Bucharest is a city that literally has something for everyone. Adults and children will love the city. We just returned from Bucharest and I am so excited to share about our wonderful trip there! Have you been to a city that you had to peel back the layers to fully understand it? Bucharest is that city! I encourage you to visit and to take your children, there is so much history there. Plus we learned a lot about government and the importance of a free market. Bucharest is a wonderful place for families and history buffs alike.
Historical Background for the History Buffs
Bucharest is the capital of Romania. It was communist until 1989, when the revolution happened, they executed their dictator on Christmas Day 1989. Communism hindered their economic growth and now they have a socialistic mayor, which is contributing to their current state of affairs as well. Many of the buildings in the Old Town are in pretty bad shape, and graffiti is the decor of choice in many places. In fact, at one coffee shop we were told not to stand under a balcony above our heads as it could fall on us. Did you know they have a Champs Elysees and Arc de Triomphe? Ceausescu wanted theirs to be bigger and better though, so it is longer and wider than the Champs Elysee in Paris. Some of the buildings are still reminiscent of the Ottoman Turks control; sadly, many were destroyed by the dictator.
We stayed in Bucharest for 6 days. Starting our journey in Knoxville, we flew Detroit-Amsterdam-Bucharest, obviously it was a long day. We enjoyed a few hours in Amsterdam, which quickly became my kids’ favorite airport. They have an awesome playground, I need to blog about this later. Immediately, my girls gained back some of their stamina to play as soon as they saw it. Okay, back to Bucharest! Here are some of the highlights from our trip, a walking tour, a playground, lots of delicious food, the Natural History Museum, and a spa. The Palace closes for almost half the year, we learned this the hard way, after walking almost 2 miles in search of it.
Here are a few helpful tips when arriving in Bucharest. First of all, do not just jump into a taxi, they typically price gouge. Some friends of ours paid 100 RON for a 40 RON ride, I had no issues because I used one of the taxi stations in the airport. Simply select the taxi company you want inside the airport at a kiosk, it prints a receipt with the cost per KM and the license number. After grabbing the receipt, cross the road, and watch for your taxi license number, they are printed on the front of the taxi. Just make sure to have RON, they do not take cards, I’d also recommend smaller bills. I only had 100’s and the taxi driver wanted me to leave my children with him to get change. My daughter ended up running in for me to get change. There is an ATM machine inside the baggage claim. Typically, you tip the taxi and Uber drivers here, just round up to the nearest Lei. Uber is also a wonderful choice in Bucharest, some locals we met told us to only use Uber. My girls and I used it returning to the airport and had absolutely no issues. The driver was incredibly friendly, and even gave my girls each a bottle of water. Uber cost me roughly $9.80, so dirt cheap.
Where to Stay
We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn in Old Town. This hotel was honestly one of the best Hilton properties we’ve stayed at, the staff was amazing. They did anything they could to help us out, and to make sure we were happy and comfortable. It was also centrally located to pretty much everything. Plus there are a lot of delicious restaurants nearby. Our room was the perfect size for our family and it came with a mini fridge which was helpful.
Start with a Walking Tour
I highly suggest you start with a free walking tour, we regretted waiting to do one until the middle of the week. First the walking tour gave the history of the city. Which is fascinating because Bucharest was fashioned after Paris. Secondly, you will learn the stories behind the buildings, and an idea of where you want to explore some more. Many of the places we stopped we may have missed completely. The first time we arrived, we found out the times were incorrect, so confirm online. The winter hours are different from the rest of the year. The tour lasts about 2.5 hours, but you stop for a bathroom break and coffee 2/3s of the way through. We used Walk About Free Tours our guide was amazing, extremely thorough, and knowledgeable. Tipping is always appreciated and recommended. Clearly, I cannot say enough wonderful things about this tour.
We loved learning about the history of the city. We saw where the Ottomans and Russians signed a treaty. How a man saved churches from Ceasusescu and his destruction by moving them. Sadly, we also learned Ceasusescu’s palace cost thousands of families their homes, and they were moved to apartments where they were allotted 10 square meters per person–outlandishly small. My girls loved seeing “Little Paris” because it really did feel like Paris. Stravopoleos Church, from the 18th Century, has beautiful gold leafing, which was their favorite part of the tour. We had just studied this in our co op, it was incredible to see it first hand. Lots of great history here.
For the Children
My girls loved the park across the street from the Palace. While disappointed we couldn’t visit the palace, the park was a great reprieve. The park was huge and the perfect place to play hide and seek. My girls immediately made friends with some locals and they played tag and hide and seek for quite awhile. Friends, this is why we travel! I love seeing my children playing with children from other cultures. Plus, I’ve learned play is a universal language. We visited this park a few times while there, we enjoyed the walk and the fresh air. The other place my girls and I visited was the Natural History Museum. Personally, I thought it was eh; however, my children loved it. If your kids enjoy reading about “stuffed” animals, then they’d probably love it. We did learn a lot about the animals found in the Black Sea and in the mountains of Romania though. I didn’t take any photos here because you have to pay. Our favorite place though was the Therme Spa! I will write an entire post on this spa because it was amazing!
Bucharest is a wonderful city for families. If you look past the dingy exterior, you will see a gorgeous city with beautiful architecture and lovely locals. The subway is user friendly and safe, the city itself was extremely safe. My children loved walking the cobblestone alleyways after dinners late in the evening. The food was not to be missed, I gained probably 5 lbs while there. Check out my post about where to eat while you are there. Romanians are some of the nicest people, literally they will help you in any way possible. We were told the water was fine, but that we should only use it for brushing our teeth. I would recommend bringing water bottles and buying a big water bottle to refill daily. Fellow bloggers had scared me with photos of Asian style toilets that were disgusting, but I saw nothing of the sort. The bathrooms were all very clean, and all the restaurants were clean. Some warned us that we may have stomach issues, other than my celiacs kiddo none of us had issues. Bucharest should not be missed because everyone from foodies, to children, to history buffs will find something they love about the city.