I didn’t expect to like Bucharest.
It’s not that I’ve heard bad things about it; but it rarely, if ever, features on ‘Europe’s Best City’ lists.
I was merely going to visit a friend, and just happened to be adding a new city to my travel map at the same time.
I certainly didn’t expect to love Bucharest, and I’m not sure I can even explain why I did. I just felt a connection from the moment I came through the Arrival gates. Already feeling pretty travel-savvy, I walked past the sea of taxi drivers vying for my business, as I had been pre-warned that upon arrival in Bucharest you should never take a taxi from outside the main terminal. Not that it mattered to me as my friends had already arranged to pick me up in a taxi. Unfortunately the ‘taxi-mafia’ would not allow a legitimate taxi entrance to the airport, so it was a while before we finally caught up with each other. What can I say? Maybe I just thrive off inconvenience.
Not a Pretty City
Bucharest is not an attractive city, for which Nicolae Ceausescu is almost single-handedly responsible. In his 22-year Communist regime, many of Bucharest’s buildings were razed to the ground—most notably for the construction of the Casa Poporului, or ‘People’s Palace’, during the 80s. To make way for this monstrosity 30,000 residences were demolished, alongside other historical buildings and churches. Casa Poporului is now the World’s largest administrative building as well as the heaviest building in the world.
On the whole Bucharest has a run-down, shabby feel to it. The few beautiful buildings that still exist in the city are flanked by soviet-style communist concrete blocks. Stray dogs roam amongst the heaps of rubble, and tangled electricity cables hang precariously overhead.
Romania’s buildings still bear the scars of the past, especially around the Piata Revolutiei where buildings pock-marked with bullet holes bear testament to the demise of the Ceausescu regime in December 1989.
But these things only endear me to the city. Bucharest is a city with history; a city rebuilding itself from its tumultuous past—in short; it is a city with soul.
If you’re imagining Bucharest as a grey urban jungle, then you should know that Bucharest has a number of large parks, which make the city surprisingly green. Even on a drizzly autumn day, a walk through one of the city’s parks will really lift your spirits. If you find yourself wandering through Herastrau Park, then it is well worth checking out the ‘Village Museum’.
The Old Town of Bucharest is now home to the city’s most lively entertainment area. With plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from, the Lipscani district is the place to go for a variety of both Romanian and International food. We ate at the Crama Domneasca restaurant, a place serving hearty Romanian dishes—with plenty of meat and potatoes. Once you’ve eaten, there is no shortage of bars to end your evening in.
What are your impressions of Bucharest? Have you been?