According to experts at Booking.com, 41 percent of travellers are planning a city break to Bucharest this year. That’s right Bucharest in Romania, not to be confused with Budapest in Hungary, which has been a city break favourite for as long as I can remember being told by colleagues they’re off on a Stag or Hen weekend there. Well there may have been some confusion over time with the similar names and that, but it seems Bucharest has in fact become the hottest destination for the stag and hen weekend, particularly in Europe. A lot of this I believe comes down to how affordable the city is. You can get quite fancy and drink for considerably cheap. The average price of a pint of beer is £0.94p/€1.11. Now that’s what I call a recipe for the ultimate ‘Turn-up’.
Well as it happens my trip to Bucharest was in fact for the hen-do of one of my dearests. Myself and the other bridesmaids whisked our wife-to-be bestie off to Bucharest for a send off like no other.
I myself have heard great things about Bucharest in the last couple of years as it started gaining some buzz. Romania is the 7th largest state in the EU, with almost 20 million inhabitants and one of the fastest developing economies. But with many of the Eastern European countries, their history still has a faint haze over them. This is due to a combination of still finding their feet from economical hardship during its time as a communist state post World War Two and again after its withdrawal in 1989, with the fall of the Berlin Wall. My exposure to many Romanians was through travellers and gypsies that had made their way to London in the 90s.
But with a new era came a new perspective and fresh encounters with young creative Romanians that are musicians, DJ’s, or have worked in the arts. And in turn my intrigue about what their lives and culture were like back home in Romania peaked. So it became a destination on my travel list that I knew would be a starting point to discover more of Eastern Europe.
It was serendipitous that the maid of honor had chosen Bucharest, and given up on the idea of Benidorm. Yes that’s right, I could have been posting about my time in Benidorm. But we came to the decision it might be one joke taken too far. No offence, as I’m sure there’s a reason many Brits head to that part of the Spanish coast.
The weekend in May had come about and it was time to head off to Bucharest, which was so exciting as I was getting the travel jitters only a month after returning from Los Angeles. And of course I was thrilled to have a weekend away with a great bunch of ladies.
Leaving Friday morning from London Luton Airport and returning Sunday evening, all we had was 48 hours to get this party started and wrapped up.
So here is a guide, or more accurately, a recollection on how we made the most of our brief time in Bucharest.
As Bucharest is pretty affordable we got real fancy and stayed at the Grand Hotel Continental. This was a welcome change from the string of Airbnb’s I’m usually in. And as much as i’ve stayed in some great Airbnb’s it’s nice every now and again to have the luxury of your sheets being changed and the room given a tidy every day.
The Grand Hotel Continental exceeded my exceptions with its charm, as its pre-raphalite interiors gleamed from every corner and bounced off every mirror. The beds were super comfy, the bathroom modern and indulgent with a separate bath and shower. It’s 5 star rating is definitely well earned. A twin room with single beds set us back around £110 for two nights. This I think is affordable for its central location, which is on the heels of the old town.
Again the maid of honor did a great job in searching and booking a restaurant for our first night. She chose Kane Seasonal Bistro. A 10 minute drive north of our hotel in a pretty quiet neighbourhood. Kane’s vibe is definitely polished, botanical and sophisticated but accessible.
I fell in love with the interiors and was hoping to fall in love with the food. The staff certainly went above and beyond, one guy even gave us detailed tips of places to see and things to do in the city. I would describe their food as simple ingredients with a twist, like mushroom ketchup. I fell in love with the Beef Ragu starter and my mouth still waters over the chocolate mousse and wild berry ice cream dessert. It was unforgettable.
On our second night we headed to a restaurant recommended to us, which is apparently the oldest restaurant in Bucharest. This was Caru’ cu bere, meaning Wagon of beer. It was bustling and looked full of history. Rightly situated in the old town this a great place to get traditional beer and food. The food offering is heavily on the meaty side. I decided to get something a little lighter and went for the Chicken Schnitzel and mashed potato and grilled veg. It was a hearty meal after all and the mash potato deliciously indulgent. I tried to not think how much butter went into it as I scrapped the plate clean of it. As it’s a traditional joint expect live music. Think accordions and flutes. A performance is put on, even with all the staff lining up to join in. I would say this is a great place to get a sense of old school Romanian energy.
Biutful by the Lake was literally beautiful by the Lake. It was very busy and in an area by the lake amongst other cool chilled bars with a secret garden feel about it.
The arts scene in Bucharest almost rivals that of Paris, maybe that’s why they call Bucharest ‘Little Paris’. There are plenty of museums and galleries to pass the time in and get inspired. We happened to be in Bucharest on the Night of the museum, which is when all the museums and galleries open till late. We gazed through the National Museum of Art of Romania. It was cool, but if I weren’t so tired I might have been able to take it in some more.
We passed through an antiques store called Bazar, which is also near the old town. It had some cute trinkets in there amongst the old tat. Lots of vintage cameras and radios.
As well as the old, there was the new, with stalls selling handmade goods and painting. A great spot to pick up a gift to take back home.
From my 48 hours in Bucharest I would say it was a lovely city that had an Italian, Paris-esque feel to it. The architecture was a mix of classic roman styles, blended with the brutalist modern exteriors. The energy was very calm and although it is a city and is one of the most populated places in Europe, it certainly didn’t feel like it. But then again I was only there for 48 hours on a pretty rainy weekend. The weather forecast told me all I needed to pack were crop tops and short skirts, so it goes without saying I was underdressed… great!
I would love to see more of Romania as I feel I just scratched the surface. However, there are so many places that are more of a priority, so I don’t know how soon this will be. If you’ve never explored Eastern Europe, I would certainly recommend Bucharest as a great affordable weekend break. I have also heard rumours that it will be the next hotspot for music festivals, just like how Croatia snagged that title within the last decade.