In the past Budapest had the reputation of being a place you should plan to spend as little time as possible and leave as soon as you could. Like everywhere, things change and the difficult communist history is being eclipsed and there are many reasons to deliberately stay and explore.
Reasons to spend some time in Bucharest:
- It is a cheaper European capital (of course Romanian countryside is even cheaper but that is the same most places in the world)
- the architecture is an eclectic mix of styles
- the old city is a evening entertainment mecca – but if that doesn’t interest you it is easy to avoid
- the old city area has many of the must-see sights, most of which are in walking distance. For those places you cant walk to, there is an efficient metro system.
- wine and coffee are highlights
Places to visit
What are the key places to see?
- Old city – there is history plus here, but it has been heavily reconstructed, so keep that at the back of your mind as you explore.
- Art Museum: National Museum of Art of Romania: here there are extensive collections. I recommend you set aside enough time to appreciate the largeness of the collection. We started with the European collection and were getting both tired and short of time by the time we got to the Romanian collection. In truth, we truly didn’t do it the justice it deserved. In all we spent about 3 hours here but we should have paced our visit better or made 2 separate visits.
- Parks: even in the heart of the city there are numerous green areas. If you are walking you are almost guaranteed to pass one. No need to chose one and make it a destination, but make sure you take the opportunity to spend some time as you pass.
- Palace of the Parliament. Knowing how much money was spent on this edifice, as a part of one politician’s meglomanical plan makes your heart sink. But regardless, it is worth seeing with your own eyes. We chose to not visit for a number of small reasons but the two logistical ones were the requirement to book 48 hours in advance and that the tours didn’t have a overwhelmingly good reviews
- Cotroceni National Museum. We tossed up between Cotroceni and Palace Primavera and chose Cotroceni due to the art works hung throughout the building. On our tour was a chap he had been to Primavera the previous day and he said that he prefered Cotroceni and said that Primavera was so ostentatious it was a little offensive.
To visit Cotroceni you do need to register in advance, but this can be done easily via their website http://www.muzeulcotroceni.ro/viziteaza/vizitare_eng.html . . .
- Any of the numerous Orthodox churches. We felt comfortable walking into them, but we deliberately didn’t flash our cameras around.
Do NOT get fooled into thinking that the Teilor Unirea “shopping centre” is a shopping centre in the way we think of a shopping mall. It is a collection of shops, but not really interconnected. If you are looking for a large scale mall AFI Palace Cotroceni is a good destination. It is easily accessible on the metro and has the big-name stores and supermarkets under one roof.
Two cracker wine bars: both have different atmospheres but are both worth visiting to try the fabulous Romanian wines. As with any wine comparision it was great to taste good wines and be able to choose the styles you liked more than others. Abels Wine Bar and Industry Wine bar
Like many places around the world there is a strong and growing coffee scene. It is also the case here in Budapest, so look out for the independent coffee shops. For us the place to go was The Urbanist, as it was close to our hotel and served a good brew
Caru’ cu bere Yes it touristy, but the atmosphere is fun and there were plenty of locals there.
This brewery is part of a chain of restaurants, Citygrill group. Other brands in the same stable are City Grill and Hanu lui Manic. In all of their restaurants there is an air of corporate systems in place, including streamlined ordering and billing systems. But you can still be guaranteed a good portion of the waiting staff have a traditional genuine surly attitude 🙂
The following websites were very useful when it came to researching where to eat in Bucharest
- A well researched list, full of information and honest opinions https://www.2foodtrippers.com/bucharest-food-guide/
- Another set of opinions and options https://foodieflashpacker.com/best-restaurants-in-bucharest-romania/
- And always good, particularly for eastern european distinations is the in your pocket guide
Where to stay?
I did a lot of searching before deciding to stay near Piata Unirii. The hotel was the Europa Royale, which was a very pleasant mid-range hotel.
Once we got there we realised the old town was quite compact and our location was ideal for walking and accessing buses (including the direct bus to the airport) and to the metro.
Bucharest, is an interesting city and well worth some time