We arrived at our hotel, Ibis Hotel Palatul Parlamentului, in the early evening of March 10th, dropped off our stuff and then went out to explore Bucharest by night with one important mission – to get something to eat!
We had chosen Bucharest as our destination for the weekend for reasons of it being cheap, a more or less undiscovered city and a great base for exploring the more mountainous regions of Romania. Bucharest is the capital and largest city of Romania with 2 million inhabitants, and is thus the 6th largest city in the European Union. Bucharest is a bustling city, which was known as “The Little Paris”, before the recent big change in infrastructure and architecture, which has made the city an interesting mix of old and new. We were excited to explore this undiscovered Eastern European capital!
We walked past the Palace of Parliament, and I was simply in awe! The building is SO huge, I couldn’t get my eyes from it! Actually, it’s the biggest parliament building in the world, and I don’t think there’ll ever be one to overtake it – it’s GI-freaking-NORMOUS! It has 12 stories, 3,100 rooms and it covers an area of over 330,000 sq m!
It was built in 1984 by Nicolae Ceausescu (a Romanian Communist leader from 1965 to 1989), and at the same time, 1/9 of Bucharest was reconstructed to accommodate the massive building and its surroundings.
We then followed the lights into the center of Bucharest, where the wide streets and tall buildings soon turned into narrow, cobbled streets with cozy pubs and restaurants. We chose to eat at a greek restaurant in this cozy area, which probably wasn’t the best choice considering we were in Romania 😉 but we were simply so hungry that we chose to settle with the first nice-looking place that we found!
After eating our much needed dinner, we headed back to the hotel and bought some souvenirs on the way back through the cozy cobbled streets.
The first evening gave us a great introduction to the colourful city of Bucharest that we would explore further the following day.
Sightseeing in Bucharest
The following morning, we walked past the Palace of Parliament again and into the center of Bucharest, where we found a cute little coffee place to have our first Romanian breakfast.
After I’d finished my bruschetta and my mum had finished her omelet, we ventured out into the streets of Bucharest, exploring parks, cathedrals, squares, interesting buildings and talking to locals, and finished off the day at the cutest cat café, a tradition on our mother/daughter trips, since we’re both crazy cat lovers.
The Old Town
There’s not an awful lot for tourists to see in Bucharest, and there aren’t any famous sights (the closest being the Palace of Parliament), but I think it’s a nice city to wander about in and people-watch. The old town in Bucharest is the perfect place to do just that.
This part of the city is the historical heart of Bucharest, and is one of the only parts in the center that wasn’t destroyed by Nicolae Ceausescu. The area contains an assortment of 19th century buildings, old churches, ruins of the Wallachian Prince’s medieval court, clubs, hotels, restaurants and countless shops on narrow cobblestoned streets.
In the old town lies my favourite sight in Bucharest, the Stavropoleos Church, an Eastern Orthodox monastery for nuns.
The tiny church was built in the early 18th century, during the reign of Nicolae Mavrocordat, Prince of Wallachia, and is a pure gem built in Brancovenesc style.
Over the years, much of the monastery has been demolished, and has especially suffered from earthquakes, which caused the dome to fall. All that remains from the original monastery is the tiny atmospheric church.
Palatul Patriarhiei – Palace of the Patriarchate
The last bit of sightseeing that we did in Bucharest was the interesting Palace of the Patriarchate, where we attended a very unusual church service.
The palace is located on the hill of Dealul Mitropoliei, one of the centres of Romanian Orthodoxy. The building served as the seat of successive Romanian legislatures, but in 1997, it was given to the Patriarchate of the Romanian Orthodox Church.
In connection to the palace lies the Romanian Patriarchal Cathedral, where there was a service going on. It sounded like a Muslim call for prayer, which I’ve heard in countries such as Brunei and Iran, but I’ve never heard anything like it in a Christian context before. It was very interesting, so we decided to go in to have a look. There was no priest to be found, but there were many people attending the service, mostly women wearing a Christian hijab, who were constantly bowing and doing the Christian cross.
This Orthodox church service is definitely an experience that I won’t forget anytime soon!
Cat Café Fun
Many big cities nowadays have cat cafés, a concept that started in Taiwan in 1998. Unfortunately, I didn’t go to any when I was in Taiwan, but I have been to cat cafés in Phuket, Tallin and Vilnius, the last one with my mum on our mother/daughter trip in 2016.
Of course, we had to visit Bucharest’s only cat café on this trip! It was a bit out of the way, but we didn’t mind the 20 minute walk each way from the center to visit a bunch of cute cats! I always love spending time with animals, and especially cats, and the place was only made better when we found out that our milkshakes were vegan! Definitely a place worth visiting if you’re a cat lover like us!
The next cat café that we’ll visit will hopefully be Café Miao in Copenhagen, when my family comes to visit me in late April!
Visiting Bucharest was an interesting experience. It won’t get a spot on my favourites list of capitals, but I liked it for its atmosphere and the constantly changing architecture. There aren’t any famous sights in Bucharest, and therefore it isn’t a popular city for tourists, but I would recommend spending a day or two there on a trip to Romania, but probably not too much more than that. Romania has a LOT more to offer, which I will show you in the upcoming posts!