Last week I went to Bucharest, the capital of Romania, for a few days – as another birthday present given to me, this one from my boyfriend. I was fascinated by the city; although it was chosen to try and confuse me with when I went to Budapest, it was actually like no other place I have been to before. Both Budapest and Prague felt similar, as much more westernised and touristy cities. Bucharest however is less so – it’s never going to be called a very pretty city (thanks to some concrete communist monstrosities), but it was fascinating to be able to see the Romanian culture so easily, without a screen of tourism for it to hide behind.
Nevertheless, there was still quite a lot to do and see, thanks to its interesting history – with the days made even better by some relatively warm and sunny weather.
Palace of Parliament
This is probably the most popular place to visit in Bucharest. It’s the largest parliament building in the world (we had already seen the second largest), and the second largest building in the world – and it can be seen from the moon! Plus, the construction isn’t even finished on it! We got a tour around, seeing just a few of the many rooms, learning about what they are used for, as well as some more basic history of the country.
What many people don’t realise is that the Parliament Palace was not made for Nicolae Ceausescu (the Romanian communist dictator from 1965 to 1989) to live in. Although he commissioned the construction of the parliament palace, he actually had his own family villa made further north in Bucharest – which we also went to see. It’s quite a way out; about one hour walk from the Old Town centre of the city, but totally worth it in my opinion.
We got a tour around the entire villa, which was fascinating and very informative. As none of the furniture or decoration was ever taken (even during the revolution resulting in the dictatorial couple’s deaths) we got to see every room as it would have been furnished when they lived there. The villa has only been open as a museum for a year, but it was very well organised and enjoyable (and I wouldn’t have known that it hadn’t been open long if I hadn’t been told).
National Art Museum of Romania
We always seem to find some kind of art museum whenever we travel, and Bucharest was no exception (wow, so cultural, I know). Here we got to see both European and Romanian art from different periods. This was rather thought-provoking, as Romanian art is something I don’t think I have seen before – certainly not that noticeably, or in such large quantities.
This is the most touristy area of the city, as the oldest area with some remains of the palace and court (the Palatul Curtea Veche) from the first reign of Vlad Tepes from 1459-1462 (also known ‘Vlad the Implaer’) – who was the basis of Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’! It’s also where most of the bars and hotels are located – including our great hotel we stayed in, The Rembrandt Hotel, which I recommend!
Throughout Bucharest it was interesting to see small churches that have been kept standing despite some mass destruction from war and communist regimes, but have been surrounded over time by tall modern constructions that seem to dominate over these beautiful buildings.
Thanks to some nice weather, we also spent a lot of time sitting in parks – and there are lots of them to choose from! Cismigu Park is one of the central and most popular of the parks – it kind of reminded me of Central Park in NYC (see my post here), with a lake in the middle and little paths and bridges. It was lovely just to sit and watch the world go by every so often, while resting between walking around this bustling city.
I found this trip fascinating; to be able to see the culture more openly – and everyone was very friendly and helpful. Plus it’s pretty cheap too, so good for students. Overall, a very good time was had.