EAT in Bucharest:
What did Twins Studio think of when designing Biutiful? Candlesticks covered with wax, dimly lit corners and loads of bricks? For some reason you cannot stop guessing that the Romanian company has hid gloomy creatures in the pub in Bucharest. But no, instead a colourful elk head peeps from the wall and observes the guests having their drinks. The English pub in the historic district is not a ghost parlour but a smorgasbord of interior objects that provide for a very peculiar mood. There you have the old wooden tables, the heave sofas and the delicate chandelier above them. The latter match the spotlights that give the venue an industrial touch. The brick wall is very effective in terms of ambiance, is partially filled with mortar and on top of it red fans are buzzing.
How sweet! A small café where you can also take a piece of your favourite treat home with you. A charming, small chocolate shop where you can find what you've craved all day, and have a coffee as well. The selection of chocolates, pralines, tarts, cakes and other sinful delights is immense: you will feel yourself transported to somewhere between France with its crème brûlée, éclairs, and Forêt noire, and Italy with its profiteroles and tiramisu. Need a starter before devoting yourself to the sweets? Chocolat also serves delectable light lunches featuring soups, pasta dishes and salads made of the very freshest ingredients. The selection of baked goods is equally tempting: bread-rolls, white, dark, and whole-grain breads, brioche and panini, both filled and not. This is a whole new dimension to being spoilt for choice.
At the Count Dracula Club they roll out all of the myths, legends, and clichés about the old blood-sucker. But it's done so humorously that you should spend at least one evening with the undead. This theme restaurant with its grizzly ambiance will not only delight fans of horror films; providing you manage to get a table, it can be quite cosy. The ambiance lives up to all the most hackneyed clichés about Transylvania and then some. Theme rooms give the restaurant a special twist: there's a chapel complete with casket, a grim cellar, Medieval chamber, hunting and ghost rooms. Waiters' costumes range from the laughable to the gruesome to the plain funny. Come here with a group that knows how to have a laugh, and you are sure to spend an entertaining evening. Especially on Thursdays and Fridays, when the owner, Count Dracula, appears in the flesh for a short show. The food is Romanian and good; bloody steaks are the kitchen's specialty.
SIGHTS in Bucharest:
At Bucharest's Kinofest the focus is on fascinating animated films and exciting shorts. Anyone can participate, whether professional director, or hobby cineaste. Romanian and international film-makers have the chance over five days to screen their latest works. The organisers' goal is to create a stage for young cinema-makers' films. The also aim to stimulate interest in media arts and showcase new forms of creativity. This formula seems to be a success, with the festival taking place this year for the fourth time. At Kinofest the best films in the categories animation, fiction, and micromovie will be awarded prizes. You want to get a taste of the festival in advance? Log on to the festival website, where entries of past years can be viewed.
In and around Bucharest there are many parks that beckon you to take a stroll, unwind and relax. These landscaped gardens are given their distinctive character by long and winding lakes. A glance at the map shows that Bucharest is studded with green areas and bodies of water. The biggest such leisure area is Her?str?u Park. It impresses by sheer size?187 hectares. In relation to the city's area it is thus a good deal larger than New York's famous Central Park with its 349 hectares. The lake gracing the park's centre is so long and narrow that it looks more like a river, whose banks make the perfect setting for a picnic. When the weather is warm, the Her?str?u Park is great for people-watching and soaking up the city's flair.
Macy Gray, Louie Austen and Melanie Fiona have already been here and gave concerts. Also Hurts and Vaya con Dios provided for hot nights in the Fratelli Studios and in doing so even competed with the huge chandelier at the ceiling. The latter is - along with cleverly placed spots - responsible for the lighting which does not only show off the stars on stage. Not less iconic is the lounge bar with panelled wooden walls where guests can relax after the concerts on chocolate-coloured sofas. Altering light effects and oriental mirrors support the recreation and communication. And that's even more easier in the Social Club, designed in white colours with threaded upholstered furniture. But only when you aren't thunderstruck at the sight of the overhead deer trophies. In this case the best option is to flee to the Fratelli Beach Club in Mamaia, the most important bathing place along the Romanian Black Sea Coast.
STAY in Bucharest:
It's only a few minutes walking distance to the Triumphal Arch and the Botanical Garden is right around the corner. But: the colour green can also be found in the Crowne Plaza itself, in the hotel garden with skilfully cut bushes, Wimbledon-resembling lawn and braided beach chairs. Tasteful is the right word for the ambience, as well as quiet. Apart from the green oasis, the location of the hotel is a principal argument: it's 20 minutes at the maximum to get from the international Otopeni Airport to the hotel. The Crowne Plaza's environment is quiet and green, and the Romexpo exhibition centre, the World Trade Plaza and the Herastrau park are close by. You also reach the cultural, shopping and business districts fast and easily. The hotel offers 164 spacious rooms on three floors mostly with balcony and several luggage racks. Also in the hotel: an in-house tennis court, a gym and a couple of bars and restaurants.
The Nelisse at the gates of Bucharest is not just an extraordinary value but also one of the cosiest hotels in town. The rooms are enchanting: wallpaper with delicate floral motifs, here a touch of rose, there a dab of pastel. And so your day gets off to a relaxed and romantic start after breakfast in the intimate breakfast salon. The draw-back: the hotel is located about three kilometers from the city centre. But the Nelisse offers rental cars to get you downtown in a jiffy.In addition to the 43 guest rooms there is an apartment. If you are interested, you will have to book early though.A night in a double room starts at about 43 euro.
This hotel is rich in tradition: it was opened in 1852 by Grigore Capsa and straight away became the place to stay for Romania's crème de la crème. Only here did one feel at home, if one was rich, beautiful, or artistic. In 1886, the Capsa was given a make-over to turn it into Romania's most elegant hotel. The aristocratic and cosmopolitan atmosphere can still be experienced. You will feel definitely feel special, in part because the hotel has only 42 rooms, all of which are individually decorated. What they have in common is a luxurious, regal décor that recalls ancient tales of princes and princesses. They were all here: the guest list reads like a who's who ? even Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria slept at the Capsa.One night's accommodations in a double room start at 185 euro.
SHOPPING in Bucharest:
How do a Dutch hotel owner and a Chilean architect get together? By jointly opening the Beros & van Schaik wine trade in Sofia. Jerry van Schaik runs a hotel, his partner Christian Beros designs houses. They both like good wine and have established a wine trade in the historic district of Sofia where they sell gourmet wines that cannot be bought in the supermarket. These come from France, Spain, South Africa, Australia, Chile and Romania - among other countries: for example Corcova, Terra Romana, Avincis or La Certa. Additionally they serve small snacks in their bar including smoked meat, cheese, olives and daily specials. The wine partners celebrate gusto. They also arrange regular wine tasting sessions in the stylish setting of their wine bar. No time? No problem - Beros & van Schaik also deliver to your door. And the matching goodies can still be bought at the supermarket.
Yes indeed, the Romanians are proud of their imposing shopping malls and have plenty of them. So take part in a total shopping craze at least once, and stroll through one of the popular malls. Why not the most typical of them all, the gargantuan Bucuresti Mall. Opened in 2001, it boasts over 140 shops on an area of some 99,000 square metres. The building dates from Communist times and is appropriately massive, grey and heavy on the cement. Still, the locals continue to crowd the place, to shop, bowl, drink coffee, or take in a film at one of the ten cinemas. The shops include all the usual international labels?Adidas, Esprit, Marks & Spencer, Levi's and the like. But there are also less well-known brands, like Aldo Shoes, the local wedding outfitter, Alb ?i Negru, and Romanian designer, Irina Schrotter. It's well worth having a look around, although you probably won't pay less for international brands than you would at home.
At first glance you might not suspect that Romania has a good deal to boast of in the world of fashion. Nichi Cristina Nichita is a Bucharest girl made good. The fashion designer has presented her creations on many a catwalk and invariably earned ecstatic kudos. In the shop on Piata Unirii slip into one of the designer's latest creations; you're sure to be won over. Elegant businesswear with that certain something extra, lovely handbags, and clothes for that special event. Too bad Nichi Cristina Nichita only designs for women, but she really knows how to pamper them. The designer plays with classic looks that are never dull because they all have a dash of contemporary spirit. Pick out your favourite dress and reserve a table at a chic bar to show it off.