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Bucharest, Romania: More Than Meets The Eye

Bucharest, Romania: More Than Meets The Eye

ROMANIA

Last month, 100 travel bloggers and social media influencers from around the world were invited to #ExperienceBucharest, and I was lucky enough to be one of those bloggers!  I was so excited to visit Romania for the first time and explore their capital city.  Experience Bucharest was put on by Bucharest Tourism and was their largest promotion project they had ever done. With so many of us in the city, several tour companies came forward to offer their greatest experiences.  These tours really went above and beyond typical walking tours where you just see the city sights, although those were great too!

If I had to describe Bucharest in a few words, I would say it is a diverse, eclectic capital with a rich history where East meets West; it is also one of the most fascinating places I’ve ever been. Exuding an artistic atmosphere unlike anywhere else, there is so much more to this city than a history of communism and a quick tour of the megalomaniac People’s Palace, the world’s second largest building. I learned that Bucharest is best experienced from the seat of al fresco cafés peering from art nouveau villas. Bucharest comes to life with a strong underground culture and electric nightlife, while also offering a slew of design and performing arts festivals, art hubs, and more. For foodies and hungry travelers, Bucharest offers everything from hearty, traditional food and dozens of farmers markets, alternative eateries to specialty coffee, artisan beer and contemporary Romanian cuisine.

Here’s a look at a few of the tours I was fortunate enough to be a part of.  All of these tours are available to the general public and come highly recommend by me!

Outcast Bucharest Tour

There’s no better way to see a city than with a local guide, but imagine seeing it through the eyes of a formerly homeless local who knows the streets better than anyone. This Bucharest tour with Urban Adventures was like no other I had ever been on.  Our guide, Sergiu, showed us around Bucharest’s main historical sites, and also where he grew up on the streets.  Along the way, we learned about his personal challenges that came with street life and how he overcame them.

For more than two decades, contraception and abortion were strictly forbidden by the communist regime’s president. And so, many who had children had to give them up, which left orphanages filled with unwanted and neglected children.  The generations today are still dealing with children who have grown up on the streets.

Sergiu was abandoned by his teenage mother at a very young age and raised in a foster home.  When he turned 16, he left the orphanage home and lived in the streets of Bucharest with other homeless people.  His personal story on how he survived the streets and managed to get back on his feet was very moving.

Walking Tour 

Another way to see the city is by taking a walking tour which offers you the chance to see the most important communist landmarks.  You’ll also have the chance to hear interesting stories about some of the buildings and the communist dictator Nicolae Ceauseacu.  Roaring Romania Tours took us on a walking tour around all the iconic buildings in the Old Center of Bucharest.

The Memorial of Rebirth monument on Revolution Square is probably one of the most controversial. It was unveiled in August 2005 to commemorate the struggles and victims of the Romanian Revolution of 1989, which overthrew Communism. Some people say It looks like a “potato on a stick” or a “donut on a spike.”  Many Romanians felt the positive message was muddied by sculptor Alexandru Ghilduş’s abstract design.  In 2012, someone threw a splash of red paint just at the bottom of the monument’s potato, which makes the monument look as though it was bleeding.  The paint is so inaccessibly high that it has remained in place since then!

We also passed by the old KGB building which is definitely an interesting sight.  You can still see bullet holes on the outside from the 1989 revolution.  I’d highly recommend taking a general walking tour on your first full day in Bucharest!  It really helps you get to know your way around, all while learning about the city’s fascinating history.

Drink and Dance Through the Old City

On our first night, we were invited to Pura Vida Sky Bar which is the only roof top bar in the Old Town of Bucharest! They kindly hosted a cocktail party for the #ExperienceBucharest participants as a great way to kick the trip off.  Apart from the refreshing drinks and delicious food they offer, the views of the Old City were incredible.  It was especially beautiful seeing the sunset from up there.

Speaking of The Old City (or Little Bucharest), it quickly became one of my favorite neighborhoods.  It is a charming area filled with restaurants, shops, cobblestone streets, and lively cafes where you can do some great people watching.

One night, we were lucky enough to see the city come alive with a street dancing party!  It was so much fun to witness and really left me with an impression of Bucharest that is lively, colorful, and fun.  Click here to read more details about the man who organizes these dance parties.

Museum of Romanian Records

Who ever thought that Bucharest held the Guinesss World Record for three of the largest collections in the world: the corkscrew collection, the pressing iron collection and the trivet collection.  The Museum of Romanian Records is a building with multiple floors which holds each of these collections.   In the corkscrew collection, you can see the evolution of the corkscrew from its very beginning, to its journey through the world’s patents for complex mechanical corkscrews, and finally the newest models used today.  The pressing iron collection was very impressive as well, they even had glove irons from the past.

Street Art in Bucharest

Street art is something I absolutely love and Bucharest has it everywhere. Apart from many of the city’s tourist attractions, there are hidden gems of street art in every corner.  Some of these urban art masterpieces are secret messages pertaining to both current and past political and social situations.  Thanks to Open Doors Travel, we got to discover the very best street art by exploring little streets and going off the beaten path!

Paying Your Respects to Dracula

Bucharest has tenuous ties to Vlad Țepeș, the real-life, bloodthirsty prince who impaled over 20,000 people and served as the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s famous Gothic novel, Dracula. Thanks to Stoker, Dracula is more commonly associated with the region of Transylvania (though he didn’t spend much time there either, apparently). While the vampire and his creepy home are pure lore, a fortress nestled just outside of Bucharest has earned the title of Dracula’s Castle and the accompanying fame of becoming a main attraction. Bran Castle is an ancient castle that dates back to the 1200’s and is surrounded by mysteries, legends, and a fascinating history which I enjoyed learning all about from our tour guide, Alina from Authentic Romania. Although Dracula never resided there, it is well worth the chance to admire the Gothic architecture and indulge in some dark intrigue with a day tour from Bucharest. You can read all about my day tour to Bran Castle here!

#ExprienceBucharest gave me such a wonderful opportunity to see what Romania’s capital city has to offer tourists.  But more importantly, I really got to know Bucharest inside and out. Our guides’ willingness to share personal stories and encouragement of wandering off the beaten path to discover hidden gems left me feeling so connected to this place; everything surpassed my expectations.  It is certainly an underrated European capital city, and I hope that starts to change.  Bucharest has it all: beautiful sights, a fascinating history, delicious food, and affordable prices! I look forward to exploring more of Romania in the future.

Disclaimer:  I was hosted on all the above tours with #ExperienceBucharest, but the opinions here are my own.

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About the author

Carmen Edelson is the Founder and Senior Editor of Carmen’s Luxury Travel. Carmen has been traveling the world for over a decade. Our travels allows her the opportunity to pursuit her itch to travel to the best luxury destinations, and experience those first class tastes from around the world.

52 Comments

  1. anna
    June 17, 2017 at 9:44 pm
    Reply

    I’ve heard so many wonderful things about this place- I might just have to check it out! It sounds like such a fantastic mix of art, culture, and incredible food!

    • Carmen Edelson
      June 18, 2017 at 3:50 am

      You hit the nail on the head, Anna! It is a fantastic mix.

  2. Michelle
    June 17, 2017 at 9:50 pm
    Reply

    Wow, you’re tour with Urban Adventures sounds really unique and eye opening. And Bran Castle looks like something from a fairytale!

    • Carmen Edelson
      June 18, 2017 at 3:51 am

      It really was! Bran Castle is the perfect day trip.

  3. Eloise
    June 17, 2017 at 10:25 pm
    Reply

    I had a friend who lived there for a few months. Her photos and trips around looked amazing. You’ve just remembered me how much I wanted to go!

    • Carmen Edelson
      June 18, 2017 at 3:52 am

      That’s great, Eloise! You’ll have a fabulous time.

  4. Punita Malhotra
    June 18, 2017 at 1:21 am
    Reply

    All those architectural details scattered across the city look so great, just the kind of place I like to spend roaming around and photographing. You found some excellent samples of street art too.

    • Carmen Edelson
      June 18, 2017 at 3:53 am

      I think you’d love it, Punita! This city has something for everyone. I just loved the street art.

  5. Gokul Raj
    June 18, 2017 at 7:19 am
    Reply

    Love the architecture of this place. But the best part for me is the street art. Love the colors.

    • Carmen Edelson
      June 19, 2017 at 5:23 am

      Me too! I absolutely love street art.

  6. Claudia
    June 18, 2017 at 11:12 am
    Reply

    The late 20th century history of Romania is certainly traumatic. It’s great to see how Bucharest and its citizens have recovered and are celebrating all the great aspects of their capital city. It looks so vibrant and interesting!

    • Carmen Edelson
      June 19, 2017 at 5:24 am

      I know – it’s such a strong, beautiful, and resilient city.

  7. Agness of eTramping
    June 18, 2017 at 1:43 pm
    Reply

    Bucharest seems so picturesque! Thanks for the motivational post!

    • Carmen Edelson
      June 19, 2017 at 5:24 am

      You’re very welcome, Agness!

  8. Elaine J Masters
    June 19, 2017 at 12:24 am
    Reply

    Looks like a great way to enjoy all that Bucharest has to offer. I loved seeing the collections and the street art. So vibrant after their difficult history.

    • Carmen Edelson
      June 19, 2017 at 5:25 am

      I know, it’s a really resilient city.

  9. Indrani
    June 19, 2017 at 3:57 am
    Reply

    Walking tour is the best way to discover a new city and I definitely want to do it in Bucharest!
    Didn’t you feel scared in that castle? Eventhough he didn’t stay there the very association gives me a scare 😛
    Loved the street art, very creative.

    • Carmen Edelson
      June 19, 2017 at 5:25 am

      Not too scared but parts of it definitely have a spooky atmosphere! It probably is scarier at night 😉

  10. Jade Mortimer
    June 19, 2017 at 11:40 pm
    Reply

    looks like a gorgeous city. it must have been really interesting listening to the stories of the people from the streets too! Just a shame that they were in that situation in the first place.

    • Carmen Edelson
      June 21, 2017 at 11:32 am

      I know, they’ve been through so much. His story was very inspiring though!

  11. Tami
    June 20, 2017 at 1:15 am
    Reply

    If the People’s Palace is the world’s second largest bulding, any idea which is the very largest? I can’t imagine seeing all these incredibly historic and beautiful locations!

    • Carmen Edelson
      June 21, 2017 at 11:33 am

      That’s a good question, Tami! I’m no sure. So many amazing locations indeed 🙂

    • Dee
      July 12, 2017 at 7:21 pm

      It`s the Pentagon. And the list consists of administrative/ civilian buildings. There are actually larger buildings, but they are mostly factories. The Palace may be the heaviest, though, in terms of materials going into the construction, since it has 5 or 6 floors underground.

    • Carmen Edelson
      July 17, 2017 at 11:45 am

      5 or 6 floors underground an already massive building is pretty impressive! Thanks for sharing, Dee.

  12. Julie
    June 20, 2017 at 2:42 am
    Reply

    I visited Bucharest on a whim a few summers ago and just loved it. It has a gritty edge, but personally, I think it gives the city more personality. The Old Town was a ton of fun and we did a street art tour as well!

    • Carmen Edelson
      June 21, 2017 at 11:34 am

      Oh that’s great you’ve been too! Yes, definitely gives it personality 🙂

  13. Jen Joslin
    June 20, 2017 at 8:17 am
    Reply

    Every one of these tours sounds unique and interesting! Seems like you could spend several days in Bucharest and never run out of things to explore. The people there sound amazing. How humbling to learn about Sergiu’s life. Thanks for sharing!

    • Carmen Edelson
      June 21, 2017 at 11:34 am

      I know, it was a wonderful experience! Three days is a good amount of time to see a lot.

  14. Miranda
    June 20, 2017 at 11:03 am
    Reply

    The outcast tour sounds like it was an incredible experience! Really cool that you got to hear his personal challenges, you get a true feel of the culture(good and bad) and what it’s like living there.

    • Carmen Edelson
      June 21, 2017 at 11:35 am

      Yes, getting his insight really was special and made the experience very memorable.

  15. Tara
    June 20, 2017 at 11:14 am
    Reply

    Street art tours are my favorite, and I always try to find one when I travel to a new city. Bucharest sounds like an amazing place to visit, and that must have been fun touring the city with so many other bloggers. That’s a huge press trip.

    • Carmen Edelson
      June 21, 2017 at 11:35 am

      Yes, and they organized it so well!

  16. Paul
    June 21, 2017 at 12:53 am
    Reply

    We loved Bucharest and Romania is definitely one of our favourite countries we’ve travelled to! You managed to see and do so much and it’s cool that you made the trip to Bran castle!

    • Carmen Edelson
      June 21, 2017 at 11:36 am

      Glad to hear its one of your favorites, and it’s easy to see why!

  17. Clare
    June 21, 2017 at 5:29 am
    Reply

    I visited Romania and Bucharest 2 years ago and loved it. It is such a beautiful country with so much to see and do. I enjoyed exploring Bucharest and did the free walking tour and also went to the palace. I stayed in the old town too which is a great area to be based.

    • Carmen Edelson
      June 21, 2017 at 11:38 am

      How cool, Clare! Sounds like we had similar experiences 🙂

  18. Carol Colborn
    June 21, 2017 at 6:06 am
    Reply

    Your selection of tours revealed the best Bucharest has to offer. Your #ExperienceBucharest must have been so wonderful. How did you guys get invited?

    • Carmen Edelson
      June 21, 2017 at 11:38 am

      Just by email, I’m not sure what the selection process was like!

  19. Barb
    June 21, 2017 at 2:11 pm
    Reply

    I m glad you liked the Romanian capital. I was there 12 years ago and I didnt find anything attractive about it. It seems like it has developed a lot since then.

    • Carmen Edelson
      June 23, 2017 at 10:12 am

      I’m sure Bucharest has changed so much in the past 12 years! As a tourist, I felt like it offered a lot.

  20. Anita Hendrieka
    June 22, 2017 at 10:14 am
    Reply

    I cannot wait to explore Bucharest in a few months. Looks like a such a vibrant city to explore. Saving this post!

    • Carmen Edelson
      June 23, 2017 at 10:13 am

      You’ll have a fabulous time, Anita! Let me know if you have any questions.

  21. Nina | Nina Near and Far
    June 22, 2017 at 11:48 am
    Reply

    Beautiful! That’s so neat about the Guiness World Record for collections, they’re so quirky haha. It looks like this city isn’t too busy , either, from your photos!

    • Carmen Edelson
      June 23, 2017 at 10:13 am

      No, it wasn’t! I think spring is a great time to go.

  22. Juliette | Snorkels to Snow
    June 23, 2017 at 2:25 am
    Reply

    Sounds incredible! I think the walking tour would have been great and you clearly got to learn a lot about the city too, which awesome. Walking tours are great like that! Love the architecture and that rooftop bar looks fun! Must have been incredible to see the views from there. Have not considered visiting Bucharest before so this is good to see!

    • Carmen Edelson
      June 23, 2017 at 10:14 am

      Thanks for your lovely comment, Juliette. Definitely add Bucharest to your travel list!

  23. Museum of Romanian Records
    June 23, 2017 at 9:06 am
    Reply

    Thank you for your kind words! We are very happy that you had such beautiful experiences during your visit to Bucharest!

    We wish you all the best,
    The Museum of Romanian Records Team

    • Carmen Edelson
      June 23, 2017 at 10:15 am

      Thank you very much! It was a very memorable visit.

  24. Luminita
    July 3, 2017 at 4:33 am
    Reply

    Hi Carmen! It’s nice to see how you included some unique tidbits of your Bucharest tour, like the beautiful street art or the street dances. Things like that make for unique memories.

    • Carmen Edelson
      July 3, 2017 at 10:19 am

      Absolutely! Those are some of my favorite memories of Bucharest 🙂

  25. Haydee Arante
    July 7, 2017 at 6:20 am
    Reply

    When is the best month to visit Romania? I’m seriously looking into it.

    • Carmen Edelson
      July 7, 2017 at 2:26 pm

      I’d avoid the winter but I think you’d really enjoy it in the spring and perhaps early fall. Enjoy!

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