There are trips that are meant to be, like my little weekend in Bucharest. I had to go there for work with a friend in September but then the plans changed and I was a bit disappointed because I haven’t been back to Romania since I was a child and I was very curious to see Bucharest after many years.
I didn’t remember much about my first visit but having many Romanian colleagues and friends I was intrigued by this city. My friend was as disappointed as I was so we decided to have a look at the flights to see if we could go anyway for a weekend; as they were quite cheap we immediately booked a flight.
While reading a few travel guides on Bucharest my initial excitement slowed down a bit because I couldn’t find so many things to visit and I must admit that before traveling there my expectations were quite low. But Bucharest surprised me at a point that I didn’t expect: it is an incredible modern city at night full of life and artsy vibes but it is also so decadently retro and vintage in many corners that I was thrilled! The historical bars and shops, the cafés and the decors of the Pasajul Macca-Vilacrosse made me think of a little Eastern Paris. The weather was amazing and the sun was warm enough to bring people outside and to enjoy the little bars and parks that are almost everywhere!
We enjoyed the beautiful orthodox churches (Sfantul Anton and Sfantul Spiridon were my favorite), the beautiful parks (Cismigiu and Bordei are the best), the amazing buildings (the Parliament building, CEC buildings and many more) and the Monasteries (the Stavropoleos Monastery is fantastic!), the old town (especially Lipscani) the new residential areas with the incredible Embassies buildings and their vibrant life, the Jewish area and even a Sunday trip to the Lake!
The weekend was full of visiting and activities but also full of very good food and vintage shopping!
There are not many vintage shops in town but let me mention two of them that are definitely worth the visit: New Retro is a tiny vintage shop on Lipscani, the main shopping street of Bucharest where Adina, the lovely owner, has so many nice things that you will love hunting there! I bought a black leather skirt but I would have bought more because her pieces are really the best in town! You will easily find her by the mannequin dressed in vintage in the middle of Lipscani!
If you want to walk a bit (which was our favorite activity in Bucharest and also the best way to get in contact with the city and to find out more about its hidden corners) you can visit the super tiny but lovely vintage shop Op in Strada Silfidelor with a lot of vintage 80s sportswear (and amazing leather jackets!).
Eventually, if you want to enjoy some antiques and vintage markets check the Antiques Market in Lipscani (we went there on Sunday and we loved it although it is a little bit pricy, you have to negotiate a lot!) or the Vitan Market (Targul Vitan), one of the largest flea markets in town that takes place each Sunday. If you are lucky enough (I wasn’t) you can also have the chance to be there during the monthly Yard Sale vintage market (follow their Facebook page for the market dates). I got this information from a lovely reader a few months ago but there wasn’t any date while I was there.
You will be surprised also about the amazing food in Romania: there is a lot of meat (which is not good for vegetarians!) but as I still eat fish I found many interesting options and some great places that you should check. If you want to eat typical Romanian food there are two restaurants that you cannot miss: the Caru Cu Bere, an institution in town with the most amazing retro décor, probably the most famous restaurant in town – it may look a bit touristic but you have to go! The second one is Hanul Lui Manuc, the oldest hotel in Bucharest that is now a very crowded restaurant where I ate the best garlic fried carp ever!
If you want something more modern and less traditional we enjoyed the lovely Simbio where we ate in a beautiful garden (just a little bit far from the city center) or the fantastic Biutiful (by the Lake), an amazing restaurant with delicious food (and the best mint lemonade) with a spectacular view on the Herestrau Lake (this was a great suggestion from a friend of mine). If you love a bit of underground we madly fell in love with the Fabrica, an alternative bar and restaurant situated in an old abandoned factory, that we found on the app Like a Local: we were mad about this place, one of the coolest places in town! Food in general is quite cheap in Romania but the quality was really high almost everywhere.
If you have the time (I didn’t) many people suggested a visit to the biggest Spa of Bucharest, it seems that it is an amazing experience but I didn’t think about that before traveling and it was a bit complicated to combine it with our activities but I have noted this for the next time.
Let me also give you an interesting suggestion that I had from a friend of mine and that I found incredibly useful: if you walk around a lot, especially at night, taxis in Bucharest are very cheap but if you download the Taxify app it will be super easy (and cheaper) for you to get one in a few minutes and pay through the app with your credit card, also from/to the airport (definitely the best way).
If you are wondering where to sleep in Bucharest I will tell you about my fairytale experience at the Athénée Palace Hilton in my next post!