From Vienna, we flew to Bucharest, arriving at night, in the pouring rain. The layout of the airport required us to walk outside and we got absolutely soaked before we could reach our Uber. From there, we headed to an AirBnb we had booked near the Old Town. We spent 30 days in Bucharest, most of which I used for writing and catching up on work. We did, however, make numerous trips around the city to catch as many of the highlights as we could.
A short walk from our apartment, Manuc’s Inn is the oldest still operating hotel in the city, built in 1808. While we didn’t stay there, we did grab a meal in the courtyard.
Colorful umbrella streets are an Instagram staple, and you can find one here too!
Revolution Square lay on our way to several cool nights north of Old Town. The square is dedicated to the Romanian Revolution against communism in 1989.
Though it was closed on the day we visited the Athenaeum, we still got to walk around the small garden and admire its neoclassical architecture. The place serves as a concert hall, and under other circumstances, we’d have enjoyed the chance to see a performance there.
National Museum of Romanian History
Less than five minutes from our place lay the national history museum. The initial chunk of the museum is dedicated to the modern history of Romania (interesting but not related to my work). But the further back into the museum you go, the further back in time we travel, eventually landing at the time of Emperor Trajan. The museum features many pieces of an excavated column from the land’s ancient past.
Nearby to Revolution Square, just across from the University of Bucharest, lies the aptly named University Square. For us, the primary appeal came from admiring the stunning architecture of both the college and the surrounding buildings.
You’re reading this, so I’m going to guess you like books. If so, this is a serious bookstore. I mean it is huge (and stylish). It’s also very close to University Square.
“Dimitrie Gusti” National Village Museum
My favorite spot in all of Bucharest, the National Village Museum recreates village life in Romania during various eras. I’d call this an absolute must-visit for anyone spending any time in Bucharest and anyone who wants to learn more about life in the past here.
On Mother’s Day, we took a picnic lunch to the lovely Cișmigiu park.
King Mihai I Park (Herăstrău)
The Village Museum actually lies within Herăstrău park, but we didn’t explore the park itself until some time later, on our anniversary. We walked the grounds with no particular aim in mind, discovered a Hard Rock Cafe in the park (yeah, really), and after some ice cream there, took a boat across the lake. A peaceful afternoon and a relaxing day!
Palace of Parliament
The most impressive building in Bucharest by far, the Palace of Parliament is, in fact, the heaviest building in the world. This thing is absolutely huge. After an hour’s tour, our host informed us we had now seen about 5% of the palace. The dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu ordered construction of the palace, but died before its completion. The revolution happened, and the new government of Romania finished and repurposed the site.
When we stay weeks or months in one place, we rent an apartment, buy groceries, and really get the feel of having lived somewhere. We also get to know lots of local restaurants and always wind up with several favorites. In Bucharest these include:
- Taqueria El Torito (read Juhi’s review: https://g.co/kgs/jEi39N)
- Wok pe Loc (read Juhi’s review: https://g.co/kgs/srGFbk)
- Big Ben Pub
- Sicilia Gelateria Artigianale Victoriei
Our host in Bucharest introduced us to a friend of his who worked as a professional tour guide, Emanuel. We booked a trip with him, driving us for three days across Wallachia and Transylvania, before dropping us in Budapest. Our trip was amazing. Emanuel knew all kinds of details about Romanian history and folklore that I’m sure will prove invaluable for my work, and he kept three days of driving entertaining.
Completed in 1914, Peleș Castle represents a comparatively modern construction built by King Carol I, and actually features some modern conveniences like running water. It also features absolutely gorgeous architectural flourishes both inside and out, ranking up there with Neuschwanstein Castle for sheer beauty.
Famed as Dracula Castle—though it remains debated as to whether Vlad Tepes ever set foot there—based on its description on a cliff, Bran Castle lies a bit outside Brasov. It takes a hike up the hill to reach the castle, but the sense of palpable history makes it worth it. Much of the interior was removed during a transition in ownership. The caretakers have refurbished parts, left others empty, and filled in some spaces with exhibits dedicated Dracula or other Romanian monster stories. It might sound a bit crass, but I actually enjoyed the cultivated creepy atmosphere.
Rasnov Dino Park
After a day of driving and history lessons, our daughter deserved a treat. What do you treat a six-year-old with? Dinosaurs, of course!
An important city in Transylvania, Brasov was mostly a stopover point for us. We stayed in a centuries-old hotel, just off the Council Square. After driving all day, we had no energy left to see the city, but Emanuel took us on a quick tour the next morning along such spots as the famed Black Church, among others.
Albota Trout Farm
On route to Sibiu, we stopped at Albota Trout Farm for lunch and peaceful walk through fish farming grounds. It was a neat thing to see, and worth a stop if you’re ever nearby.
Castelul de lut Valea Zanelor
Beyond the farm, we headed for the “fairy-tale village” of Castelul de lut Valea Zanelor. Admittedly small, this theme park features adorable fairy-like houses, an icy mountain river you can dip your toes in, and coffee shop offering us “natural coffee.”
A small city in Transylvania, Sibiu has a well-preserved historic center that was another highlight for my research. There’s a lot to see here, and we loved our tour through the small and large squares. Legend holds, the so-called Bride of Lies here will collapse if anyone speaks a lie upon it.
Built in 1446, Corvin’s Castle in Hunedoara is one of those fantasy-esque locales featuring a great stone bridge over a wide moat, an astonishing outward facade, and awesome views from the battlements. Historically, it served as both a royal home, and an important defensive structure to protect the surrounding lands. The insides have deteriorated somewhat, though renovations have kept it mostly accessible.