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.
Victims of fashion and chic freaks must stop by L'Armoire Concept Store. Forget Versace and Gaultier?here Romania's young designers rule. There are a great many of them and they are ever more frequently the stars of international fashion shows. Are the names Ludmila Carlateanu, ana alexe, DADA or Roxana Davidescu familiar? What about Elena Perseil, Eugenia Enciu, Stephan Pelger, Zasha oder Dorin Negrau? No? Reason enough to have a look at their latest collections. As numerous the designers are, so too is the variety of their creations. Evening gowns, business outfits, smart casual wear. What all of the clothes have in common though is an elegance that highlights and complements the wearer's femininity, Have browse around for yourself.
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.
EAT in Bucharest:
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.
Lacrimi si Sfinti
Mircea Dinescu is a well-known Rumanian writer. He works as a journalist and fell from favour during the Ceau?escu era for his socio-critical viewpoint. But that wouldn't be enough for him. That's why he was looking for 100 years-old recipes whose forgotten tastes he now reinterprets in his restaurant Lacrimi si Sfinti in the historic district of Bucharest. Dinescu's focus thereby lies on the revival of local culture. He uses regional ingredients and organic meat from small farms. The kitchen windows in his restaurant come from an abandoned house in the surrounding area and the door comes from a former pharmacy in a Romanian county. For his decoration the revolutionary has arranged 16,000 lego stones from Copenhagen and works by local artists. All this is well received in Bucharest. Just like the wines that are produced by Dinescu himself on his manor.
If you see a Turabo Café, then go straight in. The chain has a number of locations across Bucharest, all of which are stormed by the capital's hip and young, posing over their coffee until they are sure of having been seen by absolutely everyone who passes by. This works best in the Turabo on Piata Unirii. The building's façade?at least on the café level?is glass, affording an undisturbed view of the busy street scene outside. Of course, that means everyone can see you while you enjoy your pastry too.
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.
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.
You like your hotels big? Then this is the place for you. Others might be tempted to take flight at the sight of the two enormous buildings in which the Hotel Alexander is located. The four-star Alexander, which is about to open, occupies one building, whilst the five-star version?an apartment hotel?offers guests every conceivable luxury. Obviously such a big hotel isn't in the heart of town, but it's just 10-15 minutes away.To compensate for not being able to stroll downtown, you enjoy superb service, timeless luxury, serene surroundings, an array of dining options, and amenities like spa, massage studio, fitness room, whirlpool, and sauna. If you want to spread out a bit, then book one of the apartments that measure 56-60 square metres.One night in a double room runs from 99 euro.
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.
You should have a head for heights when you want to look out of the window from here. The 18Lounge is located on the 18th floor of the City Gate South Tower in Bucharest, right next to the Pullman Hotel. On your way towards it, passing the entrance hall of the office building, you could easily forget about your actual mission. But the moderate background music when leaving the lift picks you up exactly where you want to get - to the huge lounge bar with restaurant. Your vertigo could become a problem on the way to your table, since the view on the Romanian capital is ingenious. The menu impresses with lots of sea food, fish, and T-bone steak. Vegetarians are served baby spinach with peperoncino, garlic and olive oil, for dessert there's mango crème with almonds and crispy rice pastry. If you're not hungry at all, you can bet on Chanel No. 6, not as a fragrance, but a drink!