Bucharest is well geared to receive visitors with company expense accounts, with respected Western chains all represented here and offering most of the luxuries and comforts you might expect in other parts of the world. An increasing number of modest and better-priced accommodations are available, although you may miss some of the amenities offered by similarly priced properties back home (few have pools, for example). Budget hotels leave much to be desired. Since most hotels cater to business clients, weekend rates tend to offer better deals.
Hotels are spread across the city, but there are only about 4km (2 1/2 miles) between the northernmost (Sofitel) and southernmost (Marriott Grand) hotels mentioned here. If you want to be in the heart of the city, there are plenty of hotels across the quality spectrum right in the center, within walking distance of major attractions. But bear in mind that Bucharest's attractions are spread out enough to make proximity to the center only a minor consideration when choosing your hotel.
Hey, Big Spender! Staying in Bucharest's Glitziest Digs -- Built between 1912 and 1914 on the site of an earlier inn, Athénée Palace Hilton, Str. Episcopiei 1-3 (tel. 021/303-3777; fax 021/315-3813; www.hilton.com), remains Bucharest's most celebrated hotel; its history smacks of glamour and intrigue -- legend has it that staff would spy on important guests, and secret code words were frequently whispered in its halls and dining rooms. But today this is very much a top-quality Hilton-branded establishment, completely overhauled in 1997 with an eye to business and high-end travelers who prefer not to skimp on luxuries while connecting with some of the city's past -- recent guests included the Rolling Stones, and it was here that world leaders could be spotted during the NATO Summit in 2008. Yet, while accommodations are pleasing (if reminiscent of hotel rooms anywhere), the location prime, and amenities extensive, I cannot imagine why you'd want to squander L1,960 ($843/£523) for a single night in a double room here. Neither breakfast nor taxes (12%) are included and bathrooms are small. Still, if you have cash to burn, the well-trained staff will probably help you put out the fire.
Although it doesn't have the historical pedigree, you'll find a more relaxed, vibrant, and contemporary atmosphere just across the road from the Hilton, at Bucharest's spanking new Radisson SAS, Calea Victoriei 63-81 (tel./fax 021/311-9000; www.bucharest.radissonsas.com; doubles from 335€/$425). It's a mammoth hotel, with 464 rooms, representing a major overhaul of the old Hotel Bucharest. Bedrooms are ultraplush, with large, inviting beds and sumptuous linens. There's plenty of fanciful, sometimes playful design detail -- particularly in the lobby -- and the vast atrium will induce vertigo in some. The hotel benefits from an outdoor pool, but still has to deal with the ugly backdrop of neighboring apartment blocks that loom quite jarringly over your potential sunbathing spot.
If for some reason you want to be near Ceausescu's Palace of the People and, in fact, stay in the hotel he conjured up to accommodate his guests, consider reserving a room at the JW Marriott Bucharest Grand Hotel, Calea 13 Septembrie 90 (tel. 021/403-0000; fax 021/403-0001; www.marriott.com/buhro; from L800/$344/£213 double, without breakfast or taxes), where you can expect the usual standard in-room amenities and hotel services. There's also the good chance of having important dignitaries as fellow guests (incidentally, George Dubya stayed here during the NATO talks); the Marriott is a typically huge and luxurious complex with myriad dining options, an expensive and extensive shopping mall, and the slight whiff of impersonal service (there are 407 guest rooms); public spaces are unlikely to make you feel much like you're on holiday with businessmen barking into their mobile phones as they pace around the lobby.
Part of another excellent international chain hotel (one that's also linked to the more centrally located Novotel), located in the north of the city, and unfortunately attached to the World Trade Center, is Hotel Sofitel, Montreal Sq. 10 (tel. 021/318-3000; fax 021/317-2997; www.sofitel.com), with over 200 beautifully appointed rooms steeped in gracious luxury. There's plenty of space and an abundance of comforting extras; the bathrooms have tubs as well as separate showers. Every imaginable amenity is on hand and its marvelous Mediterranean restaurant, Les Oliviades, is one of the city's best. Doubles start at 240€ ($305), excluding breakfast and taxes, but go way up.
Inexpensive -- If you don't mind foregoing room service and the like, a good way to save money is to rent an apartment; just make sure you're not located too far from the action. City Comfort (www.citycomfort.ro) offers rentals that work out far cheaper than hotel stays; rates start at 39€ ($49) per night for a basic studio right in the center. Apartments vary, but are usually clean and modestly furnished; some have occasional cleaning service, air-conditioning, and even free Internet access.
Room With a View
At the climax of the December 1989 Revolution, students from the University of Bucharest were among those who sat on busy University Square in protest, only to be driven over by tanks manned by those still loyal to Ceausescu. The square is today still lorded over by the ugly frame of the InterContinental Hotel, B-dul Nicolae Balcescu 4 (tel. 021/310-2020; www.intercontinental.com), from where you can share the same view as the international press who witnessed the wholesale massacre of ordinary citizens barricaded in by the military. On the night of December 21, 1,000 helpless victims were killed here; a black cross marks the spot where the first victim fell in the early evening. Today, the areas in front of the National Theater (Teatrul National) and the fountain in front of the University building are once again popular meeting points for students who find many diversions around or near this great physical and symbolic crossroads.
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.