Bucharest, Romania – Dracula Castles

 

We booked Bucharest, Romania with our friends and flew in together for a long weekend. Blue Air (we had never heard of) flew direct in two hours from Stuttgart. There is a one hour time difference from Stuttgart to Bucharest too but it worked out well this time because it was daylight savings time to ‘fall back’ anyway so we actually kept the same schedule while we were there.

Outside the airport is a bus into the city center which takes under an hour. Buy the ticket for the bus using cash at the ticket window outside. We stayed at the University stop, central and near old town so we could walk everywhere.

Uber was the greatest thing in Bucharest too, we used it everyday when we realized how convenient and cost effective it was compared to public transit, and the exchange rate was also in our favor which was the best. A few of our Uber rides only cost us one dollar. Public transit cost two. Still a really good price. We Ubered back to the airport and it cost about 15 dollars.

When we arrived, for dinner, we went to the George and Dragon Pub that had good reviews. It was comical though because we were handed this huge menu, then every item we asked for was not available. We ended up asking the waitress, what is available exactly??! (thank goodness they all speak English mostly in Bucharest). It ended up being the best food of our entire trip which was quite surprising under the circumstances. Because of the experience I am not sure I’d go back to that place, however, I dream about that burger and local red wine. P.S. burgers are everywhere in Bucharest. Who knew?

parliament

To Do

Free Walking Tour – Of course we begin the trip with the free walking tour of the city to get acquainted with all the sites and learn some background on the history. There are several districts in the city from the French Quarter to the Financial District. Bucharest is a party city with bars and restaurants open late throughout the center.

Old Town- There is lots to see all by walking. Monasteries, churches, huge museums and monuments through the financial quarter which also houses a section of hookah bars inside an old corridor.

Bimg_7200iserica Stavropoleos is the most beautiful, painted in every corner inside and out. Down the street is the coolest traditional restaurant, you mush make a reservation, Caru’ cu Bere.

Mănăstirea Radu Vodă is the newest looking from the upkeep on the outside although it is from the 1500’s. It is across from a traditional, huge historic restaurant Hanal Hahue,

You may notice arriving or leaving the city, the Arcul de Triumf  in memory of WWII that looks just like the one in Paris. There is a prominent section of town with French influence in architecture too, which still includes bakeries and a few of the higher end shopping spots.

The Palace of the Parliament building is another main thing to do, in walking distance from University Square. Bring your passport as it is a working building. It is the second largest administrative building in the world, after the Pentagon. There are two tour ticket types: underground (the place is more than 8 stories deep underground) or onto the terrace. Do the terrace.

The building wasn’t finished before the leader was executed, but the first person to perform on the massive terrace built to give speeches was Michael Jackson, and he greeted the people saying, Budapest instead of Bucharest. PR fail.

The building is so massive, they paid to move entire city blocks to construct it and relocate more than 40,000 people.

Village Museum – We did not go to this because we went shopping and walked around more of the downtown area while things were open on Saturday, but our friends went and said it is a must-go for next time. It has crafts and local shops set up for visitors. The village was one of the ones relocated during communist times to make way for the palace. The village is kept up as it originally was, and there are tons of cats that occupy the area now too.

Castles

We booked a daytrip from Bucharest to Transylvania to see Dracula’s castle called Bran Castle  from the 14th century and Peles Castle, the summer residence of the Romanian Royal family from the late 1800’s. The drive on the bus was on a picturesque route through the Carpathian Mountains too, about an hour outside of the city.

Peles Castle, near  the mountain town of Sinaia, was our favorite castle to date that we have seen in Europe. It was crowded, even getting there early and already having tickets with our tour, but worth the wait. It was the first castle to have central heating throughout so that was really nice. The detail inside and out were amazing. There were different themed rooms including a venetian room with huge glass chandeliers and mirrors, paintings floor to ceiling and wood inlay. Outside,  the gardens and the mountains were gorgeous. It also snowed the day we were there for the first time this fall. To take photos inside you must pay an extra fee of about 8 euro.

Bran Castle was a big tourist spot of course, there were tons of vendors outside leading to the castle, and also across the street in an indoor tourist market. There wasn’t much to the castle inside, it was medieval, plain, and lots of steps and small doorways. There was a Halloween party hosted there the night before, but I could not imagine being out there, hiking up a hill to the castle, with no heat in a costume. It has tons of movie memorabilia and the tales of Dracula in history displayed throughout.

Eat the Kürtöskalács or Chimney Cake by Mama Cozonacilor in the market outside of the Bran Castle. It is the best one in Europe so far, better than Prague. Huge, cheap and fresh. Plus get the Glühwein too.

Brasov – On the way back to Bucharest, the bus stopped in the old town of Brasov for a brief walking tour of the gated city with a main church and mixed era houses and towers. It was OK for an hour or two but we wouldn’t need to go back.

The Beer and Wine

Beer O’clock – both 1 and 2 were the best casual stops for more than just pils or the standard local light pivo. In terms of Romanian favorites, cherry liquor is also a local favorite and the local Romanian wine was great everywhere.

La 100 de Beri was ok too, local spot to sit at the bar.

Corks wine bar was the best ending. Make a reservation. We were lucky they let us in late before closing. The food and wine was a great ending to the trip. More expensive compared to the traditional restaurants, but fresh and local.

We were very lucky with such great fall weather this weekend. It is a must see in Europe. Next time, Bulgaria.

View the photos click here.

 

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