Recently, my friend and I went to Bucharest for a weekend. We didn’t know much about the city when we booked the trip except that it was the capital of a country nobody of us had ever been to before and that it was about as exotic a trip as it can get if we didn’t want to fly too far. Getting there took much longer than expected but we still had an amazing time. If you ever go to Bucharest for a weekend, here are the things you should not miss.
- Walking around the Old Town
The Old Town is where you’ll find most attractions. There’s a church at almost every corner of the street, buildings are being renovated and this is the area where you’ll find the remains of Dracula’s castle. The Old Town is not only pretty but you will also find lots of bars, restaurants and cafes there. In the afternoon, after running around Bucharest for a whole day, we were so exhausted that we picked a cafe and dropped down into the couches they had placed on the street with a cold drink in our hands. Everybody needs to rest at one point – and this is where you do it in Bucharest.
- The Palace of the Parliament
The building is not the most beautiful one I have ever seen. But it is the largest one, covering an area of 365.000 square meters (according to my guidebook, only the Pentagon is even larger). Built by Nicolae Ceausescu in the 80s, it is noow not only home to the Romanian parliament but is also a conference center. If you want to go inside, you can join a guided tour that will lead you through more giant hallways than you have ever seen before. Make sure to take your passport with you as you cannot go inside without it.
- Bucharest’s churches
Bucharest has a multitude of beautiful churches. Funny enough, when we went there, we could only go into one of them because in every other church we came across, there was either a baptism or a wedding going on. Do not miss the Stavropoleos church which is tiny but beautiful.
- Dracula’s palace
There is not much left of Dracula’s palace. And I know that he only existed as a fictional character. But Vlad the Impaler is often said to be the one who inspired Bram Stoker to write ‘Dracula’. He is also the one who constructed the Curtea Veche, so if you go there, it almost feels like visiting Dracula’s palace. There’s an underground part that is pretty well preserved and an upper level which is in ruins. You cannot go to Bucharest without visiting this place.
- Hanul lui Manuc
The main reason I went here is because I love the word ‘caravanserai’. It makes me think of old trading routes, of the Silk Road and of nomads crossing the Sahara. If the weather is beautiful, like it was when we went here, you can have a drink in the courtyard. If not, I have seen a couple of restaurants and cafes on the first and second level, Starbucks included. But do yourself a favour and go to a local place. You didn’t come all that way to go to Starbucks, did you?
- The Village Museum
This is, without doubt, one of the highlights of Bucharest. You can take the metro or a taxi to get here. The Village museum is a huge outdoor museum showing houses that have been built more than a hundred years ago and were either moved to this site near a lake or reconstructed here. There are signs next to every house explaining where it was build, how old it is and how it was used. If you want to, you can spend a whole day here. We didn’t have that much time so we had to rush through it in an afternoon but it was still very interesting.
- Cismigiu Park
So what if you can rent a pedalo everywhere? If you have some extra time, you can use it to see the Cismigiu gardens from a different point of view. You could also rent a rowing boat although the pedalo is more fun because it’s not just one person who has to work hard to make sure you keep moving. There were surprisingly many people on the water when we went there. Make sure you arrive early in the morning so you have the lake to yourself.
- Trying Romanian food
We made a booking online in one of the most popular restaurants in Bucharest – the Caru’ cu Bere. Some articles we read warned us that it was a tourist trap and maybe it was. But the food was amazing and the atmosphere great and even though it’s possible that everyone was a tourist, they were Romanian tourists. We had Sarmale, which is minced meat rolled up and wrapped in cabbage leaves, served with polenta. It was delicious.