Best places for a refreshing summer in the city

Newsroom 25/07/2011 | 12:05

As the mercury rises and many Romanian companies begin winding down their activities for the summer holiday, thoughts are turning to R&R. Business Review sent its reporters and correspondents across the city to come up with a list of the best places to spend your summer days and nights. From top terraces to cool pools, read on for our sizzling summer selection.

Despite Bucharest’s pollution, broken streets and animal bad manners by drivers, the city has one crowning glory, which is the population’s obsession with eating al fresco. So the owners of bars, restaurants and hotels have been quick to cash in on the demand for open-aired dining to such a point that it has become de rigueur to have a terrace, albeit of any size – nothing is too small.

terraces
Il Calcio
Situated beside the Atheneum, this terrace is big. It has had several owners over the years, but it is now held by Il Calcio, so you can expect indifferent so-called Italian food. Every table is shaded with an umbrella, which is just as well because there are no trees or shrubs to lower the temperature. Its greatest virtue is its size, so this adds to its popularity.

Address: 1-3 Str. Franklin
Reservations: 0732 528 140
Beer: RON 11

L’Escargot
In an area off Eminescu, and surrounded by other restaurants (Chinese, Spanish, Indian, Mexican) this place stands out as the best. It is a bistro style dump inside, but it has a charming small terrace at the rear. It is crowned with giant fig trees (but I think the neighbors have pinched all the figs) and apricot trees full of fruit which occasionally drop
onto your table. Pricy (but good) French food.

Address: 101 Str. Toamnei.
Reservations: 021 201 7133
Beer: RON 9

La Strada
This terrace has become an institution in this city. It has undergone a huge renovation and has to be the ‘greenest’ terrace (literally) in town. There used to be a simple BBQ menu last year, but now it has been upgraded to a full a la carte Mediterranean menu which is surprisingly inexpensive. It’s well worth a shot. Old Bucharest hands will be surprised at the changes they have made since last year. There is a range of beers.

Address: Hilton Hotel
Reservations: 021 303 3777
Beer: from RON 15
Bonton Palace
This place is stunning, but only for its size. It has a roof terrace which is used for private or corporate events, and a massive lakeside terrace which can easily accommodate more than 500 seated revelers. It has no need of plants and flowers, as the surrounding shrubbery of the lake gives a shaded green impression. Its downside is a permanent floodlit runway in the middle of the terrace, which can be used for fashion shows. This feature lends it an air of vulgarity, but what else can you expect? This is, after all, Herastrau!

Address: Herastrau Park, 1 Nordului
Reservations: 0745 999 222
Beer: RON 12

Embassy Terrace
The small chain of Embassy bars/restaurants has been the success story of the year. Without doing anything right, they got it right. By word of mouth and without advertising, this terrace, in a dingy location, has become a raging success. The furniture is cheap junk, there is shade but no greenery, but the people just love it. It positively heaves with beautiful (and I mean beautiful) young things, drinking and rocking (in their seats) through the night. Slow, slow service, so get there early.
Address: 8 Piata Lahovari.
Reservations: 0733 500 300
Beer: RON 9

Lipscani district
Here we have an area where it is a 365 days a year, permanent Oktoberfest. It is all beer swilling, fun loving, non-violent fun, with a few restaurants interspersed between the bars. Suffice it to say that every owner in Lipscani must have a terrace, but that terrace can only be on the pavement.

Beer: RON 6-8
Nearest metro station:
Unirii, Universitate
Radisson Pool Side
Grill Terrace
The most notable feature of this glittering hotel is its pool, surrounding area and bar. It is best seen at Sunday brunch where if you dine, you can swim in the open air pool – and if you are early enough, you get a pool sun lounger. If you choose not to brunch, no matter, as you can drink at the pool bar, or the larger second bar around the dining tables. During weekdays, it is still stunning, a taste of ‘Bucharest Beach’. It is best experienced whilst there is still some sun, or daylight.

Address: 63 – 81 Calea Victoriei
Reservations: 021 311 9000
Beer: from RON 15

Centre Ville Le Bistro
This beauty is seamlessly attached to the Radisson pool. So enter it from Luterana and go upstairs, or just walk through the Radisson pool and you will see it at the end of the Rad. It differs from the Rad in as much as it is ‘green’, surrounded by a potted flower, tree and shrub garden. They also have live music from time to time. Their menu is ’mid Med’ and very good.

Address: 4 Luterana, at Centre Ville Aparthotel
Reservations: 0040 21 312 70 70
Beer: RON 12

Gargantua
This lovely place is eccentrically attractive inside, but in addition it boasts a delightfully, leafy ‘green’ terrace on the fringes of Parcul Icoanei. In fact, the little terrace has better maintained grassy and shrub areas than the park. It is best visited for lunch or dinner, as it is not a place you would chill out at with nothing but a cold beer. So look over their menu and go there to dine, as it is well recommended.

Address: 69 Jean Louis Calderon, Parcul Icoanei
Reservations: 0722 702 560

Hanul Lui Manuc
What a delightful surprise this place is. This fabled 16th century coaching inn was (until now) the haunt of tourists and pensioners reliving their communist past. But those days are gone. Now it is as vibrant and cool as the rest of Lipscani. The entire interior is one giant courtyard, which constitutes its terrace. The food is either Romanian, or better still, the alternative is one of the best Lebanese restaurants in town. Enter from the Lipscani end, or alternatively use the Unirii entrance entitled ‘restaurant Manuc’, and then go upstairs to their terrace.

Address: Piata Unirii/Lipscani.
Reservations: 021.313.14.11
Beer: RON 7

Oliviers Restaurant and
Astrodom Terrace
Oliviers offers fine organic food in a secluded yet heart-of-the-city location, part of Residence Hotel. The restaurant serves a variety of healthy courses, all created with organic products from the company’s own crops. They are free from colorings and preservatives and are prepared in copper cookware. Sometimes, during the evening, there is also live piano music. The menu is renewed every season with more delightful dishes and is accompanied by a wide selection of wines. The cuisine embraces both Mediterranean aromas and traditional Romanian dishes. Specialties include: “Foie gras de canard”, “Involtini alla parmigiana”, “Papardelle al tartufo”, “Ravioli al pesto”, “Caviar d’ólive”, “Grilled octopus”, “Grilled Dorada”, “Sea bass with aromatic herbs”, and homemade “Petit Four.” Open: Monday-Sunday, 12:00-23:30.

Prices vary from affordable (RON 10.50, caviar d’olives) to expensive (RON 99, mixed grill).
Address: 19 Clucerului Street
Reservations: 0733 109 137

SkyBar Dorobanti
Opened in April 2010, after nine months of preparations, this café with a bar’s name has brought a new concept to the Bucharest leisure scene: a roof bar, inspired by similar locations in Los Angeles. Addressing a medium- to high-earning clientele, businesspeople and tourists, the eclectic music menu includes chill-out sessions during the daytime and cocktail-appropriate rhythms later at night. Situated in Bucharest’s poshest neighborhood, Dorobanti, SkyBar uses location and design as its key differentiators. With the latter by Mihnea Ghildus, the venue boasts branded decor and futuristic facilities. It also has its very own catering firm and focuses on natural ingredients. Skybar is open daily, from 10.00 until the last customer.

Prices vary from affordable to average (an espresso is RON 9, a frappe
RON 21)
Address: Calea Dorobanti 155, 5th floor
Reservations: 0724 SKYBAR (0724 759 227)
tour for visiting friends

When you have been living in Bucharest for some time, it can be difficult to remember which top tourist attractions most impressed you upon arrival. So when friends are in town for a couple of days, the following itinerary should help you show your visitors the best of Bucharest.

Day 1
Village Museum
Peasant Museum
People’s House
Stavropoleos Church
Dracula restaurant

Start your day at the village museum. If you’re using public transport, head to Aviatorilor metro station.

Village Museum
The Village Museum is an open-air ethnographic museum in Herastrau Park, showcasing traditional Romanian village life. Covering over 100,000 sqm, it contains an estimated 300 authentic peasant farms and houses brought from all over Romania and reassembled bit by bit in the park, clustered and arranged to show the real pattern of Romanian villages, with winding paths between them. They are organized in Romania’s ethnographical regions: Transylvania, Moldova, Dobrogea and Muntenia for an absorbing tour of the country’s rich tradition of folk architecture and art as well as a pleasant walk that makes one forget that the museum is located in the heart of the city. Visiting hours are 9.00 – 17:00 on Mondays and 9:00 – 19:00 during the rest of the week. The museum also features a shop for purchasing souvenirs, inspired by local villages. Admission is RON 6.

Address: Kiseleff Str. 28-30, sector 1
From here the Peasant Museum is reasonably walkable, or you can jump on a bus.

From here the Peasant Museum is reasonably walkable, or you can jump on a bus.
Romanian Peasant Museum
Relaunched on February 5, 1990, the Romanian Peasant Museum marks the continuation of a long tradition, which started when the first autonomous museum for peasant art was established in 1906. Currently, the venue is more than a static exhibition of somewhat exotic country life, offering a forum for creativity, urban socializing and the reinvention of lost values.
Between July 8 and August 28, the Cultural Austrian Forum and the Romanian Peasant Museum are organizing “At the Countryside”, a photo exhibition comprising 136 photos of the Austrian countryside taken by Manfred Willmann between 1983 and 1991, Willmann depicted both the beautiful and less appealing aspects of rustic life, using a special technique focusing on light effects.

Address: Kiseleff Street 3, Sector 1; nearest subway station: Piata Victoriei; Information: 021 317 96 60, 021 317 96 61, e-mail: info@muzeultaranuluiroman.ro, website: www.muzeultaranuluiroman.ro

Now is a good time to stop for some refreshments at one of the many cafes near Piata Victoriei that serve the local office workers, as there’s a lot more walking in store! When you’re rested, jump in a cab to the People’s House, or take the metro straight to Izvor.

People’s House
The People’s House, aka the Palace of the Parliament, was designed and nearly completed by the Ceausescu regime as the seat of political and administrative power. Nicolae Ceausescu named it the House of the Republic (Casa Republicii), but many Romanians call it the People’s House (Casa Poporului). Now the building contains both chambers of the Romanian Parliament and is said to be the world’s largest civilian administrative building.
A tour of the building costs RON 15. Tours are held daily, between 10.00 and 16.00, but may be cancelled if conferences or seminars are taking place. Book ahead and bring an identity card or passport.

Address: Educational Center, the Chamber of Deputies, Izvor Str. 2-4;
Information: 021 414 14 26, e-mail: educatie@cdep.ro; website: www.parliamentpalace.ro

Time for a total chance of scenery. From the People’s House, stroll back towards the Old Town. With a slight detour your route can take you via the glorious Cismigiu Park. If you need a rest after the climbing of the tour, there are numerous cafes and terraces, both in and around the park and in the Old Town district.

Stavropoleos Church
Built in 1724, the monastery is one of the oldest and best preserved monuments built in the Brancoveanu architectural style – a combination of Byzantine and local elements. The building is one of the three Bucharest landmarks that get a mention in the 2011 edition of the Michelin Guide. The Christian Orthodox church also hosts one of the most important collection of religious art and manuscripts.

Address: Stavropoleos Street 4,
Information: www.stavropoleos.ro;  the service schedule is on display on the site

It’s time to eat. And nowhere is more representative of the tourist’s Bucharest than this delightfully kitschy eatery. The restaurant is an easy walk from the church.

Count Dracula Club
Cheesy vampiric fun doesn’t get much tackier than at Count Dracula Club, a theme restaurant that hosts twice weekly visits from the Impaler himself (well, a very amusing impersonator). The atmosphere is suitably creepy and attention has been lavished equally on the menu, which is based on and features quotes from the novel. And the cuisine is surprisingly good for a theme eatery, although vegetarians might be struggling. Foreigners should not leave Bucharest without eating here once. Call ahead to check what night old Vlad is doing his bit.

Address: 8A Stra Splaiul Independentei. Reservations: 021 312 1353. www.count-dracula.ro

Round the night off with some clubbing. There are venues very close to Count Dracula Club, or you can head back to the Old Town.

Day 2
Bellu Cemetery
Calea Victoriei Tours
National Art Museum
Casa Vernescu
Excalibur

Start the day in the peaceful environs
of the Bellu Cemetery, in the south of the city. If you’re not taking a cab,
the best metro station is Eroii
Revolutiei.

Bellu Cemetery
The Bellu Museum, run by the Administration of Cemeteries and Crematories, holds painting exhibitions, photography exhibitions and pilgrimages to the graves of the artists buried in the cemetery. Bellu is the biggest cemetery in Bucharest and one of the most popular in the country. It came into operation in 1858 and the inside chapel was built in 1852, by architect Alexander Oprescu. Many great Romanians lie here, such as Mihai Eminescu, George Bacovia, Theodor Aman, Traian Vuia, Henri Coanda, Ana Aslan, Thomas Caragiu, George Dinica and Amza Pellea. Some of the funerary monuments were made by the architect Ion Mincu, while the special architecture, ornaments and decorations make this space an interesting place to visit.
Address: Serban Voda Street 249; nearest subway station: Eroii Revolutiei
Information : 021 336 7783

Head back up north, either by taxi or by taking the metro to Universitate.

Bucharest tours by the Calea Victoriei Foundation
The Calea Victoriei Foundation organizes frequent walks to help participants discover Bucharest. Walks planned for this August are “Discover the old city center”, on August 6, at 18.00, “Discover Magheru Boulevard”, on August 13, at 18.00, and “Discover Ioanid Park,” on August 20, all with historian Anita Serea. The old city tour will include the following landmarks: Hanul lui Manuc, St. Dumitru Church, Stavropoleos Monastery, National History Museum (formerly known as the Post Office Palace), Caru cu Bere, the CEC HQ, National Bank of Romania, National Library, Linden Tree Inn and the Villacrosse Passage.

Fee: RON 30
To book your place, e-mail contact@victoriei.ro. For more information, call 0723 167 892 or 021 321 3022. The Calea Victoriei Foundation is located on Caimatei Street 20, 3rd floor (next to Rosetti Square).

You may want to stop for refreshments before hitting the gallery.

National Art Museum
The Romanian Medieval Art gallery is  a must for any tourist trying to get a broader understanding of the Byzantine tradition that influenced the architecture, art and manufacturing of the Romanian principalities. It displays an impressive collection (9,500 works) of icons, embroideries and textiles, fragments of murals, religious cult objects, books and manuscripts.

Address: Calea Victoriei 49-53
Information: 021.313.30.30, www.mnar.arts.ro

Casa Vernescu
Located on Bucharest’s so-called Museum Street, Calea Victoriei, the Vernescu restaurant was originally built in 1821 by Filip Lens, the son of a French nobleman from Marseilles. The palace was a wedding present to his Romanian fiancé Lisaveta Balotescu-Carpinisanu, but was severely damaged by fire just a year later. In 1886 it was sold to lawyer, liberal politician and art connoisseur Gheorghe Dimitrie Vernescu (also known as Guna Vernescu) from where it would get its now famous name.
Between June 30 and September 8, Casa Vernescu hosts a series of 11 events organized by Casino Palace for both players and other guests. The theme parties take place every Thursday, under the name of A Summer of Sensations, featuring gastronomic festivals and bartending shows for visitors. Food and fashion shows are also part of the schedule. Forthcoming parties include: “Magnetismo de Brasil” (July 21), “Caribbean Colors” (July 28), “Dress to Impress” (August 4), “Fire and Ice” (August 11), “Summer Nights” (August 18), “Mediterranean Blue” (August 25), “Wild, Wild, West” (September 1), “Espana Emotion” (September 8).

Address: Calea Victoriei 133; nearest subway station: Victoriei;
Reservations: 021 311 97 44; 0745 090 434, e-mail: office@casavernescu.ro, contact: Ms. Daniela Capatana
Price range: average to expensive.

For an upmarket dining experience, you can stay and eat at Casa Vernescu. However, for something more unusual, take a taxi or a leisurely stroll to Piata Kogalniceanu.

Excalibur
If all things medieval be thy thing, hurry hence to Excalibur. The tavern style eatery promises victuals from the middle ages, served by appropriately attired wenches and without modern conveniences such as knives and forks, so be prepared to get thy hands dirty! The food, which is basically meaty Romanian, is humorously styled as Sir Lancelot’s Lunch and Sir Arthur’s Dinner. The big round tables are great for groups. Other outlets can be found at Str Academiei 39-41 and Str Blanari 9.

Address: B-dul Mihai Kogalniceanu 3. Reservations: 021 311 6282. www.restaurantexcalibur.ro. 12.00-00.00.
Price range: average

old town favorites

The old part of Bucharest has seen an architectural and economic revival over the past couple of years as many local entrepreneurs have taken on the mission of transforming the area in between Universitate, Unirii Square and Calea Victoriei into an attractive destination. Some of the best places in the Old Town are presented below.

MoJo
This British-themed joint has been making waves on the Bucharest social scene since opening a few years back. Split between three levels, there’s the roomy cellar, which hosts live rock, jazz, blues and folk bands and stand-up comedy, a bar on the ground floor and an upstairs karaoke lounge, open nightly, where even the most feeble attempts to sing are warmly applauded by the friendly crowd. In its short lifespan MoJo has established itself as something of an institution, thanks to the jolly atmosphere and events.

Address: Str Gabroveni 14.
Reservations: 0760 263496; www.mojomusic.ro.
Price range: average

Grand Café Van Gogh
Once upon a time there was Amsterdam Café, which was pretty much the epicenter of expat social life in Bucharest. Amsterdam is no more, but its owners have brought the same relaxed Dutch vibe to Van Gogh. Classiness ooziness from the high ceiling, understated wooden furnishings and thick drapes at the entrance, and there’s a range of fresh, simple and appetizing eats and drinks appropriate for all times of the day. The delicious smoothies and luxury hot chocolates are just two of the many highlights. In summer you can avoid the smokiness that sometimes prevails inside by positioning yourself on the spacious terrace.

Address: Str Smardan 9.
Reservations: 031 107 6371. www.vangogh.ro.
Price range: average

Whispers
Probably the closest thing Bucharest has to a real British boozer, Whispers – the pub that resembles a church – has long been a favorite for its all-day breakfasts, big-screen sport and darts. However, it’s now staking a claim to be a summer venue too with a terrace, which thanks to its location at the eastern end of Lipscani is a lot quieter than the typical Old Town outside space. The food is okay rather than great, and takes a while to arrive, but the venue remains popular with expats and locals alike.

Address: Str Brezoianu 4.
Reservations: 021 314 2901. www.whispers.ro.
Price range: average

Caru cu Bere restaurant
Caru’ cu Bere, one of the oldest beerhouses in Bucharest, was opened for the first time in 1879 in the former Zlatari inn and, after 20 years moved to Stavropoleos Street, where it can be found today. The beerhouse is a traditional place, where each object has its own story. It is one of the few venues in Bucharest where it seems that nothing has changed, and the architecture reminds visitors why Bucharest was once dubbed the “little Paris”. Distinctive elements include the murals, stained glass and carved cross-beams. The place’s symbol is Old Ghita, the cellar man, who worked at Caru cu Bere for decades. Along with the beer made to a secret original recipe, Caru’ cu bere is also famous for its food, and regular live dancing is also held there.

Address: Stavropoleos St. 5, Bucharest; Reservations: 021 313 75 60, 0726 282 373
Price range: affordable-average.

Absintherie Sixtina
“Liberte, egalite, absinthe” is the comic motto with which Absintherie Sixtina, the historical center pub/café/bar, welcomes its visitors. The location offers a plethora of alcoholic beverages, from wines and beers to absinth, of course. The most impressive seems to be, however, the wide range of Belgian beers. The music is not too loud and not too commercial, but suits the relaxing and conversation-friendly setting. Another plus for the location is its capaciousness, as it takes up an entire floor of an old building, and never seems too crowded. There is also a small balcony, home to just one table with two chairs, adding to the charm.

Address: Covaci Street 1;
Reservations: 021 310 35 66;
e-mail: bogdant@absintheriesixtina.ro, mariusd@absintheriesixtina.ro
Price range: average.

Pasajul Vilacrosse
A walk through the Vilacrosse passage can take you back in time to late 19th century Bucharest, provided you visit it at the least crowded hours of the day. The passage, which now hosts numerous pubs and coffee shows, links Calea Victoriei to the Central Bank in Lipscani Street. The U-shaped, skylight-covered passage was built in 1891 by Felix Xenopol and carries the name of catalan architect Xavier Villacrosse, who moved to Bucharest and served as the capital’s chief architect between 1840-1850. The place was also the first location of the Romanian stock exchange. The passage has two branches: Vilacrosse (which faces Lipscani) and Macca (name after the brother in law of the passage’s constructor). In
between you can find, among other outlets, an Egyptian-themed coffee shop, a Chinese restaurant, and the Opium Stage Club.

How to find it: in between
Calea Victoriei and Lipscani street

summer locations

Summer in Bucharest can be a grueling experience when temperatures easily go above 30 degrees. Some places to find both shade and amusement are reviewed here.

Herastrau Summer Theater
The theater located in Bucharest’s largest and most popular park, Herastrau, has a very spacious stage, covered with a black dome. With 2,500 seats in the amphitheater and ramps for disabled visitors, this is the location where the Constantin Tanase comedy theater holds its summer spectacles. The next concert is by Omara Portuondo and Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club.

Address: Herastrau Park, near Expoflora (access from the Arcul de Triumf entrance)
Information: 021 312 1029; e-mail: contact@teatrultanase.ro

Arenele Romane
Arenele Romane is a large outdoor space, generally used for concerts, with a capacity of about 5,000. The next scheduled event is the Romanian leg of the Deftones’ European tour, which is part of Alternative Summer Day, on August 13. Tickets can be purchased from the Eventim network (Germanos, Orange, Vodafone, Domo stores, Humanitas and Carturesti bookshops and online at www.eventim.ro) for RON 90 until July 31, RO 110 between August 1 and 12, and RON 130 on the concert day. Ian Brown will also perform here on September 10.

Address: Carol Park, Cutitul de Argint Street 26

Summer Well Festival @Domeniul Stirbey
After initial rumors of a Stirbey Festival that would bring indie rockers Interpol to Bucharest (the Stirbey name came from the location, Domeniul Stirbey, just outside of Bucharest, in Buftea), the festival’s name has been changed to Summer Well, the dates have been set for August 13 and 14 and the activities and lineup have been finalized. Other top acts who will appear at the festival include Plan B, the Noisettes, Mystery Jets, Graffiti6, Chew Lips, the Raveonettes, The Wombats, Chapel Club and Alex Clare. Buses will run to the venue, and organizers also recommend car pools, since parking spaces are rather limited. Two-day tickets cost RON 99 and are available at easytickets.ro, eventim.ro and from Orange shops.

Address: Stirbey Voda 36, Buftea, Ilfov county, Romania;
Information: 0374 055 593 (for the Stirbey Property); for festival information, see: www.summerwell.ro.

Waterpark
When it’s summer in the city, the ubiquitous sun drives many to gather at overcrowded pools, where the atmosphere can be too suffocating to cool down. Waterpark is a pollution free area, despite the jet noises in the background (it’s near the airport). However, bathing there is relaxing if you overlook the details. Some 27 water slides, 4,000 sun-beds and numerous facilities prove that sunbathing is big business. If lying in the sun is not you cup of tea, you can play table tennis, beach volleyball or beach football while an artist entertains the visitors.

Address: Calea Bucuresti 255A, near Otopeni Airport
www.waterpark.ro
How to get there:
RATB: 783 express bus from Unirii Square to Otopeni Airport (ICSIM station)
Car: Off the Bucharest-Ploiesti road:
Entrance prices
Adults: Mon-Fri: RON 30, w/e: RON 50
Children under 1.40m tall: Mon-Fri: RON 15, w/e: RON 25

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