Choose from 31 Fun Things to Do in Wallachia
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One of the first synagogues in Bucharest was the Choral Temple, which was completed in 1857 by architects Enderle and Freiwald; it is a copy of the Leopoldstadt-Tempelgasse Great Synagogue in Vienna and has a façade decorated in Moorish style with yellow-and-red patterned brickwork. A wealthy Jewish community was established in the city by the mid-16th century but never lived in complete harmony with its Romanian neighbors. In 1593, many were killed during a rebellion against the city’s Ottoman overlords and unrest continued to rumble for several centuries.
Several years after the Choral Temple was built, it was destroyed in a pogrom and rebuilt in 1866. Even with the destruction, the city’s Jewish population continued to grow. By 1930, it numbered 74,480 while the pogroms and indiscriminate killings continued. During World War II, all Bucharest’s synagogues were closed down and many thousands of Romanian Jews were sent to their deaths in Transnistria and Bessarabia. Following the war, Jewish numbers in the city swelled with refugees from other eastern European countries but uncertainty under the autocratic rule of Nicolae Ceaușescu led to mass immigration to Israel.
With the collapse of Communism, a memorial was erected outside the synagogue in 1991 to commemorate the thousands of Romanian Jews who died in the Holocaust, and in 2006, a painstaking restoration of its interior was undertaken; the synagogue finally reopened in December 2014 with its Moorish tiles, carved wooden balconies and heavy chandeliers gleaming once more.
Strada Sfânta Vineri 9. Open for services Sun–Fri 8am & 7pm; Sat 8.30am & 7pm; admission free. Take the metro to Piata Unirii.
Address: Strada Sfânta Vineri 9, Bucharest, Bucharest Municipality 30202, Romania
Hours: Daily 7am–8pm
From $ 22
Finally inaugurated in 2009 after a long (and somewhat controversial) wait, Bucharest’s Holocaust Memorial serves as a stark reminder of the thousands of Romanian Jews affected by the Holocaust. The memorial holds great significance not only for Romania’s Jewish community, but as a symbol that the country recognizes its role in events (a fact often denied by the post-war communist government).
The memorial itself is a simple yet poignant monument, designed by artist Peter Jacobi and featuring a plaque dedicated to the estimated 280,000 Jews and 25,000 Roma who lost their lives during the Holocaust. The memorial includes a ‘Column of Memory’, inlaid with the Hebrew word for ‘Remember’, and a Roma wheel, dedicated to the Romani people.
The Holocaust Memorial is located on Anghel Saigny St, a short walk north of the Dâmbovița riverfront in central Bucharest.
Address: 1 Anghel Saigny St, Bucharest, Romania
From $ 45
The George Enescu Museum in Bucharest is a memorial to Romania’s most important musician. Enescu was a composer, violinist, pianist and conductor who passed away in 1955. After his death, the museum was established in the Cantacuzino Palace, widely considered one of the most beautiful buildings in Bucharest. Designed in a French academic style with art nouveau elements, the palace features a remarkable glass awning above the entrance and an interior adorned with murals and sculptures.
The permanent collection of the museum includes three rooms of the palace and is devoted to the life of Enescu, as well as the history of Romanian music. Displays include photographs, manuscripts, medals, drawings, musical instruments, furniture and personal items, as well as a casting of Enescu’s hands and his mortuary mask. The museum also has two other branches: the George Enescu Memorial House in Sinaia and the Dumitru and Alice Rosetti-Tescanu George Enescu section in Bacau.
The George Enescu Museum is located in the center of Bucharest, a few blocks south of the Piata Victoriei. It is accessible from the Piata Victoriei Metro station. Guided tours are available in Romanian, English or French, but must be booked at least 24 hours in advance. The museum also hosts concerts, with ticket prices ranging from six to ten Romanian lei. Photography permits for the museum cost 30 lei.
Address: Calea Victoriei 141, Bucharest, Romania
Hours: Open Tues-Sun 10am-5pm; last admission at 4:30pm
Admission: 6 lei; Free on the 26th of each month
From $ 75
Romania’s most controversial building sits like a megalith in the middle of Bucharest, a monument to the folly and ego of fallen Communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu, who conceived his grandiose idea after visiting another dictator, Kim II-sung, in North Korea. Started in 1984 and designed by young Romanian architect Anca Petrescu, the palace was conceived from Ceaușescu’s wish for it to be the biggest office building in the world – and he almost got his way, with only the Pentagon being larger. Churches, synagogues and 30,000 private homes were demolished to make way for this awesome monstrosity, and its mammoth proportions include 12 stories (with four underground), 1,100 rooms and state apartments, a brutal Soviet Realist façade of 270 meters (886 feet) in length and a vast subterranean nuclear bunker. Around 20,000 builders worked for six years to complete the palace, working seven days a week and using only materials available in Romania. The austere exterior belies the fanciful interior, full of gleaming crystal chandeliers, plush auditoriums, gold leaf, hand-woven carpets, marble halls, bronze doors and carved wooden staircases.
Ceaușescu never saw his palace completed, although by the time he met his end by firing squad in 1989, it was virtually finished. After his death, it fell empty but is now the home of the Romanian Parliament, an international conference center and the National Museum of Contemporary Art – and still much of it lies empty and slowly decaying.
Admission adults 25 lei; students 13 lei. Open daily 10am–4pm for guided tours only. Book well in advance. A valid passport, driving licence or international ID is required for entry into the palace. Metro to Izvor or Piaţa Unirii.
Address: Strada Izvor 2-4, Bucharest, Bucharest Municipality, Romania 050563, Romania
Hours: Open daily 10am–4pm
Admission: Adults: 25 lei; Students: 13 lei
From $ 22
Also called the Brancovan Palace, the Mogosoaia Palace was built at the end of the 17th century by Constantin Brancoveanu. The building combines elements of both Venetian and Ottoman architecture, creating a style often referred to as “Brancovenesc.” Located just 10 kilometers from Bucharest in the village of Mogosoaia, it has been a museum since 1957 and is one of the most important tourist sites in the area. The palace is part of a vast complex that includes a guesthouse, watchtower, kitchen, vault, ice house, green house, church, and beautiful gardens.
Today, visitors can tour parts of the palace or visit a museum featuring Brancoveanu style art. Exhibitions of paintings or textiles are often staged in the palace as well.
Mogosoaia Palace sits next to Mogosoaia Lake in the western part of the village, just a 600 meter walk from the main road where buses and mini buses stop. Bus 460 departs the Laromet terminal in Bucharest for Mogosoaia every 15-20 minutes on weekdays and every 45 minutes on weekends. Minibuses also leave from near Bucharest’s Gara du Nord train station several times an hour heading toward Buftea. Guided tours are available on the weekends for 8 lei.
Address: strada Valea Parcului nr. 1, Mogosoaia, Romania
Hours: Grounds are open daily from 7am-midnight. The palace is open May-Oct Tues-Sun 10am-6pm; and Nov-April 9am-5pm.
Admission: 5 lei
From $ 40
Bucharest’s Jewish History Museum was founded in 1978 by Moses Rosen, who was the city’s chief rabbi between 1964 and 1994; it is found in the ornate Holy Union Temple synagogue, which was built in 1836 by the wealthy Jewish Tailors Guild and is in Moorish style, with layers of brickwork alternating with white plaster fronted by an extravagant rose window. Among all the gold and silver religious ephemera inside, displays detail Jewish history in Romania and mark the community’s contribution to Bucharest society. The somber memorial room at the back of the synagogue is dedicated to victims of the Holocaust, when thousands of Romanian Jews lost their lives in Transnistria. However, star prize probably goes to the startlingly colorful interior of the three-tiered, galleried synagogue, which is liberally ornamented with Byzantine and Moorish tiling, marble floors and decorative walls and ceilings.
Intrarea Mămulari 3. Open Mon–Thur 9am–2pm; Fri & Sun 9am–1pm. Take the metro to Piata Unirii and carry photographic identification (passport or driving license).
Address: Intrarea Mămulari 3, Bucharest, Bucharest Municipality 011347, Romania
Hours: Mon–Thur 9am–2pm; Fri & Sun 9am–1pm
From $ 36
Sitting on a mountain cliff overlooking the Arges River, the Poenari Castle is best known for its connection to Vlad the Impaler, said to be the inspiration for the fictional Dracula. Now partially in ruins, the castle was first built in the 13th century and came under Vlad the Impaler’s control in the 15th century. Legend has it that Vlad’s first wife committed suicide rather than be taken hostage by the Ottoman Turks. She allegedly threw herself off one of the castle walls into the river below, turning the water red. The river is now referred to as the Lady’s River.
The castle was eventually abandoned and an earthquake in the 19th century destroyed the northern section. It sat in ruins until 1970, when the Romanian government decided to open it to tourists, building more than 1400 steps into the rock of the mountain to allow visitors to climb up to the castle. Walkways and handrails have also been installed to allow for easier movement throughout the ruins.
Poenari Castle is located about 150 kilometers from Bucharest, near the town of Curtea de Arges. Tour buses travel directly to the castle from Bucharest, but you can make the trip independently by traveling first to Curtea de Arges and then catching a mini bus in the direction of Arefu. Tell the driver you are going to the castle and they will drop you as close as possible. No guides are available at the castle, but signs provide information in Romanian and English. Allow at least two hours for a visit, including time to
climb the steps up to the castle.
Address: Arefu, Romania
Hours: Daily 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Admission: 5 lei (less than 1 Euro)
From $ 58
Cotroceni Palace in Bucharest is the headquarters and residence of the Romanian president, as well as home to the National Cotroceni Museum. The original palace served as the residence of Romanian rulers until the end of the 19th century, at which time a larger palace was commissioned by King Carol I. Most of the palace had to be rebuilt after an earthquake struck in 1977. Adjacent to the palace is the Cotroceni Garden, one of the major public gardens in the city which dates back to the 1850s.
The National Cotroceni Museum collection features more than 20,000 objects, divided into several different collections. Highlights include 18th and 19th century religious arts; a collection of Romanian paintings from the 19th century to the present; 18th and 19th century paintings from German, Austrian, French and Belgian artists; sculptures from both Romanian and European sculptors; drawings, watercolors and engravings from the 19th and 20th centuries; and decorative arts, including ceramics, glass, metals and textiles.
The Cotroceni Palace is accessible from the Politehnica or Eroilor Metro stations. Tours of the palace are available in English, French, Italian and Spanish. The 60 minute version costs 35 lei and includes the Cotroceni Church and the first and second floors of the palace. The 90 minute tour costs 40 lei and adds in the cellar. Tours must be booked in advance. Photo fees are charged both for cell phones (5 lei) and cameras (20 lei)
Address: Bulevardul Geniului, nr. 1, Bucharest, Romania
Hours: Museum and temporary exhibitions open Tues-Sun 9:30am-5:30pm (last entrance at 4:30). Cotroceni Church open Wed-Sat 9:30am-4pm and Sun 9am-2pm.
Admission: By tour only, 35-40 lei
From $ 51
The Macca Villacrosse Passage, also known as the Pasajul Macca-Vilacrosse, is a fork-shaped arcaded street in central Bucharest. Covered with yellow glass to allow natural light to shine through, the passage was built at the end of the 19th century to connect the Calea Victoriei and the National Bank. Today, the Macca side of the passage opens on to Calea Victoriei, one of Bucharest’s main avenues, while the Villacrosse side opens to the National Bank and Strada Eugeniu Carada. The passage has a French look to it and is similar to other covered passages built in Milan and Paris during the same period. During Communist times, it was known as the Jewelry Passage due to the presence of the city’s largest jewelry shops, but the original name was restored in 1990.
Today, the passage is still home to a few jewelry shops, but also features several restaurants, cafes, boutiques and hookah bars.
The Macca-Villacrosse Passage is accessible from the Universitate Metro station. It is also within walking distance of many Bucharest hotels and other sites such as the National Museum of Romanian History and the Bucharest Museum.
Address: Calea Victoriei, Bucharest, Romania
Hours: Varies by establishment
From $ 52
Founded in the early 16th century, the Curtea de Arges Monastery is one of the most important pilgrimage and prayer sites in Romania. A Romanian Orthodox cathedral sits on the grounds of the monastery that also dates to the 16th century. Built with pale gray limestone in a Byzantine style, it features Moorish arabesques and an interior covered with murals by French painters Nicolle and Renouard and Romanian painter Constantinescu. The monastery is also home to numerous relics and a gospel written in gold by Queen Elizabeth of Romania, as well as the graves of Kings Ferdinand and Carol I and Queens Elizabeth and Maria.
The monastery is tied to several local legends, including the legend of Master Manole, who is said to have sacrificed his wife and his own life to complete the building of the monastery. Another legend relates to the holy relics of Saint Filofteea, a 12-year-old girl who was killed by her father after giving food to beggars.
The Curtea de Arges Monastery is in the city of Curtea de Arges, about two hours from Bucharest by car or bus. Coming from Brasov, buses stop in Pitesti, making the journey nearly four hours, while coming by car is just two hours. The city is also accessible by train from Craiova (four hours, via Pitesti) and the monastery is about a 30-minute walk from the train station.
Address: Str. Basarabilor nr. 1 (Basarab Street), Curtea de Arges, Romania
Hours: Summer, daily from 8 am to 8 p.m.; Winter, daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission: about 50 Euro cents
From $ 58
First built in 1878 as a wooden monument to mark Romania’s Independence, Bucharest’s Arch of Triumph (Arcul de Triumf) has long been one of the city’s most memorable landmarks. Although rebuilt again after WWI, the current Arch of Triumph is the work of architect Petru Antonesc, reconstructed in granite in 1936, and decorated with sculptures by Romanian artists like Constantin Medrea, Constantin Baraschi and Ion Jalea.
Towering 27-meters over the intersection of Kiseleff road, Mareșal Alexandru boulevard and Alexandru Constantinescu street, the monumental arch now marks the entrance to Bucharest’s Herăstrău Park. Still a poignant reminder of Romania’s independence, it’s the site of military parades and celebrations on Romania's National Day (Dec 1st), and an internal staircase also allows visitors to climb to the top, looking out over the busy boulevards below.
The Arch of Triumph is located at the center of the Piața Arcul de Triumf, at the intersection of Kiseleff road, Mareșal Alexandru boulevard and Alexandru Constantinescu street.
Address: Piața Arcul de Triumf, Bucharest, Romania
From $ 22
With a history dating back to the early 1900s, Carol Park (Liberty Park) is one of Bucharest’s oldest parks, built by French designer Eduard Redont to mark the Jubilee of King Carol I. With its glittering lake, tree-lined esplanade and landscaped gardens sprawling over 30 hectares in South Budapest, the park offers an idyllic retreat from the city, with ample space for walking, cycling and sports.
The park is also home to a number of important monuments and has been listed as a National Historic monument since 2004. Most notable is the Mausoleum, originally built as a communist monument and later transformed into a WWI memorial, fronted by the Monument of the Unknown Soldier. Additional highlights include the early 20th-century Tepes Castle and a series of statues, including Filip Marin’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and the ‘Giant’s’ by Dumitru Paciurea and Frederic Storck.
Carol Park (Liberty Park) is located close to Tineretului Park, just south of central Bucharest.
Address: Sector 4, Bucharest, Romania
From $ 12
Also known as the Metropolitan Church, Bucharest’s main Orthodox place of worship is dedicated to Saints Constantine and Helen and sits atop Mitropoliei, one of the few hills in the city center. It was designed by an unknown architect as a copy of the Curtea de Arges monastery in the university city of Pitesti and consecrated in 1658; it has three dumpy spires, a bulbous apse and Byzantine-style gilded paintings of the saints adorning its exterior. Although the cathedral was largely restored to its original form in the early 1960s, four major upgrades have been made over the centuries, particularly to its gold-encrusted interior, where frescoes have been added as recently as 1935. The first Romanian-language bible was printed here in 1688 and the cathedral holds the most valuable collection of icons in Romania.
Next to the cathedral is a squat bell tower built in 1698 and opposite is the Patriarchal Palace, which has been the official residence of the head of the Romanian Orthodox church since 1708; it is closed to the public but enjoyed a moment in the spotlight when it became the temporary seat of Parliament following the revolution in 1989. Close by is the Neo-classical Palace of the Chamber of Deputies, built in 1907.
Practical information: Strada Dealul Mitropoliei. Open daily 7am–8pm. Free admission. Take the metro to Piata Unirii.
Address: Strada Dealul Mitropoliei, Bucharest, Bucharest Municipality 40163, Romania
From $ 22
Founded in 1471 by Vlad the Impaler (the real-life ‘Count Dracula’ who inspired Bram Stoker’s fictional character of the same name), the Comana Monastery has long been an intriguing site for fans. Legend has it that the headless body of Vlad the Impaler was even found during excavations of the site.
The monastery was originally located on an island in the middle of a swamp and accessible only by a wooden bridge. Rebuilt in the 16th century by Romanian ruler Radu Serban and restored by Serban Cantacuzino at the turn of the 18th century, it remains a striking sight and makes a popular diversion for those visiting the nearby Comana Nature Park.
Comana Monastery is located close to the Comana Natural Park, about 30km south of Bucharest.
From $ 103
Built in the late 1890s and opened at the turn of the 20th century on one of Bucharest’s main boulevards, the CEC Palace was designed by French architect Paul Gottereau and the construction of this fine Beaux Arts masterpiece was overseen by Romanian architect Ion Socolescu. Designated to be the HQ of Romania’s oldest savings bank, Casa de Economii și Consemnațiuni (CEC) and located opposite the National History Museum of Romania, it is a monumental mansion topped with five cupolas; the central one stands over the grandiose, colonnaded entrance and is made of glass and steel. The palace is slated for transformation into an art museum and was sold to the city council for more than €17.75 million in 2006; while plans are drawn up the CEC Bank rents it back from the council but its sumptuous, marble-clad interior – much of which was covered over in Ceaușescu’s time – is no longer open to the public.
Calea Victoriei 13. Not open to the public. Take the metro to Piata Unirii.
Address: Calea Victoriei 13, Bucharest, Bucharest Municipality 030022, Romania
From $ 38
A natural oasis of lush wetlands, ancient forests and sprawling marshes, just 30 km from Bucharest, the Comana Nature Park offers a tranquil retreat from the city, with almost 25,000 hectares of land. Designated a national reserve in 2004, Comana is one of Romania’s most bio-diverse areas, home to around 141 bird species, including the endemic glossy ibis, and a startling array of flora, including wild pear trees and a rainbow of wild peonies that bloom in the spring and summer months.
Along with wildlife spotting, popular activities in the park include hiking, horse riding, biking and canoeing, while nearby attractions include the 16th-century Comana Monastery, built by the real-life ‘Dracula’ - Vlad the Impaler.
Comana Nature Park is located around 30 km south of Bucharest.
From $ 103
Hidden away in Bucharest’s old Jewish quarter, the Great Synagogue (or the Great Polish Synagogue) was built by the city’s Polish-Jewish community in 1845 and is an impressively preserved tribute to Romania’s rich Jewish heritage. Don’t be put-off by the synagogue’s simple façade – inside, the main hall is lavishly decorated, painted in Rococo style by Ghershon Horowitz in 1936 and hung with beautiful chandeliers.
Today, the Great Synagogue remains active as a place of worship, but it’s also home to a small, but fascinating Jewish museum. Focusing on Romania’s Jewish history and heritage, the most moving exhibition details the horrors of the Holocaust and includes the poignant Memorial for Jewish Martyrs.
The Great Synagogue is located close to Udricani Church in Bucharest’s Jewish quarter and can be reached by metro (Unirii Station). The synagogue is open daily except Saturdays from 9am to 1pm and admission is 5 Lei.
Address: 11 Adamache Street, Bucharest, Romania
Hours: Open Sun-Fri 9am-1pm
Admission: 5 Lei
From $ 36
Taking centerstage in Bucharest’s Old Town, Revolution Square (Piata Revolutiei) is located along the central boulevard of Victoriei Street and has long been at the forefront of the city’s historic events. Originally named Palace Square (Piața Palatului), Revolution Square earned its current moniker after the Romanian Revolution in 1989, and remains one of the city’s principal landmarks and navigational hubs.
For first-time visitors, the grand square is undeniably impressive, framed by ornate buildings and crowned by the towering Memorial of Rebirth – a 25-meter-high marble pillar erected in the center of the square, in memory of the victims of the Revolution. Other important monuments on the square include the neoclassical Royal Palace, now home to the National Museum of Art; the Romanian Atheneum, a domed concert hall dating back to the 19th century; and the former headquarters of the Romanian Communist Party, where Nicolae Ceausescu famously addressed the crowds for the final time, before fleeing by helicopter. Also around Revolution Square are the University library, the sprawling Palace of Parliament and statues of Iuliu Maniu and Carol I of Romania.
Revolution Square (Piata Revolutiei) is located on Victoriei Street at the heart of downtown Bucharest.
Address: Calea Victoriei, Bucharest, Romania
From $ 14
Located in the center of Bucharest, the Museum of the Romanian Peasant is one of the leading museums in Europe dedicated to popular arts and traditions. Named the European Museum of the Year in 1996, it boasts a collection of more than 100,000 objects, including textiles, costumes, religious icons, handpainted Easter eggs, terra cotta pottery and other items telling the story of life in the Romanian countryside over four centuries.The museum was originally founded in 1906, but during Communist times, the building houses a museum of the Communist party instead. It reopened as the Museum of the Romanian Peasant after the fall of Nicolae Ceausescu, but the basement still contains remnants of the Communist museum.
The museum’s red brick building dates back to 1912 and features traditional Romanian architecture, including large windows under the arches and a main tower that is reminiscent of old bell towers. Considered one of the most enjoyable museums in Bucharest, it was expanded significantly in 2002. Visitors can buy replicas of many of the items on display from the museum gift shop.
The museum is located near Piata Victoriei, next to the Grigor Antipa Natural History Museum and the Geology Museum. It is accessible from the Piata Victoriei Metro station. English language descriptions are limited to small placards, but audioguides are available in English, as well as German, French and Romanian. The cost for an audioguide is 12 Romanian lei.
Address: Soseaua Kiseleff 3, Piata Vicoriei, Bucharest, Romania
Hours: Open Tues-Sun 10am-6pm
Admission: 8 lei
From $ 41
The Princely Church in Curtea de Arges is one of the most important examples of medieval architecture south of the Carpathians in Romania. Built in the shape of a Greek cross with a dome resting on four pillars, the church is also the oldest Orthodox church in the region. The exterior of the church is notable for its alternating stone and brick layers, while the inside is home to what are possibly the oldest surviving examples of Romanian painting. The several hundred Byzantine style paintings date back to the 14th century and include a depiction of a pregnant Virgin Mary. Another highlight of the church is the tomb of Romanian ruler Radu I Basarab, which features a glass pane through which visitors can see the remains of his garments adorned with gold and precious stones.
The Princely Church is across the street from the Parcul San Nicoara in the center of Curtea de Arges, a short walk from the main train station. Curtea de Arges is 150 kilometers from Bucharest (about a two-hour drive), making a long day trip possible.
Address: Strada Negru Vodă 2, Curtea de Arges, Wallachia, Romania
Hours: Daily, 8 am to 6 pm. Closed Mondays.
Admission: 6 lei
From $ 68