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I like to travel to unusual places, places that people don’t think of right away. Therefore the mission of 2017 was to look out for some underrated countries and show how beautiful there are. Romania is one of those countries and you will be surprised what gems you can find there. Most likely a trip to Romania will start in Bucharest, especially if you arrive by air.
When researching for my trips I always like to check out some other blogs. When it came to Bucharest the general idea I got is that it hasn’t much to offer and can easily be skipped. Some even described the city as very ugly.
Still I wanted to give Bucharest a chance and come with an open mind.
I decided to spend the first two nights of my trip in Bucharest, the capital.
Based on stories I’ve read I was suspecting a rather run down city with not allot to offer. What a big surprise I turned out to be.
Touch down at Henri Coanda Airport named after the inventor of the yet engine, I was immediately reminded how little I knew about this beautiful country. After my cash withdrawal I was holding some plastic bank notes named Lei’s.
Time to start exploring.
What to do in Bucharest
Bucharest is a city that you don’t love right away. You will need time and some friendly locals showing you their city. We joined the free walking tour from walkabout on our first day and really enjoyed it as it covers all the highlights and beyond combined with interesting background information. Plus our guide was really fun and gave us a lot of personal recommendation.
The tour starts two times daily at 10.30am and 6pm. Meeting point is Unirii Square Park in front of the Clock. The tour is free, however donations are appreciated.
The Palace of the Parliament is the second-largest administrative building in the world built by former dictator Nicolas Ceauşescu. He intended it to be a symbol of communism, today it serves as represents democracy housing the parliament and associated offices.
It has more than 3000 rooms and covers an area of 330,000 square metres. Because of the revolution it never got finished and a large part is still unused.
The Palace of the Parliament can only be visited as part of a guided tour and I can highly recommend you to do so when visiting Bucharest. Standart tours take 45 minutes, add another 15 minutes if you also want to visit the basement and terrace. Keep in mind that booking can only be made via telephone 24 hours prior to your intended visit.
Stroll through the Old City
The Old City is the historic core of Bucharest and the place where you find it all: sights, restaurants and bars. Did you know that Bucharest’s nickname was „Paris of the East“ in the decades before World War II? Due to the war and mistreatment of the communists you can’t find a lot of the beautiful art nouveau palaces and architecture anymore, but in the Old City you will still be able to see places where you get a glimpse of its elegance.
When strolling through the Old City you will discover the sights and will be able to spot a lot of small churches and chapels that date back to the 17th and 18th century.
Old City truly comes to live in the evening and at night. Many restaurants, bars and clubs are lined up next to each other and you can hop from place to place enjoying a bite to eat and a few drinks.
Heaven for bookworms: A visit to Cărtureşti bookstore
Hands down, this is the most beautiful bookstore I ever stepped foot in. This bookstore is a magical place that spreads out on six levels. It is not only a store but an experience- a place to read, socialize and for artistic exploration. You will also find an art gallery, a bistro and a media centre in there.
The choice is endless and they also have a large choice of English books and unique souvenirs for international visitors.
A bit of Culture
The Village Museum (Muzeul Satului), a large outdoor museum showcasing peasant homes and other traditional Romanian Houses throughout history, the National Museum of Contemporary Art and the National History Museum of Romania are just a few examples worth visiting.
Where to Eat, Drink and Play
The capital of Romania is young, hip and trendy and we got positively surprised how much the city has to offer when it comes to a restaurant scene and nightlife.
For traditional Romanian food I can warmly recommend Caru cu Bere, a restaurant with a long history that is popular among locals and tourists a like.
Other places a friend of mine recommend who lived in Bucharest for a while: Energiea– their fries are to die for, La Pescaria, Osho and Vacamuu for great steak, Le Bistro Francais, Entourage that is first a restaurant and then turns into a bar, Upstairs for food with a view.
For nightlife: Pura Vida Skybar, Bicicleta, Nomad Skybar and Fratelli are really nice. In general you will find most places in Old City and I would suggest to just walk around and try out different places and stay if you like them.
Where To Stay
If you are in for a treat and are looking for a luxurious place to stay- you simply can’t get around the InterContinental Bucharest. The location of the hotel is perfect. It is situated right in the heart of Bucharest near University Square and the Old Town and most tourist attractions are all in walking distance. If you need to go further a bus and metro stop is situated outside the hotel.
After a bus ride from the airport to the city center that took around 30 minutes, I arrived at my hotel: The Intercontinental Hotel Bucharest. From the outside it’s a brown concrete mass not looking any special, but remember it was build in the 1960 at the height of the communist era and was an institution from the start. However when setting foot in the lobby, you will enter a world of luxury and the interior is all gold and marble. After checking in, one of the staff members showed me up to my room and explained all the features and of course my luggage was already waiting for me.
I was staying in one of their Standard Rooms. The room is spacious and you will find everything you will need there such as safe, mini bar, coffee machine. The bed was really comfortable and I really liked the marble bathroom.
Each room of the hotel has their own balcony, which is rather rare for a city hotel and I simply loved to step out in the morning, drink my coffee there and watch the city wake-up.
The hotel has a lot to offer for its guests. It is equipped with a heated indoor and outdoor swimming pool, jacuzzi, sauna, steam bath, solarium, a large gym, sun terrace and a tennis court and golf course- offering enough to unwind after a long day of sightseeing or business meetings.
For culinary pleasures the hotel has three restaurants: Modigliani– an authentic Italian restaurant, Corso Brasserie- where a lavish breakfast is served everyday, as well as international dishes and a cocktail and live music can be enjoyed at the Intermezzo Piano Bar.
The Club Lounge:
The Intercontinental Bucharest is the second tallest building in the city and it offers breath taking view.
After checking in I went directly up to club lounge where I had a perfect view over the city. The thing I noticed straight away is that the city is HUGE! Its stretches on and on and its hectic with traffic and people everywhere. Looking at the buildings you will notice that the old and the new are standing side by side. The Parisian style beside a communist block beside a newly build skyscraper. It makes the city interesting but also hard to love at first sight.
Access to the exclusive Club Intercontinenantal Lounge is available for Club InterContinental guest only. The cozy lounge is perfect for relaxation and along with an incredible view over the city, breakfast, snacks and a light dinner, as well as drinks can be enjoyed free of charge. Also a dedicated team will be able to help you there with any requests that you might have.
We loved to come to the lounge for sunset and end the day with a glass of wine and a book from their library.
We had a perfect stay at the Intercontinental Bucharest and can warmly recommend it to everyone planning a visit to Bucharest.