Coming from Greece and having traveled quite a bit, someone would think I have been to Balkans more than once. Surprisingly enough, I have never been there before, although it’s only 3 hours away from my home city. It might be that due to the proximity I thought I could travel there any time (back in the time I was living in Greece). But then I moved to the Netherlands.
Recently though, I was lucky enough to spend 3 days in Romania and specifically to Bucharest to attend the wedding of a lovely couple and very good friends of mine. It was exactly what I needed to get a taste of the Balkan culture and visit the Romanian capital where communism meets capitalism.
My time there was limited but still, I managed to explore the city’s highlights and now hopefully I am able to give you the best tips for a long weekend in Bucharest; The most popular sight, the hippest neighborhood in the city, the trendiest coffee corner and last but not least, the only place you can not miss once you are there.
The most representative sight of the dictatorial megalomania is the Palace of Parliament. The world’s second largest building (after the Pentagon) was former dictator’s Nicolae Ceausescu most cherished jewel. The effort of 20,000 workers and more than 700 designers was required for its completion. It’s actually quite difficult to describe with words the size, I felt so small once I approached it and it took me more than 20 minutes to walk around it. Since my time was limited I wasn’t able to do the tour and visit the chambers but if you have the time I would totally recommend it.
Although a big chunk of the city was transformed by communism, the Old town survived and kept a mix of history, local culture and lifestyle. The area is full of bars, pubs and restaurants. In between the vibrant and crowded neighborhood, historical buildings, old churches and houses with particular architecture stand out.
What caught my attention while wandering in the cobblestone streets of Old town was perhaps the most beautiful bookstore I have ever seen or visited. This stunning place with sweeping designs combines modern architecture with older aspects. Carturestic carusel holds more than 10,000 books, for every taste (I was ecstatic about the travel collection). It is a place where you can lose track of time if you are a bookworm but even if you are not (like me) you will definitely be fascinated by its collection and cozy atmosphere. There is a coffee place at the top floor and comfy chairs in every corner to allow you read your favorite books.
On my way to the Old Town, in a small passage i stumbled upon this colorful place, covered by umbrellas. Such a lovely spot, hidden in the Pasajul Victoria street, it brings color in the gray buildings that surround it.
One thing i didn’t know about this city is that in the last years it has been catching up with the trend of coffee shops and coffee culture has become part of the urban landscape. As a coffee lover, i couldn’t help visiting some of the top places such as the Origo Coffee, which offers with a wide variety of coffees from all over a world, combined with the most amazing decoration.
You will only find the Acuarela cafe if you know its exact location, since its garden is hidden behind this artsy boho mini van. An alternative, very colourful bistro, with a bohemian feel, ideal for a sunny day in the city.
I kept for last, what you can not miss even if you visit the city for 1 day. I am serious!
Therme is the largest spa and wellness center in Europe and Bucharest’s newest attraction. Located close to the airport, a huge area of 250,000 square meters facilitates themed saunas, relaxation areas, water slides, massage studios and an enormous swimming pool with a swim up bar in the middle of it. Yes, you can actually enjoy your mojito while swimming either inside or in the outdoor pool heated to 33 degrees regardless of the temperature outside. And with such affordable prices that you won’t have second thoughts orderding a second or a third coctail.