written by Cosmin
Bucharest Romania – Little Paris of the East
As mentioned in our previous piece on Romania, Bucharest is its capital and biggest city. Definitely the most developed urban settlement in Romania, Bucharest is one of the biggest metropolitan areas in Europe and a powerful administrative, financial and cultural center in Eastern Europe. It is also the most probable landing spot when you arrive in Romania (if you’re flying, of course) as the busiest airport in the country is located on the capital’s outskirts.
History-wise, Bucharest is not an old city, by European standards. The first mention of its existence was in the 15th century, in a letter between two local traders. Since then, it has seen astonishing changes.
Calea Victoriei – the once-fanciest area of town, where you can find magnificent buildings like: the CEC Palace, the Army’s Club, the Telephone’s Palace, the Athenaeum, the seat of the government and many more.
courtesy of http://www.bucharestdailyphoto.com[/caption%5D
Until the 19th century, it remained rather undeveloped, with an unfitting infrastructure, often struck by either diseases or floods. Bucharest was the seat of the ruler of Wallachia, in what is now called the Old Court in what is now called Old Town. Everything revolved around the administrative buildings and the town that was basically a big Turkish bazaar.
Towards the end of the 19th century, French and German influence replaced the Turkish one, and the city started to change. Classical buildings and imposing public monuments emerged. The Cantacuzino Palace, the Telephone’s Palace, the CEC Palaces, the National Bank; they all date from that era. The highlife center shifted further north, to what is today called Calea Victoriei, from the Old Court, on the banks of the Dambovita River.
After WWII, a new era began for Bucharest, a rather red one… Communists took over in Romania and Nicolae Ceausescu (Romania’s world renown dictator – you might have heard of him under the name “Genius of the Carpathians”). Nicholae transformed the city according to his personal will. He razed entire neighborhoods to make way for his dreamed “Civic Centre”, including the current ministries buildings and the humongous Palace of Parliament.
Today, of course, Bucharest is a mixture of all these styles, with very few areas that have a unitary style of architecture. Top sights include:
The Old Town – the place to go if you like partying in old style buildings, or just want to have a good cup of coffee and enjoy the sun on the patio.
courtesy of bucharest-shoppingguide.com
Herastrau Park – one of the biggest parks in Bucharest and definitely one of the most spectacular I have ever seen.
courtesy of unknownbucharest.com
Restaurant recommendations include Carul cu Bere (a restaurant that has been functioning continuously since the 18th century), La Placinte (traditional Romanian-Moldovan food), 18 Lounge by Embassy (if you like a view, you’ll really enjoy this panorama from the 17th floor of an office building in the North part of town), and many others.
As for hotels, look up those nice boutique hotels that made probably made your stay better in places like Paris, Rome or Prague; Bucharest has them too: Carol Park Hotel, Hotel Cismigiu, Hotel Berthelot – all located in the center, close to all the big monuments, with high-class services.
In the end, some tips: be careful with taxi drivers, always ask them to turn on the taximeter or else they’ll scam you, bring both sun-glasses and an umbrella – weather is unpredictable in Bucharest, even in the summer, no need for a lot of money – Bucharest is one of the cheapest tourist destinations in Europe. Distractie placuta!