I only had a couple of days in Romania, which I used to explore its capital city Bucharest.
Being filled with brutalist architecture, quirky markets and a polenta-based cuisine, Bucharest had all I could ask for, therefore I didn't get the chance to visit the exciting castles spread throughout the country (guess where Dracula was from!).
We teamed up and prepared our ten favourite things to do in and around Bucharest for you.
To make it more fun, we've mixed our tips, so can you spot the Canadian and the German accent?
1. Brave a visit to Bran Castle – Home of Dracula
Bran Castle is a must while visiting Romania. It's about two and a half hours from Bucharest but definitely worth the day trip. Tickets cost 35 Lei per person and the castle is open 9am (12pm on Mondays) until either 4pm or 6pm depending on the season. It's easy to spend a couple hours here wandering the castle grounds and walking the nearby area to take iconic photos. While the Dracula legend might be a bit far fetched, it's a cool castle to explore with tons of gory history and some real Romanian legends.
Picture by Hannah
2. Get inspired at Carturesti book store
Carturesti is the prettiest book store I've ever seen. I love how the new design winds through the old architecture, highlighting it instead of covering what was there.
The historic building only had two floors around the atrium, but the recent construction added two more in between, which means that old and new architecture alternate in this unique book store.
3. Spend a day in nearby Sinaia
Another option for a day trip is the mountain town Sinaia. Less than two hours away Sinaia offers a pretty change of scenery and, in my opinion, is home to one of Europe’s most beautiful castles: Peles castle. There is another, smaller castle nearby called Pelisor castle as well as a monastery, casino, and cable car ride that are worth a visit.
If you don't have time, you can combine a visit to Sinaia and Bran Castle in a one day tour from Bucharest.
Picture by Hannah
4. Relax at Stavropoleos Monastery
Despite being located right in the old town, the Monastery's backyard is absolutely quiet and therefore the perfect spot for a break from the city. Don't miss the tiny chapel, which has a beautifully painted dome and a sweet old lady making sure you don't use the flash on your camera.
5. Eat at Caru'cu Bere
This place is pretty popular, but some restaurants are busy for a reason:
If you want to try Romanian cuisine, Caru'cu Bere is your spot.
Get the salty cheese pie, it's amazing and since I found out how to make it, it's basically all I'm eating.
6. Marvel at the Opulence of the Palace of Parliament
Bucharest itself may not be home to any old castles, but the Parliament buildings, modelled after Versailles, are incredibly extravagant. You have to take a guided tour to see the inside of the building, but it’s worth it. The building is massive with a countless amount of glittering chandeliers and tons of artwork. Apparently there is also a secret metro station hidden in the basement.
7. Visit the "Union of Romanian Architects"-Building
In 2003, a small skyscraper was erected on top of this historic building at Revolution Square housing the Union of Romanian Architects.
Being considered a landmark, the lower part of the building couldn't be demolished, therefore it was consolidated and behind the brick walls, a steel and glass tower was built.
Unfortunately, it's not open for the public, but just looking at the facade is worth a visit.
The mix of Grigore Peacescu's French renaissance architectural style and the modern glas facade by Dan Marin and Zeno Bogdanscu is perceived very controversally, but it is without doubt one of Bucharest's most famous landmarks.
8. Stroll down the Macca Villacrosse Passageway
Possibly the prettiest passageway in all of Bucharest, the Macca Villacrosse Passageway is a glass coloured passageway in the centre of the city. Once it was part of a palace, but today it is lined with cafes and restaurants. Its a great place to explore, and grab a bite to eat or a drink if you need to escape the rain.
9. Take a walk around Piata Romana
There are old and new buildings next to each other all over the city, but Piata Romana made the differences more clear to me than any other place. Right in between houses, that look like they came straight out of a Dracula movie, there are brutalist buildings from the 60s. To make it more confusing, there are massive Coca Cola commercials on the roofs. This area is great for simply walking around. Don't miss the little alleys towards Calea Victoriei.
10. Take a break in any of Bucharest's Parks
It might surprise you to know that Bucharest has plenty of green space. Five parks and a botanical gardens area make it easy to find a temporary escape from the hustle and bustle of Bucharest’s busy streets. My favourites were the Cismigiu gardens which have plenty of green grass lawns, trees, and lakes with swans.
Hannah and I met at Tbex in Bangkok last year and hit it off at first sight.
She is a Canadian travel addict who has been dreaming of adventure since she first watched Indiana Jones. Travelling on and off since 2011, she is on a mission to see the world. Join her (mis)adventures on EatSleepBreatheTravel, Twitter or Facebook
Where to stay in Bucharest – Budget to High End
Budget: Little Bucharest Old town Hostel
Located in Old Town, close to many restaurants and bars including Caru' cu Bere, this hostel is a popular choice for backpackers. The central location makes it perfect for exploring the city with easy access to all public transportation systems. It’s clean, spacious, and the staff is friendly and helpful. Both dorms and private rooms are available making this hostel perfect for anyone on a budget – Highly recommended by Hannah!
Mid range: Sarroglia Hotel
Sarroglia is one of the few real modern Boutique Hotel in Bucharest and it looks adorable. They have their own Art Lounge and offer a bunch of events.
High end: Grand Hotel Continental
Compared to other European cities, Bucharest is pretty cheap. Therefore, we decided to get spoiled for a weekend and went with this 5 Star beauty, that made us feel like we were staying in a Marie Antoinette Movie Set. Highly recommended by Sarah!
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