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Going to Bucharest
By EVAN RAIL, Published: October 8, 2006


Far cheaper than Prague or Budapest, Bucharest offers much of the culture of the neighboring capitals without the crowds. A three-course dinner at one of the city’s most revered restaurants costs less than the equivalent of $30, and the best seats at the opera are about $9. Of course, there’s more to hear than just fat ladies in Viking helmets. The music scene starts with the great 20th-century composer George Enescu, but it quickly branches out to house D.J.’s like Alien Pimp and rollicking Gypsy bands like Taraf de Haiduks.

The cityscape is equally vibrant, with Byzantine churches crumbling next to palatial Beaux-Arts town houses and minimalist International-style blocks. Though Bucharest, the capital of Romania, used to be called Micul Paris (Little Paris), the architecture is more varied than the City of Light’s, and long boulevards like Victoriei and Dacia offer photo-worthy sights on every corner. But the gritty tableaus are fading fast, as much of old Bucharest is getting cleaned up. In the 17 years since the fall of Communism, Romania has attracted scores of outside investors, and the money seems to be pouring in faster as the country approaches its scheduled entrance into the European Union in 2007. But for now, it remains a quirky little place, and you can still see the sights without souvenir shops and postcard vendors getting in the way.

Bucharest’s hoteliers clearly have their eyes on business travelers, and many rates are listed in euros (and even dollars), instead of the local currency. That’s a relief, since both the old leu and new ron remain in circulation, even though their values differ by a factor of 10,000. The city’s freshest beds are at the plush Novotel (Victoriei 37b; 40-21-312-5114;, a tower with 258 rooms that opened last month. The Ikea-esque modern décor is light and airy. Doubles start at 270 euros ($351 at $1.30 to the euro).

Nonetheless, the old Athénée Palace Hilton (Episcopiei 1-3; 40-21-303-3777; remains the queen of the scene. Built in 1914, the hotel was renovated 10 years ago, preserving many of the original elements, like the opulent ground-floor ballroom. And it’s centrally located. Rates vary according to the season: in October, weekend doubles start at $230 per night, including breakfast. For local color and slightly lower prices, the nearby Hotel Capitol (Victoriei 29; 40-21-315-8030; retains the aura of a grand hotel from 1901, at least on the outside, with double rooms starting at 110 euros. Far cheaper is the Hostel Miorita (Lipscani 12; 40-21-312-0361; ), where doubles are just 50 euros.

A key to grasping contemporary Romanian culture is fite (FEET-sah), which roughly translates as “flaunting it.” The best place to do that is Balthazar (Dumbrava Rosie 2; 40-21-212-1460;, an elegant fusion restaurant where the clientele and waitresses all look as if they’d just returned from St.-Tropez. The chef is equally showy, sending out cosmopolitan dishes like tender Taiwanese dumplings (24 ron, or $8.80, at 2.85 ron to the dollar), sour-spicy Vietnamese soup (16 ron) and an extremely juicy, herb-encrusted pork cutlet (41 ron).

No less flashy is Casa di David Downtown (Lascar Catargiu 56; 40-21-317-4551). The décor suggests an A-list boutique hotel, with an international clientele and menu to match. Main courses include chicken breast with wasabi pepper sauce (29 ron), and Asian beef and arugula salad (27 ron). Traditional fare also gets the high-gloss treatment at restaurants like Casa Doina (Kiseleff 4; 40-21-222-6717; Housed in a stately 18th-century villa, the restaurant has a terrific wine list (the 2002 Florenta pinot noir is an amazing value at 36 ron), while memorable classics like spicy lamb pastrama (22 ron), possibly an ancestor of pastrami, make a strong case for ranking Romanian cuisine among the best in Eastern Europe.

Bucharest is way too vibrant to be called a museum city, but there are plenty of great collections to fill out a stay. Directly across from the Romanian Atheneum is the National Art Museum of Romania (Victoriei 49-53; 40-21-313-3030;, which has an impressive permanent collection that includes works by El Greco, Rembrandt, Rubens and Sisley, among others, as well as local heroes like Gheorghe Patrascu. Its main draw right now is the photographic exhibition of Romania’s greatest sculptor, Constantin Brancusi, which runs through.

Oct. 15. For a glimpse of the country’s rustic past, the open-air Village Museum (Sos. Kiseleff 28-30; 40-21-222-9106) has dozens of old houses, churches, barns, windmills and other buildings dating back to 1775, set in a park along the shore of Lake Herastrau on the city’s north side.

With money flowing into Bucharest faster than the Dambovita River, the cityscape is shifting rapidly. Before it changes completely, check out old Bucharest along Lipscani Street, a garment district with more than six centuries of architecture. But hurry: shiny new cafes are starting to appear. A great guide to the sites is the Lipscani Panoramic Map, published by the Pro Patrimonio foundation ( with support from the United States Embassy. Of course, it wouldn’t be Romania without Dracula, and Lipscani is also home to the ruins of one of his castles: Curtea Veche, or Old Court (Franceza 21-23; 40-21-314-0375), the ruins of a fortress built way back in 1459 by the man otherwise known as Vlad the Impaler.

Classical music reigns supreme, and the premier venue is still the Romanian Atheneum, a neo-Classical concert hall built in 1888 and home to the George Enescu Philharmonic (Benjamin Franklin 1; 40-21-315-2567; A few blocks away, the Bucharest National Opera (Mihail Kogalniceanu 70-72; 40-21-314-6980; has a reputation for a strong ensemble cast — no prima donnas here. The opera company offers its premiere of “Manon Lescaut” this month. If you want cocktails with your performance, go to Deja-Vu (Nicolae Balcescu 25; 40-21-311-2322), a bar that turns drinking into a kind of cabaret. Order their version of a B-52 (Kahlua, Bailey’
s and triple sec) and the bartender will place a Russian military helmet on your head and bang it with the cocktail shaker until you finish the shot.

Afterward, check out the ultra-sleek lounges where the city’s elite come out to play: Bamboo (Ramuri Tei 39; 40-78-829-6766; and Embryo (Ion Oteteleseanu 3a; 40-72-737-9023). For a less glamorous but equally hedonistic scene, slip into Club Maxx (Independentei 290; 40-72-264-7337), a giant dance club near the University of Bucharest dorms that features high-energy house music and go-go dancers who soap themselves up in showers.

Communism was not known for nurturing high-end fashion, but Braiconf (Victoriei 60-64; 40-21-313-2388) is a rare exception. Founded as a state-run company in 1950, Braiconf today sells rather stylish shirts (119 ron) and slacks in the Ben Sherman mode. Other surprisingly au courant styles can be found at the Museum of the Romanian Peasant (Sos. Kiseleff 3;, which has a gift shop filled with handicrafts. The embroidered cotton tunics for women (200 ron) could belong in a 2007 spring collection, and urban bachelors will dig the traditional wool-lined vests (680 ron). Other great souvenirs include intricate woven rugs and elaborately painted eggshells. Far more refined is the trendy boutique Roxana Butnaru, a darling of the Romanian edition of Cosmopolitan. The oh-so-cute shop (George Enescu 21; 40-72-237-7256) behind the Romanian Atheneum carries pink polka-dot dresses (300 ron) and other retro-cool designs.

Wi-Fi is spreading throughout the city, but at a price. Many hotels charge 15 euros a day, while Vodafone ( has several hot spots around the city and charges $21 for two days of access. To stay under budget, your best bet is an Internet cafe like PC-Net (Victoriei 120; 40-21-315-5186), which charges 3 ron per hour and stays open 24/7. YES, FREE It’s not Warner Brothers, but MediaPro Pictures in the neighboring town of Buftea has played host to cinematic luminaries like Donald Sutherland and Costa-Gavras. Visitors can walk around a bluescreen stage, step into a medieval French village set and see the house where the director Franco Zeffirelli lived. Best of all, tours of the studios are free if arranged in advance (Studioului 1; 40-31-825-1840;

It’s impossible to overstate the pomposity of the Palace of Parliament, which still carries its Ceausescu-era name, Casa Poporului (or House of the People). Guides claim that it is the second-largest administrative building after the Pentagon. It is certainly among the world’s weightiest, with 1 million cubic meters of marble, 900,000 cubic meters of wood and a crystal chandelier clocking in at five tons. A tour (20 ron) is essential, if only to grasp the building’s megalomaniac scale: Ceausescu wanted one of the reception halls to have an open roof so helicopters could land inside.

There are no direct flights between Bucharest and the United States. In October, Alitalia (; 800-223-5730) offers flights from Kennedy Airport to Bucharest’s Henri Coanda airport (also known as Otopeni) with a single connection in Milan, starting at about $850.
A taxi from the airport to the center of town will set you back about 70 ron and should take about 30 minutes. Almost as fast is the express bus 783, which leaves the arrivals gate several times an hour. Purchase a round-trip ticket (5 ron) from a kiosk.

Crossing the street is an extreme sport in Bucharest: drivers treat pedestrians like pylons on a slalom. Still, getting around by foot is the fastest way in the city’s center. Cabs are very cheap, but take care to call a reliable company like Fly Taxi (40-74-575-9441). The Bucharest metro is a cheap way to cover long distances quickly: an all-day ticket costs just 3 ron.

Despre autor


Fondator RomâniaPozitivă.ro, Florin este educator de emoție și gând pozitiv. Florin susține acest demers prin programele sale de training și prin platforma de informație și educație pozitivă, cu peste 30 de autori și peste 30 000 de articole de Bine despre România publicate încă din 2006. Florin are aproape 20 de ani de experiență ca trainer pentru circa 10 000 de participanți, iar domeniile de expertiză includ: facilitare de procese de învățare, orientarea spre soluție (psihologie pozitivă aplicată pentru rezolvarea problemelor), antreprenoriat social, ”train the trainers”, design thinking, managementul echipelor, management de proiect, recrutare şi selecţie, comunicare, teambuilding. Florin a lucrat 4 ani în industria berii alături de InBev având atribuții de training pe mai multe procese de vânzări și de business pentru o rețea cu peste 40 de firme de distribuție de bunuri de larg consum pe întreg teritoriul țării. Florin și-a început cariera profesională alături de echipa AIMS Timișoara - 4 ani de experiență în recrutare și selecție de personal și training. Florin are experiență ca moderator/speaker pentru diverse evenimente și conferințe: TEDx București, Impact HUB, Zilele Biz, Future Makers, ASPEN Leadership Program, Leaders for Justice Program, Automotive Forum, “Conferința Anului Viitor”, Inspiro, Bucharest Integrity Gathering, Conferința de Voluntariat, The Conference about Happiness, “Fabricat în Țara lui Andrei”cu NESsT & Petrom, WWF Școli Verzi în Europa, Criminalitate Forestieră WWF, Interpol, Client Earth), TEDx Galați, TEDx Constanța. Majoritatea clienţilor lui Florin sunt din aria de business, companiile activând în domenii foarte diferite (servicii, IT, automotive, bunuri de larg consum, consultanţă) pe întreg teritoriul ţării. Florin este implicat şi în proiecte de training și facilitare pentru organizaţii nonguvernamentale. Florin a fost membru entuziast în organizațiile AIESEC Timișoara și ARDOR Banat. Florin desfăşoară şi proiecte de training și facilitare în sistem deschis („open training”), un exemplu de astfel de program fiind cursul „Train the Trainers” cu Institutul Român de Training și Training Cafe. Motivaţia principală este dorinţa de a schimba lucrurile în Bine în România. Florin este certificat Formator A.N.C., White Belt @ ABInBev. Florin este mare fan de biciclete, mișcare în aer liber, muzică uneori chiar clasică și indiană.


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