Cat cafes, rooftop bars, epic street art, gorgeous abandoned buildings, weird museums… If someone told me how quirky and fun Bucharest is I would’ve gone years ago.
And living just 2 hours away for almost 5 years isn’t helping at all. The lack of appealing information about Romania played its role. The country has never been a popular travel destination. But it’s slowly making its way to become one of the top places to visit. And I’m not saying that just because it sounds cool.
I took part of #ExperienceBucharest in early May – a huge project promoting the Romanian capital inviting over 100 bloggers from around the world. As I was happy to see old friends and spend time with a cool group of people, I was even more excited to form a deeper connection with Bucharest. After a few days in the Romanian capital, I actually really fell in love with the city. But it was not love at first sight.
Breaking the stereotypes about Bucharest…
When I heard a bloggers project is happening in Bucharest, I was more than excited to learn everything about it. I studied it, checked any information I could find online. I even used #ExperienceBucharest as an example on my talk during a travel conference in Bulgaria. I was fascinated by the idea of presenting the beautiful side of Bucharest. So I applied right away.
#ExperienceBucharest was a project to show the real beauty inside the beast. Another Eastern European capital destined to be related to poverty, thieves and corruption. I’m not saying those things don’t exist. I’m saying that knowing one side of the story is not right.
Bucharest is far more than what people think of it. And it’s easy to say that because people usually think really low about Romania. And I feel really related to this because Romania and Bulgaria are often put in the same context. And trying to break the stereotypes about those countries is not easy.
About Romania and Bulgaria…
Years ago the information you could find about travelling in Bulgaria was daunting. That was also one of the reasons I started blogging back in 2014. Having worked with hundreds of brands and travel influences over the last few years, I wanted to do something more about this problem.
Then, in the beginning of 2016, me and a few other local travel blogger founded the Association of Travel Bloggers in Bulgaria with the hope to present the real beauty of the country and to break the ugly stereotypes that were instilled by mass media.
In just one year we’ve achieved amazing results and we keep working on it. With 6 members in 2016, we’re now 25+ and there are even more travel bloggers outside of the association that spread the word about our beautiful country. So you can understand why I’m happy to see another project breaking the stereotypes about our region.
So thank you #ExperienceBucharest team for showing us the beauty of this place! Thank you for going above and beyond to please 100+ bloggers which is definitely not an easy task. Thank you for being passionate about your country. Thank you for breaking the stereotypes with style!
12 experiences to change the way you look at Bucharest
Besides the concept of #ExperienceBucharest, I also fell in love with the city itself. Having lived in Silistra for 5 years during highschool, I never had the desire to visit Romania even though I looked over it across the Danube river from my balcony every.single.day. I’m saying this just to point out how unappealing Romania looked even back then.
After 5 days in Bucharest this May I was able to experience the best days I would hope for. Here’s how you can have a great time too:
1. Enjoy a coffee on 4 paws: Cat Café Miau
While a little bit far away from the central buzz, Cat Cafe Miau is the perfect place for an afternoon coffee and peaceful relaxation. I only spent half an hour there and got to meet just a few of the cats. This was enough, though, to know that I’ll be back there on my next visit to Bucharest.
There are total of 10 cats and 2 dogs in Miau. While enjoying their company, you can play board games with friends, drink delicious homemade lemonade or tea. It’s a much needed cat heaven in the middle of the chaotic city life…
Read more: 7 of the best cat cafes around the world
2. Bike around the Old Town
At first sight, Bucharest doesn’t seem to be a bike-friendly city. The traffic on the streets, confusing car lanes and questionable parking decisions made by the locals scared me away the first minute I got into Bucharest. However, there’s nothing to worry about.
Most of the central boulevards have bike lanes and the Old Town is closed for cars. Plus, biking around the main landmarks was a fun way to get to know the city’s history, culture and hidden spots. Biking is one of my favouite alternative ways to get to know a city.
3. Go to one of the many central parks
Where: Cișmigiu Gardens, Izvor, Unirii, Eroilor and others
My first impression of Bucharest: there are parks everywhere! In just a few hours of walking and sightseeing I passed by at least 4 green heavens, all of them – in the city center. It’s a perfect way to escape the busy urban life and enjoy a relaxed and peaceful afternoon walk. My favourite one – Cișmigiu Gardens, where you can also ride a boat in the lake. 😉
4. Find the most Instagrammable spots in the city
Where: Pasajul Victoria, Pura Vida Sky Bar, Cărturești Carusel and #ExperienceBucharest on Instagram
Bucharest is full of great opportunities to shine on Instagram. If you’re determined enough, you can make some crazy good photos to share with your friends. The best spot is definitely Pasajul Victoria – a hidden alley covered with rainbow umbrellas . It was just 2 minute away from my hotel but I only discovered it on my last day.
Other cool Instagrammable spots hide around every corner in Bucharest such as Cărturești Carusel and Pura Vida Sky Bar. So look around closely, you never know where you might discover the perfect photo opportunity.
Read more: Bucharest’s Most Instagrammable Spots by Brogan Abroad
5. Explore the abandoned urban beauty
Many wonderful buildings are left to decay in Bucharest. After 50 years of Communism, the renovation of some 19th- and 20th century industrial landmarks and historical buildings was never a priority for the governments. While passing some of the streets of the Old Town, our guide Marceo from Beautiful Decay Tour lead us to a gorgeous 4-floured building.
Old inscriptions оn the walls, rotten, half-broken furniture here and there, torn newspaper pages lying around everywhere suggested that the building used to be a base of an old famous newspaper in Romania – ‘Adevarul’, established in 1881. Apparently, the current owner chased away the media and left the building to decay, probably to sell the plot afterwards.
There are many other abandoned buildings in Bucharest you can also explore and learn their story. Just ask locals for tips and always be on the lookout!
6. Find the best graffiti in town
Another alternative way to explore Bucharest is through its street art. Graffiti are literally everywhere, painting the city in different colours, voices and ideas. During our Alternative Tour of Bucharest we learnt more about the social environment, urban myths, and explore the bizarre locations that the city hides under the surface.
7. Have a coffee at the most beautiful bookstores
Where: Cărturești Carusel, Cărturești Verona
Did you know that Bucharest is home to some of the most beautiful bookstores in the world? There are two breathtaking examples. Cărturești Carusel with its spiral stairs, fairytale atmosphere and an irresistible cafe spot. The other one is Cărturești Verona – the oldest bookstore in Bucharest, where you can find not only books but also old records, souvenirs, quirky items, while reading your favourite book over a cup of coffee.
In his blog, Duncan Rhodes of Urban Travel Blog, explains more about the story of Bucharest’s amazing bookstores.
Cărturești Carusel bookstore in Bucharest/Photo by Mostly Amelie
8. Fan of irons or corkscrews? You will be!
I love finding unique and quirky museums around Europe. My favourite one so far is the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb. Well, Bucharest surprised me with not one but two bizarre museums. The city is home to the largest collection of… irons. Yep, you read it right!
More than 30 000 irons are displayed in the Museum of Romanian Records that is not yet open to the public. One would think what’s so special about irons. I’ve never expected to see so many different ones – in shape, colour, type, material separated by size, country and period of origin…
Just when I thought nothing could surprise me more than the 30 000 irons in the room, I went upstairs… The second collection displayed in the museum was made of… corkscrews. Big, small, old, new, red, blue, yellow, pink, with different decorations… so. many.corkscrews!
I’m fascinated by the creativity of those people. I recommend you go see by yourself! You’ll be surprised how cool this place actually is.
9. Talk with the locals
Where: They’ll find you!
On my first day in Bucharest I bought a cup of coffee and ended up talking with the barista for about half an hour. She told me how much she likes Bucharest and how happy she is to see foreigners enjoying it too. On my second day, I had a walk in the Old Town trying to take some nice photos. One guy stopped by and told me where are the best spots in the city to take good pictures.
During the next few days all the locals I met were also super friendly and hospitable. So just in case you were wondering – you are going to feel welcomed in Bucharest. The hospitality of Romanians is not a myth.
10. Just dance!
Where: Every Saturday night, in front of Pura Vida Hub, Old Town of Bucharest
Every Saturday, the streets of Bucharest’s Old Town come to live with a flashmob dance performance by locals and visitors of the city. I was fascinated by this creative way to bring people together. Bucharest is literally dancing in the streets, spreading joy and positive energy all over the place. Sometimes I wonder why don’t we all dance instead of walk…? It would be so much more fun!
11. Enjoy a cocktail on a rooftop bar
Located in a central part of the Old Town in Bucharest, Pura Vida Sky Bar offers more than just great cocktails. I can say that the stunning view to the city and historical buildings around is definitely the mood booster everyone needs for a great party.
12. Party with style – the nightlife of Bucharest
There’s no chance you’ll get bored in Bucharest – especially during the night. The Old Town (and not only) is full of trendy bars and clubs. And the locals know how to throw a good party. After you’re done taking Instagram photos and biking around the city, head over for some shots at Shoteria or grab a beer at Kulturhaus to spend time with your new Romanian friends.
Photo by: Kulturhaus Bucharest
What I missed about Bucharest is a real food experience. However, the lovely Amelie from Mostly Amelie wrote a great Vegan food guide to Bucharest. Annemarie from Travel on the Brain shares some cool cafe spots for foodies which you can also get ideas from.
The Common Wanderer wrote a post about the Communist past of the Romanian capital which will help you understand the city better. If you need any other tips, my friend Marius from Romanian Friend will be always happy to help you.
With all that said, I hope you book your trip to Bucharest soon. And don’t forget to stop by Bulgaria. I’ll be happy to help you change the way you look at my country, too.
Have you considered visiting Bucharest so far?
What’s your first thought of the city?