Bucharest in winter

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Stavropoleos Church, Bucharest

Bucharest in winter

Winter tour of Bucharest

It’s winter here in Bucharest, and whether you like it or not, whether you planned it or not, you want to discover the city despite the cold weather. So what can you do? Well, pretty much anything you can do in the summer as long as you won’t mind the cold biting your face.

Most likely, you’ll start in the Old Town. Take a walk on its cobblestone streets, admire the old architecture, the contrast of new and old, the ruins of the Princely Court where Dracula once reigned, or its quaint inns, some still active as restaurants or bars.

When you get cold, go inside the History Museum and visit the Treasury Room. It is here you can admire Dacian gold, about 2000 years old, or the jewels of the former royal family.

Once you are done with the History Museum, go up on the Victoria Boulevard and take a tour of the Turkish-like alleys where you can even try a water pipe. Sorry, today, just melon and peach flavors are being offered.

Bucharest old town

Before going to Revolution Square, take a detour for the Cismigiu Gardens, the oldest and most beautiful park in Bucharest. In winter, especially when covered by snow, this is a great place for a short walk. Don’t miss the corner of the chess and backgammon players, who are always there no matter how cold it is.

Of course, you are in Bucharest, and you want to see Revolution Square, where Ceausescu, the last communist dictator of Romania, held his last speech. Visit the square where finally, in December 1989, the Communist regime fell; the place where thousands of innocent people died for their freedom. In the same square, you’ll notice a strange monument which the locals make fun of all the time despite its noble purpose. We are talking about the Impaled Potato, a monument dedicated to the people who died and suffered from the Communist regime. But, unfortunately, it’s a monument built by the same people who were either involved in the Communist regime or by those guilty of crimes from December 1989. And that’s why we don’t like it.

Cismigiu Garden in winter

In this square, you might notice a strange building, a mixture between an old house made of bricks and a sleek glass tower. It looks like this because it was damaged during the events from December 1989 and the new owner decided to have it in this way. But this is not the reason I’m talking about it. Just go towards it, and you'll notice a glass door on the right side of the building. It’s the door of one of the most interesting little coffee houses in Bucharest. And the wall pictures are the reason. They are huge pictures taken during 1989 when the Communist regime collapsed to make room for the new democratic regime led by… well, former Communists. I know it’s ironic, but that’s life. In these pictures, you can see the tanks and the ruins of the Central University Library. It was set on fire, and about 3000 old manuscripts, books, and maps were lost forever. Only now can you understand how horrible the so-called anti-Communist revolution was when you really realize that thousands of people died.

But that’s life – ironic, as we’ve said. So let’s have a hot green tea and warm up a little bit.

The Revolution Square -Bucharest

You can’t leave this central part of Bucharest without paying a visit to one of our favorite buildings, the Romanian Athenaeum. Built-in 1888, the building hosts the Romanian Philharmonic and boasts a long fresco depicting 25 scenes from Romanian history. More than that, if you are lucky, you might sit in on some rehearsals and have a concert pretty much just for yourself.

From here you should take a taxi all the way to the Village Museum. On the way, you can admire the large boulevards and the old architecture which gave Bucharest the nickname “Little Paris.” However, it’s going to be much more obvious when you’ll pass by the Romanian Arc de Triumph, a symbol of Romanian independence. Each year on December 1st  – except for 2014 when the arch was under renovation– you can celebrate the National Day of Romania and admire the military parade.

Not far away from the arch lies the Village Museum, an outdoor museum. If it is covered by snow, then it’s even better. You might be in one of the busiest capitals of Europe but just entering the museum is like traveling many years back in time.  The museum, inaugurated in 1936, gathers in one place traditional houses from all over Romania. During the most important Romanian holidays, the museum is jam-packed with artisans selling their traditional hand-made souvenirs, from copper pots, brooms, and gingerbread, to carpets and homemade soap.

As you leave the Village Museum, turn left and head toward the House of Free Press, one of the largest Soviet buildings in Bucharest. Right next to it, you’ll observe two glass towers. Go to the one on the left, closer to the Pullman Hotel, and go up to the top level where you can have lunch. The 18 Lounge is a fancy restaurant, with good food and superb views over the city. Plus, it’s not touristy. More than that, if you come here for lunch during weekdays, you can enjoy a set menu at an excellent price. But, of course, you can still order à la carte, and in this case, don’t miss the duck on a bed made of oranges. It’s so delicious!

We know it’s not a traditional restaurant but don’t worry; you can enjoy a Romanian meal later in the evening. These are some of the good traditional restaurants which are centrally located: VatraCrama Doamneasca or the famous Carul cu Bere.

Bucharest boasts the largest administrative building in Europe, second in the world to Pentagon. It’s about 20minutes within walking distance from the old town. Enjoy the standard tour of the building and understand why Ceausescu was so crazy. Be careful to visit the Parliament, make a reservation in advance, and take the passport with you.

The Romanian Parliament

By now, you might be tired of tourist sites or too cold to roam the streets of Bucharest. Instead, you might want to do some shopping. Of course, a shopping center is the first option, especially Unirea Shopping Mall, since it’s very close to the Old Town. We are not big fans of these places, but we must admit that even we shop in these malls. More than that, Unirea Shopping Mall was the first to be built in Romania. Actually, it was built by the Communists, and we remember it as a gray place, selling the same useless stuff over and over again. In fact, many times, the shelves were empty, and the saleswomen were the grumpiest people in the world.

If you are in Bucharest in December or in the first weeks of January, you can admire the Christmas Lights in the evenings. There are different lights from year to year, the most interesting boulevards being Balcescu, Magheru, Elisabeta, or University Square. But, of course, if we are talking about Christmas lights, we can’t miss the Christmas Market from Constitution Square and the University Square, where your tour of Bucharest can end with a plate of cabbage rolls and a mug of mulled wine. You can read about other 2017 Christmas Markets in Romania here.

Stay updated with the 2019 schedule of the Romanian Christmas Markets. You can find it here.

That’s it, folks. For a cold winter day, it’s a lot. Enjoy it!

Bucharest Christmas Market

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Daniel Gheorghita

Managing Partner at Covinnus Travel. I love to travel, to discover new places, to meet new faces and make new friends. I like diversity and to learn new things, to understand the others, their culture, and their history. I'm passionate about photography and you can see my pictures at bydaniel.me

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