Once proudly known as the Paris of the East, Bucharest's communist era affected its image, leading to the city being frequently overlooked in favour of other European capitals. Since then, Bucharest has regained much of its lustre and now demonstrates the many contrasts between its dramatic past and present-day rejuvenation.
This is most evident in the city's architecture. Old churches rest in the shadows of communist-era apartment blocks, while French palaces sit alongside glass office buildings and beautiful parks.
A colourful metropolis behind a grey facade, there are various options when it comes to shopping and lifestyle in Bucharest. Although the city seems typically Eastern European in some ways, it's a distinctively Romanian blend of cultures.
Eating out in Bucharest
Romanian cuisine is a mix of cultural influences, including Greek, Turkish, German and Hungarian. Traditional Romanian food is meat-based, hearty and sometimes fatty. Soups are popular, and cabbage makes a regular appearance.
Bucharest has a burgeoning café culture and offers residents an array of restaurants catering to every budget and palate. Lipscani is a popular area for dining out in Bucharest, while Strada Episcopiei is also home to numerous restaurants.
Romanians love to cook, and locals often prefer eating at home over going out. Meals are frequently shared at a dinner table with extended family and friends, so it's quite common to be invited over for a meal.
Nightlife and entertainment in Bucharest
Bucharest has a vibrant and diverse nightlife, including chic cafés, raucous bars and trendy nightclubs. There is a great selection of jazz clubs and other live music venues, while philharmonic orchestras, operas and ballets entertain the city in more refined settings.
Once derelict and crumbling, Lipscani is now a focal point of Bucharest's nightlife scene. With a selection of eateries, bars and clubs, the cobbled streets are regularly teeming with partygoers until the early hours of summer mornings. The area is also generally safe to walk at night.
Home to Bucharest's unofficial red-light district, Centrul Vechi (Old Town) is also another lively spot located in Bucharest's centre. The Old Town is teeming with bars, clubs and restaurants to entertain expats from all walks.
Shopping in Bucharest
Bucharest boasts an interesting yet exciting shopping experience from large modern malls to low-key local markets. Piata Obor is one of Bucharest's largest outdoor markets and offers all sorts of food items. The weekend flea market at Strada Mihai Bravu on the city's east side is also worthwhile for picking up bargains and antique souvenirs.
Shopaholics will also enjoy their time in Lipscani's historical centre, thanks to the merchants selling their wares in front of the high-end boutiques. Calea Victoriei is one of the most prestigious shopping areas in Bucharest. It's home to upscale hotels, boutiques and museums, and expats will also find many high-end fashion brands available here.
Outdoor activities in Bucharest
Known for its beautiful gardens, Bucharest's lush parks are places of refuge for locals during the hot summer months.
Cișmigiu Gardens, founded in the mid-1800s, boast a lake for visitors to paddle on in the summer and an ice rink to skate on in winter. Herăstrău is another well-known green space, offering a bar, restaurant and sports complex set against the backdrop of a picturesque lake. Visitors can hire rowboats or visit the nearby theme park.
The Botanical Garden and Carol Park are other popular green spaces in Bucharest, where families love gathering for picnics in the summer while others go to the parks to enjoy a game of chess or catch up with old friends.
Where to meet people and make friends in Bucharest
Building new relationships and friendships is one of the most daunting aspects of moving to a new city. Below are a few organisations expats can join to help ease the process of meeting people and making friends in Bucharest.
Established in 1978, the International Women's Association Bucharest is a non-profit volunteer association that allows expat women to build life-long friendships while supporting charity.
Bucharest International Club (BIC) was founded by a group of expats looking to explore Bucharest while building friendships with other foreigners in the city.
Expat parents can sign their little ones up to learn football from UEFA-certified coaches, allowing their children to integrate into a new community. Expats will also have the opportunity to build connections with other parents.
►For an overview of transport in the city, read Getting Around in Bucharest
►Read See and Do in Bucharest for information about the city's famous sites
"There are lots of parks, malls, bars and restaurants, and there is also a rich cultural life, with many choices if you want to go to a concert, museum, or watch stand-up comedy or a play." Read about Oana's experiences in Bucharest.
"At home, I wouldn’t be able to participate in as many fun things because I’d have less time and less transportation options. Also, the weather here is so much better. I’m from a very cold place with long winters and I love the really long warm seasons here in Romania." Read about Jessica's move to Bucharest and her experience of expat life in the city.
Are you an expat living in Bucharest?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Bucharest. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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