of this urban museum.
The lesser known history of Bucharest
But the Romanian capital wasn’t always as organized as you can see it today. A century and a half before, as the city was expanding its boundaries, more administrative measures had to be taken, in order to deal with the unavoidable obstacles that every big city faces. One man gets remarked for being able to efficiently reorganize Bucharest. Pavel Dmitrievici Kiseliov – better know as Kiseleff (Russian count and reformer) is famous for his relentless acts of redrawing the functional structure of the city center, cleaning and clarifying the borders of the places that made Bucharest a city. Straight, wide boulevards, gardens and parks and functional sidewalks and alleys. The promenade style was now in place and since then people have been admiring the beauties of this Boheme metropole.
Old Town of Bucharest: Visiting tips
Next, you can enjoy the Old Town and I’m pretty confident that you won’t last long and become very curious about the food. You just cannot miss the Romanian Sarmale and other famous traditional food that have a somewhat similar flavor to their Turkish counterparts or Balkan cuisine. There are plenty of traditional, easy-to-spot restaurants and offers, so many that it will make you ask yourself why you didn’t book more days off in Bucharest. Underestimating this city is simply not an option! Bear in mind that Bucharest is on the list for hosting a European Capital edition and more and more historical landmarks are starting to shine every year. The food culture in Romania and Bucharest is truly unique with a mix of the Oriental and Balkan cuisine that can inspire any traveler. The best and most comprehensive experience I would recommend to make things go as smooth as possible would be to set a walking plan, with the target perimeter being the old center and its surroundings. Like this, you get to see most of the museums (except the Romanian Peasant Museum and Grigore Antipa) and have the chance to make your way through the more hidden historical buildings that require an adventurous spirit. It will also connect your cultural appetite to your instinct of trying the local food culture. A walking tour is what most tourists opt for because you can immerse yourself in the local vibe and hear the rare east version of a Latin language. The Romanian language is a mixture of many languages, such as Slavic, Greek, Turkish and many others but it still sounds very much alike to Italian, Spanish, and Catalan.
Don’t visit all at once
Bucharest has multiple personalities and has seen many generations of different people with various energies. No matter how you want to visit it, fast-paced or in a more relaxed way, the Romanian capital will always welcome you future time and you can always find more places to visit, near the city center or outside the city. There are many organized tours and natural parks that stretch as far as the Danube river. Some people told me they booked a week only to taste the amazing nightlife the city offers. Indeed, as an ex-local (I’ve been living there for 24 years), I couldn’t agree more. There are so many festivals, regardless of the season and so many events all around the place that it is almost impossible to get bored or not to try something new every few months. Ranging from rock concerts to bicycle events, people know how to have fun and how to be multicultural. Don’t forget to cycle on Calea Victoriei!