At the end of our wonderful trip to Romania, we spent a couple days exploring Bucharest. We stayed in an apartment on the south side of the city, within walking distance to one of the main squares (Piata Unirii) where the tourist “hop on, hop off” buses depart (25 lei per person for the round trip), and close to several sights. The Bucharest airport is on the north side of the city, about 30 minutes from downtown.
Having been to many European capitals I will admit that Bucharest doesn’t make my top 10; however, it still has a number of interesting sights, the two primary ones being the Parliament Palace and the Village Museum. I will cover the Village Museum in a separate post.
Palace of Parliament
“Huge” is an understatement. The Palace of the Parliament is the 2nd largest building in the world after the Pentagon, and was built in 1984 in the latter days of the Communist Regime under the dictator Ceauşescu. On our tour we saw less than 2% of the building. It is 12 stories high, has 1,100 rooms and four underground levels including a nuclear bunker. About 20,000 workers labored around the clock to build it in 5 years.
One massive staircase had to be rebuilt 3 times before Ceauşescu was satisfied. The saddest part is that for the cost of this immense building much could have been done to help the very poor average Romanian at the time.
Tips on visiting the Palace: Tours are conducted regularly and advance reservations are generally required. We lucked in to an English-speaking tour without reservations by arriving about 45 minutes early in the off season (May). Since this is still a functioning government building, they are very strict in regards to picture taking—security cameras are everywhere, and wandering off from the tour group is not allowed. Not wanting to spend time in a Romanian prison, I paid attention to our tour guide’s requirements. The cost was 25 lei per person plus 30 lei for a photography pass (about 3 lei per USD).
Bucharest’s Old Quarter
Another interesting area undergoing refurbishment is the city’s old quarter, not far from the Palace. There are many restaurants here, and a few historical sites such as the Princely Old Court Church, and some 15th century ruins.