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Platz der Einheit in Bukarest, Bild: Razvan Ionut Dragomirescu / shutterstock

Bucharest – “Little Paris” and the “Gateway to the Orient”

Charming, melancholic, attractive, but also edgy and mischievous: Bucharest leads you to believe that it is Europe’s best-kept secret. Roma women in colourful skirts stand on the corners and offer flowers for sale, elegant people stroll along the inner city boulevards, restaurants with Italian cuisine and Mediterranean design flank the boulevard – cheerful folklore and a colourful, lively life characterise the rhythm of the modern city. Nowhere is Romania more exciting, crazier and more contrasting than in its capital. And yet the metropolis does not rank among the top ten on the list of most popular travel destinations.

Many love the rough Balkan flair with a Mediterranean background and appreciate the liveliness – that certain savoir-vivre. Meanwhile, some Romanians are resentful of their battered capital, which is divided into visually contradictory worlds. The steppe metropolis has many faces – opinions differ on Bucharest.
It’s best for everyone to get an impression for themselves – let yourself be seduced by the unique mixture of “Orient” and “Little Paris”.

In a synthesis between Venetian, Oriental and socialist influences

View of Bucharest
View of Bucharest, Image: Paul Antonescu / shutterstock

Bucharest is located in the historic landscape of Wallachia. To be honest, the metropolis of two million people presents itself with both economic and social problems as well as very beautiful sides. The variety of architectural styles is confusing, visible reflection of economic heyday. Bucharest is now a long way from being a “Paris of the East”, but like hardly any other European metropolis, it offers space for ideas and new beginnings. More and more tourists are trying to find the hidden character.

The market town of Bucharest was first mentioned in 1459. The city experienced its first heyday around 1900 under the Hohenzollern kings – there is a charming variety of styles. Many buildings were destroyed in 1944 during the Allied bombing raids. The annihilation rage in the 1980s under Nicolas Ceausescu was particularly devastating. For travelers with a sense of culture, there is a lot to discover.

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Treasures of an extraordinary city – the most beautiful routes

Bucharest: Similar to Berlin , it attracts visitors more because it is thrilling, not because it could win a game for classical beauty.
The city centre fascinates with its fractures – French, Balkan and socialist elements result in an informal structure. A uniform development is sought in vain. People built as they wanted: capricious, individual, unrestrained. Restaurants, bars, galleries, museums and boutiques are springing up like mushrooms on every newly renovated corner. An architecture – astounding: country houses whose plaster is crumbling, vegetable gardens and residential castles next to restored historic palaces and dead straight avenues that get lost in winding alleys – each ruler has realised his own architectural ideas.

The extensive parks with thousands of rose bushes around a chain of lakes on the northern edge of Bucharest are a paradise for young people and the green lung of the metropolis. In the middle of the city lies the enchanting Parcul Cismigu park from 1810. In the artistically landscaped complex with French hedges, bubbling spring, pond, playground and café, the Bucharests relax. Universitätsplatz, meanwhile, forms the heart of the capital.

Romania, Bucharest – Palace of Parliament
The Palace of Parliament in Bucharest – One of the largest buildings in the world in terms of area, Image: Balate Dorin / shutterstock

If you want to experience the charm of old Bucharest, visit the old town district around Lipscani Street, once the most important economic center of Wallachia. Here you go far back in time: South of Lipscani Street are the ruins of a Wallachian princely court from the 15th century. In the immediate vicinity, Bucharest’s oldest church “Biserca Curtea Veche” is a reminder of the times of the 16th century.

The best orientation in the spacious centre is offered by Calea Victoriei – Bucharest’s magnificent boulevard. Lined with partly pompous buildings of the 19. and beginning 20th century, it stretches from north to south, right through the entire city center. One of the oldest buildings is the lavishly painted Kretzulescu Church from 1722. Here you can understand why Bucharest was nicknamed the “Paris of the East”.

In the north of Bucharest, the Colentina river forms a series of natural lakes. In this graceful landscape you will find one of the oldest and largest open-air museums in Europe. As early as 1936, the Muzeul satului village museum was founded on Kiseleff-Chaussee.

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The noble hotels on Siegesstraße have a great tradition, especially the Athénée Palace Hilton in the most magnificent Art Nouveau style – the most expensive hotel in the whole country.

The top sights of Bucharest at a glance

  • Bellu Cemetery – a panopticon of pathos: rich families, artists and politicians have their magnificent tombs here.
  • Cismigu – the fabulous park invites you to linger.
  • Athenaeum: The classicist domed building with the magnificent columned portico now serves as a concert hall.
  • Prince’s Palace in Mogosoaia: The former summer residence of the ruler Constantin Brancoveanu is located northwest of Bucharest and is a masterpiece of the architectural style he shaped.
  • National Museum of Art – a wonderful journey through 1000 years of Romanian painting.
  • Revolution Square: On December 21, 1989, 100,000 people gathered on the square in front of the former Central Committee of the Communist Party and demanded Ceausescu’s resignation. The modern monument commemorates the bloody victory of the people over the dictatorship.
  • Ceausecu’s Tomb: On two simple graves of the Ghencea cemetery are names that once terrified the country. Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu are buried near the main entrance after their execution.
  • Tip: The village museum invites you to take a walk into the past of rural Romania. The churches, mills and farmhouses from the villages of Wallachia and Transylvania are up to 300 years old, which can be visited in this idyll at the gates of the city.

Good to know: Almost every Bucharest citizen speaks English or French. In the numerous hotels, restaurants and cafés, you will be warmly welcomed and served.
Who has always wanted to be cooked by a poet and revolutionary? Now is the opportunity: If you like, visit the author Dinescu in his restaurant Lacrimi si Sfiniti and try his traditional dishes.

Bucharest has its very own charm and is without a doubt Balkan. Anyone who has ever been to Athens, Sofia, Istanbul or Belgrade will immediately recognize the similarities. Over time and with their low need for rest, today’s Bucharest feel closer to southern European culture