EAT in Bucharest:
The Balthazar is one of the top places to dine in Bucharest. Here you are served French-Asian fusion cuisine at its most sublime. For foreigners it's affordable, but you can assume that the Romanians you see here belong to the capital's top earners. The old villa where the restaurant is located has been lovingly restored with an eye for detail. The gardens and avant-garde bar?perfect for a drink before or after dinner?are especially attractive. The guests are still hip, even if the times have past when business dinners took place no where else. Perhaps too, despite the culinary delights, guests have noticed the restaurant's two weak points: a rather anemic wine list and music which can sometimes drive you to distraction. But if that doesn't trouble you, you are set to enjoy a very enjoyable evening in an elegant ambiance.
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.
Life at the Amsterdam Grand Café starts early in the morning: fancy citizens of Bucharest are reading newspapers and taking breaths for their days in the elegant building in the historic district Lipscani. The seats in front of the large windows with view onto the cobbles and rushing people are the best spots within the two-storey venue. At midday, lunch is following. But as soon as the late afternoon arrives, the Grand Café changes its costume and turns from an unconventional café into a funky bar. Cocktails, beer and music replace the smell of the coffee house. On Thursdays and Fridays, it might happen that a live jazz session is performed on the little stage. This colourful life also takes place around the Grand Café Amsterdam: bars and lively cafés cluster in the streets of Lipscani, many lounge barss and jazz venues can be found around the Calea Victoriei boulevard.
STAY in Bucharest:
The Hotel Opera looks exactly as you might imagine: elegant, classic, a bit of old-world charm, a touch of the Orient Express, and loads of style. That's what the public areas are like with old paintings of the Bucharest of yore in gilded frames adorning the walls. The guest rooms are more ordinary, but perfectly adequate, and bear such musical names as Aida, La Bohème, Tosca, and Traviata. The suites are Rigoletto, Nabucco and Carmen. The hotel was reopened in 2002 and is perfectly located in the cultural heart of the capital, directly next to opera.Take a stroll through Bucharest; when you return to the hotel you will delight not only in the peaceful atmosphere, but also in the feeling that you have taken a journey back in time to the beginning of the 20th century.One night in a double room starts at 140 euro.
Where is the hotel? The savvy traveller will have already guessed: right next to parliament. That means right in the centre of town: sights, shopping, and restaurants are just a stone's throw away. The four-star hotel with 76 rooms is not too big, not too small, not over-designed, but decorated in a contemporary style, and quite inviting. That is due in no small measure to the friendly staff who do their utmost to make each and every guest feel at home. Deluxe rooms are the simplest category: chic, generously proportioned, and with a work space for the business traveller. Only two rooms are barrier-free, so if you need one of these, book early. If you want to treat yourself to something special, check in to the Junior Suite; it has its own private terrace affording a marvellous view of the parliament building. More luxurious still is the Jacuzzi Suite, just perfect for relaxing after a strenuous day.A night in a deluxe room for two persons costs 90 euro. The junior suite is just 15 euro more, so maybe you should reconsider.
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.
SHOPPING in Bucharest:
Rozalb de Mura
The Rozalb de Mura label was launched in 2006 and ever since customers have wondered about the name that combines the words for ?rose' and ?blackberry'. That is meant to signal an scintillating and creative mix. Designer Olah Gyarfas is himself a mix of equal parts Hungarian and Romanian. He takes an interest not only in fashion but promotes an exchange between artists, musicians, and other creative people from all over the world. The concept works: Rozalb de Mura is a lively showcase with a wealth of fresh, imaginative creativity that you will try hard to find elsewhere. Shop, showroom, and exhibition space all rolled into one?no limits here as long as the line is aesthetically pure and the artistic claim ambitious. The outfits are made for today's yuppy. And especially if you are among those who absolutely reject this distinction, then you should have a look inside. Here you find fashion of the day after tomorrow. Just the thing for exhibition openings, graphic artists, writers, artists, club nights-out, or DJs. Most of it is in black and?at last!?there is men's wear too.
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.
SIGHTS in Bucharest:
The Royal Palace merits more than a cursory look from outside: The palace, which dates from the early 19th century, has been the residence of kings, a communist government office, and today houses the Romanian National Art Museum. Exhibited are paintings, prints, and other artworks both Romanian and European from a variety of periods. Taken together the collections are quite extensive, so if you would like to see them all make sure you have enough time and energy. You can also spread your visit over several days. Tickets are sold for each part of the museum separately, so you can do the museum in stages with no damage to your pocketbook. For those stuck on the big names, the museum has several works by Rubens and Rembrandt. Like many other of the city's sights, a visit to the Royal Palace can be combined with an enjoyable stroll.
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.
E-Book and Kindle are its enemies. Soft leather binding and paper rustle sounds two of its greatest strengths. It's about the book which holds its ground in our over-digitalised age. But offering reading material alone does not suffice anymore - it's about the overall experience. Bucharest knows the answer: Carturesti. Carturesti is an empire with 13 bookstores in Romania. One of them is the Verona bookstore near the Patria Cinema in the centre of the capital, located within an aristocratic mansion next to the Magheru boulevard. Carturesti fans are particularly intrigued by the broad range of English literature and art books as well as its selection of CDs and DVDs. But they also come to see contemporary artworks. But that's still not it. They want to have a tea and grab a little bite - because the stay under the stucco vault could take a while, especially if they later move onto the terrace to sip an espresso and bury themselves in their favourite authors' books.