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The capital and largest city of Romania. Bucharest is home to around 2 million people making it the sixth largest city in the European Union.
Famously the residence of Vlad the Impaler, Bucharest’s history is as turbulent as it is interesting. This is reflected in its architecture as traditional Ottoman religious buildings vie for attention with beautiful Art Nouveau buildings, while communist monstrosities are an eye-saw for everyone.
Compared to other Eastern European capitals, Bucharest still has a bit of a rough and ready reputation (you may be uncomfortable with the level of child homelessness). This doesn’t mean you should give it a miss, as it has excellent nightlife and cultural activities for all tastes.
Like many ex-communist states, attitudes to homosexuality tend to be quite conservative and this is reflected in law. Despite an equal age of consent and anti-hate crime laws, there is no recognition of same-sex unions. There is, however, no specific laws regarding the orientation of adoptive parents.
In large cities like Bucharest and Cluj-Napoca, you will find some gay venues; but in more provincial areas, they’re almost non-existent. Attitudes in the cities tend to be more accepting. However, discretion and avoidance of public displays of affection are advised.
Despite its size, Bucharest has very few exclusively gay venues, though gay tourists will find enough activities to occupy their time. The hipster Floreasca area, although not gay-specific, has a wide selection of LGBT-friendly bars, all seemingly in competition to see who can be the quirkiest.
An annual LGBT Pride festival takes place at the end of May and beginning of June. The event is widely attended by politicians and celebrities (both local and international). As with many Eastern European Pride events, there are a noticeable contingent of counter-protesters.
The Bucharest Henri Coandă International Airport (OTP) is 16km from the centre and is Romania’s busiest airport. It’s the hub for flag carrier TAROM and well-served by budget airlines to destinations in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. There are seasonal flights to Canada.
The 780 and 783 Express lines connect the airport to the city centre. Although tickets are cheap (3.5 lei for one way), journey times are around an hour and luggage space is scarce. The 783 service operates overnight with services every 40 minutes.
The Henri Coanda Express train connects the airport to Gara de Nord. It is an hourly service, and you initially need to take a shuttle bus from the airport to the station. A single journey costs 6.8 lei, and journey times are around 50 minutes.
Taxis can be taken from the airport terminal but keep your wits about you, even with the official taxi companies. Electronic touch-screen kiosks in the terminal are the safest way to arrange a taxi (keep you receipt with you at all times), and journeys to the centre should cost around 30-50 lei.
Gara de Nord is the city’s main station. It offers services across Romania and to destinations across Europe including Moscow, Vienna, Venice and Istanbul. The station itself is quite run-down and attracts some colourful characters to say the least so it’s best not to hang around here too long.
If you have time to kill and don’t mind travelling by coach, Bucharest is well-connected to other European destinations by coach. Journey times are long but prices are low. That being said, if booked well in advance, flights with the budget airlines can relatively low.
Due to Bucharest’s grand size and inconsistent aesthetic appearance, travelling on foot might not be the best way of exploring the city. The main sights aren’t concentrated in one area, so you will probably need to take public transports between sights.
Bucharest’s metro system has 4 lines and covers a large urban area; however, there are few stops within the city centre itself. Ticket prices are cheap starting at 5 lei for 2 trip journeys and journey times are quick. Keep an eye out for pickpockets, although they are rarer here than on the buses.
By bus, tram and trolley bus
There is a comprehensive network of bus, tram and trolley bus stops with a stop on almost every corner. These services can get very crowded, but tickets are very cheap (day passes are 8 lei). Night buses are available, running every half hour after 1am and hourly between 1am and 5am.
There are many taxi companies in Bucharest but be sure that you get in an official taxi. Official taxi companies should have tarifs listed on their windows and go by the metre (however, extra costs might be incurred if travelling outside the city limits). Many locals use UBER to get around.
For our list of recommended hotels for gay tourists, visit the Gay Bucharest Hotels page.
Parliament Palace – the largest parliament building in the world and an important reminder of Bucharest’s communist past. Parliament Palace was built in 1984 for the communist dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu. The building has 12 floors and an impressive 31,000 rooms.
Village Museum – an open air museum dedicated to the traditional Romanian way of life. This museum has over 3oo buildings with exhibits from all over the country. It also hosts various events throughout the year.
Revolution Square – originally known as Palace Square, this square was the site of mass protests when Ceauşescu gave his final address to the nation. The ensuing revolution in 1989 saw the square renamed to celebrate the end of his dictatorship.
Arcul de Triumf – this triumphal arch was inaugerated in 1936, although there had been other arches standing on this location since 1878. It is situated in the northern part of the city.
Stavropoleos Monestary – built in 1724, this church building is a stunning example of the Brâncovenesc architectural style that is unique to Romania.
The National Museum of Art of Romania – situated in a wing of the Parliament Palace, this museum traces the evolution of Romanian art. The collection includes rare works of art stretcing back as far as the 14th Century.
Lipscani – the old town centre. In bygone days, the city’s tradesmen operated here. Nowadays tourists traipse up and down these cobbled streets, attracted to its wide selection of restaurants and up-scale boutique shops.
Obor Market – a traditional market with a lot of character. Expect to find food (extremely cheap) and a wide assortment of nick nacks.
Kitsch Museum – a colourful museum that celebrates the best in Romanian Kitsch decorative art items. A camp alternative to more stuffy museums.
Like a lot of Eastern Europe, Romania gets hot summers and cold winters. Sometimes temperatures can drop below -20ºC in winter months. It is best to visit April throught to June or September to early October. The city is busier in the summer months but not oppressively so.
Other than the annual pride festival, there are a wide range of festivals and events scheduled throughout the year. The end of March has the Jazz in Church festival and the Easter market is exceptionally popular. May’s EuropaFest brings musicians from a wide range of genres to the city.
Romania is not within the European Schengen visa area as of yet. However, it is in the process of enabling this. It has a free travel agreement with other EU states.
If travelling from outside of the European Union, please check before travel what (if any) visas you need to purchase.
Romania is not part of the Eurozone. The Romanian currency is the leu (also called RON). Euro’s are generally not accepted here so do make sure you have the correct currency.
ATM’s can be found throughout the city, however be discreet when counting money as pickpockets have been known to hang around here. Most large shops, restaurants and hotels will accept card payments from most providers.
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