From : Wandering Earl blog
I’ve been living in Bucharest on and off now for about five months. I’ll tell you, the city is not an overly pretty one and it definitely lacks a ‘wow factor’ to impress foreign visitors. There’s a lot of gray, there’s no shortage of neglected buildings, communist-style apartment blocks and unattractive graffiti, and at first, it can appear as an overall gloomy place, which is why most travelers rarely stick around for more than two or three days.
But I feel quite lucky that I decided to stick around myself as the more I stay in Bucharest, the more I discover a city that deserves to be noticed by more people.
The problem is that most of Bucharest’s charm and appeal lies hidden, tucked far away into corners of the city that the overwhelming majority of travelers will undoubtedly never find. Most visitors seem to spend their time hanging around the pleasant, yet very small, Old City (Lipscani), but this area represents the tiniest fraction of what this city actually has to offer.
You need some time to discover the rest. You need to make connections with local Romanians who will guide you in the right direction and you need to explore every street and lane with the understanding that quite often, one must search behind the dark gray facade in order to find the cafes, jazz clubs, galleries and exhibition halls, parks, restaurants, independent cinemas and more that give this city an entirely different energy and identity.
For example, you can easily find an overpriced restaurant in the Old City, but just wait until you discover places such as Clubul Taranalui, a wonderful open-air eatery attached to the interesting Museum of the Romanian Peasant at Piata Victoriei, where the below feast of traditional Romanian food and local wine costs a mere $10 USD per person…
Cafes are plentiful (that’s a huge understatement) in the Old City as well given the strong cafe culture, but what about the unique and infinitely more atmospheric gathering establishments in the neighborhoods that you would never visit unless a local Romanian told you to. That’s how I found the splendid Reader’s Cafe in Dorobanti, the very cool Ceai La Metoc in Cartierul Armenesc and the very laid-back Serendipity Cafe in Gradina Icoanei, all of which are some of my favorite hangouts in Bucharest.
Throw in the theaters and concert halls, an excellent and varied local cuisine, diverse nightlife and a long list of warm weather events, and I was hooked.
Of course, I am perfectly aware that all of these things can be found in just about every city on the planet, but that’s not the point. The reason I love Bucharest is not because it has parks, cafes and art galleries. It’s because I’ve discovered so many appealing places which have given me a more complete picture of this city, places that I would never have found and enjoyed had I stayed for just a few days and moved on, never to return again.
Besides, Bucharest is also an extremely affordable destination and it’s shockingly easy to meet people here and to have a social life, even if you don’t know anyone when you arrive. It’s quite conveniently located as well, with not only the rest of Romania to explore, but other countries such as Moldova, Ukraine, Hungary, Serbia and Bulgaria just one border crossing away. And a short flight to Istanbul (55 minutes) connects you with the rest of the world.
All I know is that Bucharest is quite an ideal place for me to spend some time, especially considering that, after ten years or so of bouncing around the planet non-stop, this other side of travel, the more in-depth connection with a destination, its culture and its people, is exactly what I now crave.