Despite being Romania’s capital and largest city, Bucharest is frequently overlooked by visitors to the Eastern European country, who are often eager to head north to the forests, mountains and medieval castles of Transylvania.
But they’re missing out. From the winding streets of its elegantly dilapidated Old Town, to the looming presence of the imposing Palace of Parliament, there’s plenty to see and do in this intriguing and historical city.
Read the Flexicover Team’s guide to find out why you should go, and what to do when you're there.
Planning your trip
Your Bucharest experience will vary widely depending on the time of your trip. The winters here are icy cold, with average low temperatures dipping to a teeth-rattling -4C in January, while the summers are sweltering – expect the mercury to regularly shoot past 30C between June and August. As a result, May and September are the best months to explore the city, with average highs of 23C and 25C respectively. Romania hasn’t yet adopted the euro, and you’ll get about five leu to the pound. As for getting there, airlines like British Airways, Ryanair and Wizz Air fly direct to Bucharest from across the country. Plus Wizz Air is also set to launch a new route from Edinburgh this December.
What to do
Much of Bucharest’s tourist appeal is centred on the Old Town, known to most locals as Centru Vechi. Here you’ll find ornately cobbled streets lined with elegant historic buildings, home to coffee shops, restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Come for a stroll in the daytime, when it’s quieter, for a glimpse at what the Romanian capital used to look like – this tiny area of the city is pretty much all that remains after World War II. There are also a number of free walking tours if you want to learn more about the city’s intriguing history. Just outside of the city, it’s well worth catching a bus to visit the 15th-century Snagov Monastery. Situated on a tiny island in the middle of a lake, it’s believed to house the grave of Vlad the Impaler – the inspiration for the fictional character Dracula.
What to see
The most popular, and undoubtedly the biggest, of Bucharest’s attractions is the gargantuan Palace of Parliament. Second only to the Pentagon on the list of the world’s largest administrative buildings, it was the brainchild of former dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu. Although technically unfinished, the Palace sprawls over 330,000 square metres and boasts more than 3,000 rooms. To get to grips with the country’s distant and more recent past, pay a visit to the National History Museum of Romania. Perched on the western edge of the Old Town it displays a life-size replica of the base of Trajan’s Column, the ancient Roman monument.
Where to stay
Want to be close to the action? The Concorde Old Bucharest Hotel is in the heart of Centru Vechi, offering glorious views of the city’s historic streets and the nearby Dâmbovița river. The hotel’s garden and sun terrace are fantastic spots to unwind away from the hustle and bustle of the Old Town. South of Centru Vechi, on the edge of the pretty Parcul Izvor, the tiny but elegant Athina Suites Hotel offers four suites, each of which boasts its own balcony, kitchenette and dining area. The floor-to-ceiling windows offer excellent vistas over the city. If you’re looking for something a little more budget-friendly, check out AZZA Aparthotel. Located north of the city centre in the upmarket neighbourhood of Dorobanti, its rooms are decorated in eye-catching belle époque style.
What to eat
Bucharest has a blossoming foodie scene with far more variety on offer than the typical meat-heavy Balkan fair, like gastropubs, curry houses and Italian restaurants to Mexican eateries and Irish pubs. But you can’t visit the Romanian capital without sampling mititei. Created in Bucharest around a century ago, these skin-free sausages are typically served with a generous helping of mustard. Soups are a big deal in Romania. Each town and village has its own speciality and in Bucharest you can find them all. If you’re feeling brave try the ciorbă de burtă - tripe soup - which is on the menu of virtually every traditional Romanian restaurant. And don’t miss clătite or Romanian pancakes. Often served rolled up, they’re thin and come with a variety of fillings, from cheese to Nutella. Delicious!
Wherever you plan on heading away to this year it’s good to know that Flexicover Travel Insurance is committed to providing you with the highest level of protection to ensure you are safe and secure 24 hours a day when away.