Traditional Romanian food is dishes like sarmale (cabbage or vine leaves stuffed with meat, rice and vegetables), polenta, Ciorb (żurek) and Transylvanian goulash, which is cooked for eight hours in a wood-fired oven. Two restaurants in the historic center are suitable for this: Lacrimi și Sfinti and Hanu’ lui Manuc. When it comes to street food, there are plenty of them saorm (shawarma) thanks to the Turkish population and for something more contemporary I like fresh noodles at 18Lounge. They do it too papanasi, one of the greatest Romanian desserts: a donut filled with sweet fresh cheese (similar to ricotta) and topped with sour cream and jam. At Therme Spa, Mango Tree Café serves plant-based mains and Thai dishes, but is also known for its colorful vegan desserts, such as the Mango Mess, made with meringue, mango, kiwi and papaya.
A classic Bucharest gallery is the Romanian National Art Museum in Revolution Square, while the sprawling Carturesti Carousel bookstore, housed in a former early 20th-century bank, is a relaxing place to visit. But the place that inspires me the most is the National Museum of the Romanian Peasant. It is the country’s largest collection of peasant artifacts and tells us why Romania is such a mix of cultures, from the Romans to the Turks to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It shows how our homes vary from north to south, while the thousands of items on display include ceramics, furniture, ironware and tapestries.
Like pizza, Bucharest is divided into six sectors. I grew up in Pantelimon, a working-class Sector 2 neighborhood with many nationalities. But the most beautiful neighborhood is the northern part of Bucharest, Sector 1, which includes the affluent neighborhood of Primăverii: I take visitors there just to show them the diverse architecture, old and new. We then stop at the Cișmigiu Gardens for a coffee near the lake, which is over a kilometer long, before walking to the Arcul de Triumf, modeled on Paris. And from Cișmigiu it’s an easy walk to the old center.
Each sector has its green areas, but my favorite is Parcul Alexandru Ioan Cuza, known as Titan Park, in sector 3. It is one of the largest in Bucharest, with a nice wooden church and a lake that I regularly run around. It is located among many skyscrapers, thanks to which residents can enjoy fresh air and quiet corners. Then Trattoria Monza near the park serves Italian food at really affordable prices.
A Romanian evening means going from one pub or bar to another: it’s like a journey, we never stay in one place. There is loud music and everywhere is open late, until two or four in the morning. For cocktails try Freddo or Interbelic, the best clubs are BoA and Loft and Control is a great live music venue. My tip is the huge brewery bar Beraria H where you can enjoy local beer: in an old warehouse, with live musicians and communal platters filled with sausages, meat and vegetables.
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Old Town Boutique (from €80, room only) is convenient, affordable and well located for shopping. Autograph by Marriott has just reopened in the Art Deco Marmorosch building; I like going there for dinner or for a massage, although the rooms cost around 150 euros. Vienna House is close to Therme and the airport, with double rooms from €71, room only.
Cosmin Cîrîc is the wellness manager at Therme Bucharest thermal spa with mineral water pools, saunas, slides and tropical parks