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Backpacking in Bucharest – Little Paris

Villacrosse Passage

Romania is a place few people think to visit and not a lot is known about Bucharest compared to other European capitals. The Balkan country has a bad reputation, however if you’re interested in history and are looking for a more affordable destination, I can guarantee that you will enjoy visiting Bucharest.

Flying Wizzair from Edinburgh

My journey started with waking up at 6AM to catch my flight from Edinburgh, the flight was about a good 3 hours, however everything went smoothly in terms of getting to my hostel. An important thing to know is that the easiest way to get from the airport in Bucharest to the centre is to take the train and you pay the fare by tapping your card on the machine and it only costs 5 lei (90p.) Furthermore, not only is Bucharest a very walkable city, it also has a decent transport system and you can mostly take the metro everywhere.

Staying at Bauhaus Hostel

This hostel is right on the edge of the Old Town and I do recommend staying here. What made this place a great stay was I was able to do my laundry there and there was also an Xbox, I spent a good bit of time playing FIFA 17 with some Italian lads I had befriended.

Making Sense of The Old Town

While most European old towns are thought to be quaint places, Bucharest’s old town is a seedy place and is also full of tourist trap places (think Irish pubs etc) and Bucharest in general I can’t say is a beautiful city. Bucharest’s character can be described that it is a culmination of old-style neoclassical and brutalist architecture.

With the graffiti, ugly pavements and digital advertisements on the walls, you might even be forgiven for thinking you’re in Blade Runner. Furthermore, one of the most iconic sites, the Villacrosse Passage is full of hookah bars and therefore has a horrible smell. Despite that, there are some places around the Old Town which are worth visiting, for a morning coffee I recommend visiting Emozia which is great quality and French Revolution, a bakery with incredible eclairs.

Romanian Atheneum

One of the most famous buildings in Bucharest is the Romanian Atheneum which is an auditorium and also nearby is a place that you can’t miss. One of the government buildings is where the Romanian Revolution had kicked off and there is even a memorial to commemorate it.

Where history took place on the 21st December 1989

The Imposing Parliament Building

The current Romanian parliament building is the 2nd biggest administrative building in the world and you will know it when you see it. It was originally the communist dictator Ceausescu’s idea to building a massive palace and government headquarters. During his time in power, he visited North Korea and was inspired by how the government had built a cult of personality there and he wanted to emulate that. If you want to get inside and have a tour of the building it seems to be a bit of a hassle so I didn’t go through with it.

Visiting Ceausescu’s House

A place that is not to be missed in Bucharest is the house of Nicolae Ceausescu, it costs £8 and you need to be there at a certain time for a tour that are about every 30 minutes. This place is very well preserved to the point that you have to wear coverings on your shoes and it is kept how it was, with even their pyjamas on their beds. Nicolae and his wife, Elena Ceausescu lived in excessive and tasteless luxury while the average Romanian lived in destitution.

Although this house looks small from the outside, this place is mind-bogglingly massive and every room looks excessively tasteless. The house has an office where Ceausescu worked, a living room, an indoor garden, massive bedrooms for him and his children, a golden bathroom, a swimming pool and a spa room. The Ceausescus had an accumulation of different artefacts such as vases from China and was even inspired by the palace of Versaille.

To explain, the rule of Ceausescu, he wanted Romania to be like what North Korea is today and ruled with an iron first. In 1989, the Berlin wall was being peacefully torn apart with a peaceful transition from power and this poured into Romania. The suppressing of political dissidents and mismanagement of the economy had meant that food supplies started to empty and this led to protests across the country. Ceausescu tried to stop this by shooting the protestors, during a speech on a balcony in 1989, he started to realise people were booing him and he tried to escape via helicopter. They were both caught and given a brief trial in which they were sentenced to death and were both shot on live TV on Christmas day.

King Mihai I Park and The Romanian Arc de Triomphe

Nearby to Ceausescu’s house is a massive park that is peaceful to take a walk through and is also really big. What’s notable about this park is that very randomly, there is a fake Michael Jackson grave, I’m at a loss as to why it’s here as Michael Jackson had no connection to Romania. Furthermore, Bucharest also has its own copy of the Arc de Triomphe which was built in commemoration of Romania’s victory in the First World War. It can be said that Bucharest is like Paris, but with better prices and possibly even safer.

Hidden Gem – Romanian Railway Museum

Something any railway enthusiast should definitely check out is this small railway museum. It’s right next to the north railway station and is a great way to spend the time while you wait for a train if you’re heading out of Bucharest. What you need to know is admission is only 4 lei (72p) and they only accept cash. The museum itself is relatively small and boasts a rather big model railway with a setting in the Romanian countryside. Furthermore, there is also a collection of pictures from old Romanian trains, railway staff equipment and models of different kinds of trains.

The Stavropoleos Monastery

This is one of the most interesting places in the Old Town as it dates all the way back to 1724 and is both an orthodox church and monastery. The place itself is quite small, but it is worth paying a visit into the courtyard as the place has an ambience which makes it feels like it is a very historical place.

Trying Jerry’s Pizza

A pizza place which has rather amusingly made the rounds in the news all over the world is Jerry’s Pizza. I can only say it is just a run of the mill takeaway pizza place and the quality of the pizza is not much better than one you’d find in a chippy. I’d say it’s good value for money as it was £5 for a decent sized pizza and if I was a student here, I’d probably order from them.

The Military History Museum

A place that requires a ride on the metro from the Old Town is this museum which is impressively huge. The admission is 5 lei (90p) which is a bargain as this museum gives a telling of Romanian history from Roman times to modern times over different floors. However, the only problem is that not much of the stuff in the museum is translated into English.

Trying Romanian Mici at Bodega La Mahala

A place among the trashy tourist trap restaurants in the Old Town is this wonderful little place. What proves this place as authentic is that it is frequented by Romanians, I gave mici a try which is basically the Romanian version of ćevapi which was really good and drank a Timisoreana beer alonside. What I like this place is the way the interior is decorated as it feels very traditional and homely.

What I’d say about Bucharest is that it’s not a place for everyone, however if you’re interested in the vast history of this place and want to see a different kind of place, this city might be for you.

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