Adrian’s Bucharest

Adrian Banu is a travel blogger and photographer who, for the last 15 years, has been living, studying and working in Bucharest, Romania, the E.U.’s 6th-largest city (by area). Check out Adrian’s tips for maximizing your time in his home city, then learn more about his adventures on his website Travel Destination Search and on Twitter @tdestinations. 

Bucharest is My City

The first place I take a visitor from out of town is the Cişmigiu Gardens for a boat ride – probably the oldest and most popular leisure activity in Bucharest.

When I crave ice cream I always go to Häagen-Dazs in Băneasa Shopping City. They have lots of good stuff there – just don’t ask me which one is my favorite, because I can’t pick just one!

To escape the hustle and bustle, I head to one of the castles just outside the city. A good stop is the 19th-century Ştirbey Palace, located in Buftea, about 20 km from Bucharest.

If I want to watch the sky on a starry night, I go to the Amiral Vasile Urseanu Astronomical Observatory. Check out this interesting photo gallery made by the people who work there.

For complete quiet, I can hide away in Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum, an open-air museum where you can learn about traditional Romanian village life, walk the quiet alleys next to the Herăstrău Lake, or just relax and read a book.

If you come to my city, get your picture taken with the Palace of the Parliament — the world’s heaviest building, according to the World Records Academy — in the background.

If you have to order one thing off the menu from Caru’ cu Bere, it has to be sărmăluţe în foi de varză servite cu mămăliguţă, smântână şi ardei iute (mixed minced meat rolled in cabbage, served with polenta, sour cream and chili pepper) and papanaşi cu brânză dulce, smântână şi dulceaţă (cottage cheese donuts with sour cream and jam) for a taste of authentic Romanian cuisine.

Cărtureşti Bookstore is my one-stop shop for great gifts — books, music, toys, chocolate, coffee, tea, you name it.

Locals know to skip the over-priced Dorobanţi and Decebal boulevards and check out the bars and restaurants in The Old City instead.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped I go to a pretzel shop (you’ll find them on almost every street corner) or to La Cocoşatu for the best mititei in town.

For a huge splurge I go to IDM Club where I can swim in the pool, bowl, or play billiards, snooker, darts, or table tennis.

Photo ops in my city include Victory Avenue (where major icons of Bucharest like the Romanian Athenaeum (Ateneul Român)or the CEC Palace can be found), the Arch of Triumph (Arcul de Triumf) and, of course, the Palace of the Parliament can be found). The best vantage points are on top of the Intercontinental Hotel or the Palace of the Parliament.

If my city were a celebrity it’d be mid-20th century French cultural icon Édith Piaf, because during that same period Bucharest was widely renowned as “The Little Paris.”

The most random thing about my city is the fact that in 2008 it won the Guinness World Record for the longest smoked sausage (at 392 meters) in the world. However, the record was broken three years later in Germany.

My city has the most football- (soccer-) addicted men.

My city has the most shopping-addicted women.

In my city, an active day outdoors involves walks in the parks, a football game in the National Arena and/or an open-air music festival.

My city’s best museum is Grigore Antipa National Museum of Natural History founded in 1834 and fully refurbished and re-opened in 2011.

My favorite jogging/walking route is around Titan Lake in Alexandru Ioan Cuza Park (also known as Titan Park, or I.O.R. Park) in the morning, when the terraces and bars around the lake are closed.

For a night of dancing, go to the Silver Church Club – they host crazy parties with live music every week. (However, they will be closed for the summer, so I’d recommend either Club Maxx or El Comandante for the immediate future.) Or, for live music, check out ArCuB if you like jazz and blues.

The Old City Center (Lipscani Street and environs) is the spot for late-night eats.

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read Şapte Seri.

You can tell a lot about my city from walking down Victory Avenue – one of Bucharest’s oldest and most elegant boulevards.

You can tell if someone is from my city if they know about the German origins of Lipscani Street’s name. Long story short: Lipscani is where the traders and shopkeepers from the Middle Ages used to sell the merchandise they brought from Leipzig.

In the spring you should go to Herăstrău Park to see the spring flowers and watch the black swans and ducks swim around the lake.

In the summer you should check out the water slides and pools and football, volleyball, and tennis pitches in Otopeni Waterpark.

In the fall you should not miss the food market hosted by the Museum of the Romanian Peasant and sample delicious meats, pickles, berry syrups, and other traditional Romanian foods.

In the winter you should go ice skating in Cişmigiu Gardens and then sip a cup (or two!) of hot mulled wine and watch the Christmas lights dance.

A hidden gem in my city is Ioanid Park (recently renamed Ion Voicu) designed in the Belle Époque architectural style of the early 1900s. This well-preserved park is surrounded by elegant, historical villas that currently house embassies and diplomats.

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For a great breakfast joint try French Bakery for some delicious croissants, brownies and other mouth-watering chocolate goodies. They have several shops and restaurants in convenient places like Benjamin Franklin Street, Opera Center, and Europe House.

Don’t miss the George Enescu Festival in September.

Just outside my city, you can visit the medieval palace of Mogoşoaia, located about 14 km from Bucharest.

The best way to see my city is either on foot or by going on the Bucharest City Tour (an open-air bus will take you on a tour of the city, showing you the most important historical and cultural landmarks).

If my city were a pet it would be a Birman cat – sometimes moody, but a very pleasant and charming companion most of the time.

If I didn’t live in a city, I’d live in Snagov (approximately 40 km north of Bucharest), riding my bike, fishing, and enjoying the great weather all day long.

The best book about my city is Craii de Curtea Veche (The Idle Princes of the Old Court) by Mateiu I. Caragiale.

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is “Badea neichii, Bucureşti” by Maria Tănase, a renowned Romanian folk singer.

If you have kids, you won’t want to miss the Bucharest Zoo in the northern part of the city — or, for a crazy ride, Terra Park on Timişoara Boulevard.

B’ESTFEST music festival, a nominee for “Best Overseas Festival” at this year’s UK Festival Awards, could only happen in my city.

My city should be featured on your cover or website because it is the place where Belle-Époque-style buildings from the late 1800s and early 1900s combine with our strong Latin and Balkan roots to create a unique and unmistakable flavor.

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