I am not going to pretend that 7 hours was enough time in this diverse city of Romania but it definitely gave me enough time to really see some of the well known areas of this cosmopolitan city. I was very lucky with the weather, beautiful sunshine the whole day so mainly walked round the whole time I was there. The only thing I treated myself too was a Taxi to and from the airport so I could make the most of the time I had. (big mistake should of just got the bus which drops you off in the centre of the city for 2 pounds/ 100 Lea), the taxi cost is 25 pound average so 120 Lea – Yerp I was impatient! However, was nice to have the company of a proud Romanian who gave me a brief history of the city and even a guided tour round the place before dropping me off.
8am – I headed to the Youth Park, (Parcul Tineretului) first in the taxi from the airport. The park connects with one of the largest parks Carol park ) in the Bucharest area full of French gardens full of flowers ,grassy areas for picnics, trees, fountains, a beautiful monument, Which is circled by a moat and bridge, all the benches have Bucharest within the seat iron backs for a personal and decorative feel. Here you will come across the Xoenfen Street which was famous for its artist painted steps, at the moment they are in need of a little bit of love so the artwork is very faded (just being honest), but the area is very pretty with quite an edgy industrial feel of graffiti, artwork, houses, and pretty buildings.
9am – Its only a 10 minute walk to the never to be missed but also cant be missed due to how big it is, Palace of Parliament , the size of this place is just mental, with a square metrage of over sq/ft making it the second largest building in the world, the pentagon in the USA being the largest. Not only does it have 4 levels above ground, it actually has 5 levels underground which are completely hidden, as well as several tunnels. The view from this place has Boulavard Unirii straight in front of it. This leads you to follow the grand water fountain area of Park Unirii, the street starts to remind you of the streets in Paris, grand, tree filled paths on both sides, creating a leisurely walk to the main Union Square which even more water fountains, all joining the central one. In the day the area is buzzing with families, traffic driving through and a real relaxed vibe too. In the evening its full of everyone who is visiting Bucharest to see the fountain displays, which are created by the same people as the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas. So with that in mind it’s a must see!
10 am – Union Square is also the place where you can catch a free walking tour, I keep going on about these 2 hours treats, but the one I did (Walkabout walking tours) was informative, quick, has several different ones during the day for different subjects, and the guides are full of history. Walking into the old town north of the square, there are high buildings and flats all round from the communist eras of the city, but now filled with shops, high street names, and restaurants to bring a real Cosmopilitan feel to this once imprisoned city.
11am – The old town known to most locals as Centru Vechi (the Old Centre), has so much going for it, its full of Parisian influences brought over in the beginning of the 20th century, from the small little glass covered walkways full of circular table , chairs and decorative exteriors, to the Pasajul Vilacrosse and Pasajul Macca.
12 noon – The tour guide took us to the Dracula statue, one of the main legends of Romania when it was formed of 3 lands, Wallachia, Moldavia, and the most famous Transylvania. Bucharest is home to Vlad the Impaler’s former court at Curtea Veche, This is where Dracula or his real name being Vlad II Dracul lived. The legends and myths all came from a real person, a count, a man who had power, and a dark mind. A man who to keep the peace thought it best to show little mercy and with that came torturous murders and orders to fight. The types of torture led to nicknames and other names, which soon enough became the fictional character of Count Dracula. Its fascinating and a little sole quenching due to the many films and books written from this legend. But still an amazing fantasy. I was highly recommended a 10 hour tour upto the Bran Castle and Transylvania, Brazov is one of the towns you may visit where you can visit the area of Dracula and the beautiful small town of, prices are around ( £65 per person ), and book in advance in the peak times to make sure you don’t miss out.
1pm – The influence of the Christian faith is very noticeable all through the town with beautiful old churches, but the Stavropoleos monastery an active convent, caught my eye in the old town, was small, with a cute little courtyard surrounding it on the corner of Stavropoleos street . It had over 100 different decoratives crosses from when communism knocked down churches and these were the surviving artifacts some starting to have ivy wrap around it. We walked in when one of the most religious days in the Christian calendar was having its 12am mass. It was surreal to see everyone so quiet and still paying their respects. The best thing is just to wander through the old town and bump into certain streets. The best information and fact I was given was that when the communist movement happened several key flat complexes and churches were ‘moved’ by a special method of sliding them on wheels to a new location… Pretttyyyy cool!
1pm – I worked my way through the Jewish quarter of the city on the east side of the old town, which then brought you to the National Library and a small bridge which you cross to then reach the other side of the River Dîmbovița Along the south side I walk all the way back to the Union Square, with men fishing off into it, seeing office spaces, and greenery, as well as residential housing. But the newest addition to the river front are the bars and restaurants all with river terraces at the back looking over it, with trees, plants and even during the day it was a lively Sunday afternoon of meet ups and food. These are found along the main Boulavard leading to Union Park, which a few of my favourites that caught my eye being THE DOCK, The clique Bistro, and JO Lounge.
2pm – I also had on my bucket list to visit a beautifully designed bookshop and gift shop called Carousel located in the centre of the old town on the main road of Lipscani street 3 floors connected through a central open void, with white iron bars and beautiful details alcoves, cornice details around the original columns. These pillars then lead your eyes to the beautiful exposed ceiling again a restored original feature to this beautiful building. The simplicity of the colours and finishes, then provide the perfect canvas for the books and products in the space, definitely a designers little paradise for an hour.
I also visited the oldest Inn in the town Hanuli Manuc Which was beautifully preserved on the outside, then you walk through a large archway into the courtyard, full of tables and chairs, and an interior balcony all the way round look over it. It has a great atmosphere with drinks and food available from just £4
There a several things I didn’t have time to do , one of these was the famous Umbrella street in the old town, its actually called Pasajul Victoria street but nicknames due to the hundreds of umbrellas making a canopy over. This street is pedestrianised and is full of shops, gifts, and snacks for everyone to remain happy, and even secret little hotels on the other side of the doors.
By this point the bars and outdoor spaces were filling up with tourists, locals having the last few hours of weekend freedom with friends and family. The old town may sound alive and kicking during the day, but wait till night time, with loads of bars lining the streets, from small querky ones like Pura Vida Sky BAR, with amazing views of the old town from its querky roof terrace or the modern stylish ones like The Urbanist in the shopping district There something for everyone to have a great night out throughout Bucharest.
3pm – I had to head off again back to the airport, meeting the cutest taxi man in Romania. His name was Florin and he didn’t speak a word of English. We managed to communicate anyway by hand movements, me acting out scenarios (yes it was hilarious), and him showing me pictures on his phone. He even rang his daughter who spoke english to make sure he understood what I needed which was money to pay him haha. Such lovely people. He had 3 daughters, all beautiful from the pictures he showed me, and a wife of 40 years. He told me I was a good girl with a thumbs up for not having a boyfriend haha! , and when we parted I gave him a hug and he muttered two English word… Enjoy, Bye.
This ended my first experience of Romania and Bucharest but left a sense of what travelling is all about, communication, friends and understanding of people even when they cant understand.