4 Must-Do Tours and Experiences in Bucharest
I know what you are thinking… Bucharest seems to be all the rage now. How has this city been under people’s radar all this time and suddenly everyone is talking about it? Well, let me explain…
Bucharest is full of passionate people who believe their city deserves a lot more recognition than it gets. So one day they decided that it was time to tell the world all about this intriguing city and its secrets.
This is how Experience Bucharest came to be, a project born out of passion for a beautiful city waiting to receive inquisitive travellers from all over the world with open arms. So an invitation was extended to 100 international travel bloggers, vloggers, instagramers, snapchatters and all kinds of influencers, to come and experience what this city has to offer, warts and all, so they can go out and tell the world.
I was lucky enough to have been part of this really exciting project that ended up being great fun, a real eye opener and an enormous success.
But what did we get up to during our time in Bucharest? We got to know aspects of the city that are not necessarily obvious, and that do not appear in the travel guides. We got to see and experience a Bucharest that only a local guide or friend can show you.
If you like to look beyond the sightseeing highlights and the veneer of a city, keep reading. Here are four tours and experiences just for you, where you will be able to discover the city beyond what’s right in front of you.
Garlic-Themed Culinary workshop
With My Secret Romania
This is a culinary workshop with a twist. And I’m not talking about the garlicky twist here, but a darker twist. This workshop does not only involve tasting delicious garlic treats such as garlic soup, roasted potatoes with garlic and beautiful spreads made with… you guessed it, garlic. It will also take you through a storytelling journey into deepest darkest Romania, where magical practices and stories of vampires still exist. Of course garlic has always played an important role in these rituals and protecting country folk from evil spirits.
Bring your bravest self and an empty stomach to this fab day out with Ioanna and Gabriella, the team behind My Secret Romania, and enjoy the (smelly but tasty) ride!
But don’t stop at garlic… Bucharest has some really cool restaurants and a vibrant food scene.
Garlic trivia: Did you know that there was time when you could buy a slave with 7kgs of garlic? That’s how valuable this smelly little bulb was!
Bucharest Communist Walking Tour
With Open Doors Travel
Everyone who travels to Bucharest or Romania has at the very least a slight notion of the country’s recent communist past. You can see the evidence all around you wherever you go, but what you can’t see are the stories behind the changes this regime brought in. The Communist Walking Tour lets you into the secrets of how communism shaped Romanian society, what life was like under communist rule and what Romanian’s outlook on this not so distant past is today.
From the excesses of the Ceaușescu household, to the huge urban change inflicted on Bucharest, and the engineering feats that were achieved to allow people to continue to worship their religion. Our guide Stefan even showed us his own school book from the 80s, where the content blatantly glorified the virtues of communist Romania. It was a real journey back in time and a great way to gain a better understanding of what life was like 30 and 40 years ago.
Communism Trivia: The Palace of the Parliament, built by Ceaușescu, is the largest building in Europe and the second largest in the world after the Pentagon. It can be seen from space!
Are you an avid Instagrammer?
Check out Bucharest’s most Instagrammable Spots
Rroma Heritage Tour
With Open Doors Travel
The Rroma Heritage Tour will take you deep into the Rroma culture in Bucharest. Livia, our tour guide, covered controversial topics on discrimination, activism, labels and segregation, as well as the history of this misunderstood community, including their music and culture. She explained how this group of people was enslaved for 600 years in Romania and how things have progressed to this day. Nowadays, Rroma culture is celebrated every year on 8th April, a day that also serves to raise awareness of the issues that this community faces.
Despite the harsh realities of this tour, I personally loved it because it showed the face of a resilient community that is unconditionally free. We visited the Ferentari neighbourhood, a Rroma ghetto that is virtually cut off from the rest of the city by the lack of public transport and services in the area.
The tour ended on a more positive note, with a visit to the flower market at the Piața de Flori, which is run by Rroma flower sellers. We were welcomed with open arms by the vendors and walked away with at least one flower each.
Architectural Treasure Hunt – Armenian Neighbourhood
This is an architectural experience like no other. A treasure hunt for anyone with an interest in architecture, but also for those curious about design, details and wanting to have a little peek at how Bucharestians live in the Armenian Quarter. Known for its tea houses, this charming neighbourhood remains largely unexplored by visitors to Bucharest. And while you are having fun taking part in this urban game, you feel like you are discovering an area yet to be identified by the travelling masses.
No previous architecture knowledge is required for this tour. All you need is a camera, comfy shoes and a curious mind to spot all those hidden architectural gems. Think arcades, bow windows, domes, mascarons (my favourite)…
Travel Tip: Make some time to visit the Melik House, thought to be the oldest house in Bucharest, after your tour. It’s an excellent example of traditional Romanian architecture. It houses the Theodor Pallady Museum, showing the art collection of Serafina and Gheorghe Răut, and stunning interiors.
So if you enjoy getting to know a destination in depth, these are some ideas to get you started with Bucharest. There are lots more experiences like these, so just check out the tour company’s website for more inspiration!
Disclosure: A big thank you to Experience Bucharest, Open Doors Travel, My Secret Romania and Vanatoarea de Comori Arhitecturale, who hosted me during my time in Bucharest. As always, all views are my own.