Saturday, February 14, 2015

Top 20 must-see in Bucharest

Have you ever imagined yourself as a tourist in your own town? What would you like to see or do? Where will you start your first walk around? This is one of the games I really would like to play from time to time – Tourist in my own city. There’s only one tiny little problem: it comes pretty hard to get lost and to be free winding the streets when knowing what’s around the next corner.

Engaged in our daily routine we tend to forget that, beyond the everyday gray, beyond street dogs, bags and newspapers taken by the wind, dust, sad old hand stretched and windshield washer ... every city has its charm and is the responsibility of each and every one of us to bring to light the beautiful and worth visiting places and share them to the others.
Don’t take me as a huge fan of Bucharest, because I’m not. I always thought that although it has many interesting corners, buildings, parks and so on, the fact that they are scattered all over the city and so poorly promoted makes their magic blow away. But, despite all this I managed to gather a top of 20 places that ought to be include in your itinerary in Bucharest. In a random order of preferences, here we go:

Stravopoleos Church was built around 1724 and is one of the oldest buildings in Bucharest. Initially there was a monastery and an inn here, but the only one that survived till today is the Monastery's Church. Once you stepped inside the church’s yard (located on the right side of the building), you feel as if you step into another world as a restful silence surrounds you. Please take a few minutes here and enjoy the silence.

Close by is the History Museum, with a vast heritage of prehistoric and recent history artifacts. If you decide to go in do not miss the two "piece de resistance": the Treasure Hall (among the exposed exhibits you can discover a number of golden bracelets from Dacian territories and other jewelries from ancient Dacian and Roman times) and Lapidary site (which contains a copy of Trajan’s Column, the Roman Emperor - considered a true history lesson of Roman Dacian wars). And before you plan you visit here check their website for the temporary exhibitions (details can be found on the website:

Right across the street from the Museum of History, the curious tourist’s eyes will see one of the most beautiful buildings in Bucharest (in my opinion): the CEC Palace. Somewhere around 2005 or 2006 I had the opportunity to go inside this building and see an exhibition of safes-deposit boxes, some of them pretty old but still functional. Unfortunately at present the public access is prohibited inside. Construction of the French-inspired style building began in 1897, in the presence of King Charles I and Queen Mary. Both the exterior and interior of glass and metal dome impresses with its size and elegance.

Caru cu Bere - one of the most famous restaurants in Bucharest, is recognized both for its architecture in Gothic style, richly decorated with paintings, stained glass and mosaics and carved paneling and for typical Romanian varied menu and beer brewed after their own recipe. It is both a touristic restaurant (especially during summer) and a traditional stylish one. You have pretty good chances to interact with both tourists from around the world, but also Romanians.

Pretty close to that you can admire from outside the National Bank of Romania. The inside can be also visited (but only with pre-appointment); here you can find a numismatic museum. The location is already on my list of "To does", so I hope to come back soon with a more detailed article about the BNR Museum;

Museum of Bucharest is located in University Square and is housed in Sutu Palace. It is one of the buildings near which is impossible not to be passed, if you ever walked through the area. I recommend that you also go inside…you might be surprised (in a good way, of course). And to give you a hint, in the entrance hall there is a clock built specifically to be read only in the mirror. Pretty interesting, right?  

And as you walk along on Calea Victoriei worth admiring some of the hystorical building around. My favorites are Cercul Militar National (Palace of the National Military Circle), Biblioteca Central Universitara - Carol I (Central University Library of Bucharest) si Ateneul Roman (Romanian Athenaeum).

Once you get on Calea Victoriei, right across the street from Central University Library of Bucharest is the former Royal Palace that now houses the National Art Museum with its two galleries: the European Art and the National Gallery. For those passionate about paintings, sculptures and traditional art exhibits this museum is a "must see" in Bucharest. But recently, a third part of the building, has been opened for the large public. As I said, the whole building used to be the Royal Palace and now you can visit (in a guided tour) the Royal Throne Room and the Main Staircase, called Scara Voievozilor. If you decide to include the Royal Palace in your tour around Bucharest please keep in mind that the visits are allowed only on Saturday and Sunday and that you must register you visit in advance. The Royal Palace visit is a lesson of Romanian hystorie.

As you continue your walk on Calea Victoriei, at the number 141 you will come across another beautiful house called the Cantacuzino Palace; it now houses the George Enescu Museum. What I always loved about this building is the entrance guarded by two stone lions and the shell shaped marquise above the entrance. The 2 buildings of the museum are interesting and worth a few minutes of your time (visit lasts no more than 30 min).

Frederic and Cecilia Cuţescu-Storck Art Museum - one of the museums that I intend to revisit. The first time I visited the museum was in my childhood, but I still remember the elegant building constructed in Germanic style that stands out among the other buildings in the area (near is on Romana Squaret, str. Alecsandri, No. 16). The museum heritage consists of sculptures and drawings of three sculptors Storck, painting and graphics Cutescu Cecilia Storck, the numismatic collection that belonged to Frederic Storck and the plaques and medals collected and designed by him.

National Museum of Maps and Old Books - you can read more here. And if feel like walking some more, this area, with old beautiful houses and trees, is just perfect for that. 

Once you get in Victoria Sqare (Piata Victoriei), you will definitely feel surrounded by all sorts of buildings made of glass and concrete. But if you look again you’ll notice a red brick tower. That’s the Peasant Museum. It is one of the iconic buildings that you need to see in Bucharest. But of all the rooms (and there are quite some) the one that really impressed me is the recreated of a traditional countryside school classroom. Let yourself lost inside this museum in order to better understand the traditional way of life in the Romanian villages.

The Arch of Triumph - is one of the must see monuments in Bucharest, located at the crossroads of 4 major avenues: Constantin Prezan road Kiselev, Alexander Averescu and Alexandru Constantinescu. Inside is a small museum, which is open but only on special occasions (ex, December 1). Until now we did not visit the museum, but it's on our to do list.

The Village Museum - is organised as a large village with house and outbuildings in different areas, from different periods. It's built on the lake Herastrau, so it successfully recreates typical houses from the Danube Delta area. Although smaller in size than the one in Sibiu (Astra Museum) is a beautiful and relaxing location to spend half a day.
Old Western Art Museum - you can read more details here (in Romania version)

Carol 1st Park – is probably one of the most beautiful parks and green areas in Bucharest; it is quit and just perfect when you just need to take a nature-bite, to read a book or simply walk and meditate. The park open its gates during the "Carol I - 40-year reign and Romania - 25 years of the kingdom" jubilee in 1906. Another iconic part of the park is dedicated to the Roman Arenas (Arenele Romane) built to celebrate "18 centuries of roman Dacia earth". But probably the most known monument of Carol 1st Park is the Heroes Monument built during the communist struggle for freedom of the people and the country, for socialism, and was built in honor of revolutionary socialists’ militants.

One of the top places in Bucharest that ought to be visited while in Bucharest is of course the Parliament House (or the Peoples House, as you might find it in you guides). The building is impressive in size, and according to the World Records Academy, Parliament House is the largest civil administrative building, the most expensive administrative building in the world and the heaviest building in the world. Worth visiting inside (but only by appointment and guided).

Cotroceni Museum - although the first visit was not a  huge succes, I plan to revisit and give it a second chance ( the place itself is amazing, but my exeperience was ruined by a terrieble guide) you can read more details here

… And since we're in Cotroceni, a bohemian and quiet area of the city, with old houses and trees I invite you for tea in Infinity Teahouse. It's a place without a rich history, but countervailed by the atmosphere and décor. It carries you into another era where serving and drinking tea was both an art and a way to socialize. Please note that it is a non-smoking place (during summer you are more welcomed to visit the terase in the back yard...and you can smoke there).

Mogosoaia Palace - even if not in Bucharest, but pretty close to the city - about 18 km. If you have more time to spare it would be a shame not to visit it.

If you have seen, visited or read about Bucharest before, what other places would you include in this top?

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