The capital of Romania is full of contradiction. On one hand you have the ever present communist structures, adjacent to the modern design, with an ever growing hipster and art nouveau culture, all muddled up with some beautiful 17th century Orthodox Churches, and streets lined with houses that have a clear mix of Arab and Mediterranean influence. So basically Bucharest is an awesome place to explore and experience it’s many surprises. Having had the chance to do just that, I’ve picked some of the places you must check out on your city break.
The Usual Tourist Spots
In any city I travel to, my first place to explore is the city’s Old Town. Agreed, usually it is the most popular tourist hotspot to visit, but it’s a great way to soak up a little of the character and atmosphere. Making you think how the place was like during those times while your sat sipping on a coffee, admiring the views. Bucharest’s Old Town has two personas. During the day you can see the full glory of some of the buildings, the National Bank is a great example. However, as the sun goes down it’s party time! The place is brimming with bars and clubs. The explorer approach I took was from the South West of the town, this enabled me to check out the huge Parliament Building on my way, and just zig zagged my way through each little path and alleyway ending up at one street you must walk along, Calea Victoriei. It’s lined with shops, churches, hotels, galleries, restaurants, houses etc. It’s a lovely walk to get a taste of the contradictions I mentioned earlier.
One note of warning, as a lone handsome man wandering the streets of Old Town during the night, be prepared to have numerous touts approach you asking if you would really like to party. Enticing as that sounds, believe me this city is friendly enough to create your own party.
The coffee scene seems to have exploded in Bucharest and there is no shortage of cool cafe’s to sample some extremely tasty speciality coffee. A few of my favourites (so far!);
BOB Coffee Lab, Piața Charles de Gaulle
Although the cafe appears to be just an extension of their main focus which is coffee roasting, it is a wonderful place to taste some lovely coffee while perched on their bench outside. Check out my full breakdown here.
Origo, Strada Lipscani
Arguably touted as THE place to go to in Bucharest for your coffee fix. I’m hard pressed to disagree with the cool decor, awesome service, pavement seating and truly delicious choice of coffee blends to choose from. Check out my full breakdown here.
Frudisiac, Intrarea Bitolia
A different kind of vibe, this Scandinavian influenced cafe is a lovely quieter place to not only have coffee but a spot of breakfast/ brunch. Seating outside is nice even though on the pavement it is still bordered. Perfect for people watching. Check out my full breakdown here.
Trofic, Strada Actor Ion Brezoianu
Simplistic, minimal and industrial, with staff who want to make damn sure you enjoy your coffee and food. Space is quite tight inside and outside just benches lining the building. However the turnaround of guests appears quick, because of one truly ingenious sign – no laptops allowed. Check out my full breakdown here.
Yummy In My Tummy
Even though I’m more than happy to have my dirty juicy delicious kebab when i’m travelling alone, I do like to check out the restaurant vibes. My initial thought was the food would be just your traditional soups, stews, sausage et al, but then I realised just like the city itself and it’s surprises, theres an eclectic mix of international cuisine, street food and gastro dining options galore. Yes it seems weird to have traditional Romanian Sushi, but the passion these guys put into it, they really do it and do it well.
Caru’ cu Bere, Strada Stavropoleos
Even if you don’t like traditional Romanian food this is a place you have to go if not for the food but the atmosphere of being inside what appears to be an old church. Just a beautiful building, tables and seats everywhere. Loved the confession room restrooms as well as the waiting staff in traditional outfits and live music. Definitely worth having a meal there. For dessert, forget everything else and just order Papanași. At another branch of this restaurant my colleagues took me to, one of them ordered this sublime dessert. At first I thought, what a fatty, having that huge fried cottage cheese based dough dripping with cream. Salivating. I helped her out of course taking the plate and having a spoonful. I didn’t return the plate back.
Linea / Closer To The Moon, Strada Lipscani
If you’re not careful you will walk past this place and miss it entirely. It has an air of exclusivity for sure. The entrance is a rundown door into a small hallway in a building that looks abandoned. Around the corner is an elevator, ready to take you up to wonderful rooftop bar with great views of the city. They serve food which is a self service type affair. It’s a simple menu but they have got it right. Their fries are amazing! Awesome place to spend an evening.
Piccolo Mondo, Strada Clucerului
Now this is my kind of place and food. Wonderfully tasting Lebanese food inside a truly beautiful restaurant. The decor was luscious and intricate, with little gems all over the place, especially in the gents. Yes I do have a fascination with toilet room decor. It’s perfectly normal. Kind of. The food itself, the usual suspects of Lebanese cuisine, the ultimate test was the Tabouleh. If a place can get this right, you don’t have to worry about anything else. So I didn’t and filled my tummy up properly and then relaxed with a shisha.
Just Want To Chill
Speaking of shisha, if you are a fan of smoking hookah then you have to visit Pasajul Macca-Vilacrosse. A street with a glass roof lining the length of the passage, adorned with shisha cafe’s, eateries and cafes. Truly awesome vibe chilling here smoking the bubbly. Truly is a relaxing way to end an evening.
If shisha is not your thing but fancy a more relaxing non urban scenery, then King Mihai Park is a great place to get away from it all, with its green space and lake. Having a spot of lunch at La Brasserie is recommended.
So before you head off to Transylvania check out a few of these places, let me know what you think. Would love to hear your recommendations on other hidden gems in a city that is now a part of me. Peace & Love.