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LAST UPDATED
12/ 11/ 2016



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Bucharest: Paris of the East
Romania's capital is a cosmopolitan, cultured city - a city with an active cafe society,
elegant restaurants, buzzing nightlife, boutiques, theatre and opera, museums and leafy parks.





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Cantacuzino Palace on Calea Victoriei
(now the George Enescu Museum)




Paris of the East


Bucharest is suitable for a
short weekend break

It can also be combined with
any other holiday
arrangements.



Highlights



Old Quarter (Lipscani)
Curtea Veche
Hanul lui Manuc
Stavropoleos Church
Russian Church

Piata Unirii Area
Palace of Parliament
Patriarchal Cathedral
Antim Monastery

Calea Victoriei
National Art Museum
(Royal Palace)
Romanian Atheneum
Cantacuzino Palace
(Enescu Museum)
Pasajul Villacros (Arcade)
Cretulescu Church

Cotroceni Palace
Herastrau Park
Village Museum
Romanian Peasant Museum
Arc de Triumf
Bellu Cemetery
Modernist / Art Deco Architecture



Surroundings


Lake Snagov & Monastery
Mogosoaia
Caldarusani Monastery
Cernica Monastery


Travel


British Airways & Tarom
Heathrow - Bucharest Otopeni
Daily; direct services

Easyjet
Gatwick - Bucharest Otopeni
Daily direct service

Blue Air & Wizz Air
Luton - Bucharest Otopeni
Daily; direct service

Several daily connecting flights
incl. KLM, Czech, Malev,
Lufthansa, Austrian, Alitalia
Many UK regional departures

Domestic flights by Tarom to
Timisoara, Cluj, Iasi, Târgu Mures, Sibiu
Baia Mare, Satu Mare, Oradea. Arad
and Suceava

Regional flights with variosus airlines to
Budapest, Sofia, Chisinau, Istanbul

Rail services from
Bucharest Nord including
sleeper services to Timisoara, Cluj,
Baia Mare, Sighetu Marmatiei, Bistrita,
Piatra Neamt, Suceava & Vatra Dornei
Sleeper services also to
Vienna, Budapest, Prague, Sofia,
Istanbul, Belgrade & Chisinau

Airport - City Transfer: 90-120 mins
Can be booked in advance
Alternative: airport bus to Piata Unirii

Stop Press: bus and rail link
reintroduced from
Bucharest Otopeni via
Otopeni Village to Bucharest Nord



Bucharest

Spend a couple of days soaking up the excitement of this frenetic capital - go on a shopping spree, take in a show or dine in a fashionable restaurant with the elegant people of the city that is attempting to reclaim its former title of 'Paris of the East'.

Romania's capital never sleeps - it is a cosmopolitan, cultured city with an active cafe society, elegant restaurants, theatre and opera, and leafy parks such as Cismigiu Gardens or Herastrau Park, ideal for escaping the heat of the summer. You will find broad avenues and former palaces, historic, ancient churches tucked away in side streets, antique shops, delicatessens, chic boutiques, new shopping malls and some exceptional museums such as the Village Museum, National Art Museum and the
Museum of the Romanian Peasant.


Beds Please find following our recommeded hotels in Bucharest. These have been carefully selected for value for money, quality and customer service. Click on the links for further details about each hotel. They range from cosy, historic boutique hotels to the famous 5-star Athenée Palace on the Calea Victoriei, and a host of other smart and elegant properties dotted around the centre. Our focus has been on service so you will also find a selection of lower busget properties and hotels in spcific parts of the city, for example convenient for the railway station or either of the international airports.



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Beds - Beds - Beds - Beds - Beds - Beds - Beds - Beds - Beds - Beds - Beds


Our personal recommendations for the best accommodation in and around Bucharest
Luxury 5-star hotels to family run guesthouses

















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Large parts of Bucharest were bulldozed by the communists and replaced by non-descript concrete apartment and office blocks, particular during the later years when Ceausescu used the 1977 earthquake as an excuse, followed by his insane obsession with creating his grandiose Civic Centre incorporating the "Bulevard of Socialist Victory" (Bulevardul Unirii) and his "Palace of the People" (Palace of Parliament). This was all inspired by visits to North Korea and China. The old houses along many boulevards such as Splaiul Unirii, Sos.Stefan cel Mare, Sos. Mihai Bravu, Calea Mosilor were demolished and replaced with ugly apartments blocks. The process usually started with buildings being allowed to fall into disrepair and this was used as an excuse for them being condemned. The process was repeated in many formerly attractive towns sich as Craiova, Pitesti, Ploiesti and Piatra Neamt. Ceausescu accelerated the process in the 1980s with the full scale bulldozing of the Uranus and Vacaresti Districts including the significant 18th century Vacaresti Monasteries. Sadly the destruction has continued almost unnoticed over the last decade - many people have bought historic villas in recent years and are now demolishing them to build new apartments. Greed and corruption seem to win against preserving the architectural heritage though there have been a number of press reports recently highlighting the plight of these buildings.. As a consequence it should be noted that Bucharest is not an architecturally pleasing city in the manner of Budapest, Vienna or Prague. In other words there is no memorable cityscape. There far more beautiful, historic cities in the country - Sibiu, Timisoara, Cluj and even Brasov for example. Nevertheless, it has preserved a surprising amount of interesting architecture, particularly along Calea Victoriei, and in the churches, villas and mansions that have survived in the fascinating maze of streets and avenues peripheral to the main thoroughfare.

We do not recommend driving in Bucharest. Traffic congestion is becoming a serious problem with constant queues along the road from the airport, especially towards Baneasa where parts of the Baneasa woods are being bulldozed to widen the main thoroughfare and build an overpass. There is an obsession with the motorcain Bucharest, driving with a hand on the horn with little regard for fellow road users or pedestrians. Some drivers regard the pavements (sidewalks) as impromptu car parks and thus hamper access for pedestrians. Transfers from Otopeni Airport to Bucharest Nord station or to the city centre can now take 90-120 minutes during busy periods.

Bucharest can be explored on foot, and there are numerous well-placed cafes, bars and parks providing ideal places for a rest. However, as noted above, traffic congestion is becoming a serious problem and pavements (sidewalks) along many of the main thoroughfares and even some side streets are being selfishly used as impromptu car parks. Perserverence can still be rewarding. Start with the old Lipscani district, in particular the Curtea Veche, the ruins of the original Princely Court of Vlad Tepes ("Dracula"). Nearby are the Domneasca Church (1591), the oldest in the city, and the Hanul lui Manuc with its beautiful couryard and carved balconies. The Lipscani is an interesting maze of winding streets dating back to when this was once the commercial and trading part of the city. On its edge, towards the University you will find the colourful Russian Orthodox church. Further west, towards Calea Victoriei are the famous Caru cu Bere restaurant (take a peep inside at the richly-decorated,vaulted interior), thw lovwly Stavreopolis Church (founded 1724) and the eclectic CEC Bank building dating from 1890.

Following Calea Victoriei northwards you pass the entrance to the Villacros Arcade, a reminder of the early days with its lovely, amber glass canopy roof. Nearby, just before the junction with Bulevard Elisabeta is the Doamnei church (1683), hidden between apartment blocks. The junction is dominated by the neo-classical Cercul Militar. Bulevard Elisabeta leads west to the beautiful Cismigiu Gardens, where it becomes Bulevardul Mihail Kogalniceanu, which leads to the Opera. Further west is Cotroceni Palace, part museum, part presidential residence. This was built in 1893 by the French architect Paul Gottereau as the residence of Prince Ferdinand.

Back to Cercul Militar and northwards along the Calea Victoriei you pass the neo-baroque Hotel Capitol, followed by the unusual art deco telephone palace, the neo-baroque Continental Hotel, then on the left the tall Cretulescu Church (1722, damaged during the 1989 Revolution) and on the right the former Central Commitee Building of the Romanian Communist Party, and now the Romanian Senate. A plaque beside the rather low balcony commemorates Ceausescu's last speech where he was forced to take flight by the angry crowd that had gathered. There is also a memorial to those that died, and to the left a rather interesting building - the former Securitate Archives building. This was burnt out after the Revolution to destroy incriminating documents (there are still many questions left unanswered regarding the roles of certain politicians and other important people before 1990), but the shell was retained and now embraces a modern glass building. Next is the University Library, built by Gottereau in 1895 and gutted during the Revolution, but thankfully fully restored. Opposite stands the former Royal Palace, now the National Art Museum which contains some excellent pieces, in particular its collection of religious art. The palace was originally built in 1815 but heavily rebuilt for King Carol II in the 1930s. Dominating the north-east cormer of Piata Revolutiei is the extravagant Romanian Atheneum (Ateneul Roman, 1888), somewhat reminiscent of London's Albert Hall, and an excellent venue for classical music concerts. Nearby is the famous Athenée Palace Hotel, now part of the Hilton chain, which has been a place for spies, corruption and intrigue since the 1930s and was thoroughly bugged during the communist era. Read Olivia Mannings 'Balkan Trilogy' for an insight into life in Bucharest, and the Athenee Palace in particular, at the ouset of the Second World War.

As you continue up Calea Victoriei it becomes something of a broad leafy residential avenue of former mansions and palaces. These include the building of the Writers' Union (often a place of subterfuge during the Ceausescu years) which was built by Ion Mincu in 1889. Mincu wasperhaps the best known of a group of architects responsible for a distinctive "neo-Romanian" style which incorporated Byzantine ideas such as arcaded verandahs with inspiration drawn from mediaeval vernacular architecture towards the end of the 19th century. Nearby, is the eyecatching Cantacuzino Palace built in a neo-baroque style by Berindei at the turn of the century and incorporating a beautiful wrought-iron and glass porte-cochere, a canopy over the entrance. The building now houses the George Enescu Memorial Museum . North of here you reach the huge junction of Piata Victoriei. The North Station (small railway relics museum) is to the west while Soseaua Kiseleff leads past the Natural History Museum and the exceptional Museum of the Romanian Peasant (Muzeum Taranului Roman - also includes one of the best places for books, postcards and folklore items) to the Arcul de Triumf (1918, based on the larger, more famous Arc de Triomphe in Paris), and the massive Stalinist Casa Presei Libere, previously home to the coimmunist press and known as the "Spark House" (Casa Scîntea). Nearby is the Elisabeta Palace, the excellent open-air village museum which brings together village houses, churches and other buildings from all over Romania (note: take care in the giftshop as they are prone to overcharge tourists), the World Trade Centre and the huge Herastrau Park, To the east is the quarter of embassy and government residences, a leaft area of villas including Ceausescu's extremely kitsch example at the end of Bulevardul Primaverii.

Running parallel to Calea Victoriei through the centre from Piata Romania to Piata Universitate is the main Bulevard Magheru which becomes Bulevard Balcescu. Here you will find many of the main stores and boutiques, the Intercontinental Hotel and National Theatre, and some good examples of art deco architecture in the form of the Hotel Lido, Patria Cinema and the Hotel Ambassador. On Piata Universitate you can find the former Sutu Palace (1833), now a museum of local art and history. Bulevardul Bratianu continues south. skirting the Lipscani, and passing the Coltea Church (1698) and Hospital to reach the immense, open space of Piata Unirii. Surprisingly, behind the endless concrete blocks of Ceausescu's Centru Civic are hidden several historic churches that survived the widespread destruction of what had been the rather pleasant Unranus District. Cutting right through this enormous square is Ceausescu's Bulevardul Unirii, 4km long and 120m wide supposedly to outshine the Chanps Elysées! The fountains are being repaired and restored, and even though the concrete is crumbling and the fake marble pavements fading, the apartments here command premium prices. Dominating the end of the Bulevard is the massive, horrendous Palace of Parliament, said to be the second largest building in the world after the Pentagon (see details in panel below). Secreted away amidst the apartments are the surviving churches - including the Mihai Voda Church (built by Michael the Brave in 1591) which was moved on rails during the construction of the Centru Civic so destroying the cloisters and the ancillary buildings, the Antim Monastery (1715) virtually lost behind walls of concrete,and the Patriarchal Cathedral (1655-68) which is the seat of the Romanian Orthodox church and once dominated views of the city from its position on the Dealul Mitropoliei (Hill). Others in the area include the Sf.Apostoli Church, Bucur Monastery (1743) and Radu Voda Church (founded 1568). Also of interest are the city's cemeteries, in particular the Bellu Cemetery with its extravagant tombs and statues which is also the resting place of famous writers such as Eminescu. To the south east is the largely military Ghencea Cemetery which is infamous as containing the graves of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu - it is rather chilling to see freshly laid flowers on the grave of such a notorious dictator. More appropriate is the rather moving cemetery of the heroes of the 1989 revolution.

Bucharest also possesses an interesting collection of modernist and art deco bulldings dating from the interwar years when the city was booming and really lived up to its tag of "Paris of the East". Of particular note are the former Union Hotel (behind Hotel Continental), the Lido Hotel, the pioneering Ciclop (Mihaescu) garage, the Patria (formerly ARO) cinema and apartments, and the totally bizarre Tecnoimport (formerly Adriatica) apartment building. The latter is now darkened a shadow of its former self, once a gleaming cylindrical art deco tower in Strada Doamnei.




Recommended Restaurants (a small selection):

Caru Cu Bere - a beautiful, old beer hall serving traditional Romanian Cuisine and often hosting folk-dancing or music, rather touristy but worth it(Strada Stavreopolis)
Hanul Hangitei - a more modest, but excellent traditional restaurant in the Lipscani (Strada Gabroveni);
Burebista - smart, air-conditioned restaurant with live music and traditional fare to the east (Calea Mosilor)
Count Dracula Club - popular, interesting restaurant popular with the more "Gothic" tourists! (Splaiul Independentiei)
La Gogosaru - inexpensive, well-cooked Romanian cuisine in an interesting building (Strada Lugoj)
Vatra - good, traditional cuisine located conveniently close to Hotel Opera (Strada Ion Brezoianu)
Casa Vernescu - popular and relatively expensive, elegant French restaurant on Calea Victoriei

There are many more including Italian, Belgian, German, Hungarian, Chinese, Indian, Turkish and Lebanese restaurants. For fast food the most common outlets are Springtime, KFC, and McDonalds (the latter useful for the WC if caught out in town!). You will also find many cafes, coffee houses, internet cafes and excellent bars.




Bucharest is a useful transport hub for onward travel, whether to the seaside or to the mountains, or to visit friends or a business associate anywhere. Bucharest is convenient for a range of day trips beyond the city boundaries: the monasteries at Snagov, Cernica or Caldarusani, Mogosoaia Palace or even to Ruse in Bulgaria!





Local Transport

Bucharest is a relatively compact city. The main sights of the Calea Victoriei and the Curtea Veche, and shopping along Magheru and Balcescu Boulevards are all within easy walking distance Piata Unirii and the Palace of Parliament require a little more perseverence. Taxis are inexpensive though the driving may be hair-raising at times. Only use licenced cabs.

Public transport is frequent, cheap and efficient. RATB operates buses, trolleybuses, trams and a metro system. Tickets and day "travel cards" are available from newspaper stands near main stops. There are buses from the airport to the city centre and Piata Unirii (please watch out for pickpockets on this service).

The metro connects the main Gara de Nord station with the city centre and the suburbs while tram routes radiate out of the city and along an inner ring with hubs at Piata Unirii, Gara de Nord and near the Intercontinental Hotel. There are metro stations at main squares such as Unirii, Universitatii, Victoriei and Romana. Modern trolleybuses operate into town from several suburbs displaying constant information such as position and route interchanges.

New Airport Link: A direct link from OTOPENI (town) direct to Bucharest Nord railway station has recently been inaugurated. Tickets are vaialble in the main airport complex at Bucharest Otopeni. This comprises a bus transfer to Otopeni town (15-20 minutes depending on traffic), then a local train into Bucharest Nord (30-40 minutes)


For transport route maps and further information please check the RATB website: Bucharest Public Transport (RATB)


Bucharest Metro

The Bucharest Metro is fast, efficient and safe. However, signs and maps can be confusing, while some stations, such as Piata Unirii, are quite dimly lit. The condition of the stock is best described as variable, since new trains are presently being delivered! The following lines are in operation:

* M1: Pantelimon (Peak Hours Only) - Republica -Dristor-Piata Unirii-Dristor
* M2: Pipera-Piata Unirii-IMGB 2
* M3: Industriilor- Eroilor ( - Piata Unirii-Pantelimon) - in most cases you will need to change trains at Eroilor
* M4: Gara de Nord-1 Mai

M1 is particularly confusing since it loops back on itself at Dristor. It is easy to board a train in the wrong direstion as both may be going to Dristor! Extensions are planned including an eventual link to Baneasa and Otopeni airports. There is also a light rail service (41) connecting the western suburbs: Piata Presei - Crângasi (M1) - Armata Poporului (M3) Ghencea, and an infrequent rail service to Snagov. Maps of the Metro are available in newsagents together with A-Z style street maps for the city which include all bus, tram and trolleybus routes. Please click below for further information:

Map of Bucharest Metro

Bucharest Metro Information (Metrorex)




HistoricTram in Bucharest





Click for a large
version of the Metro map






Additional Advice

Bucharest Is undoubtedly a city of contrasts - there is tremendous wealth and there is poverty But despite this it is still safer than most other European cities - of course you should keep an eye open for pickpockets, just as in London, Paris or Madrid. It also has its own specialities - bogus policemen who request papers or fines but who shy away if you demand returning to your hotel or to the nearest police station - and then there were the dogs!

The story goes that they are the product of the later Ceausescu years - dogs that were cast out when the inhabitants were unable to feed themselves, and in particular when a huge area of the city was cleared for the Dictator's monstrous Civic Centre and Palace of Parliament. Most of them have now been removed humanely, mainly through a long-running sterilisation programme (and apparently also by transporting them to other towns and villages in the dead of the night!), but in the suburbs you may still find some of them roaming in packs .. in the city they are restricted to back street areas where they scavenge derelict sites ... they can be a nuisance away from the main sights but a humane solution is being sought.

You should also take care when walking through the city as pavements (sidewalks) may be uneven or broken in places, and it is not unusual for a service hatch or manhole to be left open, especially where work is being carried out. Considerable work has already been carried out to resurface and improve city streets and in some places tramways are being relaid (whereas in some places it is surprising that the trams remain on the tracks!). Similarly, you may also come across broken metal railings or other sharp objects protruding into roads or walkways though mainly in the residential districts. Gypsies, and other beggars may occasionally approach you on the street but will go away if ignored. They are not aggressive or dangerous. Traffic in Bucharest is fast moving and rather and can be rather disconcerting for a first-time visitor (see the notes above regarding driving in Bucharest and traffic congestion). If you wish to hire and car and head out of town we recommend that you arrange to collect it from the airport which is located north of the city on the main road north to Transylvania and Moldavia.

However: these are certainly not reasons to avoid this intriguing city!




Useful Links

Bucharest In Your Pocket - Handy guide to what's on and what to do and see in Bucharest
RATB
- Official Bucharest local transport website
Bucharest Metro
- Metronex: Bucharest Metro information website
Old Bucharest - Gallery 1: Bucharest in old pictures
Old Bucharest - Gallery 2: Bucharest in old pictures





Further Reading

Rough Guide Romania (4th Edition) - published September 2004
Blue Guide Romania - for more detailed cultural information
"Balkan Trilogy" Olivia Manning - set in the intrigue of the war years
"România Interbellica" and "Calea Victoriei Interbellica" - wonderful, atmospheric albums of excellent photographs from the inter-war years (NOI Print, Romania)
"The Razing of Romania's Past" Dinu Giurescu (Arcitectural Design & Technology Press, London) - the story of the systematic destruction of towns and villages (1989)

You will also find several comprehensive city guides in Romania bookstores, and regular publications detailing nightlife, restaurants and other developments.
Of special note is the excellent, and rather candid "Bucharest In Your Pocket Guide", which is packed with uptodate information, listings, events and useful features for anybody staying in the city. They also have a very good website: Bucharest In Your Pocket
"What, Where, When ... Bucharest" is a more basic, free publication often left in hotel foyers or rooms. The Romania Tourist Office have also recently published a very useful guide to the city and also a detailed street map of the city - free on request.






Palace of Parliament
Palatul Parlamentului


Ceausescu's 'Palace of the People', and the surrounding area, his Centru Civic,
saw the bulldozing of the historic Uranus District. including 10 churches,
3 synagogues and a maze of old streets, villas and small houses
covering an area of some 5square kms, and amid international condemnation
during the late 1980s. In the process some 40,000 inhabitants were forcibly
relocated, often at only 24 hours notice. His inspiration was drawn from
visits to North Korea and his intention was to turn Bucharest into the
"first socialist sapital for the new socialist man"

With over 6000 rooms, the Palace of Parliament (formerly the Peoples' House)
is only surpassed in volume by the Pentagon! It stands at the end of Bulevard
Unirii of what was the Spirei Hill (also flattened for the project). The
building comprises 12 storeys, 4 underground floors including a nuclear
bunker and 1100 rooms, only half of which are used. Ceausescu was
desposed before the Palace was completed yet it is still lavishly decorated
with marble and gold-leaf, and contains 4500 out of the planned 11,000
chandeliers, the heaviest weighing 1.5 tonnes. The government finally decided
what to do with their 'white elephant' in 1994 - it now houses the parliament and the
senate while other parts are used for international conventions and trade fairs
.

There are official tours covering part of the building from entrance A1.


Calea Victoriei / Romanian Atheneum / Domneasca Church (1591), Curtea Veche

The Dâmbovita near Piata Unirii / Palace of Parliament / Former Union Hotel

Communist era department store, Bulevard Bratianu / Russian Church / Fountains in Piata Unirii

Stavreopolis Church / Balacony where Ceausescu made his last speech, and memorial - former Central Commitee Building / Pasajul Villacros Arcade








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