Romania

Alternative Bucharest guide

(Last Updated On: 09/11/2019)

Bucharest came as a big surprise. Even if for some reason it doesn’t get the best reputation I kind of expected that it’s going to be a great city to explore. But I didn’t know I will like it so much! And while the old town enchanted me with its narrow street and beautifully restored buildings, reminding me of Paris, and the Palace of Parliament took my breath away with its grandness, it was the alternative Bucharest that I enjoyed the most! It’s still a long way for the city to become “a second Berlin” as it happens with most Central European big cities. But it will get there, I’m sure of it. The capital of Romania has a big potential that is about to bloom and I’m really glad I could explore it before most of the people did it! So, here’s my little alternative Bucharest guide!


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alternative Bucharest

Alternative Bucharest tour

As soon as I found in my hostel – Little Bucharest Old Town Hostel – a flyer about the tour I knew I have to attend it! Quick emails sent back and forth and I was signed up for the next day! I couldn’t be more excited, after a really successful tours in Lisbon or Berlin I just knew that this one will be the highlight of my stay in the Romanian capital. And I was right!

alternative Bucharest tour

alternative Bucharest tour

The tour met at 3pm close to the university and took around 3 hours. We were wandering the hidden corners of the Old Town and with each step I was impressed how many fascinating stories live there. I was enchanted by the architecture of old Bucharest but learning more about them put the whole place into the new level! I’d never have guessed that one building now serves as a squat and the other was renovated by the group of people who just couldn’t stand the decay of their capital, I’d never have found the first headquarter of the street art scene in Bucharest, even if it was right under my breath! Even if we were cruising in the areas I thought I explored deeply in past 1.5 day, the majority of the places our amazing guide – Livia – showed us were totally new to me. I was passing by houses without noticing tiny details, knowing their history and background. The tour gave me a completely different perspective of Bucharest!

alternative Bucharest tour

alternative Bucharest tour

alternative Bucharest tour

It wasn’t the typical alternative tour, focusing on not so mainstream places in the city. Instead it just showed the real face of Bucharest, from the more artistic point of view. Livia told us a lot about the changes in the city and in Romania, the obstacles the country and especially its people have to deal with and the hopes everyone has for future. These 3 hours on the alternative Bucharest tour have taught me so much about the country and were definitely the highlight of my visit to the capital! I definitely recommend the tour to everyone who wants to learn more about the city!

alternative Bucharest tour

alternative Bucharest tour

alternative Bucharest tour

alternative Bucharest tour

street art

At first I thought Bucharest is really bad when it comes to the street art scene. I’ve seen lots of doodles around, many cool stencils, some works by artists I’ve seen in Prague or Berlin and just one decent yet small mural. But then I found Garajul Ciclop – a former garage, built in 1920s, now serving as an quaint street art gallery. The walls are covered in some of the best street art pieces I’ve seen in Bucharest and on the lowest level there’s a small yet well known bike shop. This was like a paradise, I felt like a kid in the candy store! Then, during the alternative tour I’ve learnt even more about the local scene, how it’s mostly about stencils, preferably with a meaning and treating about important issues (often the writing is in Romanian so tourists can’t figure it out). If it wasn’t for the tour I also wouldn’t have known the story of the amazing mural with St. George that had to be repainted as the church felt offended – if you look close enough to the wall where it used to be you can still see it very vaguely!

bucharest street art

bucharest street art

bucharest street art

bucharest street art

bucharest street art

bucharest street art

bucharest street art

bookstores

Bucharest has some of the most spectacular bookstores in the world! Most of these that I randomly found were pretty amazing but there’s one chain – Carturesti – that was beyond any competition. It was actually more than just a bookstore, you can also find there notebooks (I’m obsessed with those), music, Romanian souvenirs and many more amazing things. There’s also a small cafe where you can enjoy a hot drink in a wonderful surrounding. I’ve visited two Carturesti shops, one at Verona street and one in the Old Town, at Lipscani street. The first one was located in the old house, with wooden, creaky floor and the overwhelming smell of books – the atmosphere of the place was unbeatable, just like it should be in the bookstore. The other one was more modern, bright and so amazing! No wonder it was called the most beautiful bookstore in the world!

alternative Bucharest

alternative Bucharest

alternative Bucharest

parks

At first the concrete jungle such as Bucharest seems to be overwhelming but there’re some nice parks to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. I especially enjoyed Gradina Cismigiu, not too far from the House of Parliament. I might have been the timing as I was there on 1st of June, the Children’s Day, but the park was full of cheerful people enjoying the moment. The sun was shining, the nice pond in the middle was full of boats and it was just the perfect scenery to relax a little bit!

alternative Bucharest

alternative Bucharest

open-air, hidden bars

That’s a place to be in the summer time! Open-air bars are the new thing in Bucharest and such a cool one! There’re usually hidden a little bit so you need to know where to look for them but when you find these you’re in for a treat! Spending time there and sipping a drink in the shadow of the tree is one of the more pleasurable experiences in Bucharest, perfect for a hot day (and there’re plenty of them in the capital of Romania!). Everyone I met was raving about Gradina Eden but I also visited the bar in the backyard of Carturesti Verona and it was pretty awesome too!

alternative Bucharest

La Fabrica

My absolute winner when it comes to alternative Bucharest! But I love this kind of places everywhere I go so no surprises here. A former factory turned into the coolest spot in the city, with bars, restaurants, quirky shops and everything a pseudo-hipster like me would enjoy. La Fabrica, even if much smaller, remind me a little bit of Metelkova in Ljubljana, Tabacka in Kosice or LX Factory in Lisbon. And it was a perfect ending of my time in Bucharest!

alternative Bucharest

alternative Bucharest

alternative Bucharest

alternative Bucharest

There are still more alternative sights in the city, like Bucharest urban ruins. I will make sure to explore them when I visit Bucharest again!


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If you think of visiting Romania or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it!

 

Note: I was on a complimentary alternative Bucharest tour but all opinions remain 100% my own, as always!

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26 Comments

  • Reply
    Natalia | Biegun Wschodni
    20/10/2015 at 10:14

    Nie lubię tego wpisu! Będąc w Bukareszcie sama przymierzałam się do tego touru, ale z jakiegoś powodu nie wzięłam w nim udziału. Teraz widzę co straciłam, psia mać.

    • Reply
      kami
      15/11/2015 at 10:55

      no szkoda, bo naprawdę dobra wycieczka! inna od wszystkich alternatywnych na jakich byłam, ale i nie wiem czy nie lepsza. bo miejsca miejscami, ale dużo było mówione o samym mieście, mieszkańcach i bukaresztańskiej codzienności. Ale może kiedyś jeszcze uda Ci sie nadrobic!

  • Reply
    Traveling Rockhopper
    20/10/2015 at 10:47

    I like your pictures – indeed, it’s a totally unusual view of Bucharest! I was there already many years ago, and remember a story that someone told me, apparently when Michael Jackson was there he said “Welcome Budapest!” :D Do you know is it true? Have you heard about it before?

    • Reply
      kami
      15/11/2015 at 10:58

      I haven’t heard this story before but it’s very possible – when I was last year at the festival in Ostrava, Czech Republic couple of singers said “welcome Czechoslovakia”…
      and thank you for nice words

    • Reply
      Ioana Diaconu
      26/02/2018 at 09:36

      I don’t know if Michael Jackson said it, and I can’t recall any famous names right now but I can assure you many others did! It’s a mistake that is not appreciated especially by Transylvanian Romanians (historical reasons; we still have issues). Oh well, how is someone from the wide, wide world supposed to know about our sensitivities? :-)

  • Reply
    Kinga
    20/10/2015 at 21:05

    Bookshops! <3 moja milosc :-D a la fabrica wygląda podobnie do jednego miejsca w Belgradzie, rzut beretem od stacji pks. niestety. :P nie pamiętam nazwy :X

    • Reply
      kami
      15/11/2015 at 11:03

      o, będę musiała poszukać bo w lutym w Belgradzie będę :D dzięki! :D

  • Reply
    Demi
    21/10/2015 at 15:10

    Great adventure! I would love to explore Buckarest! And lovely pictures, if I didnt know that is the Buckarest i wouldnt recognise.

    • Reply
      kami
      15/11/2015 at 11:07

      Thanks! I hope you will have a chance to visit it one day, it’s a wonderful city and so underrated!

  • Reply
    Marissa Tejada
    21/10/2015 at 20:41

    Great post and pics. So want to go to Bucharest soon!

    • Reply
      kami
      15/11/2015 at 12:44

      Thank you! Hope you will have a chance soon!

  • Reply
    Tatiana
    23/10/2015 at 11:59

    OMG It’s a true alternative gem! Especially book stores and La Fabrica! Bucharest is on my mind for a quite long time. And the pictures are just convincing me to do it sooner than later. I guess the atmosphere in the city is also great!

    • Reply
      kami
      15/11/2015 at 11:09

      It is! you definitely should visit it soon, you’d enjoy it big time! Definitely a city in our taste :)

  • Reply
    Ollie
    23/10/2015 at 12:38

    No i jak zwykle inne podejście do tematu zwiedzania miasta i street art. Kamila nawet nie wiesz jak ja lubię Twoje posty. A Bukareszt chodzi za mną od jakiegoś czasu, znajomi tam mieszkają, żal nie odwiedzić :)

    • Reply
      kami
      15/11/2015 at 11:13

      dziękuję! i bardzo się cieszę, że się podoba! a Bukareszt bardzo na tak, jedź koniecznie jak będzie tylko okazja i tanie bilety ;)

  • Reply
    Jagoda
    25/10/2015 at 09:17

    Ja nie lubię Bukaresztu. Ale udało Ci się zaprezentować jego ciekawszą odsłonę.

    • Reply
      kami
      15/11/2015 at 11:14

      nudno by było gdyby wszyscy to samo lubili :) a i rozumiem dlaczego to miasto może się nie podobać, przytłaczające dośc potrafi być… ale wszędzie coś ciekawego uda się znaleźć :)

  • Reply
    Mirøslav Hristøff
    28/10/2015 at 18:31

    I would definitely check out the bookstore! I’m something like a book fetishist :))

    • Reply
      kami
      15/11/2015 at 11:15

      I’m the same, probably that’s why I’ve spent so much time in the bookstores!

  • Reply
    TravelerPL
    05/11/2015 at 13:41

    Wonderful adventure! I believe that city has much to offer to European society. Best Regards!

    • Reply
      kami
      15/11/2015 at 11:15

      Thank you! and yes, Bucharest definitely has a lot to offer!

  • Reply
    Kristian
    23/03/2017 at 15:30

    Hi Kami, great blog! I’ve been reading a lot of your posts about places I’ve already been and then read this post on Bucharest as I am heading there myself in a couple of months. It’s all a great read.

    Cheap flights to Bucharest from here in the UK arrive at 3am local time so I wondered whether you might have any advice on whether there would be anything to do in Bucharest at 3am on a Tuesday morning! I don’t think it’s going to be worthwhile trying to organise a hotel or apartment when I’ll be arriving so late so I thought I would just get off the plane and see if I can find a late night bar or cafe to enjoy, before checking in to a room later on in the day.

    What do you think? Does Bucharest have enough going on in the middle of the night, or would I be a bit stuck with nothing to do?

    Would love to hear your thoughts and keep up the great work reporting on your adventures

    x

    • Reply
      kami
      29/03/2017 at 15:06

      Thanks for your kind words! As for Bucharest I honestly have no idea as I wasn’t out till that time. But you can try asking at my facebook group, hopefully someone will know the answer there!

      • Reply
        Kristian
        30/03/2017 at 11:51

        Oh cool, thanks Kami

  • Reply
    Joy @MyTravelingJoys
    05/11/2017 at 17:46

    Czesc Kami! As always you have some great tips for Bucharest, and you know, I love street art too! :) I’ll see if we can do the tour you recommended but will be after Christmas when we are there.

    • Reply
      kami
      22/12/2017 at 22:03

      Fingers crossed you can make it as the tour was really great! I hope you will enjoy Bucharest as much as I did! :)

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