One thing I have noticed (at myself and at others as well) is that we tend to overlook the places we live in and treat them as a given, being too busy with the everyday life and not bothering to walk around, discover hidden gems or just look at the buildings we are passing by.
Being born and raised in Bucharest, Romania, for so much time I have overlooked everything about this city in the Southern part of my country. It is true that for so many years the city was nothing much but a gray, crowded and sad place, or at least that was how I used to perceive it. But in the last years, this Bucharest of mine has gone through a metamorphosis, transforming itself from a caterpillar into a ( still, modest) butterfly.
I have grown together with the city and have learned to like it (and accept the things I don’t like), respect it and admire it. Through the years I have relentlessly searched or have been introduced by friends to so many incredible and different places and have come to think that this is a place for everyone!
We are only at the beginning when it comes to tourism awareness and marketing, but projects like #ExperienceBucharest2017 make a step ahead and put Bucharest out in the open, on the world touristic map. Following this event, I have read with great joy a lot of nice pieces on my little city and have thought this is the time to share my view and the places I hold so dear in my heart, where I always return with happiness and the things I have seen change before my eyes.
- Clubs and the great party scene – during my university years there weren’t so many places where you could go out (or maybe there were and I was a geek and a lame little girl who was – almost – never going out). Ok, there were some places but the list was not so long as the one available today. In Bucharest, you can find anything you want:
- fancy, posh, expensive clubs (where people usually go just to be seen, not particularly to have fun – or they do, in their way of course) such as Fratelli Social Club, Bamboo, Gaia Boutique Club, Player Club, BOA and others
- the more down to earth clubs in the old city center, where you can go club hopping and have a night of intense fun until the morning, having the possibility to change clubs whenever you feel like it. Here you can find anything and everything from Jazz clubs, to hard rock clubs (notably Fire Club, Club A and Suburbia), to mixed clubs for the joyful ( Old City , Bordello’s, The Drunken Lords, The Vintage Pub, Mojo and so so many more).
- all the other hipster-ish clubs outside of the old city center: the one and only Control (great atmosphere, great indie/alternative music, great people), Fabrica (another iconic place where no one will judge you while you are having a great time) and B52 (party till the morning in the true Vama Veche style)
- It is all about the food – taste pure Romanian dishes or head to the fanciest places in town where you can indulge in fusion cuisine or feel like traveling to different parts o the world with just one bite. Here are my favorite places in town:
- 18 Louge – as its name suggests, the restaurant is located on the 18th floor of an office building, in the North part of the town, if you are lucky and get a table next to the window you will indulge in a great view over Herastrau Park. Apart from that, the food (Italian) is really delicious and diverse (plenty of interesting salads, pasta, and main dishes). Prices: $$$ Reservation needed: Yes
- Journey Pub – I just love this place! Every time I pass through the doors I feel like leaving for a short trip. The place has an indoor garden, menus in the shape of pieces of luggage, a very diverse number of dishes from all over the world and a special room with board games where you can spend quality time with friends! What more would you ask for? Prices: $$ Reservation needed: Not necessarily
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- Shift Pub and Alt Shift Pub – I have to admit I am more conservative and I always go for the first one, since it was the first one opened in town. Moreover, this is the place where I and my girlfriends always end up when going out after work or for a brunch on weekends. Why? Well because it has everything we want: delicious food (please please try the Tagliatelle Primavera or the huge Shift Salad), lovely scenery (both inside and outside), good music and nice people! Prices: $$ Reservation needed: Yes (with some time ahead)
- Dianei 4 – This is one special place located in an old house, on a small street right in the center of Bucharest, where the old feel of the house has been kept and where cool young people gather daily. I like brunches here, I love the coffee and the fact that during the weekends you can have breakfast until 3 pm. Prices: $$ Reservation needed: Not necessarily
- Simbio – if you don’t know this place chances are you will pass it by and miss it and that wouls be a pity because it has a beautiful garden, yummy food, and delicious pancakes. This is the perfect place here to go and just sit back and relax. At some point, I was even obsessed with their eggs Benedict and made all my friends join me there for brunch. Prices: $$ Reservation needed: Yes
- Frudisiac – Oh, the pancakes here! You just have to taste them to believe such a thing can exist: lemony, with a pinch of lavender and pistachio. Prices: $$ Reservation needed: they don’t make reservations
3. Terraces – come during Summer and let yourself seduced by the beautiful and chill outdoor places:
- Gradina Verona – this is actually the garden hidden in the back of a well-known library where I usually managed to waste a whole lot of time during university and not only since there are so many things to be discovered in this place. But apart from that, the large open terrace is very nice no matter if you are visiting in Spring, Summer of Autumn.
- Acuarela – this place is different, in a good way. Immagine stepping into a colorful surreal world and the umbrellas here are iconic. Come here for a nice cold glass of wine, with some jazz in the background or come for a good portion of independent theater. Either way, you will like and will keep on coming back.
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- Terasa Monteoru – another nice, hipsterish hidden gem of Bucharest (we seem to have a lot of these places around here by now) where people come to relax after work, listen to some good music and drink some chilled wine. The atmosphere is soo chill that you will risk falling asleep gently caressed by the peaceful wind (I almost did).
- Gradina Eden – just across the street from Monteoru, hidden behind another old building, you step into this oasis of greenery and you start wondering if you are still in the heart of the city or the “engage” button has been invented and you are suddenly somewhere else. I like this place because even though it is not very elaborate (hammocks, bean bags) when it comes to design, it still looks great and gives you a unique vibrant feeling. A turnoff might be the fact that you need to go to the bar in order to get a drink and the queues can get a bit long (at least that was my experience).
- Baraka – you enter one of the largest parks of Bucharest (Heratrau) and this is one of the first things you come across: this wooden platform, with cozy seats, a small bar in the middle and a whole lot of cool people gathering here for the daily dose of “who cares?”. This is the vibe I get from this place maybe also because it is across the street from the skate park, where usually you can find this kind of people: teenagers without a care in the world, looking to exceed their limits.
4. Coffee places – Bucharest has transformed itself and along the way a lot of small places selling some of the best coffee there is have appeared on small corners and hidden streets. In some cases, you can even miss out on a great intense flavored coffee if you don’t know where to look and or me that would be a sad incident since I LOVE coffee and Italy has spoiled me.
- Origo – when I think about this place I feel the strong coffee scent in my nostrils, I taste the deep dark bitter aroma on my tongue and I even remember the novel coffee cocktail I once drank here. This is the first place of its kind opened in Bucharest and they have all sorts of events and you can also buy all sorts of coffee to bring home. Just bare in mind I don’t think they take reservations and the place is really small so you might find it hard to find a spot since it is really popular.
- Orygyns Specialty Coffee – the deep blue cup stands for intense flavor. Here you can find friendly people and engage in interesting conversation about coffee. Moreover, at every visit, you can taste a different type of coffee or once you have fallen in love with one particular kind, choose to stick to it.
- T-Zero Coffee shop – a small place with a big attitude!
5. Un up – rooftop places
- Deschis Gastrobar – nothing much to say here since yes, I am guilty of never going to this place. But from what I have seen on social media from the people around me, it is certainly a place to add to the list: it’s on a rooftop, it’s simple, friendly and fun. What more could you ask for?
- Upstairs Rooftop – be it Summer or Winter, it does not matter because you will find a great place with good food, nice music (sometimes even live music), an open terrace and a closed area. This is a place I sure enjoy visiting every now and then.
- NOR Sky Casual Restaurant – it’s called Nor (Romanian for cloud) because it is the highest restaurant in the city, located (of course) in the highest office building there is, at the 36th floor, in the Northern part of Bucharest. Recently opened, it was rather crowded until now and I have managed to book a table only last week (reservations are mandatory if you actually want to get in) and have come here with great expectations, forgetting that this is the best way to disappointment. And so it was. Don’t get me wrong, the place is nice, people are great and pay a lot of attention to customers, the view is nice from above, the food is good (even though the menu does not offer such a great variety of dishes), drinks are delicious. But…I was expecting something more. It’s not you Nor, it’s me!
- Pura Vida Sky Bar – I plead guilty once again! No, I haven’t been to Pura Vida either but I loooove pe beautiful pictures I see on Instagram from this place, and I looove how the Old City Center is depicted from the rooftop. And as the owners put it best “Pura Vida Sky Bar is a great place to meet travelers from all over the world but also beautiful local people”.
6. Tea and sympathy –
- Infinitea – This place is like the house I imagine aristocratic families used to live in in the 1920′, the garden is soo relaxing and during summer the smell of linden delights your senses. One of my friends even had her pre-wedding pictures here, the setting is that nice. Of course, it is a tea house so you will find here a great variety of teas and cookies. Go with an open heart, just note that you will need a reservation.
- Serendipity – Since it was really close to my uni, I used to come here relatively often with friends and colleagues for a nice hot cup of tea. Throughout the years, I have returned in different “setups” and have always enjoyed the quietness here. They also organize all sort of events, from live music to different workshops (I remember attending many years ago a belly dance workshop :)) just don’t tell anyone about it).
- Ceainaria Cinci (five) – Not such an easy place to find, but it is worth the walk and risking getting lost. The place it’s also a hostel and it is great for spending an afternoon with friends in the garden. The place is very hippie style and expect having to sit on the floor.
- Green Tea – My favorite place by far, even though I got lost so many times on the streets looking for this place. I can just close my eyes and visualize a hot Summer evening, me sitting with friends at a big table surrounded by roses in bloom filling the warm air with their beautiful perfume. The only thing romanticly lighting the place up were some small delicate candles carefully placed on each table. Oh, and that mango ice tea savored with some chestnut puree was all you could wish for.
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- Ceai la Cotroceni – I think this was the first tea place I have ever been to, also during university (too many years ago), and if you don’t know there’s a tea house in the basement of this old house in Cotroceni, you would just miss an incredible experience. The rooms are small and a little bit crowded but you sit on bunked beds and in dim lighting while enjoying a flavored mate.
- Bohemia Tea House – A good playground for the child within, come here on a rainy day and spend countless hours playing board games in the attic of this tea house and you will never want to leave.
7. Burger places
- Vivo Fusion Food Bar – Even though I am not a great burger fan, I must admit the burgers here are pretty damn good (if you manage to work your way around them :)) ). I always recommend this place to everyone visiting Bucharest and they all love it, but don’t forget you need to have a reservation.
- Trick Shot – Cool place. Great burgers. In a shopping mall. Try it!
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- Caru’ cu bere – Classic! Here is where you will find all the tourist, but that doesn’t mean it is not a good authentic place. It is! You can enjoy a great traditional Romanian dinner and admire the old building (historic monument) while also listening to local music. Just don’t forget to try some palinca and papanasi!
- La Mama – Food like the one served by your (ok not yours, by mine) mother at home. Good food, many locations in town, but maybe you would like to choose the one next to Ateneul Roman since it’s really central and in a nice location.
- Hanu’ lui Manuc – in the Old City Center, in a beautiful old location hiding a lot of history between the walls it now offers true Romanian dishes.
Să tot fie veacul de când în fiecare început de Florar în colțul Bisericii Colței apărea Moș Pafnutie Chioru cu primul sac de cartofi noi scoși dintr-o grădină de pe lângă Balta Cucului. Așa se făcea că la Manuc sfârâia întâia dată ceaunul de alamă turcească în cuptor cu cartofii noi și usturoi nou. Să tot fie un veac de când Moș Pafnutie a plecat în treaba lui, dar tradiția a rămas prinsă în pereții văruiți ai Hanului. Vino să guști așadara gustul neschimbat al primăverii în grădina Hanului.
And here it is, my list of places to go out to, for a long night out or only for a cup o coffee, tea or sympathy, in my Bucharest. Where would you like to go first? What would you like to try?