explore Bucharest, Romania

Explore Bucharest, Romania

Explore Bucharest, Romania’s capital and largest city, as well as the most important industrial and commercial center of the country. With 2 million inhabitants in the city proper and more than 2.4 million in the urban area, Bucharest is one of the largest cities in Southeastern Europe, the largest city between Berlin and Istanbul.

Bucharest is the 6th largest city in the European Union by population within city limits, after London, Berlin, Madrid, Rome, and Paris.

Bucharest is the primary entry point into Romania. Bucharest is a booming city with many large infrastructure projects changing the old face of the city. Known in the past as “The Little Paris,” Bucharest has changed a lot lately, and today it has become a very interesting mix of old and new that has little to do with its initial reputation. Finding a 300 year old church, a steel-and-glass office building and Communist-era apartment blocks next to one another is a common sight. Bucharest offers some excellent attractions, and has, in recent years, cultivated a sophisticated, trendy, and modern sensibility that many have come to expect from a European capital. Bucharest has been undergoing major construction and modernization works in recent years, such as the Basarab Overpass and the National Arena. Bucharest has benefited from an economic boom along with the EU grants that have helped rebuild neglected parts of the city, such as the historic Lipscani area.

Language

The official language is Romanian. Most younger educated people will speak English very well indeed; and the drawback of this will be that they will certainly NOT want you to try your Romanian, to the point of pointing your inefficiency out!  Most educated people born before about 1970 will speak French, Spanish or Italian reasonably well. The Roma people speak their native Romany, as well as Romanian, and sometimes English as well. Beyond that, as in any major city, there will be a smattering of other languages like Chinese, Arabic, Turkish, Hungarian. Contrary to popular belief, Russian is not spoken in Romania. Despite being part of the Eastern Bloc, use of Russian was and is frowned upon. The only exception to this are in the small Lipovan communities in Dobruja.

Climate

Bucharest has a humid continental climate with cold winters, hot summers and moderate rainfall (640 milimeters on average). Winters are damp, snowy and very cold.

Summer lasts from June to August and it’s characterized by hot days and cool nights. There are large variations in temperature between day and night. While during the day they can get above 30°C (86°F) in the afternoon, they drop down to 15°C (59°F) during the night. Hot waves coming from the south can push the mercury above 35°C (95°F) occasionally but the city feels much hotter due to the presence of concrete, trapping the heat. During August many of the citizens leave the city to go on holiday. Some head to Greece or Turkey while others choose closer destinations like the Black Sea coast in Bulgaria or Romania. Many also head to Constanta during the weekends.

Transportation

Bucharest has reasonable connections with most European capitals and with the largest cities in Romania, but it can be difficult to find a direct flight to Bucharest from outside of Europe or the Middle East. The city is also reached by a large number of low-costs flights, mainly from destinations in Italy and Spain as well as from some major cities in Germany, France, the UK, Ireland, Belgium, Hungary, Turkey, Austria, Israel etc.

Uber

Uber is a safe and effective way to get from the airport to Bucharest proper. The total cost hovers around RON40 and the ride is just over 20 minutes. The driver will pick you up in the International Arrivals Parking Area just across the street from the main terminal (where others are getting picked up curbside) on the upper level.

 By train

Bucharest is linked through direct daily trains to most neighboring countries’ capitals ( Budapest, Chişinău, Kiev, Sofia), as well as to Vienna, Venice, Thessaloniki, Istanbul, Moscow and of course to main cities in all of Romania’s 41 counties.

Get around

Bucharest has one of the most extensive systems of public transport in Europe, even though it can sometimes be confusing and crowded.

Rent-a-car

Car rental in the Pache Protopopescu Street or Europcar are all at the city and airport. You can find all international car rental companies (Avis, Hertz, Europecar, Ascar, etc.) at the Otopeni Airport. Some even offer free delivery to the airport. The average price for a day rental is about €20 for the cheapest car.

By taxi

There are a lot of taxi companies in Bucharest and you’ll easily find a cab here. But be aware! Don’t take any independent cab drivers, but use only the services of big taxi companies. Cars from these companies have the rates displayed on the door. Each door used to contain an initial “sitting” fee (between 1.6 to 3 lei), a per km fee (1.4 to 3.6 lei) and per hour fee. However, taxis now display a single number which is both the initial “sitting fee” and the per km fee.

Uber and Taxify are cheap, widespread and legal. They operate around the city, including to and from the airport.

What to do in Bucharest

There are two free weekly guides published in Bucharest featuring all the events of the week, as well as listing the addresses of most restaurants, clubs, pubs, bars, cinemas etc. in the city. One is Şapte Seri (Seven nights), the other 24-FUN. They have small sections in English available.

Walking tours

A walking tour is always the best solution for getting accustomed with a new city. You can find free guided walking tours of the city centre, this being an option for budget travelers, youth and backpackers. Usually, you have to book the tours, but in the high season there are tours organized every day, rain or sun.

There are also paid tours to be found, in this case booking being necessary at all times.

Many of the neighborhoods north and east of the city center are of equal architectural interest to the center, far less heavily touristed, but equally safe for just wandering.

Story of Bucharest: a tour of Bucharest’s city center. Starts daily in Unirea Park, in front of the clock, by the fountains, two times a day, at 10:30 and 18:00. Available in English and Spanish. The tour is free, no booking required.

The Royal Century: how monarchy, World Wars and modern era shaped Bucharest as a city of contrast. Starts daily National Military Club, in front of the flag, by the fountain, at 17:00. Available in English. The tour is free, no booking required.

Cycling

You can rent a bicycle for two hours without cost in the northwestern corner of Kiseleff Park (“Parqul Kiseleff”) and use it to cycle in nearby beautiful Herastrau Park. Bring your passport.

Parks

Cişmigiu Garden is a lovely small park located in the very centre of Bucharest. It’s the oldest in the city (designed 1845-1860). Has boat rental in summer, ice skating in winter time, a reasonable restaurant and several bars.

Herăstrău Park (the largest of several parks around man-made lakes on the Colentina River running through the city’s north and east side) houses the Village Museum, an open-air theater, various sports grounds, something like an amusement park and numerous restaurants and clubs. Has boat rental and boat-trips in summer.

The Botanical Gardens, established in 1884 near Cotroceni Palace, displays a variety of plants from all over the world, including an indoor tropical plants exhibition. Small entry fee.

Carol Park (designed in 1906), a quiet oasis not so far from Piata Unirii, has an open-air theater replicating a Roman arena and another construction replicating a medieval fortress. It houses the tomb of the Unknown Soldier as well as an infamous mausoleum built for the Communist nomenclature.

Tineretului Park, just one subway station south of Piaţa Unirii, has a large indoor arena (Sala Polivalenta) used for various concerts, sporting events, exhibitions etc., an amusement park for children, boat-rental, several restaurants and bars.

Titan Park (also known as I.O.R. Park), a green oasis amongst Communist era high rise apartment buildings in the eastern part of the city (Titan subway station), has a charming wooden church as well as several lake-side clubs.

Concert venues

Opera Naţională (National Opera), Bulevardul Mihail Kogălniceanu nr. 70-72 (Eroilor area). 5-64 lei.

Filarmonica George Enescu (George Enescu Philharmonic), Strada B. Franklin nr. 1-3 (Revoluţiei square). Housed in the Romanian Athenæum, a city landmark.

Teatrul Naţional de Operetă Ion Dacian (Ion Dacian National Operetta Theater), Bulevardul Nicolae Bălcescu nr.2 (near University square).

Cinema

Most films are screened in their original language with Romanian subtitles; some animation features and children’s movies are dubbed in Romanian.

Theater

Obviously, if you don’t speak Romanian you are at a liability in terms of seeing live theater, but Bucharest is a first-rate theater city, with a caliber of theater comparable to other European capitals. Keep your eye out for a production of a classic play you already know: the quality of acting will certainly make it worth your while. Among the city’s most notable theaters are the National Theatre, Teatrul Bulandra (two stages in two different locations in Central Bucharest), and the Odeon, but there are a good half dozen others that range from good to excellent.

What to buy

Major brand-name shops and upscale boutiques are concentrated along the main boulevard from Piaţa Romană to Piaţa Unirii and on the small streets adjacent to this boulevard, but also on Calea Victoriei, on Calea Dorobanţilor (the part between Blvd. Iancu de Hunedoara and Piaţa Dorobanţilor) or on Calea Moşilor’s section between Blvd. Carol I and Piaţa Obor.

Shopping Malls

In the past years many modern shopping centers have sprung up in the city, the most popular being:

Băneasa Shopping City, Soseaua București-Ploiești 42D. Mon-Sun: 10:00 to 22:00. 

AFI Palace Cotroceni, Bulevardul Vasile Milea 4, District 6. Mon-Sun: 10:00 to 23:30. 

Promenada, Calea Floreasca 246B, District 1. Mon-Sun: 10:00 to 22:00

Plaza Romania, Bd. Timişoara nr. 26,

Unirea Shopping Center, Piaţa Unirii,

Sun Plaza in district 4, Calea Vacaresti, No. 391,

Bucharest Mall, Calea Vitan 55-59 – the first one to be completed, in 1999.

Liberty Center in section 5, opened 31st October 2008

Jolie Ville, str. Erou Iancu Nicolae nr. 103 bis, Voluntari, judetul Ilfov

More shopping malls in Bucharest and its surrounding area are being currently constructed or in the planning stages of being constructed

Other

Thomas Antiques, Str. Covaci 19 (Lipscani area). Beautiful antique shop. With a large collection of antiques and where it is possible to have a drink in this unique atmosphere.

Leonidas Universitate (Belgian Chocolate), Strada Doamnei 27. Mon-Fri: 10:00 – 20:00 Sat: 11:00 – 15:00. A well-known chocolate store, for those who have a sweet tooth. Its location is very close to the historical old center. They also serve Ben & Jerry’s Ice cream. 

Obor Market (Piața Obor), (East of Obor metro). The city’s largest public market, covering several city blocks and with many other working-class shops around it. Mostly, but not exclusively food. Modernized in the 2010s, but still has a lot of character.

Escape Room Bucuresti (911 Escape Room), (Middle of Bucharest Piata Unirii). If you want to have fun in the middle of the town escaping outting your mind at work escaping from a room with your friends 911 escape room is the place to go

Zestre. Local clothing, accessories and jewelry brand that combines traditional hand-made Romanian motifs with urban garments and wooden jewelry.

BestRide. Off road equipments for cars, come on and buy.

TopDivers. Awnings, pergolas, shadow systems.

SuperToys.ro. Toys for kids

What to eat

Prices usually go anywhere from €5-7 to €30-40 for high-end dining for a single person menu consisting of a meal (most places offer €5-7 Euros menus that include an Entree, Main Dish and Dessert or a Drink) and a soft drink. The most popular fast-food is undoubtedly Shaorma, with hundreds of places selling it in almost every Square, Mall or street crossroads. Objectively, the most popular places with Romanians are Dristor Kebap, Calif or Dines.

Cuisine-wise, you can find many places which offer Romanian or other cuisines, especially Turkish (Divan, Saray, Sultan), Italian (Trattoria Verdi, Trattoria Il Calcio)and French cuisines (French Bakery, Bon), but also Chinese (Peking Duck, 5 Elemente), Spanish (Alioli), Indian (Kumar’s Agra Palace, Taj), Greek, Japanese (Zen Sushi).

Stay safe

Buses are safe, but use your common sense, and put your things in internal pockets, just to be 100% sure.

If you choose to take a regular taxi rather than using an app such as Uber or Taxify, be aware that some of these taxis may be operated by con men waiting for an unsuspecting victim. This is especially true for taxis around Gara de Nord where their associates actively try to lure you into such cars. If possible, avoid taking cabs from Gara de Nord unless you are familiar with the taxi operators there. One rule of thumb is to go with older taxi drivers, since they will be more cautious and only try to get a bit extra out of you if they scam you, unlike young drivers who will claim a trip costs 3-5 times as much as it should, may claim the meter does not work, and may try intimidation tactics to make you pay.

Prostitution is illegal as is soliciting. Be very mindful of this and do not accept any offers, especially from intermediaries that “know a place”(pimps,taxi drivers,etc.) because the girls are most often coerced and if you get caught you will be charged with a crime related to human trafficking which usually ends in a prison sentence. This also applies to the numerous erotic massage parlors that have opened in recent years.

Be very careful of unsolicited offers of help by passersby, even if they have good English. In particular if a stranger offers to accompany you to your hostel or hotel in a taxi to show you the way, decline immediately. They are often working in tandem with unlicensed taxi drivers who will attempt to scam you, drop you at incorrect (and remote) locations while demanding exorbitant payment, or who will simply steal your luggage. A common scam is for a stranger to tell you that a place is not safe, and to direct you to an official “government” or “student” taxi that is driven by an accomplice. They will then drive you a remote location, and demand high sums of money, possibly threatening you with violence if you don’t comply.

Be also careful when boarding or leaving trains. Scamsters have been known to impersonate other passengers, and enter couchettes or sleeping booths on trains while the occupant politely waits outside, and then steal from luggage. When requesting assistance on boarding trains, deal only with the conductor and if anyone asks you for information, demand to see ID.

Although statistically, Bucharest is one of the safer capitals in Europe, violence is not an uncommon sight in certain areas, towards locals or towards foreign looking men (minorities, out of place individuals, etc.) Nightclubs and bars, where heavy drinking occurs regularly, are especially prone to this, particularly those playing ethnic music. However, just avoiding any conflict, particularly with people who have the air of “owning the place” or a mafioso look would reduce your chances to almost zero.

Like most other big cities, walking around at night isn’t safe in some parts of the city like Pantelimon, Ferentari, Giulesti, and the Gara de Nord area. If you must travel into these neighborhoods, it’s safer to take a taxi.

The crime rate is low, but a traveler must always be cautious. Violent attacks are very low, but if attacked just yell, “Ajutor!”. It is very difficult for anyone to get away with violent crime because as everything is packed so closely together, any loud noise will attract attention. This is truly a city that doesn’t sleep. You’ll find people out and around at all hours in most parts of the city. Police men are pretty friendly and most of the younger ones speak English, so you can ask directions. In the event that you do need to report a crime to the police, do not hesitate and proceed to the nearest police station. They will often help you to the best of their ability.

One must be careful as a pedestrian. Drivers can be inconsiderate. Don’t assume a car will stop for you at a red light or cross walk. However, unlike some European countries, drivers are supposed to stop for pedestrians at crosswalks. You do have the right of way as a pedestrian.

Day trips from Bucharest

Snagov is a small town 20 km north of Bucharest, and a quick escape from the city for many locals, with its big lake and beaches. Visit the small monastery on the island in the middle of the lake, where the grave of Vlad III lies (better known as Dracula or Vlad The Impaler). (Note that the route from the highway to the monastery is not very well signposted and quite hard to get to, and you will need to cross a pedestrian bridge)

Mogoşoaia is yet another small town close to Bucharest (5 km), featuring a large late 17th century palace in the unique Brâncovenesc style.

Târgovişte is located 78 km North-West of Romania’s capital city and is easily accessible by train bus or minibus. It was the capital city of the South part of nowadays Romania called Wallachia or Romanians Country between early 15th century and 1714. The main attractions of the city are the open-air museum “Princely Court”, in fact, the remains of this medieval princely court from Targoviste from where the famous Vlad Țepeș (Dracula) ruled the country, the former Military Base were Ceauşescu spent his last days from 22end to 25th of December 1989 when he was trialed, convicted and executed in the same spot, and over 20 churches built most in the 17th and 18th century but few even as old as the 15th century.

Buşteni get a trip to our small town from the Prahova Valley by train, take the Gondola lift and see the Omu mountain, The Babele or the famous Natural-Made Sphinx.

Sinaia is easily seen as a day trip from Bucharest (taking the train is the recommended option). Do not miss the beautiful Peleş Castle.

Constanta is 3.5 hours away at a cost of 55 RON. Buses depart every 45 minutes during the summer and some buses offers WiFi-connection. The station is located near Gara de Nord at the intersection of Strada Mircea Vulcanescu & Bulevardul Dinicu Golescu.

Sofia is about 11 hours by Train. There is a Train leaving Gara de Nord at 23:15 for about 120RON for Seating and about 170RON for Courchette.

Istanbul is about 12 hours by Bus. There are several (direct) buses leaving every day, operated by Toros, Murat, Oz Ortadogu and Star. Tickets can be purchased for about 160RON one-way. In the summer months there is also a direct overnight train to Istanbul.

Official tourism websites of Bucharest

For more information please visit the official government website: 

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Useful Travel Tips -Blog post

Useful Travel Tips

Useful Travel Tips Be sure to read these travel tips before you go. Travel is full of major decisions — like which country to visit, how much to spend, and when to stop waiting and finally make that all-important decision to book tickets.  Here are some simple tips to smooth the way on your next […]