- Remembering a revolution: Piata Revolutei will long be remembered as the starting point for the 1989 revolution, which saw Ceausescu ousted from power. A tall monument, resembling a white marble pin stuck through an egg (or an olive on a stick, as sometimes described by locals), points to the balcony where the Communist dictator made his last speech. Bullet holes remain in the buildings opposite the square (where Ceausescu’s police forces shot at protestors), serving as a sobering reminder of the strife.
- Strolling along boulevards inspired by Paris: Ceausescu was fanatical about redesigning Bucharest into a ‘Paris of the East’ (with the capital even producing its own version of the Arc de Triomphe). His answer to the Champs d’Elysées deliberately trumps its French cousin in length and width, representing a chaotic 3.2km-long (2-mile) line of cracked pavement and bone-dry fountains bordered by chestnut trees and run-down housing blocks. Nevertheless, the Bulevardul Unirii makes for a fascinating stroll down what must have been one of the city’s most bizarre periods of history.
- Taking in the modern seat of power: Built in the 19th century at the behest of the country’s first king, Carol I, half of Cotroceni Palace today serves as the President’s official residence. While that may be off limits, the other half is open to the public and takes visitors on a fascinating tour through the life of Romania’s royal family. A series of elaborately decked-out function rooms, chambers, and bedrooms show off an array of styles, including German New Renaissance, Rococo, and Art Nouveau.
- Attending an Eastern Orthodox mass: Though small in size, the Biserica Stavropoleos is one of Bucharest’s most atmospheric churches. Built in early 1724, it combines Turkic and traditional Romanian architectural elements into one aesthetically pleasing whole. Wood and stone carvings, paintings, and frescoes adorn the wooden interior, while the nuns who look after the church are only too happy to guide visitors through the iconography on display.
- Embracing the simple life: If you don’t manage to break out of the city, you could do far worse than visiting the Museum of the Romanian Peasant. Formerly called ‘The Museum of the Communist Party and Romanian Revolutionary Workers Movement’ (phew!), today the building holds a formidable collection of pottery, ceramics, national dress, carpets, religious icons, furniture--in fact anything and everything relating to rural life. The exhibits are laid out in a playful manner, inviting you to dive into the fascinating roots and traditions of Romania’s rural communities.
- Belle époque shopping along Calea Victoriei: For more than three centuries, Calea Victoriei has served as Bucharest’s most prestigious thoroughfare, home to upscale hotels, shops, palaces, government offices, and museums along its path between Piata Victoriei and the Dambovita river. Despite some telltale patches of Socialist planning, it still retains much of its original belle epoque charm and features funky boutiques and upscale brands, including Burberry and Gucci, along the Pasajul Villacross.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.