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Romania is one of the new hot destinations in Eastern Europe. When I used to live there, it was far from being a must-see country, but it slowly became more tourist friendly and people all over the world found out about its hidden beauty.
The center of the country, Transylvania, is probably the most famous Eastern European part – thanks to Bram Stocker’s novel, Dracula. But lately, travelers from all continents are visiting the city that has conquered party lovers of all ages, Bucharest.
For me, the capital of Romania is more than one of the places I’ve been to. It started as my “home” for a few years, until I finished my studies. While living in Bucharest, I never actually visited the city since I was always busy with school, writing and all kinds of project. Afterwards, I left the country and came back only to see my family and friends. Fortunately, a few weeks ago life took me back to where I used to be local, but as a visitor this time.
Things to Do in Eastern Europe’s “Little Paris”
People who have seen Paris will immediately see a resemblance between Bucharest and France’s capital. Not only do the streets look alike, but also the buildings, the new coffee shops and the atmosphere – especially in the Old Town. Bucharest even has an Arc of Triumph (though obviously smaller).
The difference is that people don’t come here searching for romance, but for a bit of history and a lot of fun. Yes, Bucharest is famous among travelers for the fantastic clubs, pubs and party it offers. But before we get to that, let’s talk a bit about what is to see around the city.
My first stop was the Palace of the Parliament, called by everybody the “People’s House”. This is the second largest administrative building in world, after the Pentagon, and the largest administrative building used for civilian purposes. The building was an attempt of the communist leader, Nicolae Ceausescu, to redesign Bucharest. He didn’t succeed in doing that, but he did build something that is visible from the moon. Cool, right?
The next place I went to was Herastrau Park. This is one of the local people’s favorite places to spend a sunny afternoon. Not only because the park is extremely beautiful, but since it has 187 hectares around Herastrau Lake, it is never too crowded. One of the most popular attractions here, and my favorite in Bucharest, is the Village Museum, an open-air ethnographic museum offering a glimpse at the traditional Romanian village life.
Now, if you ask me, I admit that Herastrau is a gorgeous park with lots of restaurants, coffee shops and beautiful views, but the park I love the most in Bucharest is undoubtedly Cismigiu Garden. This is actually the oldest garden in Bucharest, and it is a haven of green with its beautifully arranged lawns, trees, vivid flowers and relaxing lakes. There are also a few places where you can have a coffee and admire the multitude of people who come here to get their daily breath of fresh air. And in such a busy city, you definitely need a few moments like this!
Obviously, there are more things to see, but how much of the city you visit depends on how long you plan to stay. If you plan a city break, you should also take the time to relax and observe the life of the city, instead of only run from one place to the other.
Now, since we talk about relaxing, I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by a coffee shop I’ve been to. French Bakery rapidly became my favorite place for coffee breaks. It has more than one location and many delicious sweets, as well as mouth-watering coffee. But the best part is the atmosphere, which is cozy and chic, combining the eastern European soul with the French style. It is perfect for a lazy afternoon or a stop between touristic attractions!
For coffee addicts, like myself, Origo Coffee Shop is definitely a must try. Not only do they serve the best coffee in town but they also have an impeccable service. Here was the first place I got free water in Bucharest! This tasteful coffee shop is located the Old Town, an area that should also be on your list of must-see places in Bucharest.
Though I’ve been a tourist in Bucharest when it comes to food, I am a local and I know exactly how Romanian food should taste. I’ve been to a few restaurants in Bucharest where they serve traditional food, and from what I’ve tasted, I’d recommend Caru’ cu Bere and Voievodal.
Not only do they serve delicious Romanian food here, but thanks to its history and fascinating interiors, the restaurant is an attraction in itself. The other restaurant I always recommend is Voievodal, which is also known for its mouth-watering dishes. What to eat? Well, taste as many things as you can, and don’t even think about leaving without having the delicious dessert called “papanasi” ( doughnuts with jam and sour cream).
The Famous Explosive Night Life
People come to Romanian for different reasons. Some want to get in touch with its history, to experience the life in the villages and even to search for Dracula. But there are many people who come for the parties.
Bucharest is famous for its nightlife so no visitor should miss a night out in Romania’s capital. The best place to have that ultimate experience is the Old Town. This area is full of coffee shops, restaurants, bars and clubs. Personally, I prefer Nomad Skybar, which offers not only a great design, but the music and the drinks are just perfect for a Friday night.
Though I never expected to find such a blooming city, my overall experience in Bucharest was very interesting. Yes, it is a big city with annoying traffic, as well as many busy and stressful areas, but there is also beauty everywhere and so many relaxing, cozy spots. So, if I had to describe the Romanian capital without using too many words, I would say that this is one of those intriguing cities, a city of contrasts.