Wait, Bucharest is hipster, really? Hipster these days sometimes has a negative ‘try-hard’ connotation, but what I loved about my time in Bucharest was discovering an abundance of spots around the city that had perfected that mix of grungy and gentrified. Bucharest might seem like a nondescript European city on the surface, but look beyond the stereotypes of Dracula, Gypsies and Olympic gymnasts and you will find that Bucharest is an upcoming and affordable European destination that’s not overly crowded or touristed… yet.
It’s also (unfortunately) a growing favourite destination for stag and hen parties from neighbouring countries, so go soon before it gets all gentrified.
I definitely can’t take credit for unearthing most of these gems: thanks to the Experience Bucharest folk and their partners who invited me to Bucharest in the first place and sponsored part of my stay and activities. Also to my fellow travel bloggers like Annemarie from Travel On The Brain, Christina from Happy to Wander, Sally from Passport and Plates and Nathan from Foodie Flashpacker who introduced me to some of these gems and took many pretty pictures of me.
The picture-perfect place for books and stuff
Who says print is dying – if all bookshops looked like this, I’m pretty sure they’ll be back in booming business. Carturesti makes me wish I could read Romanian so I can buy all the books (they do have some English titles but I had ZERO space in my bag), but really it’s about the atmosphere that they’ve created that makes this bookshop such a wonderful place to visit and photograph. Besides books, you can pick up lots of souvenirs, knick-knacks, music, video material and other cute things all in one spot.
Bloggers being bloggers, you might have seen a whole onslaught of photos with the giant leaf from the Carusel outlet on Instagram at the #ExperienceBucharest tag, and can you blame us it’s an amazing sight. But personally I prefer the Libreria / Verona outlet on Strada Arthur Verona – it’s not so photogenic but it is a lovely maze with a thousand nooks and crannies that you just want to curl up in all day long.
How to get there:
Carturesti Carusel is located at 55 Strada Lipscani, right in the heart of the old town area which has been pedestrianised. The closest subway station is Universitate on M2.
Carturesti Libreria / Verona is located at Strada Pictor Arthur Verona which is famous for having a really long wall of graffiti and murals. It’s closer to Piata Romana and the nearest subway station is Piata Romana on M2.
That colourful umbrella corridor all over Instagram
If you look at photos of #experiencebucharest, you might notice this particular passageway with the colourful umbrellas pop up in just about everyone’s feed, and it’s not hard to see why – whimsical, rainbow colours, photogenic alleyway… Satisfy your inner hipster and just take that shot so you can go about the rest of your trip without having to figure out where this lovely corridor is located.
How to get there: Look for Pasaj Victoriei which connects the main road Strada Victoriei and Strada Academiei. If you need more landmarks, it’s right next to the English Passage and also very close to Grand Hotel Continental.
’nuff said LOOK AT IT.
I headed to the Bucharest Therme with Christina from Happy to Wander and we were both in such awe at its grandeur and modernity. Essentially, it’s a building with floor to ceiling glass panels all around and 3 different areas – this main area has the huge hot pool that extends to the outdoors. You can actually go outside the dome without leaving the water because there are revolving doors in the water, I kid you not. Also, swim-up bar! We happily chugged a beer while soaking in the warm water.
And in the next area is a whole bevy of water slides like a mini water theme park. We raced down on twisty slides, screeched while clinging on to big tubes and of course got completely soaked but it was so much fun.
The last area which is the premium area is where all the fancy saunas are. There was even a sauna with a mini cinema showing BBC documentaries. The restaurant in this section also has some excellent food and a great sunset view, I recommend shelling out the extra money for this zone.
Apparently this place gets really crowded on Friday nights because they break out the disco lights and it sounds like helluva party!
How to get there:
Therme is pretty near Otopeni airport, but the easiest and cheapest way to get there is to take the free shuttle bus from the city every 2 hours or so. We hopped on the bus at Piata Romana but the bus also goes to some major stops – check the website for details. The bus stop and bus are both covered with Therme branding so you can’t get mixed up with the normal public bus service.
Alternatively, if you take a taxi, it will cost you about 30-40 Lei one way. When you are leaving, you are unlikely to flag one down at the Therme so get the staff at the cashier counters to call you a cab as you can’t call an uber from there, unfortunately!
Chill Hangout Spots
Bars and other cool places to see and be seen
Pura Vida Sky Bar
Pura Vida Sky Bar is a rooftop bar where we had several parties at, and I love this place for its view overlooking the center of the old town area. Be prepared to climb a little – the rooftop bar is located on top of a conserved building so there aren’t any lifts installed. The view is well worth it though! It also houses a hostel in its lower levels which I was hosted in for a night.
How to Get There: Pura Vida is located at 7 Strada Smardan in the pedestrian area of downtown Bucharest. Be prepared for a 5 storey climb up to the roof!
Gradina Eden (Eden Garden) is a night club cum hang out joint that looks like a boring building from the front, but scoot around the back and it is a massive garden space with lots of seating, and even hammocks and some swings to boot. Very shady with lots of trees, it’s a great place to just chill out with friends in the afternoon and apparently also really happening at night.
Hot tip – DON’T sit on the beanbags on the lower level if you can help it. I’m about 50% sure that I got bit by a ton of bedbugs there. Otherwise, the rest of the joint is just fine.
How to get there: Gradina Eden is located at 107 Calea Victoriei behind a building called the Palatul Stirbei. Calea Victoriei is one of the main thoroughfares and one of the new which has cycling lanes! It honestly doesn’t look particularly interesting from the road, but head inside and towards the back to find the action.
Cool Cafes & Eateries
Cool and delicious places to grab a bite
I like a good cafe as much as any other person – give me a cozy ambience for hanging out and good food to top it off and I’m happy as a clam. The other bloggers I hung out with found several awesome places in Bucharest that I really liked – I’ll be the first to admit that I’m super lazy when it comes to uncovering secret foodie spots but I can testify that these were definitely awesome choices.
Acuarela is a sweet little cafe that is a mishmash of cute decor complete with every hipster’s favourite hanging umbrellas in its outdoor area. I like that they provide you with watercolours so you can paint while waiting for your food, as well as the lovely Oreo cake that I had. Definitely an A+ for ambience.
How to get there: Acuarela is located at 40 Strada Polona. The closest Subway station is Piata Romana
Beca’s Kitchen is a little restaurant that has a big reputation for excellent home-made food – make sure you make a reservation early. Nathan the foodie swore by the food when he invited us to join him for dinner, so good he went back a second time! The service is really personal as Beca herself explains the menu and happy to tweak or recommend the dish for the best experience.
I had an amazing mushroom soup for my starter (that could be a light meal in itself) followed by the chicken skewers. Top that off with some local craft beer and shared a fish of fish carpaccio, it cost me about S$25 in total – this meal would definitely cost 2x as much in any other European country.
How to get there: Beca’s Kitchen is located at 80 Strada Mihai Eminescu. It’s actually just down the road from Acuarela. The closest subway station is Piata Romana.
Simbio’s menu isn’t huge, but it is popular for its burgers and smoothies which are quite yummy. Also, I had a resident cat nap next to me on the couch the entire time I was there, so maybe I might be a bit biased, but it was a really nice place to hang out for lunch and more. I loved the back garden area which had a really cosy feel to it and lots of shady trees.
How to get there: Simbio is located at 26 Strada Negustori. It’s a little house of sorts – you can go downstairs to the bar, upstairs or sit at the back in the tree-shaded outdoors area. It’s a little more out of the way than the other places with no obvious attractions nearby, but worth checking out!
These are just a handful of places that I visited for myself. Know of any other cool hipster spots in Bucharest that more people should know about? Add them in the comments here.
Check out my other Bucharest posts for more about exploring Romania – I spotted some pretty cool street art around Bucharest and visited some forgotten spots like an abandoned factory turned graffiti hotspot as well as a lake that never happened.