Once proudly known as the Paris of the East, Bucharest's communist era affected its image, causing the city to be frequently overlooked in favour of other European capitals. Since then, however, it's regained much of its lustre. The commercial and cultural centre of Romania demonstrates the many contrasts of its dramatic past and present-day rejuvenation. This is most evident in the city’s architecture. Old churches rest in the shadows of communist-era apartment blocks, while French palaces sit alongside glass office buildings and beautiful parks.
A colourful metropolis behind a grey facade, there are various options when it comes to lifestyle and shopping in Bucharest. The city seems typically Eastern European in some ways, but it's uniquely Romanian, offering a distinctive blend of cultures.
Eating out in Bucharest
Romanian cuisine is a mix of cultural influences, including Greek, Turkish, German and Hungarian. Traditional Romanian food is meat-based, hearty and sometimes fatty. Soups are popular and cabbage makes a regular appearance.
Bucharest has a burgeoning café culture and offers residents an array of restaurants catering to every budget and taste. Lipscani is a popular area for dining out in Bucharest, while Strade Episcopiei also hosts a large number of restaurants.
Romanians love to cook and locals often prefer eating at home over going out. Meals are often shared at home with extended family and friends, so it's quite common to be invited over for a meal.
Nightlife and entertainment in Bucharest
Bucharest has a vibrant and diverse nightlife, including chic cafés, raucous bars and trendy nightclubs. There is a great selection of jazz clubs and other live music venues, while philharmonic orchestras, operas and ballets entertain the city in more refined settings.
Lipscani, once derelict and crumbling, is now a focal point of Bucharest’s nightlife scene. With a selection of eateries, bars and clubs, the cobbled streets are often teeming with partygoers until the early hours of summer mornings. The area is also generally safe to walk at night.
Shopping in Bucharest
From large modern malls to low-key local markets, expats are bound to have an interesting shopping experience in Bucharest.
There are many large shopping centres offering local and foreign retail stores, as well as many colourful open-air markets to wander through. Piata Obor is one of Bucharest’s largest outdoor markets and offers all sorts of food items. The weekend flea market at Strada Mihai Bravu on the city’s east side is also worthwhile for picking up bargains and antiques.
Lipscani’s historical centre also offers an interesting shopping experience, with merchants selling their wares in front of the high-end boutiques. Calea Victoriei is one of the most prestigious shopping areas in Bucharest. It's home to upscale hotels, boutiques and museums, and expats will also find many high-end fashion brands available there.
Outdoor activities in Bucharest
Known for its beautiful gardens, Bucharest’s parks are a place of refuge for locals during the hot summer months.
Cișmigiu Gardens, founded in the mid-1800s, boasts a lake for visitors to paddle on in the summer and an ice rink to skate on in winter. Herăstrău is another well-known park, offering a bar, restaurant and sports complex set against a lake. Visitors can hire rowboats or visit the nearby theme park.
Other popular parks in Bucharest include the Botanical Garden and Carol Park. Groups of families love to gather for picnics in these parks in the summer, while others meet for chess and to catch up with old acquaintances.