Bucharest, the changing capital of Eastern Europe
Air France offers flights to Bucharest. Romania's capital is a changing city with a population of 1.6 million. Although it might not be the first city that comes to mind when purchasing a plane ticket for Europe, Bucharest is a mysterious city full of contrasts.
It has an unusual history. Founded in 1459, Bucharest became the capital of the Romanian United Principalities in 1862, the union of the provinces of Wallachia and Moldavia. In full expansion during the 19th century, Bucharest became the "Little Paris of the Balkans". There were very strong ties between Romania and France at the time, and many Romanian architects studied in Paris. During the war, Bucharest was extensively bombed and many parts of the city were destroyed.
In 1945, communist Ceausescu took control of the government and the city began to change. In 1977, Bucharest was hit by a strong earthquake which accelerated the changing aspect of the city. Ceausescu had immense buildings erected, in particular his Parliament Palace, the world's 2nd largest building that is "visible from the moon", according to legend, with twelve floors and 1,000 rooms.
After the fall of communism in 1989, many buildings were renovated, shopping centers were developed. After the year 2000, modern buildings of glass and steel began to appear and contemporary wings were added to historical buildings.
However, Bucharest also has the Athenee Palace, a sumptuous hotel built by a French architect. Another must-see is the Stavropoleos Church, built in 1724 for the Greek community in Bucharest. The National Museum of Romanian Art will give you an overview of the country's art from the Middle Ages to modern times. One of the museum's rooms is dedicated to the private collections that belonged to the former kings of Romania. Enjoy a stroll through the Cismigiu Gardens, a green haven, far from the city's bustle.
While there, you can enjoy traditional cuisine and beverages, such as tuica, made from fermented plums. You may also try your luck in the casinos that mushroomed in the past few decades. Today, there are about one hundred in Bucharest!
To enter Romania, US citizens need a passport that is valid for at least three months after the date of departure. A visa is not required for stays of less than 90 days, unless you are travelling to Romania for work purposes.
There are two airports in Bucharest: Air France flights arrive at the largest airport, Henri-Coanda International Airport, located 9.6 miles to the north of Bucharest. The second is Baneasa-Aurel Vlaicu Airport.
You will have no trouble getting around since the public transportation system in Bucharest is one of the most extensive in Europe with subways, tramways and trolleys.