Discover Bucharest: 20 Things I Love

Bucharest may not be everyone’s favourite choice for a holiday, but many visitors (and locals) agree that there’s something about this city. You will either love or hate it, and in order to love it, you need to discover the things that make it unique. Here are some of my favourite hidden gems, that migth make your trip to Bucharest well worth the trouble.

1. Get a Glimpse of Tradition at the Village Museum

The Village Museum of Bucharest, 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. At the entrance, you can visit the museum shop, which sells authentic traditional pottery, weaves and clothing, but also fridge magnets and other less traditional souvenirs.

Part of self-guided tour: Discover Bucharest: from Piața Romană to Herăstrău.

Want to know more about traditional Romanian villages? Read also Discover Romania: Forgotten Villages.

2. Visit an Amazing Bookshop – Cărturești Carusel

In Bucharest, bookshops are more than places to buy books and stationery, and you can see that for yourselves if you head to one of the Cărturești bookshops, which are also places where you can enjoy a cup of tea, attend an exhibition or a book launch and listen to tranquil music. Their largest shop, Cărturești Carusel (Lipscani 55), is worth visiting if only for the architecture and setup. The elegant 19th century building has six levels (1000 sq m) in total, including a bistro on the last floor, a multimedia space in the basement and a gallery for contemporary art on the first floor.

Carturesti Carusel
Source: Carturesti Carusel Facebook page

3. Go Back in Time at Cotroceni Vintage House

A small shop in the Cotroceni area, Cotroceni Vintage House, sells old furniture and decorations, but is also a small bistro serving savoury traditional dishes and delicious deserts. Can you imagine having tea in such a quirky setup?

Cotroceni Vintage House
Source: Cotroceni Vintage House Facebook page

Part of self-guided tour: Discover Bucharest: from the University Square to Cotroceni National Museum.

4. Shop in Bucharest’s Oldest Market – Piața Obor

Piaţa Obor has been around since the 18th century, and is the largest market in town. Built on the place of Bucharest’s old gallows, Halele Obor are now a huge complex of stands where you can buy literally anything, from fresh greens to meat and clothes. It is also one of the cheapest produce market in Bucharest, and a great chance to experience local life. Don’t forget to get your traditional mici (skinless sausages with mustard and bread) from Terasa Obor. It’s said they’re the best in town!

piata-obor
Source: https://m.bucurestiul.ro/

5. Visit the President’s Home – Cotroceni Palace

Cotroceni Palace is the headquarters and residence of the Romanian president. It is also home to the Cotroceni National Museum, which you can visit, but only if you book your visit at least two days in advance.

Part of self-guided tour: Discover Bucharest: from the University Square to Cotroceni National Museum.

6. Head Down to the … Beach? Sands of Therme

On the 1st of July 2017, Therme București opened the largest urban beach in Europe (Sands of Therme), with a surface of 30,000 square meters and a setup reminding of tropical beaches. Therme București is a huge complex that has everything from outdoor and indoor pools, jacuzzi, restaurant, sauna, cocktail bar, acquatic playground, hidro-massage, spa treatments and more. (Video here). It can be reached by free transport, from Piața Romană.

therme
Source: http://ozb.ro

7. Enjoy a View from Above – Skybars

Have you ever wondered what Bucharest looks like from up high? Some of the city’s nicest skybars are Sole (Bd. Iancu de Hunedoara 48), 18 Lounge (Piața Presei Libere 3-5, City Gate, South Tower), or Upstairs Rooftop (Sevastopol 24).

8. Have a Beer … or 100

In the Old Center, two pubs are fighting a battle over who has the biggest beer selection. The first one is called, no surprise here, 100 de beri (translates as 100 beers) and you can find it at no. 8 Covaci street. The other is Beer O’Clock, at no. 4 Gabroveni street. Other pubs with a varied beer menu are Nenea Iancu (Strada Covaci 3) or The Harp (Strada Bibescu Vodă 1).

Care to try out Romanian beer? Have a go at local brands such as: Silva (blonde, dark, red or IPA), Zăganu (blonde, red, dark or IPA), Terapia or Morning Glory.

9. Get Lost in the Urban Jungle

In Bucharest, you can easily enjoy your drinks in the cozy space of one of the many summer gardens spread around the city. But there aren’t many who can earn the title of jungles. In fact, I will only tell you about two:

  • Grădina Eden is excellently located, right behind Știrbey Palace, not far from Cișmigiu Park or the Romanian Athenaeum. It stretches on a large space where you can literally get lost, as the rich vegetation hides and unveils several tables and chairs and the bars where you can buy alcoholic drinks or fancy fresh juice and specialty lemonades.
  • In a different part of the city, Club Piranha is a different kind of special. This restaurant actually gives meaning to the expression „urban jungle”, as you will be enjoying your food and drinks in the middle of a true natural reservation. The artificial pond is filled with fish, and there are birds hanging around in the specially arranged cages, and even walking around you.

10. Wake up and Smell the Coffee – Delicatese Florescu

In Bucharest, Delicatese Florescu  is the go to place for good coffee. It sells gourmet coffee roasted after old original Armenian recipes handed down to the current owner by Avedis Carabelaian, an Armenian who is known as one of Bucharest’s legendary coffee merchants from the WWII period.

The tiny coffee shop on Str. Radu Cristian 6 could go unnoticed, if it wasn’t from the insane roasted coffee smell coming from inside as you pass by. You can buy the beans and grind it yourself, or ask the shop assistant to do it for you. Most people will buy coffee from the Carabelaian range, but several rare and more expensive brands are also found here.

11. Discover a Hidden 19th Century Monastery – Schitul Dârvari

You may have heard of Stavropoleos monastery, but that’s not the only old monastery in Bucharest. In the Piața Romană area, not far from Grădina Icoanei park, well hidden behind a white wall, is a building from 1834, that is currently home to a small community of monks. The small church and beautiful, neat garden breathe tranquility and modesty, even if they are hidden in one of the liveliest areas of the city. Address: Strada Schitul Dârvari 3.

Part of self-guided tour: Discover Bucharest: from Universitate to Piața Romană

12. Get Lost in an Experimental Neighborhood – Cățelu

Between 1955 and 1957, the communist leadership decided to build post-calamity collective housing for people who had been moved around because of the war, most of whom came from Bessarabia. The houses were built following a special architecture, their most interesting feature being the common porch which can be accessed from the street through an archway. There are six streets in total, called Întrecerii, Năzuinței, Prieteniei, Cutezătorilor, Doicești and Fildeșului, and the houses here are like nowhere else in Bucharest. Their residents still live like a closed, private community, knowing and helping each other much like in a village rather than the city. It may not seem like much from pictures, but the feeling of being there is truly special.

13. Visit a 18th Century Monastery – Antim

This monastery complex was built at the beginning of the 18th century by Antim Ivireanul, and includes our only 18th century church to have a club shape. In small square in front of the monastery there’s a statue of Saint Antim with a snail at his feet, a symbol of humbleness and a well-known mark of the saint. The snail is also present above the entrance door, carved in stone. The monastery’s carved wood door is especially beautiful.

Part of self-guided tour: Discover Bucharest: a Tour of Communist Relics.

14. Find the Only Street in Steps – Xenofon

From Carol I park, cross the street opposite the entrance to the park, then go left on Str. Constantin Istrati. Immediately, you will run into a stairway that is painted with different scenes. This is actually a tiny street called Xenofon, the only one made of steps in Bucharest. The painting was part of a project started in 2014, which aimed to make certain small streets known to the people of Bucharest.

Part of self-guided tour: Discover Bucharest: a Tour of Communist Relics.

15. Find the Hidden Stairway on the Metropolitan Hill

A visit to the Patriarchal Palace up on the Metropolitan Hill is also an opportunity to discover a secret stairway. Right before the belfry, on your left, between two old houses (the one on the left has a beautiful wooden porch), you will notice some stairs made of stone, that seem to disappear behind the buildings.

The stair takes you down to a street called Ienăchiță Văcărescu, in an area that used to be known as the Flămânda suburb or outskirts (in the 18th century, this was a poor suburb, its name meaning literally the hungry one).

Part of self-guided tour: Discover Bucharest: a Tour of Communist Relics.

16. Visit the Ghosts of Communism – Fortul 13, Jilava

The communist period has really left a mark on Romania, influencing our personalities, probably not in the best way. Perhaps the saddest part of it was the imprisonment, torture and killing of many intellectuals, and practically anyone who was against the system.

Not far from Bucharest, former communist prison Fortul Nr. 13 Jilava is now a memorial museum open to visitors. Visits must be programmed in advance through a dedicated website, and every visitor must bring along an ID, to be left at the gate all through the visit. To get there, you have a special bus (no. 425) from the station CFR Progresul (reachable by trams 4, 7 and 25) to the station Bumbăcăria Jilava.

jilava
Source: www.sospatrimoniu.ro

17. Discover a Lovely 18th Century Palace – Mogoșoaia

Mogoșoaia Palace and the domain surrounding it has become a favorite destination not only for relaxation, but also for beautiful weddings and other events. And it should be no surprise, as the natural setting is amazing, and the palace’s architecture perfectly reflects the Brâncovenesc style specific to Romania.

The complex includes the Palace built by Constantin Brâncoveanu, the princely kitchen, a 19th century chapel, the Mogoșoaia greenhouses, a 18th century church and a former ice cellar. The rose gardens, the green bushes somewhat reminiscent of Versailles, the lake view, the beautiful park around the complex make it a destination to remember. You can reach it by taking the bus no. 460 from Parc Bazilescu all the way to Mogoșoaia.

18. Find a Delta in the City – Văcărești Nature Park

Covering 183 hectares, the Văcărești Nature Park is a wetland formed on the site of a hydro-technical project started in 1986 and left unfinished. The area is 4 km away from the city center, not far from a residential complex. It was declared a protected area in 2016, as it had become home to several species of water birds, as well as muskrats, foxes, weasels, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, and best of all, otters.

Parc-natural-Vacaresti
Source: http://www.parcnaturalvacaresti.ro

If you would like to get there, consider talking to a local to help you set up a visit, or access the official website and use the visitor contact form to make an appointment.

19. Enjoy a Day around Animals for Free – Steaua Speranței

Steaua Sperantei is a shelter for abandoned horses, although it’s also home to 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.

Part of self-guided tour: Discover Bucharest: Winter Tales.

20. Visit An Abandoned Leisure Park – Lacul Morii

This artificial lake and the island in its middle have a short, but interesting story. The lake was built in 1986, on the location of a former cemetery and church. To build it, 12,000 graves were moved and the church was demolished, along with about 400 houses (the residents were given collective lodgings instead). The former space was covered in concrete, and water filled in the newly created basin.

The island that now looks like an abandoned ghost place was supposed to be a great recreational space. Now, there is only a pavilion, a decorative well, a pier and a lot of garbage. Photography enthusiasts are especially drawn to this place, as it has real photogenic potential. Video here.

Want to visit Bucharest like a local? Get your very own guide: Greater Than a Tourist – Bucharest Romania: 50 Travel Tips from a Local

More self-guided tours of Bucharest:

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