You may think that there’s a lot to see in Piața Romană, but did you know that from the roundabout (ASE building area) you can easily walk all the way to Aviatorilor area? And as a bonus, you will get to take a walk in one of Bucharest’s cleanest, greenest (and wealthiest) areas.
In less than one hour, you can get from Piața Romană to Piața Victoriei and all the way to Herăstrău park, by foot. Nevertheless, with all the great things you’ll encounter on the way, you’d best reserve half a day, if not a full day for this escapade. This itinerary is best enjoyed from spring ‘till autumn, because it involves lots of green areas and it would be a shame not to take full advantage.
Start from the Piața Romană roundabout and walk up on Bulevardul Lascăr Catargiu. As you start your journey, keep your eyes peeled for the many beautiful houses, some of which are now used as restaurants, fashion shops or even embassies. Most buildings in this area are in much better shape than the ones near the historic center and you will enjoy seeing some that almost look like palaces, with wonderful exterior ornaments.
Sadly, some have been left to crumble down, although they have so much potential. And unfortunately, Bucharest seems to make a habit of this, many interesting old houses that have not been declared monuments of architecture being left to decay and fall down, so that someone can use the land plot for a different purpose when the house can no longer be saved.
If you walk on the right side, soon you will reach a small square with a statue (at the junction with Povernei street). This is a recent reinstatement of an old statue made in the 30’s, of Lascăr Catargiu (Romanian statesman in the time of Alexandru Ioan Cuza). The original was taken down and placed into storage by the communists in the 50’s and some of its elements were lost (the head of Lascăr Catargiu and the statue of the child), which is why they had to be remade so that a complete statue could be displayed again, after more than 60 years.
When you will have reached the huge Orange office building, you’ll know you are in Piața Victoriei. On your right you will see Palatul Victoriei, built in 1937, currently the headquarters of the Government of Romania. On your left is Victoria Business Center, a 12-storey office building.
Opposite Palatul Victoriei is Muzeul Antipa, a Natural history museum and the most modern one in Romania. Sure, it’s no British Museum, but it’s worth a visit (even a virtual one, if you don’t want to pay for getting in).
From Piața Victoriei, if you take Șoseaua Pavel Dimitrievici Kiseleff, you will get to the National Geology Museum and the Museum of the Romanian Peasant, two places you might want to check out. The latter often organizes various events centered on Romanian traditions, such as food fairs or handmade clothes and objects fairs. At the back of the building (no entry fee needed) is Clubul Țăranului, a good restaurant with low prices.
Further on, you can walk through Kiseleff park (on Șoseaua Pavel Dimitrievici Kiseleff). You will reach a small square, known as Piața Regelui (King’s Square – dedicated to former king Michael I of Romania, the last of the royal family to take the throne, before monarchy was abolished), where you must make a right. Kiseleff Park can be inviting itself, with its forest-like appearance. It is home to the Romanian Infantry monument and several statues.
Walk past Casa Doina, a restaurant with traditional Romanian food (and some international dishes as well), in a beautiful old building designed by architect Ion Mincu, with an even more beautiful garden. According to food critics, the food doesn’t exactly justify the high prices (at least twice as expensive as any restaurant in the old center). Maybe the location makes up for it?
Across the street, right before you get to Piaţa Aviatorilor, you can spot a very interesting old house.
You will soon reach Monumentul Eroilor Aerului in Piața Aviatorilor, a monument dedicated to Romanian aviators who have contributed to the development of aviation.
Walk further on Bulevardul Aviatorilor, until you will have reached Piața Charles de Gaulle. This is where Herăstrău Park begins. You can cross the park all the way to Insula Trandafirilor (Rose Island) by the lake, and from there, enter Muzeul Satului (Village Museum), or go right on Bulevardul Mareșal Constantin Prezan and then right again on Șoseaua Pavel Dimitrievici Kiseleff, until you reach the gates of the museum.
If you chose to get to the Village Museum first and then the park, at the end of Bulevardul Mareșal Constantin Prezan you will see our own modest Arc de Triomphe. Originally a wooden construction (1878), it saw another larger wooden version in 1922 and only in 1936 was the current construction built. Its purpose was to celebrate Romania’s victory in World War I. It is possible to climb to its top and also to visit the exhibitions inside (please check if it is open before you arrive, renovation works might be scheduled).
The Village Museum, a collection of buildings recreating rural life between the 17th & 20th centuries, is more than a museum, it feels as a real walk in a Romanian village.
Inside its walls you will see how our grandparents lived some years ago (some of them still do), you will admire the outsides and insides of homes from all over Romania, as well as old wooden churches, wind, water mills and other installations, wells, a sheep cot, a smithery …
… and even a former inn, which now is open as a restaurant with traditional Romanian food.
Even the cats enjoy the food at the old inn. Provided you give it to them 🙂
And while walking around, you might also run into some of the very real and photogenic fowl that go about their business unhindered.
The Village Museum often hosts tradition-related events, where craftsmen and food producers sell quality products, such as honey, cheese, cakes, sausages, traditional costumes, masks, various weaves (same as the ones you see inside the museum houses), painted icons and other handcrafted objects. In my opinion, it’s your best chance to get a quality souvenir from Romania, as most souvenir shops sell unauthentic objects (usually at high prices too).
There also less traditional events, such as the Thai festival in May.
At the entrance, next to where you buy your tickets (around 2 euro) you can visit the museum shop, which sells authentic traditional pottery, weaves and clothing, but also fridge magnets and other less traditional souvenirs.
When exiting the souvenir shops to enter the actual museum, you stumble on some tables where people sell homemade sweets and cakes (these tables are always there, regardless if there’s an event or not), which are very tasty (believe me, I’ve tried them on several occasions).
So I guess, my advice is to visit the Village Museum if you get to Bucharest, it’s the closest you’ll get to traditions. Besides, since the museum is practically a park, it’s also a great relaxation place. And the cats and hens are a nice addition.
The exit at the left of the museum is the best way to get into Herăstrău park. You will cross a picturesque curved bridge towards Rose Island, which is a beautiful garden with rose bushes and benches. In its center is the monument dedicated to founders of the European Union, a round plaque with the EU flag in the middle, surrounded by 12 heads, each representing one of the UE founding fathers.
This area is great for stopping under the willow trees by the lake and reading a book or having a picnic.
Then comes another bridge, underneath which several species of ducks and swans spend their time playing, in warm weather (in winter, they are not kept on the lake).
In Herăstrău park there are so many things to see and do that you can easily spend half-a day without noticing time fly. The park’s landscape is wonderful, so many areas being special for either monuments, fountains, flower beds, entertainment spots (such as the small aquarium, adventure park, skating rink – only in winter, tennis courts, fishing spot and lake crossing – by small ship, hydro-bike or oar boat).
If you are wondering about the white building with a steeple, which you can admire from across the lake, it is Casa Presei Libere (House of Free Press), former headquarters of Scînteia, the Romanian Communist Party’s official newspaper.
If you take the less populated alleys, you are very likely to run into sweet, fuzzy … squirrels. They are not afraid of humans and might even approach you, especially if you brought a bag of nuts 😀
The caryatides at the Charles de Gaulle entrance are a trademark of the park, and so is the Modura fountain at the end of the alley with caryatides. You will notice that benches are personalized with the Bucharest blazon.
Herăstrău is often the place for festivals and fairs, especially in the summer. Due to its huge size, there is enough room for any kind of manifestation, from food festivals to theatrical representations, cinema events or town band representations, from concerts to handmade fairs and the increasingly popular living statues festival. If you’re visiting in summer and it’s the weekend, you’re likely to see some kind organized event in the park.
If you get hungry and don’t know where to eat, try Restaurant Pescăruș by the lake. This is a restaurant in the City Grill network, which means you can expect fair prices and good food. Plus the view over the lake is beautiful.
From the park, you can grab the metro at Aviatorilor (Charles de Gaulle entrance) to anywhere in town. There are also several bus stops, one of which is the station for the express bus to the airport.
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