An unplanned visit to Bucharest, Romania

The week after July 4th, Paresh had to visit Bucharest, Romania for official work. He insisted I join him and I couldn’t resist the temptation of visiting a new country. I knew he would be working all day, which meant I would have to tour the city on my own. I had no qualms about that!

We stayed at the Athenee Palace Hilton hotel, that is right next to the Romanian Athenaeum – a concert hall and landmark of the Romanian capital city.

View of Romanian Athenaeum from the hotel
View of Romanian Athenaeum from the hotel

The hotel was at a great location, with lots of eating options nearby and about a 10-minute walk away from Old Town.

Romanian Athenaeum at dusk
Romanian Athenaeum at dusk

Statue of King Carol I, the first king of Romania
Statue of King Carol I (the first King of Romania), at Revolution Square
Red-brick Orthodox church
Red-brick Orthodox church

One of the first things I did, was to take a free walking tour of Old Town. Walking tours are great because they’re usually run by locals that are very enthusiastic about sharing their history and culture.

Old Square, Bucharest
Old Square, Bucharest

The tour was about 2 hours long. Stefan, our guide was knowledgeable and funny.  He walked through a lot of interesting facts that covered not only Old Town, but also Romania’s communist history.

Stefan, our guide from Walkabout Free Tours
The tour group with our guide, Stefan at the center
Hanuc Lui Manuc or Manuc's Inn is a popular restaurant/cafe and has a beautiful balconied courtyard.
Hanuc Lui Manuc or Manuc’s Inn is a popular restaurant/cafe and has a beautiful balconied courtyard.
The beautiful courtyard at Stavropoleos Church
Another beautiful courtyard at Stavropoleos Church, that was built by Greek monks
Vlad the Impaler, the real life inspiration behind the the commonly known vampire, Dracula
Vlad the Impaler, the real-life inspiration behind the vampire we all know as Dracula!

Old Town or Lipscani ended up being my favorite part of the city. I visited several times and mindlessly wandered through its narrow alleys. There is centuries-old architecture at every corner which you just can’t miss!

National Bank of Romania in Old Town
National Bank of Romania in Old Town
Macca-Vilacrosse Passage
Macca-Vilacrosse Passage
Loved the umbrella alley. Great spot for pictures!
Loved the umbrella alley. Great spot for pictures!
Romanian Patriarchal Cathedral, a historical monument of Romania
Romanian Patriarchal Cathedral, a historical monument of Romania
Palace of the Patriarchate (of the Romanian Orthodox Church)
Palace of the Patriarchate (of the Romanian Orthodox Church)

One cannot visit Bucharest and not see the Palace of Parliament, the second largest administrative building in the world (after the Pentagon). It is the infamous creation of the last dictator of Romania, Nicolae Ceauşescu.

The colossal Palace of Parliament in Bucharest
The colossal Palace of Parliament in Bucharest. It is the heaviest building in the world.

Several historic districts and couple of neighborhoods were destroyed to build this palace. The construction started when Romania was already under Ceauşescu’s austerity program, that deeply affected people’s standard of living. The severe austerity measures eventually led to the downfall of Romania’s communism in 1989.

Palace of Parliament as seen from Bulevardul Unirii
Palace of Parliament as seen from Bulevardul Unirii.
Bulevardul Unirii -Comminst Romania's answer to Paris's Avenue des Champs-Élysées
Bulevardul Unirii -Communist Romania’s answer to Paris’s Avenue des Champs-Élysées
Arc de Triomphe
Bucharest is known as ‘Little Paris of the East’ for its elegant architecture that sprung between the two World Wars. It even has its own Arc de Triomphe.

The restaurant scene in Bucharest is pretty diverse, vibrant, yet cheap. We didn’t try any authentic Romanian dishes as they tend to be meat heavy and didn’t appeal to us. But there were several other cuisines to choose from and we had amazing food!

Though this was an unplanned vacation for me, I thoroughly enjoyed my stay in Bucharest. The city is rich in history and has undergone rapid development since the fall of communism, with more yet to come. With bike-friendly streets and ubiquitous Uber cars – the city is not difficult to explore. There are numerous museums and beautiful parks to visit, and a plethora of restaurants to choose from.  This city will not disappoint you!

In case you’re interested, here’s my travel story from Cancun, Mexico.

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