EAT in Bucharest:
Life at the Amsterdam Grand Café starts early in the morning: fancy citizens of Bucharest are reading newspapers and taking breaths for their days in the elegant building in the historic district Lipscani. The seats in front of the large windows with view onto the cobbles and rushing people are the best spots within the two-storey venue. At midday, lunch is following. But as soon as the late afternoon arrives, the Grand Café changes its costume and turns from an unconventional café into a funky bar. Cocktails, beer and music replace the smell of the coffee house. On Thursdays and Fridays, it might happen that a live jazz session is performed on the little stage. This colourful life also takes place around the Grand Café Amsterdam: bars and lively cafés cluster in the streets of Lipscani, many lounge barss and jazz venues can be found around the Calea Victoriei boulevard.
Treat yourself to an overdose of tradition at Vatra. The food is so delicious and authentic, there must be a Romanian mama in the kitchen. The rest of the magic is in the décor: traditional textiles and handicrafts, some of which date back to before 1920, adorn the walls. Surprisingly there is not a long wait for a table. Don't worry about busloads of tourists here, the place is just too small, as well as relaxing and cosy. If you can choose, take a table downstairs in the cellar. Dark and gloomy? Just the opposite: the illuminated vaults create an appealing, rustic atmosphere. You must order the stuffed cabbage, or stuffed vine-leaves. They are served with the classic accompaniment of polenta. Non-smokers will be delighted; the Vatra has a separate room where smokers can puff away.
The Balthazar is one of the top places to dine in Bucharest. Here you are served French-Asian fusion cuisine at its most sublime. For foreigners it's affordable, but you can assume that the Romanians you see here belong to the capital's top earners. The old villa where the restaurant is located has been lovingly restored with an eye for detail. The gardens and avant-garde bar?perfect for a drink before or after dinner?are especially attractive. The guests are still hip, even if the times have past when business dinners took place no where else. Perhaps too, despite the culinary delights, guests have noticed the restaurant's two weak points: a rather anemic wine list and music which can sometimes drive you to distraction. But if that doesn't trouble you, you are set to enjoy a very enjoyable evening in an elegant ambiance.
SIGHTS in Bucharest:
E-Book and Kindle are its enemies. Soft leather binding and paper rustle sounds two of its greatest strengths. It's about the book which holds its ground in our over-digitalised age. But offering reading material alone does not suffice anymore - it's about the overall experience. Bucharest knows the answer: Carturesti. Carturesti is an empire with 13 bookstores in Romania. One of them is the Verona bookstore near the Patria Cinema in the centre of the capital, located within an aristocratic mansion next to the Magheru boulevard. Carturesti fans are particularly intrigued by the broad range of English literature and art books as well as its selection of CDs and DVDs. But they also come to see contemporary artworks. But that's still not it. They want to have a tea and grab a little bite - because the stay under the stucco vault could take a while, especially if they later move onto the terrace to sip an espresso and bury themselves in their favourite authors' books.
At Bucharest's Kinofest the focus is on fascinating animated films and exciting shorts. Anyone can participate, whether professional director, or hobby cineaste. Romanian and international film-makers have the chance over five days to screen their latest works. The organisers' goal is to create a stage for young cinema-makers' films. The also aim to stimulate interest in media arts and showcase new forms of creativity. This formula seems to be a success, with the festival taking place this year for the fourth time. At Kinofest the best films in the categories animation, fiction, and micromovie will be awarded prizes. You want to get a taste of the festival in advance? Log on to the festival website, where entries of past years can be viewed.
If you have had your fill of the city's monumental, socialist-style, and unfinished buildings, then head for Muzeul Satului or the Village Museum. Here you will see buildings similar to those which once stood in the area around Bucharest, and indeed all over Romania. Wood predominates as the building material. The original homes, workshops, and stables that have been reassembled here will whisk you off to another age.Traditional crafts are to be seen in the buildings. The interiors are in part decorated with traditional furniture. When one of the horse-drawn carriages carrying museum workers creaks by, you will think you have just stepped out of a time machine. Occasionally special exhibitions are also mounted in the houses. The Village Museum is located next to Her?str?u Park and can be easily reached by bus. On the way you can also pay a visit to the Arcul de Triumf.
STAY in Bucharest:
This hotel is rich in tradition: it was opened in 1852 by Grigore Capsa and straight away became the place to stay for Romania's crème de la crème. Only here did one feel at home, if one was rich, beautiful, or artistic. In 1886, the Capsa was given a make-over to turn it into Romania's most elegant hotel. The aristocratic and cosmopolitan atmosphere can still be experienced. You will feel definitely feel special, in part because the hotel has only 42 rooms, all of which are individually decorated. What they have in common is a luxurious, regal décor that recalls ancient tales of princes and princesses. They were all here: the guest list reads like a who's who ? even Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria slept at the Capsa.One night's accommodations in a double room start at 185 euro.
Whoever stays at the Piccolo Mondo is sure to feel the world is their oyster at this cosy hotel in one of Bucharest's attractive residential districts. This world includes a restaurant with terrace, where one can sample Lebanese specialties. The restaurant has been in business since 1993; the hotel followed ten years later. It sports just two stars, but it doen't let on, except for the prices which are embarrassingly reasonable.Guests wont for nothing?the staff is at your service 24 hours a day. Otherwise you will enjoy the peace and quiet. And it's easy to avoid running into other guests: the hotel has just 20 rooms on four floors.One night's accommodations in a double room start at 60 euro including breakfast.
The Howard Johnson has made a name for itself lately with its outstanding restaurants. There is the phenomenal Avalon, that will impress fusion fans both with its cuisine and design, And aficionados of Asian fare shouldn't miss the Japanese specialities at the BenihanaThe Hojo is an oasis of calm for business travellers: here you can relax not just your feet but your eyes as well. None of the Baroque pomp that is so favoured by Romanian hotels. Instead you will find minimalist design, and on closer inspection Zen-inspired niches and corners. The furniture was made-to-order by Ligne Roset, and the décor by no less than Ingo Maurer and Philippe Stark.A night in a double room starts at 129 euro.
SHOPPING in Bucharest:
How do a Dutch hotel owner and a Chilean architect get together? By jointly opening the Beros & van Schaik wine trade in Sofia. Jerry van Schaik runs a hotel, his partner Christian Beros designs houses. They both like good wine and have established a wine trade in the historic district of Sofia where they sell gourmet wines that cannot be bought in the supermarket. These come from France, Spain, South Africa, Australia, Chile and Romania - among other countries: for example Corcova, Terra Romana, Avincis or La Certa. Additionally they serve small snacks in their bar including smoked meat, cheese, olives and daily specials. The wine partners celebrate gusto. They also arrange regular wine tasting sessions in the stylish setting of their wine bar. No time? No problem - Beros & van Schaik also deliver to your door. And the matching goodies can still be bought at the supermarket.
Yes indeed, the Romanians are proud of their imposing shopping malls and have plenty of them. So take part in a total shopping craze at least once, and stroll through one of the popular malls. Why not the most typical of them all, the gargantuan Bucuresti Mall. Opened in 2001, it boasts over 140 shops on an area of some 99,000 square metres. The building dates from Communist times and is appropriately massive, grey and heavy on the cement. Still, the locals continue to crowd the place, to shop, bowl, drink coffee, or take in a film at one of the ten cinemas. The shops include all the usual international labels?Adidas, Esprit, Marks & Spencer, Levi's and the like. But there are also less well-known brands, like Aldo Shoes, the local wedding outfitter, Alb ?i Negru, and Romanian designer, Irina Schrotter. It's well worth having a look around, although you probably won't pay less for international brands than you would at home.
Rozalb de Mura
The Rozalb de Mura label was launched in 2006 and ever since customers have wondered about the name that combines the words for ?rose' and ?blackberry'. That is meant to signal an scintillating and creative mix. Designer Olah Gyarfas is himself a mix of equal parts Hungarian and Romanian. He takes an interest not only in fashion but promotes an exchange between artists, musicians, and other creative people from all over the world. The concept works: Rozalb de Mura is a lively showcase with a wealth of fresh, imaginative creativity that you will try hard to find elsewhere. Shop, showroom, and exhibition space all rolled into one?no limits here as long as the line is aesthetically pure and the artistic claim ambitious. The outfits are made for today's yuppy. And especially if you are among those who absolutely reject this distinction, then you should have a look inside. Here you find fashion of the day after tomorrow. Just the thing for exhibition openings, graphic artists, writers, artists, club nights-out, or DJs. Most of it is in black and?at last!?there is men's wear too.