10 Things to Do when you Visit Bucharest
Bucharest is a medium-sized city with 1.8 million official inhabitants (it is estimated that in total it is about double). The city, with a circular plan, has a diameter of about 26 km with the center fixed at the church of St. George (Sfantu Gheorghe), a few steps from Unirii Square (Piata Unirii). In this article we give you some ideas to visit Bucharest.
Not being a very large city, it’s easy to visit on a weekend, at most from Friday to Sunday (just don’t be tempted by large shopping centers).
1 – Take a City Tour
When visiting a city, it is very important to get an idea of its layout. Today tools like Google Map help us a lot but nothing is better than seeing with our own eyes, perhaps from a privileged point of view.
So, take a tour of the city with Bucharest City Tour , the 24-hour tourist service. The mini trips, lasting 20-25 minutes, leave from Unirii Square and show you the city from the point of view raised from a double-decker in London style at a price of just over 5 euros (2.1 for children between 7 and 14 while under-7 travel for free).
2 – Visit Bucharest and Row on the Herastrau Lake
Bucharest is located on a huge water layer. For this reason, the city is dotted with generously sized parks, all with lakes, rivers and water channels.
The characteristic that most strikes foreigners, in addition to cleaning, is the fact that these parks are usable 24 hours a day. Visit the city in Summer and you will see families with children attending parks even at night.
The Herastrau Park (now named after the last King of Romania, Mihai I), with its 187 hectares of greenery and water, is the true lung of the city. Being only one metro stop from the Government Palace in Piazza della Vittoria (Piata Victoriei), it is very easy to reach and never crowded.
In the center of the park, there is a navigable lake of 74 hectares which can also be visited with a vaporetto service. On the shores of the lake, you can take long walks and frequent trendy bars.
I find it particularly relaxing to rent a small rowing boat (a couple of euros per hour) to enjoy the silence on the water, also guaranteed by the thick vegetation that separates the lake from the surrounding, crowded, downtown streets.
3 – Visit the Palace of Parliament
The Pentagon, in Washington, is the largest building in the world for footprint. The hangar in which the Shuttle was built, in turn, is the largest building in the world by volume.
The Palace of the Parliament of Bucharest (Casa del Popolo), built by the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and built in thirteen years from 1984 by a team of 700 architects headed by Anca Petrescu, is, with its 365,000 square meter floor plan, its height of 84 meters and, above all its volume of over two million and a half cubic meters, the largest civilian building in the world.
The building can be visited every day (find here timetables and rates). In about two hours of guided tour, you will have the opportunity to see about 2% of a building unique in the world, built to impress Romanians and foreign visitors and adorned with the most beautiful Carrara marbles.
4 – Visit Bucharest: the Antipa Museum
The National Museum of Natural History Grigore Antipa, located in Piazza della Vittoria (Piata Victoriei) right in front of the Romanian Government Palace, was founded in 1834 by the brother of the Romanian Royal Prince, Ban Mihalache Ghica, and owes its name to the Romanian biologist Grigore Antipa who was its curator.
5 – Visit Bucharest: the Museum of the Village
Romania, of course, is not just Bucharest. The best way to get to know the rural reality of the various areas that make up the country is to visit the National Museum of the Dimitrie Gusti Village.
Located between Herastrau Park and Kiseleff Road (the street where the military parade is held every year), the Village Museum shows us, on a surface of over 10 hectares, a total of 272 authentic rural houses, literally transplanted from the regions of origin.
6 – Visit an Orthodox Monastry
Romania is famous throughout the world for its monasteries laden with millennial history. The most suggestive monastery in Bucharest is that of Cernica (in the photo). The monastery stands on a sort of island joined to the river bank by a tongue of land. It is not easy to reach as it is a little out of the city and, practically, it is not served by public transport.
7 – Taste the Romanian Cooking
Romanian cuisine comes from the rural tradition, mixed with various Hungarian, Turkish and Greek influences. In general, Italians who visit Romania, even for a short period, tend to look for Italian restaurants (which certainly are not lacking, especially in the capital). Instead the Romanian cuisine deserves a taste, indeed …
The advice is to avoid the most famous and inevitably more expensive Romanian restaurants. Often these restaurants are made to attract unsuspecting tourists or to host important dinners of public figures. Dining in one of these restaurants in the center of Bucharest will often force you to put up with a bit tacky, waitresses who insist on tipping at every turn and violinists who will bore you until you pay the “lace” to get them to stop.
8 – Attend a Concert at the Roman Athenaeum
Built between 1886 and 1888 in the heart of the capital, the Romanian Athenaeum (Ateneu Roman) is the symbol of what was Romania before the World Wars and the advent of Communism, when Bucharest was defined as “Micul Parisul” (the small Paris).
When visiting Bucharest, it is worth at least to visit it (it is generally possible during the day). The ideal would be to attend one of the many concerts held there. If you decide to try one of the best acoustics in the world, the advice is to book early, as viewers and musicians come from all over the world.
9 – Spend an evening at Villacrosse Street
I like it during the day, thanks to the incredible light that comes from the all-plastic (or glass?) Yellow cover. Visiting Bucharest without seeing the Villacrosse Passage means not fully understanding the city.
The Passage forms a sort of “U” which starts from the final section of Calea Victoriei, in front of the Police headquarters, reaches the back of the National Bank (therefore in the Lipscani district) and returns to Calea Victoriei.
The alley is literally crowded with cafes and bars, as seen in photos. Despite the receptivity, it is sometimes difficult to find a table, especially if you are a hookah fan.
10 – Spend a Saturday Night in the Old Center
Visiting Bucharest without seeing, at least for a few hours, the nightlife, is a pity. The inhabitants of Bucharest do not call it Centro Vecchio but Lipscani, from the name of the street that crosses it. The name comes from the German merchants who had moved from Leipzig to Bucharest to conduct their business in the eighteenth century.
Abandoned for decades, the Lipscani district is now the center of the city’s nightlife. In recent years, hundreds of bars, restaurants, discos (here they are called clubs) have been opened, breweries, pubs, fast food restaurants and so on and so forth.
A view of Lipscani in the evening is a must if you visit Bucharest. The food (of many, different, nationalities) is good, the beer flows freely and there is a lot of youth.