10 Things You Shouldn’t Miss in Romania’s Capital City
1. Boulevards and Squares
The central part of Bucharest is dominated by large squares and busy boulevards bordered by imposing buildings. Most of this architectural feature of the city is owed to the communist leader Nicolae Ceauşescu, who envisioned this new Civic Centre to the detriment of the previous Parisian aspect of the Capital.
To grasp the true dimension of this phenomenon, take a walking tour of the city, starting from the Constitution Square in front of the Palace of the Parliament to Victory Square. Follow Victory Avenue if you want to admire exquisite inter-war architecture or stroll along Brătianu, Bălcescu, Magheru and Catargiu boulevards for a display of eclectic architecture from the past and present and some window shopping. For a change, continue to walk on the tree-lined Kiseleff Road, along numerous museums, green spaces and pre-World War II residences, to reach the grandiose Triumphal Arch.
Museums in Bucharest, boasting with a wide array of exhibits, are one of the main attractions of the capital, alluring for almost any type of tourists.
If you’d like to explore the history of Romania and Bucharest, you can head to the National History Museum and to the Old Court of Bucharest. The Village Museum and the Museum of the Romanian Peasant will introduce you to the Romanian way of life, our traditional customs and ethnological treasures. Art enthusiasts will have plenty to admire at the National Art Museum and at the small, yet very elegant Zambaccian Museum, while the Natural History Museum is children’s favourite place.
3. Churches and Monasteries
Religion occupies an important place in the hearts of the Romanians, who often find the time to pray and go to church. Some of these religious edifices spread in and around Bucharest are recently built, while others have an added historical and architectural value. However, all of them contain a special atmosphere in which you will feel more relaxed and at ease with yourself, regardless of your religious views.
Strolling through the city’s historical centre, stop for a moment to admire the small Stavropoleos Church, considered to be a valuable jewel from religious, historical, architectural, cultural and artistic points of view. Completely different in terms of size, style and decorations, Caşin Monastery is another must-visit worship place. Not far from Bucharest, Snagov Monastery is a popular tourist attraction less for its religious value and more for the natural setting in which it is located and the legends related to it.
4. Historic Hotels
Looking for accommodation in Bucharest, why not opt for a renovated historic hotel situated in the city centre? Classy and modern, this type of hotels dating from the past centuries is not only a great accommodation option, but also an exquisite architectural attraction which gave birth to countless legends.
Some of the oldest buildings still housing hotels are the ones situated on Victory Avenue. Casa Capşa Hotel and Capitol Hotel hosted, along the years, famous hotels, restaurants and cafes popular due to the fact that they were the meeting places of the city’s artists. Grand Hotel Continental, already existing in the 19th century and known for its Viennese style, received the visit of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria. The first building in the Capital to use reinforced concrete construction, Athénée Palace Hilton Hotel also accommodated special guests, including British and German spies during World War II. Not far from Victory Avenue, Lido Hotel, situated on Magheru Boulevard, was another favourite place of the 20th century high society, which gathered at the hotel’s pool.
5. Traditional Restaurants
A colourful spot on the map of restaurants in Bucharest is given by the capital’s traditional restaurants. Some of them cosy, intimate corners, others busy and bursting with a lively atmosphere, the rustic restaurants serving Romanian traditional dishes are especially popular among tourists due to the fantastic Romanian cuisine.
Hanul lui Manuc and Caru’ cu Bere, situated in the city’s old centre, are representative venues for the traditional restaurants, as well as the main options for almost anyone who comes to Bucharest and wants to enjoy a perfect Romanian dish. La Mama Centrul Vechi Restaurant and Casa Doina are other restaurants where you can have a meal as tasty as our mothers’ home cooked dishes. Burebista Hunting Restaurant and Count Dracula Club Restaurant, though serving traditional dishes, are better known for their own unique specialties.
6. Parks and Gardens
Known for its grey agglomeration of blocks of flats, Bucharest surprises its visitors with numerous green spots, some of them representing true oases of relaxation and common meeting places in the middle of the busy capital. Depending on your preferences, you can come here to stroll, sit on a bench, read and breathe the fresh air, play team sports or perform individual outdoor activities.
The most popular garden for tourists coming to Bucharest is Cişmigiu Garden, mainly due to its central position and wide variety of things to do and see. Herăstrău Park, larger than Cişmigiu and situated to the north of the capital, attracts numerous visitors through the activities that can be done on and near Herăstrău Lake. Carol I, Kiseleff, IOR and Titan parks are only some of the over 40 parks and gardens dotting the Romanian capital.
If you’re not a visiting enthusiast, but you just love shopping, Bucharest can prove to be a worthy destination. From small designer shops hidden on backstreets or quiet squares known only to the locals to shopping boulevards such as Victory Avenue and Magheru Boulevard and huge shopping centres scattered around the city, Romania’s capital has it all.
To make sure you find everything you’re looking for without being always on the run from one place to another, we recommend you to visit one of the city’s twenty shopping centres. Head to AFI Palace Cotroceni, Plaza Romania or Băneasa Shopping City for the chance to shop from over 150 stores under a single roof!
8. Relaxation and Rejuvenation
Spending the day visiting around or shopping can be a tiresome experience, so how about gathering new strengths by paying a visit to a local spa, wellness and fitness centre? Here you will have the chance to eliminate fatigue, reduce stress and improve your health by trying any of the available procedures and therapies.
Bamboo Fitness Club is a VIP location where you can get into shape by participating in kick boxing, pilates or zumba sessions. Boasting with numerous locations around the city, World Class fitness gyms offers superior training conditions and equipments. If you prefer swimming or sports and outdoor activities, you can head to Pescariu Sports & Spa, which provides indoor and outdoor pools, two squash courts and a football field. At Epoque Bucharest Spa you will have the chance to relax under the skilled hands of a masseur, enjoy emotional showers and benefit from beauty treatments.
Due to its events infrastructure, venues and facilities, Bucharest attracts most of the national and international cultural and sports events coming to Romania. In the field of sports, the capital’s National Arena hosts numerous competitions and events attended by tens of thousands of supporters from all around the world, such as the 2012 UEFA Europa League Final.
If you’d like to attend a special event, the Romanian Athenaeum and the Palace Hall host high quality shows, unique performances and music festivals held by major international artists and orchestras. Benefiting from larger capacities, the Roman Arenas and ROMEXPO bring to Bucharest concerts held by leading pop and house artists, open-air shows and international exhibitions.
10. Bars & Clubs
Bucharest is renowned for its nightlife, so if you want to enjoy fine drinks, live music and an entertaining ambience, head to one of its bars and clubs. You will have the chance to dance the night away and have fun with your friends during the various theme parties that spice up the atmosphere.
The upscale Bamboo and BOA clubs are the best choices for unforgettable nights that will make you feel as if you were partying in Ibiza. Let the break of down find you singing karaoke in Coyote Café, dancing in The Office or listening to jazz in Green Hours 22 Club Jazz Café.