The Romanian capital of Bucharest is a city of surprises -- perfect for those looking to travel somewhere a bit different. Bucharest is located in the Southwest of Romania. The city itself has a rich and fascinating history and as a result is eclectic in style as well as in culture. One of Europe's foremost cities for Art Nouveau buildings, it once rivalled Paris or Brussels, whilst later communist-era construction means these grand buildings sit happily alongside the brutalist architecture that is typical of the era. Today it's a modern, cosmopolitan city with a growing economy and a good standard of living. For visitors, a good exchange rate and favourable local prices makes it a cheap weekend. Plan your perfect city break including a beer in the famous Caru' cu Bere Beer Hall, a concert at the stunning Romanian Athenaeum and a visit to the vast Palace of Parliament. A burgeoning student and millennial population as well as a growing middle class means that it's now also home to numerous coffee shops, live music venues and fine dining establishments. Every year Bucharest plays host to cultural events celebrating arts, crafts and modern and classical music as well as the Bucharest Film Festival.
Things to Do
Bucharest offers a wealth of things to do for tourists, and whether you're headed to the city for a weekend or a fortnight, it's easy to fill each day with a range of historic sites, museums, family-friendly activities and day trips. At night the city comes alive with bars, pubs and clubs.
The Grigore Antipa Natural History Museum is one of the best attractions for kids in the city. This fully up-to-date museum presents an interactive exhibition experience including games and video displays. Another great experience for children is a boat ride in the Cişmigiu Gardens. This also happens to be one of the most popular activities for locals as well, especially on hot days, so those with children should consider arriving early in the day to rent a boat. The Museum of the Romanian Peasant and the Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum are also great for families, each offering an excellent way for children to connect with the local history.
Bucharest is a city where history can be visibly experienced from street to street. Start your historic tour by visiting the 17th, 18th and 19th century Orthodox Churches, notably Saint Spyridon the New Church and the Romanian Patriarchal Cathedral. Much of the city's next burst in building occurring during the late 19th century, which is why you can experience much Art Nouveau splendour, most notably at the Crețulescu Palace. A key point during the city's history of course was during the communist-era, which lasted for seven decades in the 20th century. Testament to this time is the vast concrete Palace of Parliament, one of the city's major landmarks that's famed for being the heaviest building on Earth.
Art and culture in Bucharest
Art and culture abound in here; it's a city that's well known for its traditional music and arts. Try to get a reasonably priced concert ticket for a show at the 19th century Romanian Athenaeum, where many visitors find the architecture of the building as much a part of the experience as the music itself. Classical, modern and fine art from Romanian artists can be viewed at the National Museum of Art of Romania, which is located in the Romanian Palace, where there are also a few paintings by Old Masters such as Rembrandt and impressionists including Monet. The National Museum of Contemporary Art on the other hand is the home of the nation's current art movement and is located in a glass wing of the Palace of Parliament.
Since the Romanian Revolution in 1989, Bucharest is gaining more and more traction as a place to have fun of an evening. The city's mixed cultural influences mean there is no set culture in the city. It's a place where you can enjoy traditional cuisine and unashamedly tourist-friendly vibes at the Caru' cu Bere Beer Hall in the Old Town or sample some of Eastern Europe's finest dining at the ARTIST. Once the sun has set, the city's bars and clubs come alive. Head to the Lipsciani District, where the best of these are located.
Getting out and about
Despite the many excellent tourist attractions in the city itself, no trip to Bucharest is complete without a day trip to Transylvania to see where Bram Stoker created his character of Dracula (who was based on Vlad the Impaler, a 15th century leader and hero, despite his bloodthirsty reputation). A must is a visit to Bran Castle, in the heart of Transylvania, but visitors should also stop off at Snagov on the way back to the city, where Vlad is said to be buried on an island monastery. Another worthwhile half day trip is the nearby town of Sinaia. This beautifully preserved town is home to the magical-looking Peles Castle.
Calendar of Events
The city plays host to many annual events, many of which focus on traditional folk arts and crafts or classical music. Others have a more modern focus including the new annual film festival.
- International Opera Festival. This is one of the city's biggest classical music festivals which feature orchestras and ensembles from all over the world. Held in May or June ahead of the main tourist curve, the weather is still cool enough to enjoy the many indoor and outdoor concerts.
- The Traditional Crafts Fair. This event is held every year in June at the Village Museum and celebrates the traditional crafts and arts that the city and country are hugely proud of. This event showcases crafts but also holds workshops on everything from weaving to glassblowing. A good choice for families.
- Bucharest Film Festival. This film festival in later June or early July is fairly young, but has gained much notoriety in Europe for showcasing emerging talent in the field of filmmaking.
- Summer Well. In mid-August, this two-day outdoor music event boasts an alternative line-up and is played out in a stunning location at the Stately Home Stirbey Domain, 15 km from the city centre
- Halloween in Transylvania. Few places on Earth can justifiably celebrate Halloween in quiet the same way as Transylvania. Any visitors lucky enough to be in Bucharest in late October or early November (over the All Saints holiday period) should definitely head to Transylvania around the 31st October, when numerous shows and parties are held in honour of Count Dracula.