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Bucharest, the vibrant capital of Romania, often stands in the shadow of its European counterparts like Paris or Rome. Yet, this bustling city nestled in Eastern Europe has an enchanting allure that can captivate any curious traveler. With its blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, Bucharest unveils itself as a hidden gem waiting to be explored.

We love this small metropole, which we already visited so many times just for its particular atmosphere: mixing a spicy Balkanic and refined French atmosphere. It boasts a rich tapestry of landmarks and monuments that reflect its diverse history. One of the most intriguing sites is Nicolae Ceaușescu's Villa, a place that unveils the enigmatic life of Romania's former leader. Located on the exclusive Primăverii Street, once the «forbiden area» housing the nomenklatura, this imposing villa is a testament to the opulence and excesses of the Ceaușescu era.


Often referred to as "Spring Palace," exudes an air of grandeur and mystery. As we stepped inside, we were transported to an era marked by extravagance and political power. The opulent interiors, adorned with chandeliers, marble, and gold leaf, reveal the extent of Ceaușescu's ambitions. While exploring the villa, visitors can gain insight into the private life of the former dictator and his wife, Elena. It's a window into a world few had access to during those times.

His office has been left as it was the day of the «Conducator» and the hated Elena’s execution. The dining room is equipped of a colour Philips TV dating back from the 1970’s. The president’s modest clothes are hung in his palatial yet impersonal bedroom. The highlight of the visit is the luxury swimming pool, and the colony of peacoks (Ceausescu’s preferred animal) wandering peacefully in the lovely garden. Guided tours provide a fascinating glimpse into the lavish lifestyle that once thrived within these walls. Do like us, and book at least two weeks in advance: the place is very much visited, as there is somehow quite a recent nostalgy of this epoch from part of the older generation and, astonishingly, from the youth also.

However, no visit to Bucharest is complete without witnessing the grandeur of the Palace of the Parliament, also known as the National Assembly Palace. This colossal structure, designed during the communist regime, is a testament to the audacious vision of Nicolae Ceaușescu. The Palace of the Parliament is one of the largest administrative buildings in the world (reputedly number 2 after the Pentagon) and is an awe-inspiring architectural marvel. Its sheer scale and intricate details make it a must-see for any traveler curious about Romania's history.

Standing proudly as a symbol of both ambition and excess, it mesmerizes visitors with its pharaonic proportions. From the colossal chandeliers (made in the city of Medias) that hang in the vast halls to the intricate handwoven carpets, every detail of the palace exudes opulence. The Palace offers guided tours that take you through its impressive chambers, showcasing the craftsmanship and ambition that went into its construction. We could get a last minute ticket from our hotel, but DO recommend advanced reservation. It has many groups visiting: from local students to foreign tourists.

Aside from the Nicolae Ceaușescu Villa and the Palace of the Parliament, Bucharest boasts several other notable landmarks and monuments that capture the essence of the city's history. The Arcul de Triumf, a triumphal arch originally built in 1935 and rebuilt in 1936, stands as a symbol of Romania's unification. It provides an excellent vantage point to admire the city from above and offers a glimpse into the nation's past.

The Revolution Square (Piața Revoluției) is another significant historical site. It was the epicenter of the 1989 Romanian Revolution, which led to the fall of the communist regime. The square is home to the Memorial of Rebirth, a striking modern sculpture that serves as a reminder of the country's tumultuous history. This is also the place where stands the largest and long time leading hotel in town: the «Brutalist-style» InterContinental Bucharest (recently rebranded Grand Hotel Bucharest; though still referred as InterContinental, thus the IC / IHG brand has been transferred to the historic Athénée Palace recently). We booked there, at a higher floor. The view is amazing. It has a panoramic pool in an authentic and unexpected 1960s style. We love that place!

Further exploring Bucharest's rich architectural heritage, we discover the stunning Stavropoleos Monastery. One of the most iconic buildings in the Old Town, this small yet exquisite Eastern Orthodox church that dates back to 1724. The church is known for its intricate carvings and frescoes, which provide a glimpse into the artistic heritage of Romania. As we step inside, we are immediately transported to a world of serene beauty and spirituality.

Continuing our journey through sunny Bucharest, we notice a fascinating juxtaposition of architectural styles. The city seamlessly blends its rich historical heritage with modernity, creating a unique atmosphere that is both captivating and dynamic.

The Old Town (Lipscani) is a prime example of this fusion. This historic district is a maze of cobblestone streets, where centuries-old buildings have been transformed into bustling bars, restaurants, and boutiques. The area is a hub of activity day and night, offering a glimpse into Bucharest's vibrant contemporary culture against the backdrop of its past. It has still some former caravansarals. One of them has been transformed into the most beautiful boutique hotel in town: The Mansion, where we recently had an exquisite stay.

Nearby, the Carturesti Carusel bookstore is a modern architectural gem that beautifully blends the old and the new. Housed in a restored 19th-century building, this bookstore is a haven for book lovers and design enthusiasts alike. Its stunning white spiral staircase and airy interior create a sense of wonder as you explore its shelves.

Bucharest is not only a city of historical and architectural significance but also a thriving cultural hub. The city is home to a variety of museums, galleries, and theaters that offer insights into its rich heritage and contemporary creativity.

The National Museum of Art of Romania, housed in the former Royal Palace, is a treasure trove of European and Romanian art spanning from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. The museum's collection includes works by renowned artists such as Rembrandt, El Greco, and Bruegel, as well as Romanian masters like Nicolae Grigorescu and Ion Andreescu.

We never miss a visit at the Village Museum (Muzeum Satului), with samples of the peasant architecture of all the regions of this wonderful country. It makes us feel like miles away from Bucharest, indeed.

For those interested in modern and contemporary art, the National Museum of Contemporary Art (MNAC) is a must-visit. Located in the Palace of the Parliament, MNAC features a diverse collection of contemporary Romanian and international art, as well as temporary exhibitions that showcase cutting-edge artistic expressions.

Bucharest also boasts a vibrant theater scene, with venues like the Bulandra Theatre and the Odeon Theatre hosting a wide range of performances, from classic plays to avant-garde productions. Attending a live performance in one of these historic theaters is a cultural experience that allows us to immerse ourselves in the city's artistic heritage.

As the sun sets over Bucharest, the city transforms into a lively nightlife destination. Whether you prefer quiet jazz bars, energetic nightclubs, or cozy pubs, Bucharest offers a diverse range of entertainment options to suit every taste.

The vibrant Strada Franceză, or French Street, is a popular nightlife district known for its cozy wine bars and jazz clubs. Here, we like to unwind with a glass of Romanian wine while enjoying live music in an intimate setting. The relaxed atmosphere and artistic vibe make it a favorite among locals and tourists alike.

If you're in the mood for a more energetic night out, the Old Town comes alive with bars and clubs that stay open until the early hours of the morning. Whether you want to dance the night away or simply soak in the bustling atmosphere, the Old Town has something for everyone.

For a taste of Bucharest's alternative scene, visit Control Club, a legendary underground nightclub that hosts cutting-edge electronic music events. The club's gritty, industrial setting and innovative music lineup have made it a magnet for music enthusiasts seeking a unique experience.

While Bucharest is a bustling metropolis, it offers a surprising abundance of green spaces where  we escape the city's hustle and bustle. Gradina Cismigiu, situated in the heart of the city, is a peaceful haven with picturesque pathways, boating on the lake, and charming bridges. It's a perfect spot for a leisurely stroll or a relaxing afternoon picnic.

As we wander through Gradina Cismigiu, we always encounter a blend of history and nature. The park's origins date back to the mid-19th century, making it one of the oldest public gardens in Bucharest. Its well-manicured gardens, tranquil lake, and elegant statues create an atmosphere of serenity.

Lacul Tei, an artificial lake surrounded by a serene park, offers a tranquil retreat for nature lovers. Visitors can rent paddleboats, embark on a small steamer, or simply unwind by the water's edge, providing a serene respite from the urban clamor. The park surrounding Lacul Tei is a favorite among locals for picnics, outdoor sports, and leisurely walks.

For a deeper connection with nature, the Bucharest Botanical Garden (Grădina Botanică) is a lush paradise. Spanning over 17 hectares, it houses an extensive collection of plant species from around the world. The garden's peaceful ambiance and diverse flora make it an ideal place for a leisurely exploration. Stroll through themed sections, from succulents to aquatic plants, and immerse ourselves in the beauty of nature.

Bucharest's green spaces offer not only a reprieve from the city's fast pace but also opportunities for cultural and recreational activities. Many of these parks host events, concerts, and outdoor exhibitions, providing a unique blend of nature and culture.

Bucharest's culinary scene is a delightful journey through Romanian flavors and traditions. Among the many atractive restaurants, Hanul Manuc  (Manuc's Inn) stands out as a historical treasure. This 19th-century inn, with its charming courtyard, serves authentic Romanian cuisine. Savour dishes like mămăligă (cornmeal porridge) and sarmale (cabbage rolls) while enjoying the ambiance of old-world Bucharest. We usually just sit there for a draft beer in the morning or afternoon, as the place is too crowded with groups at lunch and dinner time. Yet, this is when a local orchestra plays entertaining Romanian music.

The restaurant's historic ambiance transports us to a bygone era. The courtyard, surrounded by vine-covered walls and adorned with traditional Romanian decorations, provides an idyllic setting for a memorable dining experience. The menu showcases the diversity of Romanian cuisine, featuring dishes that have been passed down through generations.

Caru' cu Bere, often referred to as "the beer wagon," is another iconic establishment. Located in a stunning Neo-Gothic building, it serves up hearty Romanian dishes alongside a wide selection of local beers. The interior is adorned with intricate woodwork and stained glass, providing an authentic glimpse into Bucharest's past. Still quite touristic, and catering many groups, the quality of the cuisine is higher compared with Hunul Manuc.

Capsa, a historic café and pastry shop, used to be the place to indulge in sweet delicacies. Established in 1852, it exudes an air of elegance. Their delectable cakes and pastries were, even during the reign of Ceauscu and its many restrictions, the perfect accompaniments to a leisurely afternoon coffee. Capsa has long been a favorite gathering spot for intellectuals, writers, and artists, adding to its rich history. It is unfortunatly much left down since a few years, and seems to have been very much affected by the post-COVID crisis. Yet, their pastry shop is always it has only one table… The quality of the cakes is still quite OK, though the selection isn’t what it used to be during the golden years of this institution: this was the last place offering cakes from the 1920s, like «Joffre» celebrating the French marshall. During our last visit, in Autumn 2022, the offer was more than limited. It might have improved in the meanwhile, hopefully. Note that Capsa also operates a shabby hotel, which we don’t recommend. 

For a unique dining experience by the water, Pescăruș Restaurant offers picturesque views of Herastrau Lake. The menu focuses on fresh seafood and Mediterranean cuisine, making it an ideal spot for a romantic dinner or a special celebration. The serene backdrop of the lake, especially at sunset, adds a touch of magic to our dining experience al fresco by the attractive terrace.

That’s one of our most recommended addresses in Bucharest with the remarkable, and new, Noeme, located in the former Jewish Quarter, not far from the Piața Unirii.

Bucharest is a city of surprises, where history and modernity, culture and nightlife, coexist harmoniously. It's a place where those interested by history can explore the enigmatic past of Nicolae Ceaușescu while savoring the flavors of traditional Romanian cuisine. It's a city where green oases provide moments of serenity amid the urban hustle, and where art and culture thrive in museums, theaters, and galleries.

As we wander through Bucharest's streets, and we did a lot for many years, we always discover hidden gems and unexpected delights around every corner.

Whether we're drawn to the grandeur of historic landmarks, the tranquility of green parks, or the vibrant energy of the city's cultural scene, Bucharest invites the curious traveller to uncover its secrets and create lasting memories. In the heart of Eastern Europe, this curious traveler's gem awaits, ready to enchant and inspire all who venture into its embrace.




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