A city of nearly 2 million, Bucharest is a fascinating destination, not least because it’s one of the very rare European capitals that has not yet been affected by mass tourism. It more than warrants a couple nights at the beginning of any visit to Romania.
As the Romanian economy has prospered, Bucharest has also become an appealingly lively place. That said, the historic urban fabric of the city was badly damaged by madcap, megalomaniacal projects during the Nicolae Ceauşescu regime (from 1965 to 1989), most notoriously the construction of Casa Poporului, a monstrous edifice that was originally intended to house Romania’s parliament, government offices and supreme court, as well as Ceauşescu and his immediate family.
If the supersized ugliness of Casa Poporului has to be seen to be believed — it’s the world’s second-largest administrative building after the Pentagon — other Communist-era buildings, including many drab concrete apartment blocks, also give the city a rather dour appearance. Now, though, renovations of some of Bucharest’s beautiful surviving Belle Epoque architecture and other historic buildings are making it sufficiently attractive to restore credibility to its pre-World War II sobriquet, the “Little Paris of the East.”