Why It's Worth It

Far from the communist utopia first-time visitors conjure upon visiting Bucharest—the 1,100-room Palace of Parliament topping the agenda of iconic sights to tick off—Romania’s capital is everything you didn’t expect. Here, century-old Byzantine churches straddle Belle Époque palaces on Calea Victoriei, the city’s most famous artery, in a sublime mix of old and new, East and West. Nearby, the revived cobblestone streets of historic Lipscani breathe anew with café culture alongside 15th-century Old Princely Court and the magnificent Orthodox Stavropoleos Church. More accessible than its neighbors to the West, today’s Bucharest thrives on arts and culture, parks aplenty, some of Europe’s most vibrant nightlife, and a specialty coffee scene sparking a revolution. —Monica Suma