Eclectic, vibrant, and hidden are some of the words that best describe Bucharest, whose faded decadent beauty portrays the bohemian Bucharest of yesteryear. Laden with exquisite historical landmarks and a constant flow of cultural events and festivals, this capital of Romania is one for curious explorers who are always up for an adventure.
When to Go
With a continental climate, summers are hot and winters freezing cold, with substantial snowfall. While summertime brings most visitors, avoid July and August when it is excessively hot. Late April or May is the perfect time to visit with the city turning green and blooming with magnolias, hyacinth, and lilies. September is another great alternative, when it is warm enough still for alfresco dining and rich in colorful foliage.
Festival season starts in April with Spotlight Festival, continuing with Art Safari and Romanian Design Week in May and Street Delivery in mid June. Also in May is Night of the Museum—one of the best times to discover off the beaten path Bucharest, visiting house museums or landmarks not usually open. September is another great time to visit, for the month-long biannual George Enescu Classical Music Festival.
What to Eat
Not every visitor might go wild for the typical Romanian cabbage rolls filled with meat and rice, known as sarmale—the locals have an undying affection for the dish. A must-try, they are often accompanied by a generous side of mămăligă (polenta) and sour cream for garnishing. For a taste of local street food, Obor’s farmers market serves the best mici (skinless grilled sausages, a mixture of beef, lamb, and pork) in town. Soup lovers can try a ciorbă, a customary word for the wide variety of soups, made sour with borș, a sour liquid made from wheat bran. Top it all off with a pungent shot of ţuică, a high-alcohol Romanian plum spirit.
Souvenir to Take Home
Forgo the kitschy Dracula-themed souvenirs and go for handicraft from the Museum of the Romanian Peasant shop, such as traditional red tablecloths weaved by local artisans, or an entirely handmade Romanian blouse—the embroidered pastoral motifs and colors vary depending on the Romanian region it represents. Horezu ceramics or hand-painted Easter eggs are suitable alternatives. For those with a sense of humor, a garland of garlic from a peasant market is sure to do the trick—inherently Romanian and thought to ward off bad spirits (including infamous vampires).
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Sustainable Travel Tip
The best way to discover Bucharest and the history that led to its architectural diversity is by foot. Traffic is quite dense so embarking on a walking tour is one of the best ways to get around. Bucharest also counts on an efficient metro network and an increasingly bike-friendly environment, with multiple rental options.
Head to Stavropoleos Street in the Old Town, where a cobblestone street shot toward the CEC Palace (Savings Bank) taken from Caru’ cu Bere (Bucharest’s oldest brewery, a must see) will have friends wondering if you’re in Paris instead. If panoramic views are more to your liking, the Linea/Closer to the Moon rooftop is the best place (around 7:30 p.m. is the best time for catching both good light and space). Nearby, Cărturești Carusel is an Instagram magnet, undoubtedly one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world.