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Bucharest is the capital of Romania and the largest city, being home for up to 2 million inhabitants and another 200000-300000 in the metropolitan area.
The city is usually the main gateway to Romania, despite its lack of appeal for certain tourists. Some of the tourists might claim that the old cliche "Don't judge a country by its capital" applies quite well to Romania. You either love this city or hate it, there's no in between.
Despite its infamous reputation (undeserved in certain aspects), Bucharest has plenty of things to offer to a tourist.
It is located in the south eastern part of the country, a couple of tens of kilometres north of the Romanian border with Bulgaria.
The easiest way to reach Bucharest from abroad is by plane. The "Henri Coanda" airport, Bucharest's and the country's largest, is located just north of the city and is well linked with major European hubs. There's also the "Aurel Vlaicu " (formerly known as "Baneasa" - many people still use this name) airport that's used as a base by low-cost carriers.
Bucharest has a large and extensiev transportation system, the large in Romania and one of the largest in Europe. It's components are the Bucharest metro run by METROREX and a on-the-ground transport system run by RATB.
There's also a taxi network as well as a minibus network (popularly known as "maxitaxi's").
Bucharest is the major hub of CFR (Caile Ferate Romane), Romania's national rail carrier. The main central station is "Gara de Nord" ("North Station" in translation) which serves Bucharest with connections to every part of Romania as well as international connections with Vienna, Prague, Sofia, Budapest, Chisinau etc. There are also a couple of other railway stations (like "Gara Basarabi", just north of "Gara de Nord", for example) that are planned to be used as hubs for railway commutes in the near future.
The road network in Bucharest is of bad quality to say the least and the traffic is infernal. It is comprised by a series of major boulevards running through the city as well as an outer beltway which, at times, can't handle the massive amount of traffic and bottlenecks appear. The work on a new beltway (the highway type) should start in the very near future.
The city is a major road hub as well. It is the starting point of many of Romania's highways (well, right now - summer of 2006 - it is the starting point of both of Romania's highways, A1 and A2) and other European and national roads linking the city with every Romanian region as well as with the neighbouring countries.
Bucharest is the only municipality not part of a county. The city is run by a general mayor and a local council. It is divided into six administrative sectors, each having its own mayor and council as well. These sectors are numbered from one to six, clocwise and are disposed radially.
Some of the most important attractions are the old city center, which, despite the fact that much of it has been erased off the face of earth by Ceausescu to make place for the palace of parliament (more on this later), there's still some of it left to make for a pleasant experience with its narrow streets, Parisian buildings and mystic restaurants. There have been works underway to renovate the old city but things are currently stuck in bureaucracy due to the incompetence of certain high ranking officials and nothing has been done yet.
No tour of Bucharest should leave out the palace of parliament, a construction of epic proportions, second largest building in the world after the Pentagon. It ate up during construction 25% of the country's GDP and a huge chunk of the old city. The owners of houses in the old city had to move into communist blocks and abandoned their dogs on the streets, this being one of the main reasons Bucharest is having such severe issues with stray dogs.
Another notable landmark is "Muzeul Satului" (Village Museum) located in Herastrau park (the park itself could be considered a landmark). It's an open-air museum with traditional Romanian village housing on display. It extends on over 10 hectares and contains more than 250 houses from all over the country.
If fine music is what you're after, then look no further than the Romanian Athenaeum, located in the center of the city. Opened in 1888, it is the home of the "George Enescu" philarmonic and of the international yearly music festival with the same name.
There are plenty of other things to experience in Bucharest and, if you feel we should include others in here, then do not hesitate to contact us.
Many foreigners seem to have a skewed image of Romania and especially Bucharest, with burglars at every corner of the street and in every station. This is a myth. Bucharest isn't more or less dangerous than any other European capital and you should watch your pockets in very crowded places (such as Gara de Nord, the city's central station, or in buses or other means of public transportation).
The total number of offences has declined by more than half during the past six years while the number of murders stood at 24 for the year 2004 (that's an average of two per month). Public, mafia-style, assasinations are non-existent in Bucharest nor in any other Romanian city.
Bucharest's weather is of the continental type, with hot, dry summers and cold winters. Temperatures during winter are at times below 0°C, while during the summer the average temperature is about 23°C, reaching up to 40°C at times. Precipitations are a rare occurence during summer but when they happen they're usually quite violent.
As for spring and autumn, temperatures vary around 18°C during this time, with precipitations happening more often than in summer (especially during autumn and early spring).
Please visit our page of Bucharest hotels to get further information on Bucharest accommodation or to comment or rate a specific hotel.
Football (soccer) is the major sport in Romania and Bucharest is home of 5 notable football teams, 3 of them being major clubs. These teams are:
- Steaua Bucharset - Champions Cup and European Super Cup winners in 1986; the team with the most local silverware;
- Dinamo Bucharest - Champions Cup semifinalists in the 1980s, the second most titled team in Romanian football;
- Rapid Bucharest - UEFA Cup quarterfinalists in 2006, third most important club in Bucharest;
- FC National - known as "the bankers";
- Sportul Studentesc - known as "the students" or "the mad gang"; founded in 1916; oldest team in Bucharest.
Other notable sports include handball (with Dinamo and Steaua as teams of major importance in male handball and Rapid in female handball), rugby, basketball, volleyball and even ice hockey.
The Lia Manoliu stadium is the largest one in the city and is the home of various athletic events as well as occasional matches of the Romanian national football team. This stadium was demolished and a new one got built instead of it named The National Arena, which is football only. It appears a smaller stadium for athletic events is due to be built near the new National Arena as well.