Romania’s capital is a centre of high-class living and artistic license, a reputation that won the city the nickname ‘Little Paris’ almost a century ago, and helps it stand head and shoulders above the rest of this slow-developing country.
Long known for its lengthy and enticing tree-lined boulevards and classic, pillared architecture, Bucharest boasts ample sights, such as the towering ‘Arch Of Triumph’ (reminiscent of Paris’ similarly-named tower) and the 19th century Roman Antheneam, evocative of an ancient temple, bright and regally colored on the inside. It’s also a city with a seedy side, though, and one that puts many tourists off at first glance. There’s a tangible hint of gangster about the place, one that sends a few visitors running for the hills, though it’s equally easy to get over after a few days stay.
When you do get past the city’s issues, you can delve into attractions like countless parks and gardens (Bucharest is a quite intensely green city), the arty Romanian Opera building (even better if you can find your way inside for a show) and The Village Museum, which showcases the traditional Romanian peasant life with a full scale working replica.
The local cuisine is increasingly international, with an array of pizza restaurants and kebab corners coming to the fore, but dig a little deeper and you’ll uncover local gems, such as the traditional sour soup (which varies in flavor dramatically from restaurant to restaurant) and a heavy selection of dishes influenced by the Greeks, Turks and Germans. If you’re looking for luxury, Bucharest is a relatively affordable place to find it, with the most impressive hotels offering everything from spas and massages to singing waiters, cocktails and summer beer gardens.
In short, Bucharest might not be the most obvious European attraction, but it is – aside from the seedy underside – one of the most attractive, with a typical street photo-worthy and an array of architecture that dates back to medieval times, as well as districts that still hold a heavy hint of communism in their soul.