SIGHTS in Bucharest:
Anyone looking for something resembling old town quarters in Bucharest, is most likely to discover them between Calea Victoriei and Bulevardul Ion C. Bratianu. The streets may be a bit run-down, but exude more charm and character than the broad boulevards with their bombastic architecture. The many small and larger bars in and around Smardan and Selani streets offer plenty of vantage points for watching the goings-on in the pedestrian zone. The central location makes this a perfect place to choose a café or bar as jumping-off point or rest stop when sightseeing. You can have a snack or full meal here, and in the evening the district is a favourite for going out. You can conveniently reach many sights on foot from here. And nearby Piata Unirii is a public transport hub.
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.
From Piata Unirii it is just a short walk up the small hill where the patriarch's residence is located. For fans of religious architecture, this excursion is a must. But even those who are less interesting in churches should wander up here. A few moments earlier you were surrounded by the hectic traffic crowding the broad boulevards, now you find yourself in a peaceful courtyard. If you crave even more quiet, enter the patriarch's church. The floor is covered with thick carpets, and the sanctuary's interior is suffused by gentle light shining through the stained glass windows. If you come at the right time, you can experience the rituals and chants of the faithful. Just a few hundred metres from the turbulent activity of the big city, you have seemingly been transported to a remote rural monastery. This is the place to kiss icons, and perhaps yourself be kissed by the muse.
STAY in Bucharest:
The communist touch cannot be denied - from the outer view. However, there's only little left of it inside Central Hotel - which is located right next to the town hall and the university. Since its refurbishment in 2009 aesthetics and electronics set the tone in the city hotel. The latter can be found in terms of TVs and computers in almost every second wall niche. Next to it: designer pieces, prominently placed and showcased. For example the white leather sofa and the red wood ensemble: almost impossible to just pass by. Some might consider this cold, in turn the Romanian state opera and the historic museum can be reached in the wink of an eye. Like the Cismigiu garden, the oldest publicly accessible park of the city. If you prefer to stay at the hotel you can relax in one of the 56 rooms or one of the three suites. The in-house bar provides for entertainment.
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.
This is the acme of luxury. The service? First-class, The décor? Pure elegance. The guests? Elite. The Grand Hotel too recalls the 19th century, with painstaking renovation recreating the atmosphere of the era. The building was constructed in 1886 in German Renaissance style based on plans by Emil von Forster. After being renamed Otelul and Hotel Broft, the sumptuous building was restored and reopened as the Grand Hotel Continental. Cinderella was not simply given a face-lift, but brought up to date with 21st century technology.Aesthetes will marvel at the richly detailed decoration. The rooms are tasteful and elegantly appointed. Particularly impressive are the suites in the various period styles: Renaissance, Empire, Louis XV. Simply regal!One night's accommodations in a double room cost 320 euro; the most expensive suite will run you 920 euro.
EAT in Bucharest:
Romanian cuisine? Simple, delicious, and good. You want to sample cooking typical of the country without the hand-woven folk art tickling the back of your neck? Had it with that pair of jolly musicians sidling up to your table at 9:30 sharp? Then it's high time to reserve a table at Casa Doina. At the villa which dates back to the 18th century the capital's most elegant meet for dinner. So take a tip and make sure you dress at least as smartly as the waiter. Nothing then stands in the way of an evening savoruing wonderful Romanian specialties. At Casa Doina they are prepared with a refined touch worthy of the surroundings. When the weather is fine, you should by all means take a cool drink in the garden.
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.
Here you will be served authentic Indian cuisine. Be careful: if order your food hot, it comes hot! But if you prefer not to give your taste-buds a good singe, no problem: the chef will prove that Indian cuisine can be spicy but doesn't have to be. It is all about an alluring mix of spices that can be mild as well. The restaurant won't win any design awards but it's inviting and comfortable nonetheless. The rooftop terrace in particular is a great place to meet for those who favour a modern and southern ambiance. Three chefs stand watchfully over the pots and seem to be competing in a contest. Where else will you find ten different lamb dishes? Vegetarians will also feel right at home. They may like to choose one of the home-baked breads from among eight variations as an accompaniment to an exotic vegetable-based speciality.
SHOPPING in Bucharest:
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.
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.
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.