Visitors flock to the grandeur of the Palace of Parliament and the buzzing cafés of Lipscani, but Bucharest and its surroundings are also home to many more curious sights. There’s much more than Dracula’s castle awaiting those who dare to venture off the beaten track.
Bucharest is full of medieval palaces and stately homes, but you can see how the other 99% lived by visiting the Village Museum. Spread out on the shores of Lake Herăstrău, the Village Museum recreates historic rural communities. Spend an afternoon exploring the picturesque collection of authentic cottages, windmills and churches dating back to the 1700s, including thatch-roofed earth houses and brightly painted wooden churches. Divided into sectors representing different regions of Romania, including Moldavia, Transylvania and Dobrogea, this is the ideal place to see more of the country without leaving the capital.
Muzeul Palatul Voievodal Curtea Veche
There’s no doubt that you’ve heard of Dracula’s Bran Castle, but you can visit one of Vlad the Impaler’s other residences right in the heart of Bucharest. Just a 20-minute walk from our Radisson Blu Hotel, Bucharest, sits the Muzeul Palatul Voievodal Curtea Veche, or Old Fortress of Bucharest. Once decorated with marble and icons, a series of fires in the 19th century took their toll on this palace. The remains form the oldest medieval monument in the city, and you're permitted to walk freely among the atmospheric ruins, relics and tombstones.
Venture further afield to the city of Brașov to see the Black Church, constructed in the 14th century and notable for its elegant Gothic architecture. Like the Old Fortress, the Black Church was devastated by fire. As a result, the interior is done up in the Baroque style, while the exterior is textbook Gothic. Look out for the curious statue of a little boy kneeling on top of the roof. Legends say the boy either died in the fire or was murdered during the church’s construction. The mystery only serves to heighten the gloomy effect of this well-preserved Transylvanian church.
Several miles outside Bucharest, Mogoșoaia Palace is the former residence of Prince Constantin Brâncoveanu. You can stroll around the tranquil gardens and visit a range of buildings within the complex, including an icehouse, greenhouse and art gallery. Visit in the summer months to take advantage of the palace’s extensive gardens and outdoor setting. Marrying Venetian and Ottoman architectural styles, the palace and its surrounding buildings provide a compelling visual presentation of Romania's historic influences.
Romanian trains are slow but reliable, making them a viable option for getting around the country on your sightseeing tour. If you prefer to stay close to the city center, there's a great network of buses, trams, taxis and trolleybuses just waiting to ferry you about from church to castle.
The Libearty Bear Sanctuary provides refuge to more than 70 bears rescued from circuses and private cages. Now free to roam free through 160 acres of wooded lands in the Carpathian Mountains, the bears climb trees and go for swims as they wish. Their tranquil sanctuary is located about a three-hour drive from Bucharest. Guided tours are available, although you'll need to contact the main office, based in Brașov, a few days in advance to guarantee your place.