Estimated reading time 4 minutes
Earlier this month I had the pleasure of spending some time in Bucharest, Romania. Truth be told, I knew very little about Romania prior to this trip, apart from its history of communism, Gypsies, and Dracula. Living in Saudi Arabia, Bucharest is relatively close, and since ticket prices were pretty cheap I booked it on a whim. I'm so very glad I did because the city has a ton to offer. I would happily go back!
So here's what you should take in if you've got a long weekend free...
The buildings of Bucharest are an interesting mix of Art Nouveau French style designs and the more plain and dreary communist style buildings. The main reason for this is that many of the old buildings were damaged by earthquakes or fell into states of disrepair. You could easily spend an entire day wandering the streets of the Old Town taking in the many beautiful facades and statues of the old buildings.
Hidden throughout the city are beautiful Orthodox churches - some of them down alleyways, one of them even located behind a Pizza Hut. As we strolled through the alleyways of the Old Town we would come across these stunning churches. They are ornately decorated, and most you can go into. I had the luck of entering Stavropoleos Monastery as the sun was setting one night and stumbled across nuns reading from a Bible and singing hymns by candlelight. It was a very peaceful encounter.
Palace of the Parliament
This building is the second largest government building in the world - after the Pentagon. It took 10 years to build and was completed in 1994. Reportedly, there are more than 1000 rooms, but many are not in use. You can tour a very small portion of the building on scheduled guided tours. The rooms are ornately decorated and it really is quite impressive to tour.
You will need a passport to get in and expect airport style security, but while you're waiting you can grab a beer at the concession counter in the lobby!
A short 2 hour drive from Bucharest is the spectacular castle of Peles. The castle was completed in the late 1880's and served as the royal family's summer residence until the mid 1950's. The castle itself has a Gothic feel and the gardens are teeming with impressive statues. This is easily one of the top castes I have ever toured. King Carol I spared no attention to detail, and all the items in the room match and compliment one another. Well worth the day trip from Bucharest.
Bran Castle is often referred to as "Dracula's Castle" and can easily be combined in a day trip from Bucharest along with a visit to Peles Castle. Bran Castle couldn't be more different that Peles though. It's much smaller and was built as a fortress because of its position up on a cliff. Today it serves as a museum with some exhibits about Dracula. This castle is known as Dracula's castle because it is the only castle in Transylvania that matches Bram Stoker's description of Dracula's castle, even though he actually never visited Romania.
Graffiti and urban art
If you are a person who appreciates urban art, street murals, or graffiti then you will love Bucharest. Outside of Lisbon, I can't recall another city with as much urban art. It added a colourful backdrop as I explored the streets and alleyways of Bucharest and was a stark contradiction to the French style and communist architecture of the city. It also added an element of surprise, as you never know what artistic surprise is awaiting you around the next corner.
Therme is a relatively new business venture about 10km outside of Bucharest. It's a huge complex with a wellness center and several heated thermal pools. There is a children's area with a wave pool and water slides, there is a huge indoor and outdoor thermal pool with poolside bars, a restaurant, some different aromatherapy pools, and several different temperature saunas. It makes for a great afternoon to let the stress of travel slip away.
Take a walking tour of the city
While researching what to do in Bucharest I came across a tour company called Interesting Times who had some pretty cool sounding unique tours around the city. Some were food tours, some were photo tours, but the one that I was most jazzed about was the "Beautiful Decay" tour where a guide takes you to some abandoned places around that city. This actually was the highlight of my time in Bucharest. I love old abandoned buildings especially from a photography standpoint so getting to tour a couple abandoned sites was really cool for me. One of the building is currently being restored by the Institute of Archaeology.
Hopefully this has given you a few ideas about how to fill 72 hours in Bucharest.
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