Romania has long been famous for the legend of Dracula, hidden in the Bran Castle lying high up in the mountains on Brasov, and for the second largest parliament in Europe. Explore the more alternative spots of Romania with me via a virtual tour around its capital city Bucharest. Here, you can find not only the second largest parliament in the world - the Palace of the Parliament, but plenty of other hidden sights. Here are the top things to do, and highlights that I have summarized for you.
Take a free walking tour
Stroll through more than 500 years of Romanian history from the times of Vlad the Impaler, aka Dracula, to the Communist era and the 1989 Revolution to explore the old and new Bucharest. The city offers a lot of architectural gems that are yet to be discovered by regular tourists. A couple of highlights from the tour are the Palace of Parliament, Stavropoleos Convent, the Ruins of Vlad’s Citadel, the Manuc’s Inn, and the Victory Boulevard. The tour starts everyday at 3 PM at the Unirii Square Park in front of the clock next to the fountain. At the end of the tour, your guide will provide you with pro tips of living in Bucharest regarding its entertainment, nightlife, and culture. Later on, you can explore Bucharest on your own at the old town. The whole pedestrian area around here is surrounded by various restaurants and bars, with a vibrant and alternative atmosphere that you will find distinctive from other capital cities in Europe.
Visit the open-air Village Museum
One of my favourite things, that is a must-do during the trip’s itinerary was to visit the Village Museum, as I have always been more enthusiastic to explore the historical parts of anywhere I go versus the modern sides. Explore the authentic Romanian village located right in the middle of the country’s capital city. Wander around, and get lost in the various monuments and artifacts found throughout the old houses that resemble those from the 15th century all the way up to the 20th century. They were constructed to represent different, important ethnographic regions. To get here, you can take many different buses or take a roughly 15 minute walk from the closest metro station Aviatorilor. The normal entrance fee to the museum is only 10 LEI (2.48 USD). The area is very clean, green, and calm with many parks surrounding the Herăstrău lakeside, so it’s fun to chill out around here or even go for a picnic.
Explore the hidden street-art
If you like to travel slowly, exploring the more hidden sides of Bucharest, try the Alternative Tour of Bucharest. It covers the city’s street art and urban culture, plus history, architecture, and other artwork throughout the city. The guide will show you around the quaint neighbourhoods full of history, strange landmarks, the belle époque (French for ‘beautiful era’), and modern architecture, indoor and outdoor museums, as well as hip hang-out places that locals love. You can choose to take a short tour, full-day tour, or even music and street art workshops. Though these tours are quite pricey, it’s possible to explore the city’s street-art on your own at some places, such as Strada Arthur Verona Street.
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Browse through the open markets
On one of the main streets of Bucharest, Bulevardul General Gheorghe Magheru, is where you can find lots of open-air markets lying along one side. There are all sorts of things here: souvenirs, crafts, postcards, and jewellers. If you are into exploring the Romanian artifacts, textiles, and ceramics further, come to the National Museum of the Romanian Peasant. There’s an open-market close to the museum where people sell all sorts of old coins, furniture, household tools, and even traditional costumes.
Stay in a budget hostel
Bucharest offers some of the cheapest accommodation around Europe. With less than 10 USD you can get a decent hostel dorm (e.g. The Midland Hostel, Puzzle Hostel). It’s also possible to get a private hotel or Airbnb room with prices ranging from 20 USD.
How to get around Bucharest
Bucharest’s main attractions focus around the city centre, making it easy to explore places on foot. You can also easily move around by metro or buses. Tickets for 2 for up to 10 rides can be purchased at any of the local ticket offices. English is widely spoken by young people, and there are bilingual signs everywhere so you won’t get lost. All in all, Bucharest was a way more modern and tourist-friendly city to visit than what I expected.
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