2 days in Bucharest, Romania | Hello Victoria
Way back in June, Richard and I had the opportunity to travel to Romania for a wedding! Man, how time flies! I just got around to going through the photos that we took and thought I would write up a quick recap of the things we did and places that we went.
We were technically there for 4 days, but since Richard was the best man at the wedding, there was a lot of time spent doing wedding-related stuff. Everything we did could be easily crammed into two days.
Romania wasn’t exactly a country that was on either of our bucket lists, but we enjoyed the opportunity to check out someplace new. It’s been described as “the new Berlin” (since I’ve never been to Berlin, this didn’t really mean much to me), and definitely has a lot of new bars and coffee shops popping up all over the city. It’s a city that seems ripe for development; I couldn’t stop admiring all the old buildings around town, and kept wishing people were buying them and fixing them up. Buuuut despite the lack of a squeaky-clean exterior, there are a lot of new restaurants and ‘hipster-type’ hotspots all over the capital city that are worth a look.
The best place to start is definitely the Old Town, which is full of cafes, bars, and plenty of tourist shops if you’re feeling the need to buy some sort of fridge magnet or tacky shot glasses. It’s quite small, so you can walk around it pretty easily and admire all of the buildings. And, if you’re hotel is located a bit outside the old town, why not walk through a park to get there?
Bucharest has plenty of nice old parks all around the city, which are great in the summertime. If we’d had more time I would have wanted to walk through more of them to get to/from Old Town and our hotel. However, with the wedding activities, it was often more prudent to simply get an Uber. (Oh, and if you happen to visit Romania, make sure you use Uber! It’s so insanely cheap in Romania, but also incredibly reliable. We used it to get everywhere, including getting to and from the airport.)
Outside of Old Town, there are a few major monuments that people seem to visit. We went to the Palace of Parliament but didn’t bother going for a tour inside. I’m normally more interested in seeing sites from far away than doing a tour, plus you need to bring a passport to get inside, which we didn’t. We only viewed it from the side of the building, as the thing is absolutely massive! It’s the second largest administrative building in the world, after only the Pentagon. Not exactly something you expect to find in Romania, no? We also saw the Arcul de Triumf while driving back to the airport, which is like a smaller version of the one in Paris. I had hoped to see it, and was glad when our Uber driver happened to take that route!
We didn’t really go out of our way to visit all the old churches or buildings, as we were more interested in just wandering around, or checking out cool places to eat and drink! We looked some up before we arrived, but only managed to try a few.
First up, are the restaurants. We only went to a couple of them due to time, as we tended to visit cafes for breakfast and didn’t seem to eat much lunch. Most lists of restaurants to see in Bucharest mention Caru’ cu Bere as the place to go if you want to try traditional food. We had tried to get a table our first night, but when we called, they said they were all full for the duration of our trip. So we headed to a traditional restaurant that Richard found, which felt like it was on a random street in the middle of nowhere. The food was alright, but nothing really to write home about. But it did allow us to sort of check “traditional” food off our list.
Caru’ cu Bere photo source
We later stopped by Caru’ cu Bere while wandering Old Town, and I reckon we could have gotten a table if we’d just gone in person that first night. However, my overall impression of the place was a bit – meh. It just felt super packed and touristy, not really an authentic place like advertised. The building was kind of cool to look at; we ended up just getting a beer, and headed elsewhere to eat.
The restaurant that we both enjoyed was Energiea, which was a little walk outside of the hub of Old Town. Their food felt fresh and modern, with some rather unusual cocktails and awesome fresh lemonade on the menu. While it was what Richard would have called “hipster” it didn’t feel like they were trying to just recreate a Western restaurant – but rather create something new and modern in Romania. Their chips with sour cream and dill dip were also fantastic.
Energiea photo source
Energiea also happened to be one spot away from one of the coffee shops I had on my list to visit!
Now, really great coffee seems to have become a passion in Bucharest. You find these little hidden gems all over the city, and they really care about the brewing/beans/everything! We visited two while we were in the city, and enjoyed both quite a lot. One even gave us a little map with a guide to all the best coffee spots in the city! I wish it wasn’t our last day because I would have loved to check out more. The map had little scores that you could give each place, so you could do a self-guided coffee tour of Bucharest!
First, we stopped in Origo – the one right near Energiea. It’s a cute little place, down a few side streets outside of Old Town. We sat outside on their little makeshift patio (it’s just on the sidewalk) and enjoyed some nice herbal iced tea. Their coffee looked, and smelled, amazing – but we’d both just been walking around all morning and needed to cool off.
The other coffee shop we went to was M60. I had wanted to go there for brunch the first morning, after reading about it, but some friends we were there with had gone to check it out that morning and said it wasn’t great. But then after going to the place they recommended (overpriced and felt like a tourist chain), I decided to follow my instinct and go our last morning. Man, I wished I had gone there each day. Their coffee was amazing (we bought beans to take home), and their breakfast options were light but fun. I had a halloumi egg sandwich, which combined two of my favourite things! That, plus the laid-back decor – these were my people.
M60 photo source
Oh, and the servers really care about the coffee. After buying beans, one guy came over to make sure we knew to soften/filter our water and grind to the right consistency etc. He even gave Richard a shot of the espresso straight up, just so we could taste it without milk and know what to aim for when we got home. He was also the one who gave us the map/tour sheet of all the good coffee shops in the area. You could tell these people live for their coffee.
One final cafe we visited for lunch, was Cafe Van Gogh (weird theme, as he’s not Romanian). It’s down a quiet street in the middle of Old Town, with a great patio. They had decorated it all over with hanging fake flowers, which was surprisingly fun, and had that water vapour machine which Richard loooooved. A great way to cool down as the days we were there were sunny and over 30 degrees. We split some simple lunch food (good quesadilla) and had beer, iced coffee, and lemonade. It was a welcome respite as almost every other cafe/restaurant we walked past in Old Town had a hostess outside trying to convince us to come in.
I don’t know about you, but both Richard and I detest that! When someone is standing outside telling you to come in, and doing so by telling you that they serve “cheeseburgers” or “pasta” as though we Westerners can’t abide any cuisine but our own… well it immediately puts us off. If you have to convince me to come in, I won’t. I don’t care how nice your place looks – I don’t want to feel pressured to eat there! Okay, rant over.
Gradina Eden photo source
Other than restaurants, we visited one bar that I would definitely recommend – Gradina Eden. I read about it online before we got there, and we went on our first night! It’s a garden bar, tucked in behind this old building. Honestly, we thought that we might be walking into something kind of sketchy when we walked behind the building and then bam! – there were hammocks, string lights, and seating galore!
I wanted to go back there a few times while we were in Bucharest, but our time was already accounted for with wedding-related engagements. This place even had food trucks – one of them was waffles! I mean come on, warm waffles with a few cocktails while relaxing in a hammock on a warm summer’s night? Kind of perfect in my books.
Oh, and we grabbed some ice cream at Emilia Cremeria, which was quite good! Their mango was the best!
Okay – I think I have exhausted places to eat or drink in Bucharest, which just leaves one last place – the best place! If you look up Bucharest on Pinterest, you’ve probably seen photos of it. It’s the prettiest bookstore I’ve ever seen – white columns, spiral staircases, and natural light galore. And they even sell wine! In a bookstore!
If you like either books or architecture, then you’ll want to visit Carturesti Carusel and just wander for a bit. You can look at tea cups, cards, and books, and even get your purchases gift-wrapped at their little wrapping table. Richard got a bit bored, but I could have spent lots of time there.
And that’s it! Those are all of the places that we visited while in Bucharest that I would recommend. So if you happen to visit Romania, make sure to check out all of the new cafes and restaurants popping up around town. Grab some fantastic coffee near Old Town, wander through a park, and end the evening with a cocktail in hand on a hammock… a perfect day in Bucharest!