This article describes the top 10 things that you will love in Bucharest and will make your visit an exceptional and memorable one!
Before taking part in my first press trip to Bucharest, I’ve done a little research and made a list of the places I wanted to visit and the famous landmarks I wanted to take pictures of. And just before heading to the airport to take my evening flight, I gave my son his goodnight kiss and told him that I’m leaving for a few days to Bucharest. He immediately jumped out of his bed and asked me to show him where Bucharest is on the huge map hanging on the wall in his room. Together, we found Bucharest on the map and that’s where a big picture of Dracula was. My son got concerned and asked me what that was and why this scary creature all in black is drawn exactly on the place where I was going to. Not wanting him to get worried by telling him the story of a vampire, I just said this was a superhero who protected the country. A superhero just like Batman…! And I was actually telling the truth, as Vlad Dracul is revered as a folk hero by many Romanian nationalists. Eventually, my son kind of got convinced and went back to bed, and then I left to the airport.
I arrived to Bucharest along with 100 other travel influencers for the biggest travel event in Romania. There were influencers from all over the world ready to experience what Bucharest has to offer and convey as much as possible to the rest of the world. There I met my sister who arrived a day before to experience this new destination that has an unusually rich cultural heritage. Experience Bucharest was a fun and successful project organised by a number of local enthusiasts who believe in their country and in its future. They organised all the tours and explained the history and the present of their country by unconventional ways and through experiencing the city.
Shortly after arriving, I learned that while the Palace of the Parliament is magnificent in its size and weight (being the heaviest building in the world and the second largest after Pentagon that it even can be seen from the moon!), the Revolution Square is a place with lots of history behind and a must see for every visitor, and while the legend of Dracula is inexorably linked to Romania and to Castle of Bran in Transylvania, there’s much more to experience and to see in Romania and in Bucharest than these few. And most of the places that we discovered and believe they worth visiting are not yet described in travel guides, and not available through google search results. So the homework I did before arriving to Bucharest was far from being complete. Experience Bucharest was such an eye opening one!
During this trip we stayed in one of the luxury downtown hotels in Bucharest the ‘Grand Hotel Continental’. It’s a five stars hotel situated within a walking distance from the main attractions in Bucharest. All what we needed to do is to put our comfortable walking shoes on, grab our cameras and start exploring.
Here are the 10 coolest things that we loved in Bucharest that made our stay a memorable one:
- The People
I already knew a few Romanians and through this experience I met many more. They were the best organisers, friendly local guides, amateur photographers, professional staff working in the hotel and restaurants and happy locals. Their friendliness, openness and resilience are amazing. One cannot but fall in love with Romania because of its people. This will make any visitor want to come back again.
- Traditional Food
One of the many things that we loved in Bucharest was their food. Romanian traditional dishes are interesting and delicious. Every meal held a piece of country’s history in it. I really enjoyed tasting ‘Sarmale’; Romanian meat-stuffed cabbage rolls and ‘Mici’ the grilled minced meat kababs. Most traditional dishes are served with ‘Polenta‘ on the side.
After having a satisfying lunch, head to one of the famous coffee shops to have your perfect coffee. Locals like their coffee rich and dark and they take drinking coffee seriously that it’s almost considered as a tradition by itself. Most coffee shops, like most other treasures in Bucharest, are placed in small and sometimes hidden locations. The best way to find out the best coffee shops in Bucharest is to ask local people or take a guided tour to explore traditional food, which will end with drinking coffee in one of the best places in town. We joined the Tasting Bucharest Tour to try traditional dishes and coffee in three different locations. The first one was a traditional restaurant, the second was a fancy restaurant in the same hotel where we stayed and our last stop was to taste coffee in one of the best cafes in town.
- Traditional Drinks
Romania has its special traditional drinks. As a matter of fact, it is one of the biggest wine producers in the world. One of its interesting drinks is the ‘Pasion Blue Chardonnay’. As its name implies, its colour is blue like a clear sky. The coolest thing about this drink is that the colour is completely natural and has no additives in it. Moreover, it is full of antioxidants which make it an anti-aging drink. This drink came out of desire to make something different, unique and exciting at the same time.
Another speciality is the traditional plum brandy called ‘Țuică’. It is Romanians’ favourite and it is made purely from plums. However, this drink is quite strong so be careful especially when trying for the first time! ‘Pălincă’ is the most common traditional fruit brandy made 100% from fruits, such as apples, cherries, pears or blueberries. It is served in almost all occasions in Romania and is considered to bring health benefits such as helping with digestion and alleviating toothaches.
- Hidden alleyways and secret passages
Treasures in Bucharest are hidden everywhere. It’s enough to walk around the city to discover them. Just get your camera ready to capture the best photos of the most amazing views that will get revealed in front of you.
Once on a rainy afternoon, while we were leaving our hotel to catch a tour in the old town, it started raining cats and dogs. Not being prepared for this, we deviated from the main street and entered an alley, which turned out to be an amazing surprise! Pasaj Victoria was covered with rainbow-coloured umbrellas hanging up high in the sky. These umbrellas not only made us happy, but also protected us from the heavy rain till it became lighter and could continue our journey. You can also stop for a slice of pizza or a drink at the Colosseum restaurant in the same passage.
- Contrasting architecture
Bucharest has been named as the ‘Little Paris of the East’ for its fascinating architecture of the buildings that were constructed in the belle epoque style and the romantic allure that visitors still enjoy passing by a number of its streets today. However, Bucharest is viewed as a city of contrasts. Due to the regime change and many other factors, the construction style has drastically changed and many buildings were abandoned.
To admire the architecture of Bucharest we went on a Treasure Hunt Tour in the Armenian quarter. We were given a map, a list of clues and a timeframe to spot unique architectural gems in this charming quarter. These couple of hours were time well spent in exploring the city. This part of the city has some of the most photogenic 19th century houses in Bucharest. And these houses were actually rehabilitated, unlike other 19th century buildings that are usually rented by embassies, restaurants, etc. We were able to identify tens of mascarons (faces on building to frighten away evil spirits), bow windows, arcades, domes and even a princess tower. It was an informative and fun experience.
On the next day, we went on a ‘Walk and Shoot Tour’ through which we discovered the slums and abandoned buildings at the outskirts of Bucharest.
- Taste the garlic
We joined the Garlic Tour organised by My Secret Romania during which we have not only tasted delicious food made with lots of garlic, but also learnt about the magical practices and darker beliefs of vampires and evil spirits in Romania. All these stories we listened to while enjoying mouthwatering spreads with garlic, garlic soup and roasted potatoes with garlic. Why garlic? Because it is believed that it protects people and homes from evil spirits, in addition to its healing powers from sickness. All food was amazing and the atmosphere in this restaurant owned by a young couple was pleasant. If you are a garlic lover, make sure to join this tour with empty stomach to enjoy the deliciousness. Bringing some mints with you would be a good idea for afterwards.
- Beautiful bookshop
Carturesti Carusel is probably the most visited shop in Bucharest. The beautiful architecture and design of this six-floored shop attracts many visitors, as in addition to all the books, oddities, gifts and souvenirs that you can buy there, it is considered one of the most instagrammable places in Bucharest. It also has a lovely coffee shop on the top floor and is situated right in the Old Town of Bucharest (which is actually the newest old town in the world).
- The largest corkscrew collection
Bucharest has the largest corkscrew collection in the world. It is a privately owned collection that includes more than 30,000 pieces collected from all around the world. It is located at the Museum of Romanian Records and is not yet open for the public. However, pre-organised visits can be arranged for interested groups. After seeing this unique collection, we learnt that corkscrews have not only been used to open wine bottles, but they were also used to open beer, perfume, medicine and ink bottles.
- Rooftops and nightlife
Several bars in Bucharest offer a magnificent view on the old town. In Pura Vide Sky Bar you can have the best cocktails with an incredible view. If you get the chance to watch a sunset from there, it will be an unforgettable one.
The nightlife is vivid and visiting bars, lounges and clubs is a must for all nightlife lovers. Even if you are not into partying till morning, in Bucharest there’s something for everyone. You can head to a wine bar and taste local drinks in an amusing atmosphere. Another plus that makes nightlife in Bucharest amazing is that it’s not expensive!
- Dance in the streets
If you don’t feel like partying till late, you can simply join an open party along with hundreds of people dancing in the main square in the Old Town every Saturday evening. Fun is guaranteed!
Bucharest is a place that I loved experiencing, and I will always want to visit again!
Disclosure: We were invited to Bucharest as a part of the Experience Bucharest campaign.