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SPOTLIGHT ON BUCHAREST, ROMANIA
The "Paris of the East." Less known, but truly exciting.


 

Bucharest? Or... huh? Budapest?
In preparing to write this article for our Inside Scoop newsletter, I asked my wife to tell me: “What comes to mind when I say Bucharest?” I imagine her reaction was similar to what you might say, “Did you mean Budapest?” After a chuckle, I said, "No. I really did say Bucharest, the capital of Romania in eastern Europe." It thus came to mind that Bucharest may be one of the best kept travel secrets and bargains in all of Europe, and really worth writing about.

A little background on Romania.


Prior to gaining freedom from the Soviet Union after a pretty bloody revolution in 1989, the country of Romania may have been best known for producing one of the world’s most popular gymnasts, Nadia Comaneci, and one of the world’s most beloved villains, Count Dracula.

What is less known: prior to WWII Bucharest flourished, gaining a reputation as one of the most beautiful, cosmopolitan and exciting cities in Eastern Europe. It was actually known to its visitors as the “Paris of the East.” Today, Bucharest is in a dramatic sprint to regain that well-deserved title by offering visitors from around the world one of the most unspoiled, safe, tourist-friendly destinations in that part of the world. It is also a very easy walking city with all the major sites within an easy 20 minute walk of your hotel. Everyone speaks English and signs are also in English, as it was and still is a required language for all children. And, are you ready? It's still really cheap and affordable! That's right! Far cheaper than either Prague or Budapest, Bucharest offers as much culture and beauty as those two remarkable places without the overwhelming crowds and high prices.

What’s makes a Bucharest visit even more inviting is that it is so easy to get there. Almost all of the river cruise lines include a 2-night visit as part of what may be one of the more diverse river cruises you'll ever enjoy — the lower Danube. Promoted as an Eastern Europe river cruise, guests travel between Vienna or Budapest and Rousse with an entertaining two night stay in Bucharest. With so much to see and do, we're sure that you’ll come home with a new favorite — Bucharest. Just take a look at what's in store for you...


The delights of Bucharest await!
Like Paris, Bucharest enjoys a vibrant street scene with strolling musicians and roving gypsy bands, and remarkably beautiful tree-lined boulevards such as Victoriei and Dacia (the former leading to the Romanian version of the Arc d’Triomphe) along with majestic parks and “green spaces.” There’s even a lovely Old Town area (More on that below.). Bucharest also has an eclectic style of architecture with Byzantine churches perched right next to palatial Beaux-arts town houses and, of course, those minimalist stone block buildings erected during the old Communist rule. The best of the best can be found during a leisurely stroll along Boulevards Mircea, Eliade, and Soseaus Kisileff where you can still find and explore (For free!) a few beautiful 19th-century mansions.

Bucharest is way too exciting to be called a museum city, but there are plenty of great collections to satisfy even the most ardent arts enthusiast. The most important are housed at the National Art Museum which has an impressive collection by such masters as El Greco, Rembrandt, Rubens, and Sisley.

For music lovers, you're truly in for a rare and inexpensive treat! Bucharest houses two of the most beautiful and dramatic neo-Classical concert halls in the world, the Athenaeum built in 1888 and home to their philharmonic, and their Opera House built in the 1950’s. Many feel that the Athenaeum is even more beautiful than London’s Royal Albert Hall.

For those who enjoy large things, Bucharest also has the heaviest and second largest building in the world — the Romanian Palace of Parliament and trust us, this place is BIG with a capital B. It’s also the city’s most well-known tourist attraction. Begun by the former Communist tyrant, Ceausescu (who never saw it completed), the locals call it the “Big House.” To give you a hint on how big it is, it has 1100 rooms, a 328 foot long lobby and four underground levels including a huge nuclear bunker. By comparison, the Palace of Versailles (located outside of Paris, France) only has 700 rooms. Numbers cannot do this place justice, you must see and tour it to believe its scale. Today it is open to the public and functions as the seat of the Romanian National Parliament and the Museum of Contemporary art. (BTW: Do you know what the largest building in the world is? Hint: it's located in City Name Here.)

There’s a wonderful “vibe” about Bucharest.
Strangely enough, much of its young energy emanates from the Old Town district. This area connects all the elements of a truly eclectic city together and is the place where much of the city's nightlife happens. It is fabulous, cheap, restaurants and bars abound, music flows out onto the streets — wow. It’s the place you want to be after the sun goes down but, don't worry, it is extremely safe at all times.

The Tuileries of Paris and London’s Kensington Gardens can be used in the same sentence with Bucharest’s Herastrau Park which is a mile or so from the Old Town area. This majestic park is where the city’s 19th-century high society would stroll about. Today, it is just as majestic as it was then with a remarkable rose garden, a small conservatory, and a wonderful lake where you can rent a row boat and enjoy a warm summer day. Within this beautiful park is the National Village Museum which is like the Shelburne Museum in northern Vermont in that it's kind of a re-creation of life going back hundreds of years. The museum is a combination of indoor and outdoor exhibits including monuments, many old wooden churches, and traditional houses. Really a fun and enjoyable look back into the past of Bucharest. Also within the park you'll find Beraria H, reputedly Europe’s biggest beer hall and food court. If you go, you must try either the schnitzel or the local bratwurst.




The Tuilleries of Paris and London’s Kensington Gardens can be used in the same sentence with Bucharest’s Herastrau Park which is a mile or so from the Old Town area. This majestic park is where the city’s 19th-century high society would stroll about. Today, it is just as majestic as it was then with a remarkable rose garden, a small conservatory, and a wonderful lake where you can rent a row boat and enjoy a warm summer day. Within this beautiful park is the National Village Museum which is like the Shelburne Museum in northern Vermont in that it's kind of a re-creation of life going back hundreds of

One of the much lesser known sites you might want to visit and one of our “fav’s” is probably the world’s coolest bookshop, Carturesti Carusel, also located in Old Town. This multi-level, galleried space is chalk-full of books and collectibles and on the very top floor, you can even grab the most expensive cup of coffee in all of Bucharest… You must see this place!


Okay, we know you’ve been waiting on pins and needles...
Here’s the scoop on how you can visit Dracula (Vlad the Impaler in English) while in Bucharest. For all of you dedicated “Drac” fans, you can take a short 25-mile side trip to Snagov where the Count is said to be buried in a tiny island monastery in the middle of a lake. This tour is readily available during your stay and takes about three hours.

For those of you who don't know how old "Vlad the Impaler," a medieval prince and ruler of Wallachia (in Romania), got his Dracula reputation here's a little factoid: Books describing Vlad's cruel acts were among the first bestsellers in the German-speaking territories. In Russia, popular stories suggested that Vlad was able to strengthen central government only through applying brutal punishments (such as impaling captured people), and a similar view was adopted by most Romanian historians in the 19th century. Vlad's reputation for cruelty and his patronymic gave rise to the name of the vampire "Count Dracula" in Bram Stoker's 1897 novel, Dracula.

So, aside from Vlad III's escpades in the 15th century, I think by now you get the picture. Bucharest may be less known, but it is by far and away an extremely enjoyable and entertaining place to visit before or after your river cruise. As we mentioned above, it is easy to visit and enjoy because all of the cruise lines wrap a charming two nights stay into all of their Eastern European river cruises.


Some more places you might not know, but most certainly should see on this cruise.
Let's leave Bucharest for a moment and talk about a Lower Danube cruise. It is one that gives you lots of time in beautiful Budapest, travels through the stunning countries of Croatia, Serbia, Romania, and even through Bulgaria (to Rousse). Along the way you'll be thrilled each day visiting places such as Belgrade, Serbia’s vibrant capital where you might enjoy a bicycle tour and visit the tomb of the infamous “Marshal” Tito. Then perhaps a visit to the biggest archaeological excavation of Roman ruins in all of Eastern Europe — the Viminacium site in Kostolac. Outside of Italy’s Pompeii, this may be the most impressive and most important site of a Roman city and military camp to be discovered anywhere, and it is still so unknown.

Along the route you’ll also visit many other places including the beautiful Bulgarian medieval hilltop town of Veliko Tarnovo, once known as the “City of the Tsars” and the former capital of Bulgaria. Called the most beautiful city in Bulgaria, Veliko is filled with wonderful frescoes in the Orthodox style. After a morning of sightseeing you'll enjoy a great local lunch including a beer ($5–$8pp!), and maybe even some melodic Gypsy music. 

Many return home feeling that the “Crown Jewels” of this 7-night cruise is the time spent cruising through the “Iron Gates,” an amazing 80-mile stretch of the Danube that flows through an extremely narrow, steeply-sided gorge. It’s almost like cruising through a fjord in Norway. Nestled between the European Alps and the Carpathian Mountains, it will blow your mind as you float through this part of the river and view the splendid spectacle of a rugged face carved into a granite cliff. In our opinion, this is without a doubt the most spectacular stretch of river anywhere in all the developed world, and it should definitely be on your "bucket list."


Weather-wise? Go anytime!
Unlike what you may think, this part of the Danube is far enough south to enjoy beautiful weather starting in early April and going all the way through mid-October. The warmest months are July and August, but even then we are only talking about the mid-80s as the daily high.


Which river cruise line should you choose for this exciting visit to Bucharest? Your favorite!
All of the popular, award-winning river cruise lines sail the Lower Danube and include a visit to Bucharest in their itineraries. Select from AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways, Emerald, Scenic, Uniworld, and Viking. They all provide fun-filled and enthralling river cruises to Eastern Europe from April through October. Viking does offer a slightly different twist that's really nice: their cruise is 8 nights, not just 7 as they include one additional night in Budapest.

Keep in mind that unlike the Rhine and Upper Danube cruises, there are far fewer sailings on this itinerary. Requests for this very memorable 10-day trip have grown each year and we feel 2018 will see demand for these bargain cruises explode. With springtime early booking prices starting as low as low $3000pp for the cruise including a 2-night stay in Bucharest, this is truly a hidden and enjoyable bargain. If you book and deposit by August 31, 2017, Premier can offer you special air offers from as low as $495pp*.

For more information on the various itineraries available, click on the following cruise lines to check out their day-by-day itineraries. Then call your Premier river cruise expert to get cruise details and a quote. The "Paris of the East" is waiting for you!

Bon Voyage!

LOWER DANUBE RIVER CRUISES — SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE


 

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