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.
The Royal Palace merits more than a cursory look from outside: The palace, which dates from the early 19th century, has been the residence of kings, a communist government office, and today houses the Romanian National Art Museum. Exhibited are paintings, prints, and other artworks both Romanian and European from a variety of periods. Taken together the collections are quite extensive, so if you would like to see them all make sure you have enough time and energy. You can also spread your visit over several days. Tickets are sold for each part of the museum separately, so you can do the museum in stages with no damage to your pocketbook. For those stuck on the big names, the museum has several works by Rubens and Rembrandt. Like many other of the city's sights, a visit to the Royal Palace can be combined with an enjoyable stroll.
Macy Gray, Louie Austen and Melanie Fiona have already been here and gave concerts. Also Hurts and Vaya con Dios provided for hot nights in the Fratelli Studios and in doing so even competed with the huge chandelier at the ceiling. The latter is - along with cleverly placed spots - responsible for the lighting which does not only show off the stars on stage. Not less iconic is the lounge bar with panelled wooden walls where guests can relax after the concerts on chocolate-coloured sofas. Altering light effects and oriental mirrors support the recreation and communication. And that's even more easier in the Social Club, designed in white colours with threaded upholstered furniture. But only when you aren't thunderstruck at the sight of the overhead deer trophies. In this case the best option is to flee to the Fratelli Beach Club in Mamaia, the most important bathing place along the Romanian Black Sea Coast.
EAT in Bucharest:
You will have to try hard to find an equally gracious, elegant, yet unpretentious restaurant. The Rossetya is decorated in the manner of the 19th century and cannot be excelled for atmosphere: thickly upholstered chairs, fabric wall-coverings, curtains with braiding, gilded frames, mirrors, grandfather clocks?a bit overdone? Not at all. Here everything has its place, and a terrible void would result if anything were to be removed. If you are planning a larger gathering, the restaurant also offers two separate rooms. The food is delicious. Basically, the cuisine served at Rossetya is traditional Romanian fare, but with a delicate touch that brings it to a new level. If you pass by and are not hungry, stop in nevertheless. The Rossetya has a café where you can relax over coffee and a cigar.
What did Twins Studio think of when designing Biutiful? Candlesticks covered with wax, dimly lit corners and loads of bricks? For some reason you cannot stop guessing that the Romanian company has hid gloomy creatures in the pub in Bucharest. But no, instead a colourful elk head peeps from the wall and observes the guests having their drinks. The English pub in the historic district is not a ghost parlour but a smorgasbord of interior objects that provide for a very peculiar mood. There you have the old wooden tables, the heave sofas and the delicate chandelier above them. The latter match the spotlights that give the venue an industrial touch. The brick wall is very effective in terms of ambiance, is partially filled with mortar and on top of it red fans are buzzing.
How sweet! A small café where you can also take a piece of your favourite treat home with you. A charming, small chocolate shop where you can find what you've craved all day, and have a coffee as well. The selection of chocolates, pralines, tarts, cakes and other sinful delights is immense: you will feel yourself transported to somewhere between France with its crème brûlée, éclairs, and Forêt noire, and Italy with its profiteroles and tiramisu. Need a starter before devoting yourself to the sweets? Chocolat also serves delectable light lunches featuring soups, pasta dishes and salads made of the very freshest ingredients. The selection of baked goods is equally tempting: bread-rolls, white, dark, and whole-grain breads, brioche and panini, both filled and not. This is a whole new dimension to being spoilt for choice.
STAY in Bucharest:
The Hotel Opera looks exactly as you might imagine: elegant, classic, a bit of old-world charm, a touch of the Orient Express, and loads of style. That's what the public areas are like with old paintings of the Bucharest of yore in gilded frames adorning the walls. The guest rooms are more ordinary, but perfectly adequate, and bear such musical names as Aida, La Bohème, Tosca, and Traviata. The suites are Rigoletto, Nabucco and Carmen. The hotel was reopened in 2002 and is perfectly located in the cultural heart of the capital, directly next to opera.Take a stroll through Bucharest; when you return to the hotel you will delight not only in the peaceful atmosphere, but also in the feeling that you have taken a journey back in time to the beginning of the 20th century.One night in a double room starts at 140 euro.
Where is the hotel? The savvy traveller will have already guessed: right next to parliament. That means right in the centre of town: sights, shopping, and restaurants are just a stone's throw away. The four-star hotel with 76 rooms is not too big, not too small, not over-designed, but decorated in a contemporary style, and quite inviting. That is due in no small measure to the friendly staff who do their utmost to make each and every guest feel at home. Deluxe rooms are the simplest category: chic, generously proportioned, and with a work space for the business traveller. Only two rooms are barrier-free, so if you need one of these, book early. If you want to treat yourself to something special, check in to the Junior Suite; it has its own private terrace affording a marvellous view of the parliament building. More luxurious still is the Jacuzzi Suite, just perfect for relaxing after a strenuous day.A night in a deluxe room for two persons costs 90 euro. The junior suite is just 15 euro more, so maybe you should reconsider.
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.
SHOPPING in Bucharest:
Victims of fashion and chic freaks must stop by L'Armoire Concept Store. Forget Versace and Gaultier?here Romania's young designers rule. There are a great many of them and they are ever more frequently the stars of international fashion shows. Are the names Ludmila Carlateanu, ana alexe, DADA or Roxana Davidescu familiar? What about Elena Perseil, Eugenia Enciu, Stephan Pelger, Zasha oder Dorin Negrau? No? Reason enough to have a look at their latest collections. As numerous the designers are, so too is the variety of their creations. Evening gowns, business outfits, smart casual wear. What all of the clothes have in common though is an elegance that highlights and complements the wearer's femininity, Have browse around for yourself.
At first glance you might not suspect that Romania has a good deal to boast of in the world of fashion. Nichi Cristina Nichita is a Bucharest girl made good. The fashion designer has presented her creations on many a catwalk and invariably earned ecstatic kudos. In the shop on Piata Unirii slip into one of the designer's latest creations; you're sure to be won over. Elegant businesswear with that certain something extra, lovely handbags, and clothes for that special event. Too bad Nichi Cristina Nichita only designs for women, but she really knows how to pamper them. The designer plays with classic looks that are never dull because they all have a dash of contemporary spirit. Pick out your favourite dress and reserve a table at a chic bar to show it off.
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.