Travel

Discovering Bucharest: Little Paris to New Berlin

Ottoman rule, vampire legends, a vibrant Monarchy, stories of a communist past and the bloodiest revolution in the Eastern Block are all pieces of Bucharest’s dynamic narrative. Once known as “Little Paris of the East” and currently known as “New Berlin”, the identity of this capital is constantly evolving. While wandering the streets of Bucharest, stop to appreciate the distinct styles of architecture: Ottoman, Neo-Romanian, Art Nouveau and Utilitarian. The architectural dissonance adds a unique charm to each alleyway and street corner, calling you to discover more. Below, you will find my beginner’s guide to unearthing the beauty of this capital city.

 Free Walking Tours

Bucharest, Romania
Notice the difference in architecture between these buildings

Start your trip with The Story of Bucharest walking tour. It is a brilliant introduction to the history of significant monuments in Bucharest. The English tour begins at 10:30 and 18:00 each day.

Save time for the Little Paris to New Berlin tour, which occurs every day at 18:00. This alternative tour focuses on architecture, street art, and current city culture. The tour guides were extremely knowledgeable and shared unique insights; they even toss candy to those who answer questions correctly!

 

Charming Bookstores

Carturesti Carusel, Bucharest
Carturesti Carusel

 

Carturesti Carusel: Named as one of the top bookstores in the world, this beautifully restored 19thcentury building is located in Old Town. Features include several beautiful white staircases, multiple levels jammed with books, including English, and an added bonus – a gorgeous café on the top level.  Be careful, you could easily spend hours here!

Carturesti Verona: I fell in love with this less touristic bookstore north of Old Town. Located in a restored old mansion, there are many rooms and cozy corners to enjoy. Part of the mansion features a concept store with goods from independent Romanian designers. Below Carturesti, there is a quaint café with an outdoor terrace perfect for the summer sun.

 

Quirky Streets

Wall of street art, Bucharest

Around the corner from Carturesti Verona, you will find a long wall of street art, which is also home to a huge street festival in mid-June. Turn down Strada Pictor Arthur Verona and walk the length of the road in the direction of Ion Voicu Park. The area around the park’s beautiful residential homes is the perfect place to wander and absorb local life.

Does a street of colorful umbrellas dangling over you sound too cute to be true? Well, in between Calea Victoriei and Strada Academiei on Pasajul Victoriei, you will find such a place! Take your camera and say, “Cheese!”

Umbrella street, Bucharest

Unique Venues

Pura Vida Sky Bar, Bucharest
Pura Vida Sky Bar, Bucharest

Young, creative entrepreneurs are playing a major role in turning Bucharest into an alternative hub similar to Berlin. Abandoned spaces have been recreated into unique entertainment venues, coffee shops, clubs, working co-ops and more.

Expirat: A converted industrial building that now serves as a concert venue, club and permanent street art exhibition. It’s atmosphere is perfect to experience the underground music scene and maybe sample some street food on their heated terrace.

Dianei 4:This was once a gorgeous 19thcentury mansion turned socialist headquarters, now transformed into a hipster Gastropub and garden bar.

Gradina Eden: Tucked away in the middle of the city is a garden hidden amongst old abandoned buildings.  Lined with hammocks, picnic tables and chill spots to lounge, it’s the best place to hang in the summer with a beer in hand.

Expo Bazar Art: Nestled in the former headquarters of the National Library of Bucharest, this charming market is a gem worthy discovering. This beautiful building houses marble floors and high ceilings; you can browse through antiques, artwork, and unique handicrafts to find your perfect souvenir.

(Insider tip: If it doesn’t show on your GPS, the building is located in Old Town across from the Hilton Garden Inn.)

Pura Vida Sky Bar and Hostel: Is just that, a rooftop bar located on the top of a hostel. Don’t let the 7 floor trek stop you from catching a glimpse of these gorgeous views. It was so relaxing to watch the sun glint off the copper rooftops and shimmer as it disappeared behind Old Town- with a cocktail in hand of course.

 

Cozy Cafes

 Frudisiac, Bucharest coffee shop
Frudisiac

 Frudisiac: Is perfect if you are craving a healthy café with delicious coffee. In a local neighborhood north of Old Town, it’s a great base to explore the less touristic neighborhoods and walk along one of Bucharest’s high-end streets, Calea Dorobantilor.

 The Urbanist: A mix between café and urban clothing store, it’s a great option for hot coffee or a tasty bite when in Old Town. After the sun sets, you may find a talented DJ spinning and feel like you’ve been transported into a cocktail lounge rather than café.

 

Delicious Dining 

La Copac, Bucharest
La Copac

La Copac: A local gem tucked away from the average tourist’s radar. This was my tour guide’s favorite eatery in the city. With an outdoor terrace, rustic décor, and a menu with countless options to satisfy a curious palate, this was the perfect lunch choice.

Beca’s Kitchen:This cozy restaurant was the best way to end our stay in Bucharest. The food was fresh, local, and tasty. It was such a treat when Chef Beca came to our table to personally explain the menu and answer all our foodie questions! Highly recommend you make reservations as Beca’s is a local favorite.

Caru’cu Bere: Romanian dancers entertain guests underneath glamorous vaulted ceilings creating a delightful dining ambiance. It is a great place to try traditional food such as Sarmale, the Romanian version of cabbage rolls. Although this restaurant has a touristy vibe, the food is delicious and watching the dancers made for a really memorable night!

 

Bucharest by night
Bucharest by night

I hope this guide will help you find Bucharest as captivating as I did; happy wandering!

Until next time,

J.

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