Leaving behind the medieval Painted Monasteries of Bucovina, we returned to modern civilization in Bucharest, the capital of Romania. It was once known as the “Little Paris of the East” before World War II when the city was filled with Parisien style art nouveau buildings. Unfortunately, the years of conflict and communist rule destroyed most of these beautiful buildings. You will still be able to find pockets of Little Paris and old Orthodox churches squeezed in between sterile communist era blocks. Bucharest feels hip and cool and reminds me a bit of Berlin with trendy cafes and cool street art. We based ourselves at the Intercontinental Hotel Bucharest close to the Old Town for our brief stopover.
Old Town or Lipscani is Bucharest’s historical center. Here you will find the Old Princely Court dating back to the 15th century when Bucharest was made the capital of the Wallachian principality. These ruins have been undergoing extensive renovations since 2016. Until the early 2000s, the Old Town was more of a slum with many so called social housing projects. Nowadays, the area has been spruced up making way for many trendy restaurants and bars and becoming the center of nighlife and partying in Bucharest.
Old Town Bucharest
Carturesti Carusel is a beautiful bookstore in the Old Town of Bucharest.
Lunch at Van Gogh Cafe
The CEC Palace was built as the new headquarters for Romanian’s oldest bank in 1900.
Stavropoleos Church in the Old Town was built in the 18th century by Greek monk Ioanikie Stratonikeas.
At Stavropoleos Church, you can see beautiful elements from Romanian and Byzantine art in the intricate carvings and columned entrance.
Beautiful interior of Stavropoleos Church in the Old Town
Pasajul Macca-Vilacrosse is a fork shaped arcaded passage covered in yellow stained glass and still retains the feel of “Little Paris”. The ground floor was meant for retail shops while the first floor rooms were for rent.
Pasajui Victoria is a little passage covered in colorful umbrellas. There is also a hidden underground cafe here.
From the outside of Pasajui Victoria, you would never imagine it would look like this inside
Caru’cu Bere is one of Bucharest’s oldest and most charming restaurants dating back to 1879 and is the perfect place to end our wonderful journey in Romania. It may be a tourist trap but the painted vaults inside the restaurant are too beautiful to miss.
Covrigi is a Romanian pretzel and you will see many people walking down the street with one in their hand.
We spent most of our time in the Old Town of Bucharest and did not venture to the newer parts of town where the Palace of Parliament stands. Instead, we saw this monstrous structure from the rooftop lounge of our hotel. The Palace of Parliament is said to be the heaviest building in the world and the second largest administrative building after the Pentagon. It is almost 4 million square feet with over a thousand rooms. Built by former dictator Nicolae Ceausescru as a testament of his wealth and strength, the building now houses Romania’s parliament as well as the National Museum of Contemporary Art. By the time this palace was finished, Ceausescru had already been overthrown and executed. However, this structure continues to stand as a reminder to the Romanian people of those oppressed times when their food had been rationed just to help pay for this palace.
Palace of Parliament
Many people asked me how safe Bucharest and Romania in general was, and honestly I felt quite safe walking around even at night in the central part of town. There were no gypsies loitering around like in Paris or London. All in all, the Romanian people seem friendly enough and the country has a lot of offer in terms of beautiful countryside, cute little towns, amazing monasteries, and regal castles. I would say it is one of the more underrated travel destinations in Europe.
After an eventful week of driving and sightseeing in Romania, I needed a holiday from my holiday and what better place to go than to the Greek island of Mykonos! Stay tuned!
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