If you had asked me a week ago why you should go to Bucharest I wouldn’t have been able to tell you. Romania has never been somewhere on my list to visit and quite frankly I hadn’t even thought it could be a city break destination. Oh how wrong I was.
Birmingham Airport have recently opened a new route to Bucharest with Blue Air meaning you can get from Birmingham to Bucharest in around 3 hours – hello sunshine! They invited me and my friend Lauren over to see what Bucharest has to offer and our eyes were seriously opened – welcome to your next city break!
Birmingham Airport’s Makeover
Ok, first we have to talk about how gorgeous the new Birmingham Airport is – guess who had a re-furb! It’s completely changed since I last flew from there with an amazing (and huge) new World Duty Free store, personal shoppers, all my favourite brands and some delicious new restaurants and bars.
We were given fast track security passes which you can buy for £5 and are well worth the investment because Saturday mornings are bus-y. Once we’d whizzed through security we got stuck into some serious shopping! Our personal shopper met us at the entrance and walked us round pointing out all the brands and what was on offer – we’d had an early start so a hand massage at Jo Malone sounded just about perfect! We were able to tell our personal shopper what we were looking for and she offered to pop round and collect it all for us which was fab. I treated myself to a new MAC lippy, some Longwear Foundation to match my summer tan and a new tube of my favourite Benefit They’re Real Liner. They can even keep shopping for you so you can collect it on your way back and the personal shopper service is free for anyone to book!
After our spree we headed over to Giraffe for some breakfast! I was feeling a little nervous about our flight so tucked into some toast and tea but Lauren went for avocado and hummus with a hot fresh coffee. At Giraffe they aim to get your food to you within 15 minutes which is great when you’re in a rush and the food was yummy – just what the doctor ordered! If it wasn’t 9:30am we would have been in the champagne bar to toast our trip but we just about resisted…this time! I’ve been in a lot of airports this year already and I have to say that Birmingham has become one of my faves – don’t forget to try out the Cloud Spa for a holiday fresh gel mani/pedi before you fly too as they do a seriously good job in 15 minutes too!
WHERE TO STAY
Ok, so we arrived in Bucharest airport after a quick 3 hour flight with Blue Air and were met by our transfer that had been arranged by a tour company called Mr Tripp – more about them later! After a pleasant and chatty 30 minute taxi ride we were outside of our hotel The Europa Royale in the Old Town of Bucharest. The Old Town is the place to stay in Bucharest for great restaurants, lively bars and a bit of character. We were just a stone’s throw away from the main bars whilst still being far enough away not to be kept up at night.
Our rooms at the Europa Royale were comfortable (good mattress and perfect height pillows – increasingly more important to me the older I get!), spacious and had everything we needed for a few days in the city. It has its own restaurant, bar and really good air con which is a must for the summer months in Romania, I had no idea it would be so warm! With double rooms from just £59 a night it’s perfect for a comfortable city break stay.
5 Reasons Why Bucharest Is THE Place to Go
- The weather is AMAZING. We arrived to over 30 degree heat in July, glorious blue skies and a sunset that didn’t roll around until about 9:30pm. You could sit outside of an evening in your summer dress enjoying a glass of wine and not even have to worry about a cardigan and during the day its perfect tan weather in the city. Let that sunshine warm your bones and relish in the calming effect sunshine has on your day.
- It’s so cheap. We were told before we left that Romania was an affordable country when coming from the UK but we didn’t realise just how so. With a pint of beer setting you back around £1.50 and a main meal coming in at about £5 you can really enjoy yourself in Bucharest and not worry about the budget. We had to double take at the bill sometimes once we’d worked out the exchange and the service was always friendly too.
- It’s beautiful. The detail on the buildings is nothing like I’ve seen before and they have gorgeous cobbled streets with so much green. We really enjoyed wandering round the streets taking photos and stopping off for the odd iced coffee. They have a mini Arc de Triomphe and some stunning mountains and scenic drives up towards Transylvania too if you fancied getting out of the hustle and bustle of the city.
- Delicious Food and Wine. We tried a variety of national dishes and Romanian wine during our stay which I’ll tell you about a bit later on but the food is goooood. Lots of grilled meats, cheeses, sweet pastries and of course some great Romanian beer and surprisingly delectable wines.
- It’s Fun! Bucharest is a young city with a great nightlife! If it’s sophisticated wine bars you’re after, they have those. Traditional pubs? Yep. Nightclubs with great cocktails? Yep. Casinos? Sure thing! It’s all here for you to choose from in Bucharest. There are museums, bus tours, walking tours, spas and more to enjoy in the day and if you fancy it, a whole lot of excitement in the evening too.
So many adorable street dogs!
WHAT TO DO
We got seriously stuck in during our few days in the city starting with a bus tour to Dracula’s Castle in Transylvania! We were taken there by Mr Tripp an awesome tour company in the city who offer so many different tours to help you get to know Romania during your stay. It was a long day starting at 8am and not getting back to our hotel until 10pm but we saw so many sights it was incredible.
We began by visiting Peles Castle in Sinaia – the Romanian royal family’s summer home and it was stunning. We couldn’t get any photos inside but it was something you need to see to believe, The work and craftsmanship that’s gone into every single room is astonishing – I loved it.
We then drove along to Brasov where we were given free time to enjoy some lunch, look around the markets and take in this beautiful medieval city before taking a walking tour lead by our Mr Tripp Tour Guide Alex who was so knowledgeable and engaging throughout the day. Lauren and I bought some handmade rings to remember our trip by and sampled some traditional Romanian pork dishes and beer in the square under the midday sun.
After that it was on to the main attraction – Dracula’s Castle or Bran Castle as it’s otherwise known that was once home to Vlad The Impaler and was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula! Tourists flock from miles around to take a look around this fortress and it’s certainly a stark contrast to Peles Castle we saw earlier on in the day – if you’re claustrophobic then this one might not be for you!
It was such an interesting and educational trip and despite being a long day we’re so glad we went. I’ve done a lot of tours when travelling and I can say that this was incredibly relaxed but efficient and thoroughly enjoyable to the last second.
It wouldn’t be an xameliax travel post without a bit of relaxation now would it, and what better place to relax than Europe’s biggest spa and wellness centre Therme Bucuresti! We hopped in a taxi back in the direction of the airport but a little further to Therme after hearing rave reviews from everyone we spoke to. There are free shuttle buses that go there from all over the city but they don’t run very frequently and a good taxi will get you there for around 30-40 RON which is the equivalent of around £7.50, much better!
It’s an impressive building even from the outside and it has three sections Galaxy, The Palm and The Elysium which boast both indoor and outdoor pools, relaxation areas, saunas, jazuzzis and waterslides! The lovely team at Therme arranged for us to have access to all three areas for the whole day so we could really see what Therme had to offer. So we hired our towels (14 ron each, around £3) and headed into the changing rooms.
Everywhere was brand new and spotless. I was worried it would feel a bit ‘public swimming baths’ but in reality it felt like it was opening day! With marble floors, electronic lockers, squeaky clean white leather loungers and huge glass topped rooms full of real palm trees and orchids we were in heaven. We started off by exploring The Palm and catching a few rays in the outdoor pool bar which offered beer, wine, bubbles, cocktails, spirits and soft drinks all with the traditional Romanian price tag ranging from around £1.50-£4 per (alcoholic) drink. Cocktails were of standard holiday resort quality and used branded spirits – perfect to sip on whilst sunbathing in one of the hammocks or reading your book on a lounger.
For lunch we ate in the galaxy restaurant which had everything from pizza and chips to salmon and salad along with a vitamin and smoothie bar if you fancied being super healthy. Again all reasonably priced and good quality. After lunch we hit the waterslides which were so much fun – make sure you check out my vlog below for some gopro footage! The Galaxy area is popular with families and kids, it was blasting out one direction and felt a bit manic in the wave pool but once you’ve been on one of the slides you can see why – adrenaline central!
After our extreme rubber dingy experience(!) we headed over to the Elysium for a calm down in the mineral jacuzzi, a steam in the sauna and a cold G&T. It’s amazing these two areas can be so close together yet feel worlds apart. Therme is open until around 11pm most days and we stayed until 7 because we just didn’t want to leave despite our dinner reservations in the Old Town later! Entry to the Palm starts from just £12 for a full day and you can pay to add the other areas on top for around £2-5.
I would 100% recommend visiting Therme Bucuresti during your stay in Bucharest and I’d even consider coming back just to enjoy a few days here, honestly, it’s incredible.
WHERE TO EAT
We ate in a few restaurants during our stay in Bucharest. With breakfast in the hotel each morning (around 10euro per person) consisting of the usual European fare and traditional Romanian items – there was always something to eat from eggs, bacon and sausages to toast & jams, fresh fruit, pastries and an array of tea and coffee.
The first restaurant we visited was a Turkish place called Saray. A three course meal plus two beers and water came to just over £20…for the both of us and we couldn’t move we were that full! Try the homemade hummus with hot pitta to start and baklava for pudding – yum!
On our day trip to Brasov we grabbed a quick lunch in on of the restaurants in the square. The service was quick and the food simple but it was just what we needed at the time and we managed to nab a great people watching spot to enjoy our tankards of Ursus in the sunshine!
In the Old Town we stumbled across a cute little wine bar called Corks with Iron chairs, blankets for chilly evenings and an incredible wine list – very instagrammable and great for a pre-dinner drink and some olives.
But the star of the show was Caru’ Cu Bere – one of the oldest taverns in Bucharest serving traditional food and Romanian wine in the most beautiful building – it was having renovations done at the time but that didn’t detract from our evening. It was here we had our first taste of the famous Romanian skinless sausage, sarmale and Romanian doughnuts!
Our dinner consisted of meat, cheese, more meat and more cheese…and we loved it! Not the prettiest food in the world but my goodness did it taste good! With an ice cold bottle of Romanian Sauvignon Blanc to wash it down and the warm summer air it was well worth saving this gem of a restaurant until last. If you come to Bucharest you must eat here and although it looks a little more expensive than other restaurants our three course dinner with a bottle of wine still only came to around £20 each! We also tried a shot of Țuică their traditional drink – but be careful because it’s sure to put hairs on your chest at up to 60% ABV…wowzers!
We had the most amazing time in Bucharest and it’s totally opened my eyes to this city as a must visit destination. From it’s history to it’s gastronomy, beautiful buildings and nightlife it’s a fantastic city to see and one that’s definitely on my list to come back to. With the new route from Birmingham Airport I’ve seen return flights from as little as £50 and you can do our entire 3 night trip including flights, hotels, transfers, food & drink, tours and activities for around £350 per person as a couple which is absolutely mind blowing.
So if you’re looking for a fun and beautiful, exciting and relaxing city break, Bucharest is your place. Take a look at flights from Birmingham to Bucharest HERE!
WATCH: Our City Break to Bucharest | xameliax Travel Vlog
Have you ever been to Bucharest? Have we changed your mind?