Lifestyle in Bucharest
A colourful metropolis behind a grey facade, there are various options when it comes to lifestyle and shopping in Bucharest. The city seems typically Eastern European in some ways, but it is uniquely Romanian, offering a distinctive blend of Western and Slavic cultures.
Once proudly known as the Paris of the East, Bucharest was left to ruin by the communist government, meaning that it is often overlooked in favour of other European capitals. It has started regaining some of its lustre, however, and the commercial and cultural centre of Romania demonstrates the many contrasts of 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.
Romanians are generally friendly and hospitable, and most city residents can speak or at least understand English. This may help expats in their transition to life in Bucharest, the process of making friends and enjoying the social scene.
Bucharest offers interesting shopping opportunities, culinary delights and an assortment of nightlife options to keep expats entertained. Although, it is not without its problems – one of Europe’s most crowded capitals, residents have to cope with thousands of stray dogs, beggars and taxi drivers notorious for trying to scam foreigners.
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 can be 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 taste. Local and international cuisine can be found, including French, Turkish, Greek, Irish and Italian. Lipscani is a popular area for dining out in Bucharest, while Episcopiei also hosts a large number of restaurants.
Romanians love to cook and meals are often shared at home with extended family and friends. Locals often prefer eating at home to going out and 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.
Lipscani, once derelict and crumbling, is now a focal point of Bucharest’s nightlife scene. With a selection of eateries, bars and clubs (and unrestricted liquor licences), the cobbled streets are often teeming with partygoers until the early hours of summer mornings, and it’s generally safe to walk at night.
Bucharest has also gained somewhat of a reputation as a gambling hub in Eastern Europe and there are many casinos dotted around the city.
Shopping in Bucharest
From large modern malls to low-key local markets, expats are bound to have an interesting experience shopping in Bucharest.
Shopping centres like Bucharest Mall, Mario Plaza, Plaza Romania and Unirea Shopping Center offer the usual mall experience with local and international retail stores, restaurants, cinemas and games arcades.
There are also many colourful open-air markets to wander through. Piata Obor is Bucharest’s largest outdoor market and offers all sorts of food items, while the weekend flea market at Strada Mihai Bravu on the city’s east side is worthwhile for picking up bargains and antiques.
Lipscani’s historical centre also offers an interesting shopping experience, with merchants selling their wares in front of the high-end boutiques and galleries lining the street. Calea Victoriei is one of the most prestigious shopping areas in Bucharest; home to upscale hotels, boutiques and museums, expats will find high-end fashion brands available here.
Parks and gardens in Bucharest
Known for its beautiful gardens, the city’s parks are a place of refuge for locals during the hot summer months.
Cismigiu, founded in the mid-1800s, is among the oldest gardens in Bucharest, boasting a lake for visitors to paddle on in the summer and skate on in winter.
Herastrau is another well-known park, offering a bar, restaurant and sports complex set against a lake. Visitors can hire rowboats or visit the nearby theme park.
Other popular parks in Bucharest include the Botanical Garden and Carol I Park. Groups of families love to gather for picnics in the shade of these parks in the summer, while others meet for chess and to catch up with old acquaintances.