Bucharest (Buchuresti), located midway between the Carpathian Mountains and the Black Sea, in southeastern Romania, has not earned the nickname 'Paris of the Balkans' by accident. Its astonishing range of architecture - from Wallachian wooden and bell-towered mansions to Byzantine-style chapels, neo-classical buildings, striking 1930s modernism and even the post-Stalinist absurdities of Ceausescu's megalomaniac regime - will make your Bucharest travel one exciting adventure due to the varieties of vision that have taken place in this city, over the centuries. But Bucharest has also been the epicenter of the country's many upheavals, with the stages of the country's history like vivid tattoos etched across the city's surface, each telling a different chapter of the story.
The first mention of Bucharest is in a document from 1459, signed by Vlad Dracula, then ruler of the first Romanian state of Wallachia. Known as 'Vlad the Impaler (or Tepes)' - for leaving his enemies to die slowly on stakes - he became the inspiration for the famous vampire of literary and celluloid fame. Yet among his countrymen, he is something of a folk hero, renowned for standing up to the Ottomans, Saxons and Wallachia's noble families. The ruins of one of his palaces in the old part of the city are a must to see during your Bucharest travel. Now trendy bars and clubs capitalize on his image, with cobwebs and dank underground dancefloors.
Bucharest has a number of exquisite galleries, museums, churches and architectural wonders but its political legacy also provides a wealth of sights, where visitors can relive the events of the 1989 revolution and the emotions leading up to it. The city offers a moving series of time capsules, from Ceausescu's Centru Civic, evoking mixed feelings of awe and outrage, to his highly publicized downfall in Piata Revolutiei, as well as the memorials on Piata Universitatii, where revolutionaries fell.
For a cultural romp, Bucharest offers some superb museums - from those that celebrate peasant art's contribution to modern masters such as Brancusi, in the Romanian Peasant Museum, to those that celebrate Romania's contact with European master work, such as the National Art Museum, KH Zambaccian's Museum, and the former home and now dedicated museum of painter Theodor Aman. Most museums are closed on Monday and some on Tuesday as well. Exquisite churches, such as Patriarchal Cathedral, Stavropoleos Church, and the Russian-style St Nicholas Students' Church, sit like precious jewels in the crown of the city's skyline.
On your Bucharest travel you should note that Romanians are extremely religious and devoted to the healing powers of icons - these beliefs should always be respected. After hours of sightseeing, there are few places more pleasant to relax in than one of Bucharest's beautiful parks.
At present, however, the almost total lack of tourism infrastructure or facilities can be frustrating. There are no Bucharest tourist offices and even basic brochures in museums can be hard to find, leaving one to fend almost entirely on one's own. Although the city enjoys a temperate climate, you should not plan your Bucharest travel in mid-summer, since temperatures soar, air conditioning is rare and much of the city shuts down, as students return home and locals head for the coast.