With the Easter weekend fast approaching, it might be time to start planning a quick city break. Paris may be out of the budget, especially on a bank holiday weekend, but Little Paris, may not be. Bucharest is a hidden gem in eastern Europe which is full of interesting little streets and an even more interesting history. Plus the fact that flights from the UK are very cheap, and you won’t need much spending money to have a good time (a bottle of wine for £1? Yay!)
Despite the late arrival from Glasgow to Bucharest, a quick sleep will have you ready to explore what the city has to offer. Visiting in spring is certainly quieter (and cooler) than summer and offers a very different view of the city when it isn’t crowded with tourists and inter-railing students. It’s amazing what you can do with 48 hours – read on for my suggestions.
You’ve probably slept in from that late flight and will be desperate to find somewhere for a good bite to eat. If hotel room service or a coffee shop pastry just won’t cut it, head to Caru Cu Bere (“The Beer Wagon”) in the Lipscani district, close to the old town. Built in 1879, it is an interesting fusion of gothic-revival exterior and art-nouveau interior with impressive painted ceilings and wooden staircases. They have a great range of live music and entertainment throughout the week and a huge menu full of traditional Romanian dishes. I’d definitely recommend the cheese-filled grilled sausages or the pork ribs!
After eating (and possibly drinking a couple of local beers!) take a wander around the nearby streets and old town. You’ll find a number of small and very old churches that are worth a quick look into, such as the beautiful Biserica Stavropoleos that dates from 1724 and also the National Museum of Romanian History which is well worth popping into (especially as entry is only about £2!). For the perfect selfie light (I only know this because of the hoards of people with selfie sticks!) head to the Piata Revolutiei where you’ll find the Memorialul Renasterii and nearby Statuia Ecvestra a lui Carol I and Roanian Athenaeum and gardens that look great in the late afternoon sun.
There are many great restaurants and bars to visit in Bucharest and not just in the old town. Hanu’ lui Manuc is a great little spot for traditional food and entertainment with a chilled out vibe – this would also be a perfect spot for a long summer evening of eating and drinking, as the outdoor seating makes a perfect spot for relaxing.
La Mama is also a fantastic spot for local cuisine. For something a little special, jump in a taxi (we recommend Uber for the chance to chat to friendly locals about the area!) to the 18 Lounge, on the 18th floor of the City Gate South Tower. The restaurant is up-market and would be a pricey alternative here in the UK, but thanks to the prices here in Bucharest, you can get an incredible meal for half, if not a third of the price you’d pay at home. The views are incredible and it’s fun to spot where you’ve been exploring during the day while relaxing with a glass of wine and incredible food. Vegetarians look away now – the beef was incredible!
Jump back in a taxi and head back towards the city to explore what the old town has to offer at night. If you want to get away from the tourist crowds, head north to Strada D.I Mendeleev and Strada Biscerica Amzei where there are a number of cool places for after dinner drinks (side note, M60 is great for breakfast!)
Hopefully your head isn’t too sore after last night! Make the most of the day and head out to grab some food. Grand Cafe Van Gogh is great, as are the various Paul‘s bakeries dotted around the city for a quick pastry to eat on the go, or try one of the cool ‘hole-in-the-wall’ bakeries that sell steaming hot sausage rolls and other savouries.
If the weather is nice, jump in a taxi (we’re short on time here, and they’re very cheap!) and head back up to the 18 Lounge area to visit the Village Museum. This is a vast area of land next to the park and lake with houses from around Romania and from the last 200 years, transported to a single spot for you to walk around. Allow yourself a couple of hours to have a slow stroll around and explore the many houses.
Once you’re done, head back out onto the main street to access the Herastrau Park and wander down the Aleea Michael Jackson, where you’ll find the Michael Jackson monument (an odd sight!).
Heading south in the park will bring you to the Piata Charles de Gaulle and a view of the Arcul de Triumf (they don’t call it mini-Paris for nothing!). You can hop on the Metro here and jump on the blue line south to Piata Unirii (make sure you have spare change for the ticket machine, or are prepared to throw a few more leu at it to get a ticket!).
This will bring you out at the bustling Parcull Unirii and the main shopping district where you can grab a quick lunch before your next adventure!
Then head east down the Bulevardul Unirii (which makes for fantastic photos when the fountains are working!) to the Parliament building. Built in the 1980 Communist era, the palace is a spectacular building that dominates the horizon as you walk up. Make sure to grab your photos from here, as you’ll be too close soon! Walk round to the right of the building with the Parcul Izvor on your right to gain access. Entry is cheap (with an additional cost for a photography pass) but you must remember your passport or ID for entry. Self-guided tours aren’t available, for obvious reasons, but only takes about an hour with a guide and is well worth seeing inside this massive building.
Once you’re done here, head out onto the Bulevardul Natiunile Unite, down to the river and across back to the old town. Whether rain or shine, you must pop into Cremeria Emilia in the old town (which had queues, even in February!). They have a mouth-watering assortment of ice creams that are on par with those I’ve tasted in Rome…
Your feet are probably sore now, and maybe you could do with some relaxation before dinner. The pool at the Raddison Blu hotel offers an outdoor Jacuzzi which is well worth a visit at night when the steam and mini-waterfall make you feel like you’re in the Blue Lagoon in Iceland – you can even see the stars!
Sunday night seems to be far more lively than Saturday for some reason, so head out to some of the many bars and restaurants where you’ll easily find a good atmosphere. Bar A1 is close-by to the Raddison if you visit the pool there and has a great range of beer and the nearby Control club is great for a party atmosphere.
You can be sure to have a great time if you visit these places as they have the seal of approval from our Bucharest expert, team leader Silvia, as well as being tried and tested last weekend 😉