(photo by: Ovidiuxx)
Caption: Bucharest’s Palace of the Parliament is Europe’s largest building.
Bucharest for Beginners
One of the coolest things about Bucharest is that it dates back to 1459, making it quite the historical city. Bucharest today is Romania’s capital and the country’s largest city. There’s some debate as to how many people actually call Bucharest home, but the number is somewhere between 2 and 3 million. Naturally, this makes Bucharest Romania’s cultural, financial, and industrial center. There’s a ton to see in Bucharest; after all, the city is more than 500 years old. As such, first-time visitors should not fly in blindly, so to speak. Here’s some helpful information about Bucharest for beginners.
Before I tell you about some of the amazing Bucharest sites, I want to give you some helpful tips for navigating through the city. One of the greatest things about Bucharest is this European city offers free, that’s right, FREE, walking tours. There is no better way to get your bearings in unfamiliar territory than to have a local show you the ropes. Take advantage of Bucharest’s free guided walking tours once you arrive. You’ll get to know your surroundings, and it won’t cost you a dime!
Bucharest has an amazing transit system also, and visitors find that anywhere in the city and surrounding areas is easily accessible by bus, subway, trams, and trolley buses. There are also private mini-buses and plenty of cabs. Bucharest is Romania’s rail hub, so you’ll have zero problems catching a train to anywhere in Romania or surrounding European countries. Map out your trip before you land to determine which transit passes will save you the most money – who wants to spend money on a cab when there are souvenirs to buy?
Okay, let’s check out some of Bucharest’s amazing sites!
Things to See/Do
I tend to lump in the things to see with the things to do because, well, you’re doing while you’re seeing! Bucharest is rich with history, so of course, you have to check out the city’s amazing architecture, some of which is neoclassical and some of which is a combination of the Bauhaus and Art Deco periods. The most amazing building of all to see in Bucharest is its Palace of the Parliament… although, now that I think about it, that building isn’t that old. Oh well! You still have to see it!
Bucharest’s Palace of the Parliament was completed in 1997, and it is the largest building in Europe and the second-largest building in the world. It’s also the most expensive and heaviest building in the world. Hey, when the Romanians decide to build a magnificent structure, they really go all out! The 3.875-million-square-foot structure – no, that wasn’t a typo – is 12 stories tall above ground, with an additional four stories underground. The Palace of the Parliament has 1,100 rooms, glorious halls, and some incredible terraces you can step out on and pretend you’re the mayor of Bucharest!
Ah, irony: After you’re done visiting the Palace of the Parliament, head on over to Bucharest’s Revolution Square. What’s so ironic about that, Theresa? Well, many Romanians don’t actually consider the Palace of the Parliament to be such a great building because it was built by the Communists while Romania was still under Communist rule. During its construction, many Romanians revolted against the Communist regime, and those protests took place in what is now called “Piata Revolutiei,” or Revolution Square. Take a step back in time, to the late 1980s to be exact, and stand on the same ground where a country overthrew its Communist regime and gained its freedom.
Since I subtitled this section “Things to See/Do,” let’s talk about a few do’s. While in Bucharest, you must enjoy its natural beauty. Bucharest has many parks and gardens, some of which have the reputation of being the best in all of Romania. Toward the northern end of the city, you’ll find Parcul Her?str?u, the city’s biggest park. This beautiful park has a lake ready for boat rides and some glorious picnic areas. You should also spend plenty of time in Bucharest’s public gardens. They are absolutely beautiful and a relaxing break from the city’s hustle and bustle.
Bucharest has quite a scene after dark, too. Nightlife in Bucharest is filled with visits to concert venues, lounges, nightclubs, and plenty of pubs. Drink and dance the night away, or drink and kick back while you listen to any genre of music you can think of. Bucharest’s night scene has it all, including classical, electronic, punk, and rock. You can even visit Club Piranha, which is a club terraced in the middle of the woods. There are definitely some wild critters roaming around the outside of this venue!
Grab Some Grub
Traditional Romanian cuisine is eclectic because Romania has an eclectic past. Romanian food has hints of the Ottoman Empire mixed with Bulgarian, German, Hungarian, and Serbian influence. In other words, there are plenty of sour soups, goulash, sausage, and sauerkraut among other traditional cuisine. If this isn’t your cup of tea, don’t worry. The food choices in Bucharest are as eclectic as Romanian cuisine itself. Some notable restaurants to visit are:
- Arcade Café: Affordable Romanian food is served in this cozy Bucharest establishment, and there is a beer garden in the back serving fantastic Romanian brews. If you’ve had a few too many in the beer garden, drop your inhibitions and join in on the restaurant’s evening karaoke! You’ll find Arcade Café at 30 Strada Smardan in Bucharest’s city center.
- The Artist: For an impeccable yet different experience, eat at The Artist, also in Bucharest’s city center. The Artist was opened by Dutch chef Paul Oppenkamp, so the food is a mix of traditional Romanian cuisine with a Dutch twist. Instead of knocking back a brewski with this meal, try one of Romania’s fine wines. Head to 13 Strada Nicolae Tonitza to eat at The Artist.
- Caru’ cu Bere: This is Bucharest’s most photographed restaurant because it was built in 1879. Caru’ cu Bere is as beautiful as its food is delicious. You’ll eat traditional Romanian cuisine and drink beer from one of Bucharest’s oldest breweries surrounded by dark walls, vaulted ceilings, and golden embellishments. Caru’ cu Bere is located at 5 Strada Stavropoleos.
- Lente & Cafea: One thing you’re going to discover the minute you touch down in Bucharest is that Romanians smoke… a lot! If you need a reprieve from secondhand smoke, Lente & Cafea restaurant is one of the few in Bucharest that is non-smoking. It also has some really delicious bold fusion chicken and fish dishes. Lente & Cafea is located on Strada Gen. Praporgescu.
This is the just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to things to see, do, and eat in Bucharest. This city isn’t Romania’s biggest city for nothing. You’ll find arts, culture, history, and amazing cuisine nestled within a beautiful European landscape. You might be a beginner to Bucharest, but now you know what to do, so pack your bags and enjoy your trip!