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