Buzzing with the pulse of old Europe, the Romanian capital of Bucharest is enjoying an electric rise in popularity. Filled with architecture from every era visitors can embrace the best of multiple cultures, with a healthy heaping of real European character.
The Romanian capital is a widely underrated destination with a lively cultural pulse and some great museums. It has plenty of good hotel options too – classic choices include the 59-room Grand Hotel Continental (Calea Victoriei 56) and the recently renovated Hotel Cismigiu (Bulevardul Regina Elisabeta 38), which sits a few hundred metres from the centre. For something more contemporary, the Christina Hotel (Strada Ion Slatineanu 13) has 24 rooms and a sharp, modernist design splashed with bold colours, while the stylish K+K Hotel Elisabeta (Strada Slanic 26) has 67 rooms, as well as saunas and a fitness centre.
For many, souvenir-shopping in Bucharest is largely about searching for quality crafts, folk costumes and traditional keepsakes; there are plenty of tourist-focused outlets focused on precisely these items, but one of the best is the gift shop at the acclaimed (if not especially glamorously named) Museum of the Romanian Peasant (Șoseaua Pavel Dimitrievici Kiseleff 3). Elsewhere, those seeking designer items should head for Bulevardul Magheru or the brand-heavy Calea Victoriei. The opening of the 140-store Promenada Mall (Calea Floreasca 246B) in late 2013, meanwhile, marks the latest of the city’s purpose-built shopping complexes.
Romanian cuisine surprises many, largely due to the fact that the country’s crossroads location has seen it draw culinary influences from an array of other regions. You’ll find an enjoyable experience at Caru’ Cu Bere (Strada Stavropoleos 5), the city’s oldest beerhouse and a good place to try traditional dishes, while for something altogether funkier The London Street Bistro (Strada Putul lui Zamfir 15) serves modern Romanian food and The Artist (Strada Nicolae Tonitza 13) offers a delicate fine dining menu. Elsewhere, the Golden Falcon (Bulevardul Hristo Botev 18-20) is a decent option for trying quality Turkish cuisine.
Bucharest International Film Festival
A week of movie screenings that draws large local and international audiences, this annual film festival has become one of the most prestigious in Eastern Europe. The works shown range from home-produced films to international art house productions, and the event has in the past drawn well-known names to appear in person.
Drawing more than 300 musicians from 45 countries to perform in the Romanian capital, EUROPAfest has been running for more than two decades and enjoys royal patronage. It focuses on jazz, blues, pop and classical music.
Bucharest International Biennial for Contemporary Art
May-July (even years)
A contemporary art festival held every two years, the Bucharest International Biennial makes use of various striking venues around the city to exhibit some similarly eye-catching work from creative artists. Parallel events include talks and solo exhibitions.
A well-known music festival taking place since 2007, B’estFest is taking a hiatus over 2014 but is set to return in 2015 to continue its role as one of the largest such international gatherings in this part of Europe. Past performers have included Manic Street Preachers, Faithless, Pulp and Marilyn Manson.
George Enescu Festival
Named in honour of the legendary Romanian composer who died in 1955 having cemented his place in musical history, the annual George Enescu Festival centres on a competition among classical musicians. Participants compete in four categories: violin, cello, piano and composition.
This is a Summer only destination