Like any other tourist destination, Bucharest has a commercial, touristic face, presented in the travel guides that you find in bookshops, and a less known face, accessible rather with the help of locals, of the travel blogs, small tour agencies whose business philosophy is the slogan “Come as a tourist, leave as a friend!”
We will speak today about this less touristic but very authentic face, in order to determine you to discover it, to ask for it to your Romanian friends, guides, travel agents who will accompany you in exploring Bucharest. So here are some suggestions for alternative tourism:
- Street art & urban culture tour
Photo source: Vice.com
A guided walk for a few hours on the streets of Bucharest will reveal a city marked by a fairly recent art of the street, will introduce you to urban artists and to less obvious places full of history, which have been marked in one way or another by the urban art. You can discover the less visited areas of Bucharest, you will even reach less central neighborhoods, and you will smile in front of graffiti that embellish the buildings or in front of some works in mosaic that revitalize dusty walls.
The most famous testimony of communism in Romania is the former House of the People, the current building of the Parliament Palace, an imposing building that most of the foreign tourists arriving in Bucharest want to visit. But communism is more than that: it means old houses demolished to make place for blocks of small apartments to house hundreds of thousands of people, it means a restrictive way of life, it means families and entire generations dispossessed of property and valuables, it means 45 years of austerity and minimal contact with the world. If you are interested in a deep insight into communism, you can have it in a several hours walk, which may include incursions into the neighborhoods especially built for the younger generations of workers in communism and visits in the Spring neighborhood, where the former residence of the Ceausescu family is, an area in which citizens’ access was banned in the 80s.
Photo location: Primaverii Palace
- Alternative photo tour
If you are interested in photography or at least in immortalizing places less obvious for tourists, then your camera can sneak up on old street in Bucharest, which seem as if detached from another era: streets with precious houses built in different architectural styles, from art-Nouveau to Neo-Romanian, places where you can still find people repairing shoes, TVs, making clothes, restoring furniture or cutting windows and mirrors. Streets where smaller or larger buildings are strung on, preserved or hit by the passage of time. The photo tour may end in Bellu Cemetery, a less visited place even by the Romanians, which houses many prominent figures of the past (artists, politicians,
wealthy merchants etc.), an oasis of peace and greenery in the hubbub of the city, with an unique architecture and incredible stories waiting to be discovered.
- Bucur Obor Food Market
For gourmets, we recommend a visit to Obor Market, the largest traditional market of fresh products in Bucharest. Obor Market is an extremely vivid place, which brings together farmers, producers of local delicacies, a wide range of seasonal fruits and vegetables or fruits and vegetables grown in the Romanian greenhouses, milk and meat products and bio specialties, but also small traders offering imported products. As in any market of its kind in the world, you can stop for a few minutes to taste a product prepared on the spot, at the market stall, which has its special flavor in the market turmoil: the traditional “mic” (a dish of grilled ground meat rolls made from a mixture of beef, lamb and pork with spices). Obviously, Bucur Obor Market is not the only option of its kind in the city, any smaller or larger neighborhood can take pride in having such a market. Therefore, depending on the area you live in during your trip, you can ask to be guided to a nearby market.
After almost 50 years of communism and 20 years of transition, Bucharest is dotted with abandoned or simply old historical buildings. Some of them have an unparalleled panorama worth immortalizing, obviously in safe conditions. Another type of rooftop sites that we recommend not to skip are the ones hosting sky-bars with incredible views – generous or discrete spaces above the city, enchanting your eyes with what the city has the best to offer, in the in the company of a glass of Romanian wine or a craft beer. The best time of the year for such a tour is April – October, when you can have the pleasant surprise to arrive on the roof in the middle of a party that will facilitate your interaction with the locals.
Photo souce: Elle
Whatever your options, the city is waiting for you: young, restless, with recesses waiting to be discovered and histories written with a lower or a higher price.