The city of Bucharest is included to the region Bucharest and to the county Bucharest
Presentation of the destination
Bucharest, capital of Romania, is an architectural patchwork of French baroque, medieval ecclesiastical and grey brutalist blocks, with a history dating back to ancient times. In the 1400s it was ruled by none other than Vlad the Impaler, the man behind the Dracula myth. Only 25 years ago the country was still under the heel of Ceauşescu, the brutal communist dictator executed in 1989, but Bucharest shows little trace of its sad past. With fantastic museums, a long and interesting history, plus opera, theatre and green spaces, Bucharest has become a great holiday destination. With windy winters and mild summers, Bucharest has nearly 2 million inhabitants, predominantly Romanians, although significant minorities include Roma, Hungarians, Jews and Turks. Inhabitants speak Romanian, the closest living language to Ancient Latin, and the currency is the Romanian leu. The time zone is UTC+2.
Points of interests / things to see
In the early 80s Ceauşescu razed nearly a fifth of the Romanian capital to the ground, destroying 30,000 homes to make space for the gargantuan Palace of Parliament, along with rows of high-density standardised apartment blocks, built on the cheap and now starting to crumble. This act of desecration so horrified the Romanian people it earned the nickname ‘Ceauşima’: Ceauşescu’s Hiroshima. The Palace of Parliament he built in place of the historic buildings is still the largest civilian building, the most expensive administrative building and the heaviest building in the world. It’s a monument to the gross excesses of a brutal regime, with one million cubic metres of Transylvanian marble, 3,500 tonnes of crystal for chandeliers, and ornate upholsteries embroidered with silver and gold. However, the revolution cut short Ceauşescu’s plans, and now the palace stands unfinished. Visitors can tour the building, which hosts a variety of political organisations, conference halls, businesses and NGOs, but still serves as a reminder of the bad times for many citizens. Address: B-dul Naţiunile Unite Street. Website: www.cdep.ro. Call +40 21 414 1426 to book tours. Admission: 25 lei (adults)/13 lei (children). Opening hours: 10am – 4pm.
Revolution Square on Victory Avenue is the epicentre of 20th century Romanian history, as it was here that Ceauşescu’s career peaked, and where it ended. His 1968 speech calling for independence from Soviet rule marked the apex of his popularity, galvanising the people to take up arms and fight for independence. But 31 years later the worm had turned: his final speech was a wooden emulation of his former glory, and the downtrodden, angry crowd saw his weakness and began to turn violent. He and his wife fled by helicopter, but it was too late. The revolution had begun, and just three days later he was executed by firing squad. Nowadays the square is dominated by the Memorial of Rebirth, a wire crown skewered on a marble obelisk slyly referred to as ‘the potato of the revolution’. The National Museum of Art, the Athenaeum and the University of Bucharest Library are just some of the historic buildings that line the square. Get up close and you’ll see some are still pockmarked with bullet holes. Address: Calea Victoriei.
Also known as Lipscani after the main street in the area, Bucharest’s Old Town is a charming mix of history, local traditions and modern cultural life. Neglected during the poverty and excesses of Ceauşescu’s regime, major renovations have revitalised much of this beautiful historic area, and now it’s a romantic and quirky place to spend some time. Dating back to the 16th century, the Old Town was the artisans and merchants’ district, and the streets are still named after various trades and guilds. Earthquakes and fires destroyed most of these buildings, and so now there’s not much older than the 19th century. Points of interest include the scant remains of the Princely Court, where the Wallachian Princes ruled for 400 years, as well as Manuc’s Inn, the last caravanserai tavern in Europe. You can also spot the ‘She-Wolf’, a statue commemorating the founding of Rome that shows Romulus and Remus with their wolf protectress. It was a gift from Rome in 1906, in recognition of Romania’s Latin roots. Or just enjoy the pavement cafes and shopping.
This gorgeous concert hall in the centre of Bucharest is a symbol of rich Romanian culture. Constructed 120 years ago, the beautiful neo-classical building has been inscribed as a European Heritage site. The initial construction was partly funded by public donations, and the venue was renovated in the 1990s at a cost of €9 million, now housing plays, concerts and opera once again. Wander past the statue of Romanian poet Mihai Eminescu in the small park outside, and admire the white columns of the building. Inside there’s an auditorium and a conference hall, elegantly decorated with pink marble, gold leaf and a remarkable fresco. Painted by Costin Petrescu using the al fresco technique, the mural is 75 metres long and encircles the concert hall, showing scenes from Romanian history from the Roman emperor Trajan’s conquest of Dacia to the 1918 creation of Greater Romania. The classical music events held here are world class, with stunning acoustics, and tickets are much coveted, so grab one if you can. Address: 1–3 Franklin Street. Phone +40 21 315 0024 to arrange a visit, or visit the website (http://fge.org.ro/en/tickets.html) to buy concert tickets.
Housed in a fantastic old red brick hall on Șoseaua Kiseleff is one of Bucharest’s most interesting museum, the Museum of the Romanian Peasant. Off-beat and colourful, the collection includes all sort of peasant paraphernalia, from clothing, religious icons and tools to artworks and photographs. Of particular interest is the communism exhibition downstairs, which examines how Ceauşescu’s policy of collectivism crippled the rural poor and almost completely destroyed an ancient way of life. It contains some of the propaganda exhibits displayed in the museum under Ceauşescu, which now seem deeply ironic. There’s also an entire peasant house laid out in a convincingly naturalistic manner. There’s not a huge amount of English signage, but audio guides are available, and there are some fun hands-on workshops for kids. On weekends the courtyard hosts traditional craft fairs, and there’s also a small independent cinema and a great café on site. Address: 3 Șoseaua Kiseleff. Website: http://www.muzeultaranuluiroman.ro/home.html. Admission: adults 8 lei/children 2 lei. Opening hours: 10am – 6pm Tue–Sun.
Discover more about the Brâncovenesc architecture that typifies Romanian building with this trip to Mogoșoaia Palace and Brâncovenesc Museum, just 15 km from the capital. Also known as Romanian Renaissance, this style evolved in the 17th and 18th centuries, and is a unique synthesis of Byzantine, Ottoman, Venetian and Baroque architecture. The Mogoșoaia Palace is one of the most famous examples, set in exquisite gardens, and housing a museum and art gallery. Bus 460 will take you there from Bucharest.
This stunning monastery is located on an islet in the middle of Snagov Lake, a favoured vacation spot of the communist cronies just an hour from Bucharest. The area is now a nature park, with rolling forests surrounding the crystal lake. The monastery was founded in the 14th century and is one of the alleged burial sites of Vlad the Impaler. Mysterious, peaceful and beautiful, it’s best reached by car. There’s a 15 lei entrance fee and additional charges for photography.
Perched on a rocky outcrop, capped in snow and with the Carpathian Mountains looming above, Bran Castle looks like a Disney set. Commonly known as ‘Dracula’s Castle’, it’s the only castle in Romania that fits Bram Stokers description, although he never visited. Nonetheless, Bran Castle is an excellent destination for vampire lovers or anyone interested in separating the mythical bloodsucker Dracula from his gruesome historical counterpart, Vlad the Impaler. Plan your visit using the excellent English website: http://www.bran-castle.com/.
Deep in the heart of the Carpathian Mountains, on a medieval route linking Transylvania and Wallachia, the spires of Peles Castle rise over the forest. Built in the Neo-Renaissance style between 1873 and 1914, the castle was a hunting reserve and summer retreat for King Carol I. Today’s visitors can tour the ornate interior and explore the stunning grounds. The CRF train from Bucharest takes around 90 minutes to the nearest town, Sinaia. More information on the website: http://visit.peles.ro/.
Vacation rentals in Bucharest (Bucharest)
How to get there ?
If you’re coming from Europe or the Middle East there’s plenty of standard and budget flights to Bucharest, landing at Henri Coandă International Airport, also called Otopeni after its location 18km north of Bucharest. Be warned, the airport’s concessions are extremely expensive, and exchange rates are up to 25% worse than in the city. For 8.60 lei you can catch either the 783 bus to the city centre, or the 780 to the main train station, both journeys taking around 40 minutes. Remember to stamp your ticket. There’s a train link too, but it’s more expensive and a longer journey. Be extremely wary of taking taxis in Bucharest, as taxi scams are notoriously commonplace and sometimes very scary. Thankfully there’s now a taxi help desk in the airport to help you find a reputable ride. Other options for entering Romania include Eurolines bus links with Moldova, Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria and many train links too, with Hungary, Ukraine, Moldova, Bulgaria, Italy, Austria, Greece, Turkey and Russia all connected. Public transport within the city is extensive but crowded. The four metro lines service the suburbs from around 2 lei one way. Buses, trams and trolleybuses use smart cards called Activ Cards. Car rental starts at around 90 lei a day.
Hotels in Bucharest (Bucharest)