Visit Bucharest, the surprising capital city of Romania
March 2022. Last update in February 2023 - by Eddie, local tour guide and passionate about Romania
What to expect if you visit Bucharest. In short, Bucharest is a fascinating city where the East meets the West. Since the late medieval period, the city has had a motley population, and it was very attractive for trade. Besides the locals there were various other ethnic groups, mainly merchants who come here from central, western and southern Europe or from Middle East.
Bucharest - Location and natural factors
Bucharest is located in southeastern Romania, in the Vlasia Plain, at the western limit of the East European Plain. It has as geographical coordinates 44 ° 24'49 "north latitude and 26 ° 05'48" east longitude. This position places the city in the area of temperate-continental climate.
It has an area of 238 km2, is located between the Carpathian Mountains - to the north, and the Danube River - to the south, and the main city river is Dâmbovița.
Bucharest is the largest city in Romania and with its approximate 1.9 million inhabitants within the city limits is the sixth-largest in the European Union by population, after Paris, London, Rome, Madrid and Berlin.
The foundation of Bucharest and ascent to the status of capital
These places have always been well positioned strategically, located at the crossroads of trade routes that connect the hill and mountain area, as well as the Danube River and Transylvania.
The first documentary attestation of the city dates back to 1459, 20th of September. At that time the mention "written in the Citadel of Bucharest" appears in a deed of Prince Vlad the Impaler (Vlad Țepeș) - the ruler of Wallachia - issued in Bucharest.
The strategic importance of the settlement is noticed and exploited, in the 14th century, by Mircea the Elder (Vlad the Impaler's grandfather), who could oversee from here a large part of the border on the Danube river. This border was constantly threatened by the Turks.
The same Turkish threat will later make Vlad Țepeș (Vlad the Impaler) interested in Bucharest, he expands and consolidates the fortress, turning it into a royal residence.
In 1659 the ruler Grigore Ghica establishes the capital of Wallachia in Bucharest, so that in 1862 it became the capital of the United Principalities - Romania.
Bucharest - past and present
At the end of the 18th century, our city is described by foreign travelers as cosmopolitan, warm, with a very welcoming population.
The cosmopolitan status is also reflected in the built heritage, the city being quite heterogeneous, presenting projects belonging to different architectural styles, or buildings that incorporate several architectural styles. This architectural mixture can even be considered a main feature of the city, so we can consider Bucharest an "eclectic city".
During the 19th century other foreign travelers visited Bucharest, "Germans Ferdinand Lassalle and Wilhelm Derblich, the Frenchman Lancelot and the famous Romanian writer Dora d'Istria. Lassalle is particularly impressed by our city, by the kaleidoscopic look of a ride with one of Bucharest's brightest carriages, next to which the best German carriage look like "peasant carts". He likes the splendid gardens of the boyars and the public gardens, about which he knows no city but Paris which might be compared with. Cismigiu Public Garden "surpasses by far all that Germany can show". (CONSTANTIN C. GIURESCU, 1966)
Today, Bucharest has a very complex urban landscape, which integrates the heritage of the 19th century and the Belle Epoque with elements from the interwar, communist and post-communist period.
Is it worth to visit Bucharest?
Let's see if Bucharest could be interesting for you to visit.
off the beaten path destination
The vast majority of my tourists come here with low or no expectations. Some of them come only because Bucharest is a new and unknown destination or even only because of an unexpected good price for flying here. Also many come here for business only but discover a very attractive, interesting and maybe unique city and country.
Intense Nightlife, many festivals and events
The foreigners are pleasantly surprised by the very vibrant nightlife and we could claim Bucharest is a party destination, a city that never sleeps. We have also here a very rich social life, so there is always something enjoyable to do for everybody.
Great accommodation and food
In the last 10-15 years Bucharest evolved from a destination with generally outdated accommodation, poor quality restaurants and low level of services into another where the investments of tens or perhaps hundreds of millions of euros are starting to become visible. Thus one could easily find here the desired room - usually having a great value for money balance - and to enjoy the local or international cuisine. Bucharest is a great food scene. In 2022 the Romanian cuisine was ranked 4th in the world by Taste Atlas. I'm not sure if that's very accurate but I can tell you - the food is very tasty.
Our city is also appreciated for the big parks and we are very proud of our King Michael Park (Herastrau Park), the large Botanical Garden, the impressive "city wetland" Vacaresti Nature Park and many more. If you visit Bucharest, please try to explore at least one of these green oases.
Bucharest preserves an important number of Belle Epoque buildings and maybe this is the most impressive part. But there is way more, is this interesting mixture of almost everything. It is like an architectural symphony, and the stars are: Art Noveau, the communist legacy, many Art Deco buildings specific for the interwar period. On top of this we could see almost everywhere the beautiful villas and mansions built in the Romanian Brancovenesc architectural style.
Different and surprising
This is in my opinion one of the most important assets and gives Bucharest uniqueness. For sure it is not the most beautiful capital city in Europe but it has its beauty. And this beauty is different. If you go to Paris, Rome, London you know what you will get, many easy-to-find beautiful areas that will not let you down. In Bucharest even the beautiful areas are different because their eclectic image. Overall the city looks like a mosaic of different urban structures and architectural stiles and this could not be boring at all. Moreover here you should "work" a bit and go off the beaten path to find so many surprising city gems.
If you usually like to visit museums while travelling, this is the place to be. Bucharest has plenty, and they usually are not expensive or crowded. Our National History Museum could help you understand Romania in a very enjoyable manner and if you are an art lover you will fall in love with the National Museum of Art. If you are interested in our communist past, Casa Ceausescu and the Palace of Parliament are a must.
After exploring the city one could easily go even further. The beautiful mountain resorts or the sunny shore of the Black Sea are relatively close and can be visited even in a day-trip. If you don't want to leave the city for the seaside you could feel almost the same at Therme Bucharest, very close to our main Airport. And, if you want to visit not only one country but two, Bulgaria is only 65 kilometers away from Bucharest so a day-trip to northern Bulgaria is always an enjoyable option.
How to visit Bucharest
- find yourself a good flight, it is the easiest way to reach Bucharest
- book your hotel not to far from the Old Town
- use Uber or Bolt for your airport transfers. Other good option is the bus line which brings you close to the Old Town or the train ride to our Bucharest Central Train Station (Gara de Nord)
- use Bucharest Metro to move around, or Uber/Bolt
- try the local food and wines in a good restaurant
- do a pub crawl in the Old Town
- go for half day to Therme Bucharest
- explore our parks
- take a good walk on Victory Avenue
- go a bit behind the curtain and find some city gems
- visit a museum if you like this
- visit the Palace of Parliament inside and you will feel Ceausescu's megalomania
- explore the surroundings of Bucharest - Mogosoaia Palace and Snagov Monastery
- go a bit outside Bucharest for a wine tasting in a famous vineyard and visit a salt mine
- take a day trip to Transylvania, to Bran (Dracula's) Castle, Peles Castle and Brasov Old Town
- go visit Constanta on the Black Sea coast, if the weather is good
- do a day-trip to northern Bulgaria, to Veliko Tarnovo
Come and visit Bucharest, you will be surprised!
I was born and raised in Bucharest and still discovering new and beautiful places here, being always surprised by this fascinating city. If you like to experience more about Bucharest and Romania you could book one of my tours here or ask for a fully customised one.
Thank you!Let's HOPE SOON YOU'LL HAVE THE CHANCE TO EXPLORE ROMANIA..until THEN I'LL INVITE YOU TO..
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