Today’s blog comes from Tristan Davis, an STA Travel Student Ambassador at New York University (NYU) and an avid budget backpacker! He shares his tips on what to do in Bucharest…
Today’s Bucharest, like many capital cities in Eastern Europe, is often overlooked. This inexpensive city is a great weekend getaway from the more popular cities on the continent or the perfect starting point of a trip through Romania. Like a post-apocalyptic Paris but very much alive, Bucharest is one of those bucket-list destinations you didn’t know you needed to visit.
To do in Bucharest:
Visit the Palace of Justice
With over 1100 rooms, the Palatul Parlametului, or Palace of Parliament, is Bucharest’s most iconic building. It’s not the biggest building in the world, but it is the heaviest, made with thousands of tons of Romanian marble. Designed in powerful Stalinist architecture, the 3-billion euro building was commissioned by President Ceausescu.
Explore the Old Town and Armenian Quarter
Thanks to the neo-Renaissance and eclectic-style architecture, some parts of town may leave you feeling like you stumbled into Paris or Vienna.
Wander through the Pasajul Villacros, through the University square or down Lipscani street. These areas are full of energy, shops, cafes, and impressive buildings. Visit the ruins of ancient Bucharest, the tiny Stavropoleos church, and look out for the statute of Vlad Tepes, the merciless man who inspired Dracula.
Visit The Dictator’s Beautiful Home
From 1967 until 1989, Romania was ruled by communist leader ‘President’ Nicolai Ceausescu and his wife, Elena. Their residence, The Palatul Primaverii, or ‘Spring Palace’, is opulent in every way, boasting a mosaic-tiled swimming pool, indoor and outdoor gardens with peacocks, golden everything, and over 80 rooms filled with classic Renaissance furniture.
The Ceausescu family and the Romanian revolution are essential parts of Romanian history, so this site should not be missed! The Spring Palace can only be visited with a guided tour, so make sure to reserve a time online before going.
After the tour, hang out in the yard with the family’s 5th generation of peacocks.
Dine at its famous restaurants:
Caru cu’Bere (literally ‘Beer Cart’) is a three-floor tavern inside this stunning gothic-revival building. Near the Stavropolous church in the old town, Caru cu’Bere is a perfect mid-day pit-stop or nighttime hangout.
Be sure to try some salty, garlicky snacks like fried Cascaval cheese and stuffed mushrooms. Afterwards, wash it down with a pint or two of local beer.
This historic Hanu’lui Manuc, or ‘Manuc’s Inn’, was originally a caravanserai, or hotel for Ottoman traders, and became a major landmark in Old Bucharest. It became a popular meeting place for government officials, and many treaties were signed here, such as the Treaty of Bucharest.
Today is it one of the nicest restaurants in Bucharest. Choose from a long list of fine and traditional Romanian dishes, from hot stews to spicy goulash, charcuterie platters, and the fresh catch-of-the-day ragout.
Most activities, food, and lodging in Bucharest are very inexpensive, so treat yourself! Manuc’s Inn makes for a great last night in the city. Split a bottle of Wallachian wine with friends and enjoy the atmosphere.
Day-Trips from Bucharest:
In Bucharest for more than a few days? If you’ve got some extra time, take time to explore these nearby beauty spots and sites.
This quiet monastery, located on an island in the middle of Snagov Lake, was founded in the early 15th. It is regarded as the final resting place of Vlad Tepes, the infamous ruler who inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Less than 10 miles from Bucharest, this Brancovenesc estate sits on several acres of marshland. The surrounding gardens and parks are full of Romanian flora and small ponds. The palace was built in the early 1700’s for the Prince of Wallachia, Constantin Brancoveanu.
Inside the palace walls, there is an art museum, a small church, a watchtower, and several restaurants.
There are several more restaurants and bars in the small town of Mogosoaia, at the end of this long boulevard. This site is also free to enter.
Bucharest is truly an underrated city with its diverse architectural styles, delicious food, vibrant bar scene, and tumultuous history. Romania is a land of wonder, full of castles and palaces, and its capital, Bucharest, is not to be overlooked! Follow the rest of Tristan’s adventures on instagram @tristans_expeditions.