Bucharest, the capital of contrasts

August 7, 2016

by Corina Matei

I was born and raised in this city, so it never impressed me in that way. But I slowly discovered its potential through the eyes of foreign tourists I met in the Old City. Until an American friend, that had literally seen a big part of this world, came in my country to see me. I made a tour for him, he insisted he wanted to see the city. After three days, he was so impressed, I couldn’t believe. That day I was convinced that Bucharest is worth visiting!

The place where even the contrasts mix

Bucharest is a city that changes at every step, without warning you. From small and cramped streets to big and green parks, where you do not hear the traffic anymore; from the huge communist buildings to small beautiful interbelic houses; from crowded boulevards to nice and quiet places; from pour neighbourhoods to the most imposing malls. But you’ll get used to it!

What can you see?

I made a list for you of the most important places in my city:

  • Palace of Parliament
  • Village Museum
  • Văcărești Delta
  • Victoria Avenue
  • Old City
  • Bucharest Parks

Palace of the Parliament, the most touristic place…

…is the building of Palace of the Parliament because he second largest administrative building in the world. And the world’s most expensive administrative building! Personally, I think it is a unaesthetic immensity, but the tourists love it. Also known as the House of the Republic, it was built by Nicolae Ceaușescu, our communist president. Hi didn’t manage to finish the building when he was shot, he had planned to have few floors more. In the interior, I must admit that is pretty impressive.

You don’t see everyday such wealth, not only of the object exposed, but also of the syles, decorations, materials. The greatness of the communist style impress everyone who enters there: magnificent halls, chandeliers, marble columns, endless carpets, glass ceilings, crystal chandeliers, curtains with gold fringes and mirrors of 10 meters high…

The tour includes the upper terrace, which I consider is the perfect place to admire Bucharest, because it is almost in the center o the city. You’ll see the Union Square with its fountains, Basarab Bridge, Morii Lake and the Monument of King Carol’s Park.

After you finish the 2 hours tour of Palace of Parliament, you’ll have seen only 5% of the building! And I guarantee that you’ll be tired and your feet hurt!

National Village Museum, an oasis of relaxation

Attached of the biggest green area in the Capital, Herăstrău Park, Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum gives you the opportunity to meet Romanian culture. It is an open air museum at the shore of the lake, extended to 100.000 m2. Being an ethnographic museum, you will see 270 peasant houses and annexes from all over the country.

A delta in the middle of the city

Văcărești Delta is an unique place. But let me tell you its story. In the communism period, Văcărești was a great plan of Ceaușescu. It was designed to be a lake to protect Bucharest of the floods. After 1989, the place slowly became a landfill, because that project was not viable, till the authorities had forbidden that the trash be thrown there. And the nature itself reconquered that abandoned territory. After 2010, here were seen different species of animals and birds that normally did not live in a city. Now, there are around 95 species of birds. Bunnies, otters, ferrets, foxes and muskrats live there, too. So, that forgotten place between buildings became a natural reservation.

Victoria, an avenue that you must walk slowly

Victoria Avenue is the most famous street in Bucharest, due to its neoclassic old buildings  – from the period that Bucharest was called „The Little Paris”. I recommend you to take the metro till the Victoria Square Station. You’ll exit right in the square, where there are four important buildings: Victoria Palace (Government), Grigore Antipa Natural Science Museum, Romanian Peasant Museum and Geology Museum.

Victoria Avenue starts from here, it has 2,7 km and finishes at the crossroad with Independence Avenue, by the Dâmbovița River. A part of it is classified as historic monument. One you walk down the street, you will admire many buildings that harmoniously combine different architectural styles.

The most impressive buildings are:

  • Cantacuzino Palace is a rococo, French neoclassical and art nouveau style. The big entrance is „guarded” by two lions.
  • The Romanian Academy – is one of the oldest buildings in the city
  • Știrbei Palace is a masive construction wich shelters Ceramics and Glass Museum
  • The White Church is a XVIII century coquettish edifice.
  • Romanit Palace (Art Collections Museum) – is a impressive building with a large opening. The museum contains 44 collections of art grouped by historical periods.
  • Romanian Athenee from George Enescu square was built in 1888 and it is an novel combination of styles: eclectic and neoclassical.
  • Carol I Central University Library is a historical building from 1893. In the front of the Library is located the statue of King Carol I.
  • Royal Palace (Arts National Museum) was built to be a monarchical center. It became the shelter of te most important museum of art in Romania.
  • Crețulescu Church is one of the most important architecture monuments in the city. Many couples wast to get married in here.
  • Odeon Theatre is the only theatre in Europe with sliding roof.
  • National Military Center is an elegant construction, also a historical monument.
  • CEC Palace impresses with the dome of glass and metal. It is a French architecture from 1900.
  • National History Museum of Romania – it is considered to be the most important museum of the country due to the valuable objects it has. It was established in a monumental building, the Palace of Posts.

The old core of Bucharest

Once you finish Victoria Avenue, on the left hand, you have the Historical City, which is now an entertainment center with bars, terraces and music clubs. The most famous street here is Lipscani, a paved road with shops and bars. On the French Street you will find the Old Court Voivodal Palace, a place you should visit. Opposite the palace there is one of the most beautiful churches in Bucharest, Saint Antoine.

Then, rest at a table in the shade, drinking a cool lemonade at a bar on Smârdan Street. If you’re hungry, go at „Caru’ cu bere” (The cart with beer) on Stavropoleos Street. Is one of the most famous restaurants in the Old City. Here you can taste some of our specialities. So, ask the waiter for a traditional sour soup with vegetables and meat, sarmale (cabbage rolls filled with meat), mici (grilled minced meat) or smoked grilled sausages with polenta.

The City Parks

In Bucharest, we have a lot of big parks, among which Youth Park, IOR Park, Titan Park or AI Cuza Park, Spring Park, National Park. But I’ll send you in most beautiful three places:

Herăstrău Park – you can visit it right after you get out from the Village Museum. I suggest you to go to the Roses Island, to take the boat or to rent a bike to surround lake.

Carol Park – sincerely, I love this park for its landscape. On the hill, there is a 48 meters high monument, The Unknown Hero Mausoleum. You can arrive to its base climbing the monumental stairs, after you cross the bridge on the lake. In front of it, there is an eternal flame, guarded by two soldiers day and night.

Cișmigiu Garden – Cișmigiu is the oldest public garden in Bucharest. It is a historic monument and it has been arranged in the style of English parks. The garden has a special place called ”At the citadel”. There, there are the ruins of a monastery of 1750. In the winter, the lake becomes a big ice skating rink, for the happiness of the locals and tourists.

Cismigiu Gardens_Bucharest Romania

Take a ride

Do not forget to visit the gran boulevard between Union Square until The Roman Square, passing through the University Square. Here you will see a gorgeous building, the Colțea Hospital You can go shopping here!

Bucharest city center is very nice at night. You must take a ride on Basarab Bridge and have a walk by the Dâmbovița Lake till the Spring Park, from where you can see the House of Republic, which is strongly illuminated.

Where is Bucharest?

When you come, you can book your city tour here.

Corina Matei

By Corina Matei

I am a journalist. And a dreamer. And I live for travelling around the world. By this I mean not just the fact of going on a holiday, but also doing my best to learn, interact with people and cultures, visit museums, get lost on some city’s streets. I like to visit city-symbols, yet I love to see non-touristic places. I spend a lot of time at the museums because I consider that some history, tradition and culture of the visited place make the difference in my experience. Besides, I am always curious to taste the food recommended by locals and that's why I try to avoid eating at touristic restaurants in the center. I love to travel „in depth”, but I also have that willing to see as much as I can in a short time. It depends on the region and state of mind. I can't keep all my travel stories just for me, so I need to share them. I write for two print magazine. But you can also find me online, on http://educatedbytravelling.com/ and http://corinamatei.ro/

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