Much of Romania slags it and Europe in general doesn’t always speak favourably of Romania’s capital. They’re all wrong. Its perplexing mismatch of eras – grey housing blocks from Ceauşescu’s brutal rebuilding phase, deliberately French palaces with baroque clam-shaped canopies, (limited) remains of medieval churches and courts, 21st-century office buildings –means that even a short walk around blurs time. Bucharest is home to Romania’s best museums – lots of them – some of which defy limited budgets by illustrating the rural side of Romanian life. Others, like the communist bon voyage Palace of Parliament (the world’s second-biggest building), show off another era.
More importantly, like any great city, Bucharest believes in itself: a lively student base takes over the historic centre’s open-air bar scene, all-age couples attend theatre or opera or foreign-language films kept in their original tongue, and families seeking weekend quiet lounge all day in Bucharest’s (often) well-kept parks. Not what one might expect, considering revolution tore the city apart less than two decades ago.
Alas, Bucharest has its problems – taxi scams, glue-sniffing beggars, packs of stray dogs, loud traffic – but it has a heart too. Stick around more than a day – as some visitors flee at first sight – and you start to get it. Bucharest has something going on.
Best places to stay in Bucharest
Romania & Bulgaria - Bucharest (Chapter)
Romania’s capital is dynamic, energetic and more than a little bit funky. Take in the museums, stroll the parks, hang out at trendy cafes, and visit the gargantuan Palace of Parliament, the craziest tribute to dictatorial megalomania you’ll...
Budapest to Istanbul
From pastoral countryside to forbidding forests and magnificent mountain ranges, experience the romance of the east on your way from Budapest to Istanbul. In two well-paced weeks, explore the weathered architecture of Budapest, grand Ottoman palaces and mosques in Istanbul for an introduction to the artistic and cultural heights of two very different empires.
Edifice Complex: Bucharest's Palace of Parliament
This is an excerpt from Lonely Planet's guide to Romania. Controversy still rages around this massive edifice. More than a symbol of Ceauşescu’s communist vision, it stands today as a reminder of the price Romania paid to satisfy the egotistical whims of Nicolae and Elena...
Eastern Europe Phrasebook - Romanian (Chapter)
Get all your essential travel phrases, with sections on transport, accommodation, shopping, meeting people and more. A guide to pronunciation will have you chatting with the locals in no time.
Belgrade to Bucharest
A unique cycle journey along the Danube from Belgrade in Serbia to Romania
Eastern Europe - Plan your trip (Chapter)
Your journey to Eastern Europe starts here. You’ll find the tools to plan your adventure: where to go and when, how much to budget, plus in-depth info on how to explore Eastern Europe’s amazing history.