SIGHTS in Bucharest:
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.
From Piata Unirii it is just a short walk up the small hill where the patriarch's residence is located. For fans of religious architecture, this excursion is a must. But even those who are less interesting in churches should wander up here. A few moments earlier you were surrounded by the hectic traffic crowding the broad boulevards, now you find yourself in a peaceful courtyard. If you crave even more quiet, enter the patriarch's church. The floor is covered with thick carpets, and the sanctuary's interior is suffused by gentle light shining through the stained glass windows. If you come at the right time, you can experience the rituals and chants of the faithful. Just a few hundred metres from the turbulent activity of the big city, you have seemingly been transported to a remote rural monastery. This is the place to kiss icons, and perhaps yourself be kissed by the muse.
You should have a head for heights when you want to look out of the window from here. The 18Lounge is located on the 18th floor of the City Gate South Tower in Bucharest, right next to the Pullman Hotel. On your way towards it, passing the entrance hall of the office building, you could easily forget about your actual mission. But the moderate background music when leaving the lift picks you up exactly where you want to get - to the huge lounge bar with restaurant. Your vertigo could become a problem on the way to your table, since the view on the Romanian capital is ingenious. The menu impresses with lots of sea food, fish, and T-bone steak. Vegetarians are served baby spinach with peperoncino, garlic and olive oil, for dessert there's mango crème with almonds and crispy rice pastry. If you're not hungry at all, you can bet on Chanel No. 6, not as a fragrance, but a drink!
STAY in Bucharest:
Opinions are split on the rooms' decor that tries to impress with kitschy red and gold braid. Either you find it fantastic or dreadful, there's nothing in between. There is no dispute however about the staff. Their friendliness and warmth make a stay at the Suter Inn relaxing and enjoyable. With just 16 rooms and one apartment of course they can afford to take time for their guests.The building was constructed in 1900 by an architect by the name of Suter. The house was restored to its former glory in 2003. The hotel is located not in the busy centre of town, but in a quiet neighbourhood not far from Piata Unirii and parliament.A night in a double room starts from 43.50 euro.
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.
You may feel as though you are in an antiques shop. But here you actually get to use the creaky chests, sleep in the romantic old-fashioned beds, and wander at will through the historic halls. After all, it's still a hotel, even though quite a historic one.The EL Greco is a dream that dates back to the 19th century?both the façade and the lovingly restored lounges and staircases. True, the rooms can seem somewhat full and the décor a bit overladen unless you have a special penchant for heavy, burgundy-coloured curtains, gold braid, stucco, and patterned carpets. If your eyes need a rest, then repair to the garden and terrace in the hotel's interior courtyard. Here you can also savour Greek and international cuisine. One night's accommodations in a double room start at 110 euro.
EAT in Bucharest:
Romanian cuisine? Simple, delicious, and good. You want to sample cooking typical of the country without the hand-woven folk art tickling the back of your neck? Had it with that pair of jolly musicians sidling up to your table at 9:30 sharp? Then it's high time to reserve a table at Casa Doina. At the villa which dates back to the 18th century the capital's most elegant meet for dinner. So take a tip and make sure you dress at least as smartly as the waiter. Nothing then stands in the way of an evening savoruing wonderful Romanian specialties. At Casa Doina they are prepared with a refined touch worthy of the surroundings. When the weather is fine, you should by all means take a cool drink in the garden.
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.
At the Count Dracula Club they roll out all of the myths, legends, and clichés about the old blood-sucker. But it's done so humorously that you should spend at least one evening with the undead. This theme restaurant with its grizzly ambiance will not only delight fans of horror films; providing you manage to get a table, it can be quite cosy. The ambiance lives up to all the most hackneyed clichés about Transylvania and then some. Theme rooms give the restaurant a special twist: there's a chapel complete with casket, a grim cellar, Medieval chamber, hunting and ghost rooms. Waiters' costumes range from the laughable to the gruesome to the plain funny. Come here with a group that knows how to have a laugh, and you are sure to spend an entertaining evening. Especially on Thursdays and Fridays, when the owner, Count Dracula, appears in the flesh for a short show. The food is Romanian and good; bloody steaks are the kitchen's specialty.
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.
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.