16 reasons why your next city break should be Bucharest

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The city has a pleasing mismatch of architecture CREDIT: BOGDAN LAZAR

Euro 2016 kicks off with a head-to-head between hosts France and Romania. The latter’s capital, Bucharest, may not be quite as well established on the tourist circuit as Paris, but we reckon it’s well worth adding to your list. Here’s why.

1. Your pound goes a very long way

Romania joined the EU in 2007, but it is not in the Eurozone. Instead, you will be changing your pounds to Romanian lei, and may find yourself feeling pretty flush. The current exchange rate is 5.7 lei to the pound and entry to the city’s main attractions should cost you no more than a few quid, while your food and entertainment bill for a weekend should easily come in at less than £100. The abbreviation for the denomination is RON, useful to know before you start thinking the city is inexplicably obsessed by Harry Potter (may have just been me).

2.  So drinking is incredibly cheap

The beer prices alone are enough to make you consider leaving London for good. Even in touristy spots, two pints will set you back less than a fiver. And be sure to try out tuică, a traditional spirit made from plums.

3. It’s home to the world’s heaviest building

Prepare to have a good gape at the Palace of the Parliament, a gargantuan concrete embodiment of communist-era might, erected in the 1980s under the Ceaușescu regime. It is the second biggest administrative building in the world after the Pentagon, and has yet to be surpassed on heft. Take a tour inside to see a small selection of the 1000-plus rooms and to marvel at the ornate interiors.

Watch out for the selfie sticks outside this intimidatingly huge structure CREDIT: REX
Watch out for the selfie sticks outside this intimidatingly huge structure CREDIT: REX

4. And the most confusing monument you’ll ever see

It’s hard to miss the Memorial of Rebirth on Revolution Square – a 25 metre-high blood-soaked marble obelisk, piecing through a baffling basket-like structure. It wasn’t very well met by locals when it was unveiled in 2005, but you’ll definitely never forget it.

The bizarre Memorial of Rebirth on Revolution Square CREDIT: FOTOLIA/EMI CRISTEA
The bizarre Memorial of Rebirth on Revolution Square CREDIT: FOTOLIA/EMI CRISTEA

5. It’s got a pleasing mismatch of architecture

In the early 20th century, Bucharest came to be known as the “Paris of the east” thanks to its Art Nouveau architecture and grand municipal buildings, often French-designed. This faded grandeur is now mixed with utilitarian buildings left behind from decades of communist rule. The town may be less classically beautiful now, but the hotch-potch of architecture makes for a unique and evocative aesthetic.

6. You can visit one of the world’s coolest bookshops

Carturesti Carusel, located in the heart of the city’s buzzy Old Town (Lipscani) may be the prettiest shop you’ll ever see. A huge range of books, stationary and novelty items line the walls of this gorgeous galleried space. You can also peruse a wide vinyl collection in the basement and grab one of Bucharest’s most expensive coffees on the top floor.

Carturesti Carusel
Carturesti Carusel

7. It’s got its own Arc de Triomphe

Who needs Paris? Bucharest has got its own.

bucharcdetriompheDHE114-xlarge
Street signs in Bucharest are also reminiscent of Paris CREDIT: ALAMY

8. And the Caru’ cu Bere

Enjoy a brew under the gorgeous painted vaults of Caru’ cu Bere, the Old Town’s most famous beer hall. It may be a tourist trap, but it’s hard not to get to swept up in the fun of the traditional costume, live music and tankard waving. The restaurant here is known for its version of the Romanian national dish, cabbage rolls stuffed with mincemeat, with a side of polenta.

Caru' cu Bere
Caru’ cu Bere

9. It’s packed with hipster coffee spots

Bucharest is home to an abundance of cultured graduates – and where young professionals go, hipster joints follow. Tasty local roasts and trendy waiters can be found at T-Zero, Origo, Dianei 4 and The Coffee Factory.

The back garden in The Coffee Factory, Bucharest CREDIT: HANNAH MELTZER
The back garden in The Coffee Factory, Bucharest CREDIT: HANNAH MELTZER

10. There are some fabulous summer parks

Renting a boat at Cişmigiu Gardens is one of the most popular leisure activities in Bucharest, especially on a hot day. The city is not short on green spaces and Herăstrău Park is also a treat.

Renting a boat on the lake at Cismigiu park is one of the city's longest-established leisure activities CREDIT: ALAMY
Renting a boat on the lake at Cismigiu park is one of the city’s longest-established leisure activities CREDIT: ALAMY

11. And delightful old windmills

Mills, parts of churches, old homesteads and agricultural structures are all on display in the National Village Museum, an open-air delight on the banks of Herăstrău Lake.

Romania-Bucharest-Dimitrie
Romania-Bucharest-Dimitrie

12. You can go Dracula hunting

No trip to Romania would be complete without a bit of Dracula hunting. Vlad Țepeș (Vlad The Impaler in English)  is the 15th-century prince who inspired Bram Stoker with his rather gruesome penchant for ramming a spike through his enemies and leaving them to die. He is widely admired in Romania as a defender of Wallachia. Dedicated Drac fans can take a trip to Snagov, 25 miles of north of Bucharest, where The Impaler himself is said to be buried in a tiny island monastery in the middle of a lake.

13. Or take a day trip to Sinaia

Sinaia, a picture-perfect little town nestled in the shadow of the Bucego Mountains, is 90 minutes from Bucharest by train. In a day you can take in the picturesque views and visit the unreasonably beautiful Peleș Castle, summer retreat of Romania’s first king. You might even find time to hop on a cable car up the mountains and take in the magnificent views.

Peles Palace, Sinaia - built by King Carol 1 as a summer retreat, though it took so long to finish he was only able to enjoy it for two years before his death CREDIT: HANNNAH MELTZER
Peles Palace, Sinaia – built by King Carol 1 as a summer retreat, though it took so long to finish he was only able to enjoy it for two years before his death CREDIT: HANNNAH MELTZER

14. The Romanian Athenaeum gives the Royal Albert Hall a run for its money

It’s the home of classical music in Bucharest. Get tickets to a concert or pay a pound or two to have a gawp at its splendour.

Royal Albert Hall
Royal Albert Hall

15. There are beautiful Orthodox churches

86 per cent of the population of Romania are Eastern Orthodox (at least nominally), and you will find Orthodox churches dotted throughout the city. Pop your head in to Stavropoleos Church in the Old Town or St Apostle’s Church, north of B-dul Unirii, to witness elaborate frescoes and dazzling gold iconography. Remember, though, that these are places of worship – and you might get chucked out for wearing shorts.

16. And some old-school train stations

The train from Bucharest to Brasov feels like a journey back in time.

The distinctly retro station at Sinaia CREDIT: HANNAH MELTZER
The distinctly retro station at Sinaia CREDIT: HANNAH MELTZER
SOURCEtelegraph
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CEO & Founder at Psychedelic Society and www.sociedelic.com. I created this community in 2013 shortly after finishing high school and have been grateful for the fact that I have been able to do this ever since :) There are many things happening on the planet that don't resonate with me, and I wanted to do what I could to play a role in creating change. It's been great making changes in my own life and creating awareness and I look forward to more projects that move beyond awareness and into action and implementation. So stay tuned :)