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Introducing Bucharest

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.