Discover Bucharest: Winter Tales

As many European capitals, Bucharest has its own charm in winter time, even with all the cold and gloomy winter weather. If you planned a trip to Romania’s capital this winter, here are a few tips to make your experience great.

Packing your suitcase

Before you get here, please be advised that the weather will most likely be cold. From December till February, you might expect just a few degrees Celsius over 0, but temperatures often drop below 0, especially during the night. While it’s not usual, sometimes we can have 15 degrees below zero, which is quite cold.
With this in mind, come prepared with warm clothes, winter boots and jacket, gloves, hat and scarf. Of course, it all depends on where you’re coming from. If you’re used to cold weather, you’ll be just fine.

Romania usually has quite a lot of snow in winter, and when it snows heavily, it’s not just a thin layer. Sometimes, there can also be rain or slush, so perhaps waterproof clothes and shoes would be a good idea.

Restaurants, shops and transport

As you will be happy to know, during the winter holidays, Bucharest’s shops and restaurants follow a pretty normal schedule, with a few exceptions. Many malls are open on Christmas and New Year’s Eve/Day, some even until late hours, while most supermarkets and shops are usually closed on the 1st day of Christmas and on January 1st, as these are legal holidays. But don’t worry, many smaller shops are still open on these days.

Restaurants are mostly closed on January 1st, while many of them are open during Christmas. However, you will most likely need a reservation for many of them, and you can expect special menus and prices. If you want to spend New Year’s Eve in a Bucharest restaurant or club, you will have to book your place and pay in advance for the menu. Some clubs and pubs have free entry on New Year’s Eve and normal prices at the bar, but it’s your choice if you want to just walk up to the old center and look for a place that’s not full.

Public transport carries on as usual during the holidays, with slight modifications (metro trains and buses arrive at bigger intervals than normal and they start 30 mins later and end 30 mins earlier each day). Trains between Bucharest and other towns in Romania run on their usual schedule, but they might be overcrowded towards the end of December, which means you might not get a seat, unless you buy your tickets online a few days in advance (however, if you don’t mind standing for the whole trip, you can buy a ticket with no seat, and you will even pay less for it).

Christmas fairs and markets

Every year at the end of November, the Bucharest Christmas Market opens in one of Bucharest’s central areas. In 2016, the location is Piața Constituției, while in previous years, it was held at Piața Universității. You can enjoy a cup of mulled wine or hot chocolate, check out the beautiful Christmas decorations (some made by artisans), traditional masks, winter clothes and accessories, handmade jewelry, religious icons, traditional weaves, and buy great delicacies, from home made sweets to cured meats and cheese. Music concerts are also scheduled as part of the Christmas market.

Other Christmas fairs are held in various locations, such as parks, malls, shops, or cafes around town. Here are a few locations that might have a Christmas fair, based on previous years’ experience:

  • Cișmigiu Park
  • Alexandru Ioan Cuza Park
  • Dianei 4 and Have a Cigar pubs on Dianei Street
  • Liberty Center and Plaza Pipera malls
  • The old Stock Exchange Palace (permanent exhibition of handmade and antique objects)
  • The Village Museum (handmade and traditional products, traditional music, almost every weekend)

Skating rinks

If you enjoy skating, several outdoor and indoor skating rinks will be open during winter in Bucharest. While Liberty Mall, Mall Grand Arena and Afi Palace Cotroceni mall skating rinks are open all year, the ones in Cișmigiu, Alexandru Ioan Cuza, Herăstrău, Tineretului and Drumul Taberei parks are only open in winter. If you want to feel the holiday spirit, these might just be the places to start from, especially since other attractions can also be found in these parks.

Shopping and cinema

If you’re a fan of malls and shopping, you will love Bucharest’s many malls. A full list with addresses is available here. The T IMAX cinema in Afi Cotroceni Mall is famous for its advanced technology and would be the best choice for 3D films.

Concerts, opera, ballet

As in any big city, winter time is just another occasion for concerts and spectacles, be they winter-themed or not. However, be warned that tickets sell fast and for special Christmas editions, most shows are sold out a month or two before. You can check out the most important Romanian music events on infomusic.ro (select concerts – CONCERTE, and the month from the drop down-list and see which ones are happening in Bucharest – București). You can also check the events on eventim.ro/en, the main website for event tickets.

Clubs, pubs and parties

Bucharest is a city that never sleeps, so if you enjoy clubbing or going out in pubs, you will have plenty to choose from. All you need to do is enter the Facebook pages of places that usually have events, and see what is going on. Here are a few places to start from:

… and the list could go on. As you will probably notice, most of these places also have parties for Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Indoors museums

Bucharest, of course, has many museums, and a visit to one of them can be a great winter activity. I would recommend the Palace of Parliament or Cotroceni Palace, but you might pick any of the many interesting museums in the city.

The true romantics (and not only) could also be interested in the astronomic observation sessions held at Admiral Vasile Urseanu Astronomic Observer (Thursday, Friday and Saturday, between 19h00 and 21h30.

You could also think of visiting indoor museums, such as Cotroceni Palace, the Palace of Parliament or Muzeul Taranului (Peasant’s Museum).

Cafes and tea houses

When outside it’s cold and snowy, there’s nothing more relaxing than being in a warm place, having a large cup of coffee and reading a good book. If this sounds good to you, in Bucharest you will have so many places to chose from, and so many cozy decors to look forward to. Here’s a selection that will undoubtedly get your attention.

My recommendations: Cotroceni Vintage House (a small bistro in an antique shop), Santhe Fitoceainarie (a social cafe, where everything costs 8 lei and you can pay in advance for a poor person’s meal from the menu options), Voila Bistrot (French themed bistro with a bohemian/artistic feel) and Bistro Carusel inside Cărtureşti Carusel bookshop (because books and coffee go great together.

Also, depending on how much you plan to stay and seeing that you enjoy hiking/climbing, you could consider going to the mountains for some fresh air. Several mountain towns are easily reachable by train from Bucharest (Sinaia, Busteni, Predeal, Brasov).

Visit an animal shelter

Winter is at home at this incredibly nice animal shelter which you can reach even without a car, if you are willing to walk about 20 minutes from the tram station. Steaua Sperantei is a shelter for abandoned horses, although it also has 2 llamas, several dogs, chickens and ponies. It is a happy, colorful place, great for children and adults alike. You can reach it by taking the tram no. 21 from Piața Sf. Gheorghe (center area). You must get off at the 9th stop, then continue walking on the right side of the road until you reach a small plant shop. You will see the signs pointing to a ranch, and that’s where you must turn right. The guard at the shelter will ask for your name and signature before you can visit the place. You can stay as long as you want, and you can bring carrots to feed the horses, or make a small donation, if you wish.

Photos from the official shelter’s Facebook page

Walk around town

Last, but not least, walking in Bucharest during a snowy winter evening can be very charming and romantic. The nicest areas are from the University Square to Piața Romană, on Calea Victoriei (old center – Athenaeum – Piața Romană), and on the small streets at Piața Romană (Arthur Verona – Grădina Icoanei – Ion Voicu Park).

Hope you’ll enjoy it!

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