This isn’t the first time one of the Ladies What Travel have been to Romania and given its history and beauty, I doubt it will be the last.
Making the most of a short trip to a faraway city can be hard – you want to include the hidden alleyways, the food, the culture and the history. I did my research and found that the Bohemian Bucharest: Markets & Mahallas tour with Urban Adventures fit the bill quite nicely – it covered food, architecture and history (and a walk!).
A long complicated history
Like many European countries, Romania’s history is long and very complicated. This has impacted the food, culture and people deeply.
The area that is modern day Romania has been inhabited for thousands of years, but the country as we know it is quite young.
Originally, the whole area was known as Dacia (hence the car brand which is a source of pride for many Romanians) and it was made part of the Roman empire by Trajan, then it was ruled by the Hungarian Empire, then the Ottoman Empire and then the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The Great War and then World War II ravaged the country in many ways. During WWII, the ruler at the time, Carol II, asked Russia for help and it was then that Romania became part of the Soviet Union.
There’s so much more to Romania’s history, but it gives you an idea of the influences on the people, culture and food. It really makes Romania a unique and beautiful country to visit, and Bucharest a fascinating city to wander.
We were fed very well during our walk and we were able to tick a few things off the ‘must-try-while-in-Romania’ list.
Our first stop was an independent cafe/bar where we sampled a local beer and a ‘peasant platter’ (platou țărănesc). We tried local cheese, meat, bread, and traditional Romanian eggplant paste (Zacuscă de vinete). Simple fare, but very tasty. By the way, pork is most definitely the meat of choice in Romania, expect to see it on every menu multiple times.
Our next stop also involved a locally brewed beer, matched with a traditional bread called covrigi. It’s a bit like a pretzel, but soft, a little bit chewy, and covered in sesame seeds.
Next, we went to the historical Obor Market. There, we bought vibrant cherry tomatoes and a range of soft, fresh cheese (made locally of course) before heading back to the car park where we were overcome by the scent of what smelled like BBQ. We were about to try our first mici – pork and beef skinless sausages – much like a kofta or kebab – usually served with plenty of mustard and fresh crusty bread.
We took a seat at Terasa Obor and sipped on yet another cold beer while we waited for our guide to return with the mici. They are traditionally Romanian and a must-have if you’re in the country! We finished our meal with a shot of palinca – a fruit brandy. I warn you, it’s strong stuff!
Our final stop was dessert in the form of a Wallachian doughnut – a light plaited dough, fried and then dipped in icing sugar. It makes for a messy but enjoyable finish to a wonderful feast.
Knowing the complex history of the country, you won’t be surprised when you walk the streets and see the varied styles of architecture in various states of dilapidation. Partially due to the communist regime (if this interests you, you may want to check out Keri’s post about the Bucharest ‘Ashes of Communism’ walking tour) , but also due to earthquakes that make buildings unstable so access is forbidden.
I think that Bucharest is an architecture lover’s dream.
Bucharest was known as ‘Little Paris of the East’, so on your walk, you’ll see many French-style buildings. Expect to see Neoclassical, Art Nouveau and Second Empire. Sometimes you’ll think you are in Paris, especially when you come across the Arcul de Triumf.
You’ll also spot stunning churches that certainly do not do their interiors justice (I’ll leave that for you to see, I don’t want to spoil it).
Romania even has its own architectural style – Neo-Romanian. This style was influenced by the many cultures that had found a place in Bucharest, so you’ll see elements of Byzantine and Neoclassical styles.
And then there are the communist era buildings that destroy the city’s vibe.
A tour of Bucharest’s food and architecture – pin for later!
I won’t claim to be an expert on architecture, but I really enjoyed wandering the streets of Bucharest seeing the mish mash of styles and cultures. In fact, there was so much more to Bucharest than I imagined and I’m so glad we took this tour. I can highly recommend it if you ever find yourself buying flights to Romania for a city break.
Disclaimer: While this is absolutely an honest representation of the tour, we were gifted this brilliant tour by Icelolly, which provides a fast and easy service allowing you to compare the best deals from a range of leading holiday providers.