Bucharest - Abbey Travel, Ireland



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Welcome to Bucharest


The nation's capital since 1862, Bucharest is the country's largest and wealthiest metropolis. Tree-lined boulevards, classical buildings and extravagant public structures lie in juxtaposition to untidy, congested streets, unsightly Stalinist apartment blocks and incomplete constructions. It is a city that most people either love or hate at the first encounter.

Once considered the 'Paris of the East' for its long leafy avenues and grand buildings together with its distinguished social scene enjoyed by the extravagant Romanian aristocracy, the city's elegance and beauty soon deteriorated under the harsh era of communism. The notorious redevelopment project by Nicolae Ceausescu, leader of the Communist Party in 1965, was a scandalous affair; in order to create an imitation Champs Elysee, a Civic Centre and 12-storey palace for himself together with a parliament building, he demolished an immense area of historic architecture in the old city, including 26 churches. The parliament building was designed to be the largest building in the world. It is now known as the Palace of Parliament, second in size to the Pentagon, and has become one of the city's prime tourist attractions.

Bucharest offers a number of superb museums, galleries, exquisite Orthodox churches and architectural surprises and its political legacy provides a fascinating selection of sights where visitors can rediscover the events and emotions of its history. It is experiencing renewed vigour; historic buildings have been restored and there is plenty of nightlife and an increasing amount of cultural events. Traditional Romanian cooking can be savoured alongside international cuisine, and in summer festive beer gardens and picturesque parks are filled with cheerful crowds.

Information & Facts


A continental climate ensures that Bucharest experiences hot, dry summers and cold winters when temperatures often drop well below freezing. The city lies on the Romanian Plain, and this brings chilly winter winds. Summer temperatures are usually pleasantly warm with occasional heat waves, and humidity is low, but there can be occasional rainstorms. The rainiest seasons in Bucharest are spring and autumn.

Eating Out

Restaurants in Bucharest offer visitors an array of fine dining opportunities. Romanian food is a meeting point between German, Hungarian and Ottoman cuisine. Diners in Romania should expect tart soups, Greek style moussaka, Turkish meatballs, Austrian-style schnitzel, and of course the essential glass of tuica (traditional Romanian plum brandy). Romanians have a number of popular fish dishes and many of the meat dishes are served with Mãmãligã, a cornmeal-like meal similar to polenta.

Diners in Bucharest will find that they are spoilt for choice when it comes to fine dining options. Caru cu Bere is a fun place for an afternoon beer and pub meal. La Mama is a friendly eatery with great food and reasonable prices. Those after the complete fine dining experience should definitely try Casa Doina which serves exquisitely presented traditional Romanian fare. Balthazar Restaurant and Bar specialises in Asian meals, as does Mju Restaurant. In short, dining out in Bucharest will have you coming back for seconds.

Getting Around

Public transport in Bucharest is cheap and generally reliable. The metro is the best way to get around the centre as not many bus and tram routes go through the central zone, apart from some express buses on major thoroughfares; these are the quickest way to reach outlying areas, and cost about double the standard bus fare. The metro is fast, and despite some poorly signed stations, easier to navigate than the bus system. Buses, trolley buses and trams are well integrated and tickets are valid on all three networks, but they are usually crowded and pickpockets are a problem. There are also private minibuses that travel along the major thoroughfares and can be hailed anywhere along their route.

Taxis in Bucharest are reasonable, but foreigners are more than likely to be overcharged. Hotels or restaurants should know the approximate fare, which can then be negotiated and a fixed price agreed before getting in. Car hire is targeted at business visitors and is quite expensive; drivers need to be 21 years of age and have a passport, international insurance policy, international driving permit and valid driver's license. Driving in the Bucharest can also be a harrowing as locals drive erratically, and roads are not well signposted.

Romanian is the official language, but English will be understood in Bucharest and other tourist areas.

The Leu (RON) is the official currency, which is divided into 100 bani. Money may be exchanged at banks, international airports, hotels or authorised exchange offices called 'casa de schimb' or 'birou de schimb valutar'. ATMs are available at large banks, airports and shopping centres in cities. American Express, MasterCard and Visa are accepted in the main cities. Travellers cheques, preferably in Euros, can be cashed in large banks, some hotels and certain exchange offices in Bucharest but commission is high. It is recommended to travel with some Euros in cash in case of difficulty using credit cards or travellers cheques. US Dollars are also accepted fairly widely.


Romania often conjures up images of traditional music, folklore, mysterious forests, exquisite churches and menacing castles, but visitors to the country should not be fooled. Bucharest has a vibrant and modern nightlife including chic cafes, raucous bars and blinging nightclubs. Bucharest has a great selection of jazz clubs. Some of the better known venues include Cafe Indigo and Blues Cafe. Partygoers who enjoy live music some of the top live music bars in Bucharest are Laptar Enache and Bar Jukebox. While Bar Yellow, Fire & Twice and Back Stage always play a selection of foot tapping beats and club anthems. Visitors who enjoy staying out late enough to see the sun rise usually end up at Colours Club. For those after a more relaxed vibe try La Motor.


Bucharest Mall opened in 1999 as Romania begun emulating the shopping habits of its traditionally capitalist neighbours. Inside are over 70 high-end stores across four levels, with the usual cast of restaurants, fast food joints, cinemas and a games arcade. The largest mall in Bucharest however is Plaza Romania which has a huge range of retail stores inside its cavernous interior. The former Communist department store Unirea Shopping Center has now been transformed into a mega-mall containing several hundred small shops catering to the more middle-class shopper.

Although convenient, these two malls are hardly representative of Romanian culture; luckily there are many other options when shopping in Bucharest. For gifts and souvenirs in that vein look out for the numerous Artizanat stores around the city. Top sellers are embroidered clothing, hand painted Easter eggs, woven carpets, nesting dolls, and carved masks, among other items. Traditional Romanian goods such as costumes and handicrafts are also available in the Museum of the Romanian Shop and the Village Museum. Prices are remarkably low compared to the level of quality you get.

Other popular souvenirs to buy in Bucharest are Romanian wine, particularly those from Transylvania, anti-ageing products from Dr Ana Aslan, and Romanian Monopoly - a great hipster party gimmick. For Romanian music look no further than the branch of Carturesti book store on Strada Pictor Arthur Verona. They have an excellent collection of local CDs and DVDs, art books and great coffee to enjoy on the expansive couches.

Open-air markets are always fun, if only to see the local people shopping much as they always have. Visit Amzei Makret, open daily from sunrise to sunset, for excellent fresh fruit and artisan baked goods. The weekend flea-market at Strada Mihai Bravu is really worthwhile to pick up Communist era souvenirs like medals, army gear and various antiques always popular with the folks back home. Don't bother bargaining as no-one speaks English.


Sightseeing in Bucharest offers visitors a wealth of attractions. Not only are the tree-lined boulevards and city parks incredibly picturesque, but visitors can choose from a number of sightseeing options for their time in Bucharest. The Palace of Parliament is one of the largest state buildings in the world and the National History Museum is the best museum in Romania with exhibits spanning from prehistoric times until the early twentieth century. The stunning Stavropoleos Church and Monastery houses an extensive collection of manuscripts and printed works and if you're lucky you may even get to a chance hear the monastery choir.

Finally, the Village Museum is the perfect place to spend an afternoon, marvelling at the outdoor structures and traditionally dressed peasant workers. The city itself is always full of surprises and interesting pieces of information - once a beautiful and proud Eastern European city, Bucharest was left to ruin by the communist government and only recently has it started regaining its footing and regaining its lost lustre.

Local time is GMT +2 (GMT +3 between the last Sunday in March to the Saturday before the last Sunday in October).

Housed in the former 1900 Post Office building is one of Bucharest's most important museums, the National History Museum. Spread throughout 41 rooms the exhibits recount the country's development from prehistoric times to the 1920s. The highlight is the basement National Treasury crammed with a dazzling display of gold, jewellery and valuable Neolithic curios. It is the biggest and best museum in the country and affords an excellent opportunity to get to grips with the exciting history of Romania.

Built by Communist Party leader, Nicolae Ceausescu, the colossal Palace of Parliament is the second largest building in the world after the Pentagon. It is an immense structure that took 20,000 workers and 700 architects to build, and cost billions. It has 12 storeys, 1,100 rooms, a 328 foot-long (100m) lobby, and four underground levels including an enormous nuclear bunker.

Started in 1984, the dictator intended it to be the headquarters of his Communist Government, but it was still unfinished when he was executed in 1989. Today it houses the seat of Romania's Parliament and is an international conference centre. Widely viewed as a personification of his obsession with grandiose things and actions, the construction entailed the demolition of a quarter of Bucharest's historic centre, including 26 churches, and the relocation of 40,000 inhabitants from their 19th century homes to new developments on the outskirts.

Built and furnished exclusively from Romanian materials, the building reflects the work of the country's best artisans. A guided tour takes visitors through a small section of dazzling rooms, huge halls and quarters used by the Senate (when not in session). The interior is a luxurious display of crystal chandeliers, mosaics, oak panelling and marble, gold leaf and stained glass windows, and the floors are covered in rich carpets. The largest room has a sliding roof wide enough for a helicopter to enter. Tour guides delight in recounting tales of the vast amounts of money that went to waste in decorating and re-decorating its rooms.

The tiny but remarkable Stavropoleos Church was built in 1724, designed by a Wallachian prince renowned for his religious architectural accomplishments, and is one of the oldest churches in Bucharest. Built using a combination of Romanian and Byzantine architecture it has a beautiful façade and a delicately carved columned entrance. Surrounded by a peaceful garden, it is an architectural jewel, with beautiful frescoes and religious icons. Attached to the church is Stravropoleos Monastery. The Monastery specialises in Byzantine music and has an impressive choir and Romania's largest collection of Byzantine music books. The monastery's library contains more than 8,000 books including a significant number of old manuscripts and printed works.

One of Bucharest's finest sights is the Village Museum, situated within the Herastrau Park alongside a lake. It is a fascinating outdoor museum with a collection that spans more than 300 buildings representing the history and design of Romania's rural architecture including peasant homes, barns, wooden churches and Transylvanian houses from all regions of the country to recreate a village setting. Traditionally dressed peasant workers portray life during the 16th and 17th centuries along with everyday tools and accessories. Traditional crafts are also for sale around the site.

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