The summer is here and so it is the urge to travel. So, what’s a better idea than being a tourist in our own city for a day?
We’ve lived in the Romanian capital for 8 years, but we have never planned a walking tour here. There were lots of attractions that we wanted to see, but we usually ended up postponing.
Ironically, the easier it is to visit a place anytime you want, the more you postpone it. Right? :)
Well, after two months of self-isolation due to the pandemic, it was time to break the cycle. We opened Google Maps, made some research and came up with a 4-hour itinerary of the most beautiful places from downtown.
So, we started our tour in Bucharest early in the morning with a lot of enthusiasm.
1. Carol Park
Not our usual destination for strolling some park alleys, Carol Park amazed us from the first 5 minutes there. Centrally positioned, with generous paths and a quiet lake, this park was the perfect start for our tour.
It is interesting to imagine this area a century ago. The whole hill used to be completely covered with vineyards, right here in the heart of the city. However, in 1906 the park was inaugurated as a celebration for the 40th anniversary of the reign of King Carol I. Although there are lots of interesting things to see, the most representative is by far the Mausoleum, known as the Monument of the Nation's Heroes.
2. Xenophon Street
We continued our tour by going to the NW exit to find Xenophon Street, just across the road. Shyly hidden among the houses, the only street with steps in Bucharest goes almost unnoticed. It has 70 steps and is connected with Suter Alley.
This stairway was repainted in 2015, but it seems that the paint faded too soon. Nevertheless, it has a different vibe and it reminded me a bit of the many stairways from Athens. :)
3. Union Square
We continued the itinerary towards Union Square. We took some pictures at some graffiti we found in our way and got a coffee to go from Drip.
This square has always been a central point in the life of Bucharest. More than a century and a half ago, other buildings were here: a hospital, a palace and several food halls, inspired by the Paris architecture.
Being in a continuous change, now you can find here: the Union Park, the boulevard and some big fountains. As an interesting fact, the Union Square’s underground is more lively than the surface. There you can find a road passage, the Dambovita river, a pedestrian passage and two subway lines one above the other.
But how about the origin of its name? Well, the Union Square was a key factor in the important events related to the Union of Principalities from 1859.
4. The Old Town
Although the Union Square tends to become more futuristic now, the Old Town looks like you’ve just stepped in a time machine and traveled back in time. Let’s continue our tour and discover some interesting historical places:
- Manuc's Inn was built in the early 1800s and it still retains the specific atmosphere of those times. In the past, it was the favorite meeting point of travelers, merchants and poets. Inside the inn, the political pacts have met the tales of the travelers, while the guests enjoyed the cold good wine from the inn's cellars.
- In the heart of the Old Town, we can find one of the most representative streets from the Middle Ages till now: Lipscani. Since 1589, the street was the meeting place of merchants who brought their goods from Leipzig (Germany). Nowadays, the area is known as the city’s nightlife hotspot, with many pubs, cafes and bars.
- Stavropoleos Monastery is a charming little monastery, built three centuries ago. It has an interesting artwork inside and a beautiful and peaceful courtyard.
- Right next to the Monastery, you can find Caru ’cu Bere, a symbol of the Old Town. This is a place that keeps the interwar atmosphere in every detail, from furniture and chandeliers to music.
5. Victory Street
If we are talking about a self-guided walking tour in Bucharest, then the first paved street in Romania is a must. At the end of the 1600s, the whole street was paved with wood, so it was called “a bridge”. More precisely, the name was the Mogosoaia Bridge, because it was build to connect Constantin Brancoveanu’s estate with his palace from Mogosoaia. The street received the “Victory Street” name 150 years ago, when the Romanian army made its victorious entry into the city, after they won the War of Independence.
Since then, the Victory Street has been a vibrant, bohemian place. Famous hotels, shops and restaurants have become the main attraction of the Romanian elites.
- The CEC Palace, one of the most beautiful buildings in Bucharest, welcomes you as soon as you leave the Old Town. Built in the late 1800s, under the close supervision of King Carol I and Queen Elizabeth, the palace has remained unchanged over time.
- The Palace of the National Military Circle is one of the buildings that made Bucharest be know as “Little Paris”. It was built at the initiative of the officers from the Bucharest Garrison. Now, it brings the elegance of the last century to the present days. Just across the street we can find Casa Capsa, an iconic restaurant from the beginning of the 20th century. It is known that the entire political life of Romania was decided at its tables.
- The Macca - Villacrosse passage was built at the end of the 18th century. The purpose of this hidden gem was to connect the National Bank with the Victory Street, the most famous commercial area at that time. With a cozy and warm vibe, due to the yellow glass that covers it, the passage is known today for the oriental cafes. Here you can enjoy spending time with your friends, while smoking hookah. During the pandemic all the cafes are closed, so the place is now emptier than ever.
- The Victory Passage is well known for the colorful umbrellas, which are hanging over the alley. The passage is one of the most Instagram-worthy place.
- The Revolution Square is a symbol of national history, known as the place where the Revolution from 1989 started. Dedicated to all those who died then, the monument from the square is still quite controversial.
- The Romanian Athenaeum is our last stop on Victory Street. A symbol of national culture, the Athenaeum stands out with a special architecture and an impressive interior design. Also, it hosts great concerts under its dome.
6. The street art from the city center
Just across the Magheru Boulevard, you can find the Carturesti Bookstore. Right behind this building, there is of the most beautiful garden cafe in Bucharest, Cafe Verona.
Due to the annual Street Delivery event, the Arthur Verona Street comes to life through new graffiti. So, it is an open invitation to visit it over and over.
At the end of the street, we crossed the Gradina Icoanei Park to reach Eremia Grigorescu Street. Few years ago a team of Romanian graffiti artists painted here one of the most beautiful murals I have ever seen.
There are so many attractions that we still need to see. However, we promised ourselves to continue the initiative of these tours and discover new streets, buildings and stories of Bucharest.
What is your favorite place with the best vibe in the city?