Due to a mix-up with my train to Sighișoara, I now have some time to write about my stay in Bucharest!
The first thing I’ll say is that it was hot. Ridiculously so. I thought I was dying in Baia Mare but it turns out I’d never felt true pain until a few days ago, when I was roasting in a park with temperatures hitting 37°C. Grim. This kind of weather also led to me developing some rather fetching tan lines, namely a horrendous flip flops/slip-on plimsolls combo.
Anyways, I’m sure for you non-Brits, the heat isn’t an issue, so let’s move onto fun things to do in the capital!
As you probably all know, I’m a bit of a sucker for art galleries. One of the best-known galleries in Bucharest is the National Museum of Art of Romania (which is housed in the former royal palace, so the building itself is lush) and I spent pretty much all of Sunday in there. It contains a mix of medieval and modern Romanian art, but there’s also the European Museum Art Gallery, which has some pretty cool international works- my favourite was their selection of Rodin sculptures.
Just opposite the museum, in Revolution Square, there was also a small pop-up art exhibition. Some of the pieces were a little odd, e.g there was a plastic butt sticking out of a hole cut into a portaloo, but I really loved the painted installations with little integrated windows.
On the last day, whilst we were looking around the parliament buildings, we also came across the Romanian Contemporary Art Museum. It’s spread over four floors (but there’s an elevator!) and has various exhibitions by different artists. My favourite exhibition was one entitled ‘Normality, such a brutal word!’, which was an exploration into disabilities and ableism. To give the visitor a more immersive experience, there was an option to ‘assume a disability’ before entering- I chose a wheelchair. having restricted movement and trying to navigate the exhibition space really makes the visitor think about the prejudice disabled people face day to day.
I honestly enjoyed the exhibits in this museum a lot more than I thought I would. Usually, I don’t like contemporary art as much as modern art because it feels more contrived and conceptual and I tend to struggle to understand it. However, every exhibition in this museum was beautifully curated and it felt like most pieces had a thoughtful and meaningful story behind them.
Apart from visiting galleries, we spent our time chilling in various parks. We ate lunch in the gardens in front of the Romanian Athenaeum one day and on another day, we visited Cișmigiu Gardens.
Nevertheless, my favourite was by far Herăstrău Park. It was quite far away from where we were staying, so we had to get the metro (v cheap- a 2 trip ticket is 5 lei/£1) but it was definitely worth the out-of-the-way journey. The lake was huge and we only managed to walk around half the park. I saw people cycling past and I’m sure if we had found where to rent the bikes, we could have seen the entire place, but we didn’t because we’re amateur tourists lol.
One of the things I liked about this park was that there were busts of famous historical figures dotted around. It was quite nice to have a series of things to spot as you meander through a 1.1 km² grassy expanse.
There was also a skate park fairly near the entrance to the park, so I wasted a lot of time watching teenage boys try and fail to do cool tricks. There was one particular boy who was stuck on the highest ramp because he was too scared to skate down. I ended up wasting 45 minutes watching him, only to see him eventually climb down the ramp without even attempting to skate smh (I posted the entire saga, disappointment and all, on snapchat so if you add me, you’ll get more updates from my trip!)
Aside from nature, Bucharest is also beautiful in terms of architecture. A lot of the buildings have a decidedly Roman feel to them with towering colonnades and sweeping arches but in addition to that, there are some beautiful churches and obviously, the enormous parliament building is a must-see.
Now, onto the most important part of the trip- food. For breakfast and lunch, I grabbed something small from a bakery near my hostel, but for dinner, we went out and ate traditional Romanian food.
We ate at La Plăcinte one night, which is a chain restaurant that serves traditional Romanian dishes. I really enjoyed my meal and mumma liked her mici, but I have to admit the sarmale weren’t as good as the ones I had in Cluj, or the ones my host family made. We also had to wait a ridiculous amount of time for our food to come, so even though the food’s good, you’re going to be too ravenous to savour it by the time it arrives.
Another night, we went to a pub called Primus, which in hindsight may have been a bit of a tourist trap. They served Romanian specialties as well as typical UK pub food so it wasn’t the most authentic experience ever…
The ribs I had were amazing though- the meat was so tender and just fell straight off the bone and my mocktail (Summer Rain) was also so nice I ordered two. However, I did try my mother’s salad and it was actually horrendous. The lettuce was dry; the cheese was weirdly tasteless and crumbly; and there was no dressing whatsoever. I guess that’s what you get when you order a salad in a country that prides itself on meat and potatoes?
Our final taste of Romanian cuisine in Bucharest was at Caru’ cu Bere, the famed restaurant in Old Town, which has been around since 1898. This time, we both stuck to meat and carbs and it treated us well. I was ridiculously full and struggling to walk by the end of dinner, but it was totally worth it. I will say that considering how busy it was, they did serve us our food exceptionally fast. The only problem was that when it came to paying for our food, we had to ask 5 different servers before they finally gave us the bill. I think it took us a full 40 minutes after we finished eating to actually pay and leave, which was mildly irritating.
Anyway, I guess that’s it!
I had a lot of fun and I’m glad I decide to come and see the capital instead of just staying in the north of the country. I would say that the layout of Bucharest is fairly odd as it’s pretty big (over 2x the size of Paris), but everything’s spread out, meaning that although you could theoretically see everything in a couple of days, you physically can’t get yourself to all the places within such intense time constraints.
The other problem is something I’ve noticed throughout my travels in Romania- the country really doesn’t have its shit together in terms of tourism. Even though they have beautiful sights and interesting attractions, they’re generally awful at websites and tourist information.
For instance, I asked the lady at the ticket office in the National Museum of Art of Romania where the European section was and she directed me across the road. After I still couldn’t find the museum, I asked a passerby, who then directed me halfway across the city to a gallery that was completely wrong. We eventually found our way to where we were supposed to be, but we were back in the same building we started in; it was just a different entrance. Ticket lady, wyd?
I also wanted to hit up some of the smaller modern art galleries on my last day in the city, so I googled them all and found a list of addresses and opening times. However, after trying the first three on my list and finding them all to be inaccessible, I decided to give up.
We arrived at the address of the first one (418 Contemporary Art Gallery) and it looked like a residential area. We were a bit confused, so we asked a passerby where the gallery was and she said that the building had been vacant for over 3 months. Great.
The second one we went to (H’Art Gallery) seemed to be on the 5th floor of an office building, but when we got to the correct floor, we rang the bell and no one answered. Another fruitless effort.
The third one (Galateca Gallery) was probably the most disappointing because when we got there, the art we could see through the windows looked really promising, but the gallery was closed because of an event. Why was this not announced on their website???? Ugh.
The only redeeming factor is that whilst I was looking for all these (closed) galleries, I managed to get some cute photos of the graffiti I walked past on the way…
So, that’s it for now! My next stop is Sighișoara but I’m only there for a day and a bit so the post for that should be up pretty promptly!
Thanks for reading, ily all
p.s here’s a bonus of an adorable dog i met in the park