Bucharest is a city of many contrasts, it is quite diverse in terms of its architectural design. The remains of the communist urban planning with the concrete block buildings are there to remind you of the days of Nicolae Ceaușescu’s communist regime.
Then there is the medieval influence inspired by the Western trends, the gothic style which is still preserved till this day, the fortified towns, the Renaissance-style lordly castles, baroque, oriental, neoclassical and the numerous Parisian style buildings which have led to Bucharest being nicknamed Little Paris.
During the four days in Bucharest we got to explore this fascinating city which was covered with a blanket of snow, its amicable character, historical glory, welcoming people and authentic Romanian cuisine. Here are my highlights of Bucharest.
What to see in Bucharest
There are many historical sites and museums one can visit while in Bucharest. For sure warm weather is a plus but if you do find yourself visiting Romania during the winter months, just dress warm and don’t let the snow scare you off.
This is one of the main shopping streets in Bucharest, lined with hotels, boutiques, casinos, historical buildings and museums.
If you follow it north you will come across the famous Bucharest version of the Arc de Triumph, going south you will reach the magnificent Old Town and the classical building which is the CEC bank.
We stayed on Calea Victoriei street at the Radisson Blu Bucharest which is centrally located and easily accessible to all the historical sights of the city.
Walking down south of the Calea Victoriei you will come across the Revolution Square and the statue of king Carol I which is located in front of the Royal Palace which now operates as the National Art Museum.
Here you will also encounter the impressive Romanian Athenaeum which is used as a concert hall and home of the Romanian George Enescu Philharmonic.
The Churches of Bucharest
Walking down the Calea Victoriei and around the Old City we came across a number of impressive churches which have managed to withstand time despite the earthquakes, wars and the communism era.
The most iconic churches are located around the Old City and are reachable by foot.
The Old Court Princely church is considered to be the oldest one preserved in its original form in Bucharest. The Stavropoleos church is a jewel in the heart of the Old Town which dates back to the beginning of the 18th century and is a must-see landmark of the city.
National Art Museum
The National Art Museum of Romania is housed is a former Royal Palace completed in 1837. The Museum is separated into two exhibitions, the National Gallery which is dedicated to Romanian artists showcasing medieval and modern art and spans three floors. The second is the European Art Gallery which is of smaller size.
Being an art lover I greatly enjoyed admiring the unique works of the talented Romanian artists and definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys art.
The ticket for the National Gallery costs 10 lei (€2.50), you can purchase a combined ticket for both exhibitions at 15 lei (€3.50). If you do wish to take photos an extra fee applies.
The Romanian Athenaeum
The Romanian Athenaeum which was built 120 years ago is the architectural and spiritual landmark of Romania. It is here that great Romanian personalities and scientists have presented their works, great musicians have given concerts and numerous orchestras and international soloists have performed.
Inside the Romanian Athenaeum the circular wall of the concert hall is decorated with impressive frescoes which portray the most important moments in the history of Romania.
The Palace of the Parliament
Marissa and I wanted to get the best panoramic view of the city and our hotel’s concierge had recommended that we take the observatory tour of the Palace of the Parliament. The only downfall is that the schedule of the day for the visits is announced at around 10 am daily therefore you cannot plan your visit in advance. We did not get to see this enormous Parliament building from inside but we did get a photo from the outside.
This is the second largest administrative building in the world after the Pentagon in the US, and when Google Maps was telling me that it would take 15 minutes to get there, when we did see it from a distance we realised how big it was, a whole block that would definitely take us at least a good 15 minute walk.
Where to Eat in Bucharest
The food in Romania reminded me a lot of the Russian cuisine. Due to the cold climate there are many meat dishes on the menu, sauces and of course soup. Everything we tried was delicious.
The bill for two was usually around 110 lei so be prepared to spend about 50 lei per person on a meal, that’s approximately €10. Local wine included. During the evenings you can also find live music in many of the local restaurants. Here are some of the restaurants we tried.
5, Stavropoleos Street, Bucharest
Anyone we asked to recommend us a restaurant in Bucharest, this was on top of the list. Located in the heart of the Old Town just off the corner from the Stavropoleos church, Caru cu Bere dates back to 1879 serving the most authentic Romanian dishes in a remarkable historical setting. We had come here for lunch and tried a cream chicken soup and delicious chicken livers.
Episcopiei 9 (langa Ateneul Roman)
There are a few La Mama restaurants in Bucharest. We visited the one just behind the Romanian Athenaeum on two occasions. On Friday evening they had live flute player. They serve traditional Romanian dishes and you can find burgers here too.
4 Kiseleff Avenue, District 1
For my friend Marissa’s birthday we went to the Casa Doina restaurant which is more of a gourmet restaurant serving traditional Romanian cuisine.
The restaurant was built to serve as a pavilion for the glamorous Paris Exhibition of 1890, however it was used as a restaurant for the Bucharest elite instead. We then had Blu Mixology cocktails for each zodiac back at our Radisson Blu Bucharest hotel Blå Lounge Bar.
Coffee and more
If you would like to enjoy a warm cup of coffee there are a few places you may try out. One is the Van Gogh Café which is located right in the center of the Old Town.
You may also like to visit the famous Cărturești Carusel book store, there is a coffee shop inside too and while you are there, you might like to pick up a book or two.
Another great option is the café inside the historical Athénée Palace Hilton hotel.
Casinos in Bucharest
Gambling in Bucharest is quite common and apparently we have been told that it is a major weekend tourist attraction, where people fly in to try their luck at the casinos. There are casinos next to all the major hotels.
We had one right next to the Radisson Blu Bucharest hotel which is open 24 hours, so we decided to try our luck after I was telling Marissa it might be our lucky day. Didn’t come out millionaires but hey we tried!
Getting to Bucharest
The main airport of Bucharest is Henri Coanda Otopeni International Airport and it is located 17 kilometres from the city center.
If you are flying from Athens, Greece you can get a round-trip ticket for just 26 Euro with Ryan Air. Flight duration: 1 hour 30 minutes.
We took a taxi both ways, the cost is approximately 50 lei which is like 10-12 Euros. The best way to get a taxi is if you go to the ground level of the arrival terminal as the once at the arrival gate usually charge more.
We used taxis and Uber during our stay in Bucharest. It is not recommended to get just any taxi from the street, usually the hotels have their own taxi system where they call in for a taxi. Otherwise you may be charged more than usual.
Have you been to Romania? If not I hope that this post will inspire you to visit Bucharest soon.