Razvan Trancu has 13 years of tour guide experience as well as a varied background that includes a law school degree and operations work in a film studio. He was born and raised in Bucharest and enjoys the cultural exchange of his profession as well as putting travelers at ease as he takes them on tours around his city as a Viator private guide. He took the time recently to provide us his local perspective on Bucharest’s interesting history and many attractions.
What are some of the most famous sites and attractions in your city?
Bucharest offers a variety of interest points given its long and troubled history, especially if we are talking about the last 100 years. The landmarks of the city take you back as far as the 15th century, with its recently revived Old Town, buzzing nightlife, boutique shops and restaurants, surrounded by the ruins of the Old Princely Court with its mysteries and catacombs. There is tremendous excitement in discovering the princely summer residence of Mogosoaia Palace, spine-chilling monastery of Chiajna and narrow and labyrinthine streets of the Hidden Bucharest Tour, or the 130-year old forts on the ring road of the capital. I offer the unique experience of introducing visitors to some of these forts, and the chance to step into one which used to host political prisoners of the Communist regime.
Moving on to the 19th and 20th centuries, it is worth discovering the Belle Epoque architecture. The Romanian Athenaeum, national art gallery, Military Club, National Bank, university and Cismigiu Gardens are equally important for that period of time.
Another nuance of the Bucharest experience is its utopian Communist area of about 5000 hectares, which was meant to be a part of a greater plan to completely transform the face of the city by the year 2000, according to the dictator president’s ideas. The Parliament Palace stands as a testimony of those times, with its size, bunkers and shocking stories!
What is the peak season for tourists to visit? And why?
The peak season is the same as every other Northern Hemisphere city, lasting from March all the way to mid-October. On the other hand, the winter season offers opportunities to explore the numerous and varied venues within the city or outside, like sipping some mulled wine by the fireplace of a Transylvanian pension house after a day’s trip on its high plains.
How are the weather conditions?
Summers are warm and sunny, with temperatures reaching 25-30 degrees centigrade, whilst the winter temperatures may go as low minus 15 centigrade.
What are some of the cultural characteristics in your city?
A large variety of modern art forms through alternative and underground art galleries, featuring a new and daring generation of young artists who are not afraid of experimenting with different ideas and materials. It is becoming quite popular to attend an exclusive performance of modern or post-modern theater, in a 20-seat independent theater! As for food, locals are becoming more interested in trying cuisine from all over the world. Trying a Romanian dinner with starters, mains and desserts included, not to mention spirits, is not to be missed. September brings with it the local street festival, the Bucharest Days, but until then, the summer is packed with outdoor events, street music happenings and beer festivals.
Could you give a little history on your city? How has the city played a role in history?
Bucharest has recently celebrated 555 years of documented existence. At the edge of the Balkans yet not a Balkan city, it has features from different epochs; it was marked by its geographical position and a tumultuous 20th century. Becoming the most important trading place in Southern Romania throughout the 17th to the 19th centuries, it was transformed from a hamlet into a modern city, being the first in the world to introduce street lighting. Intriguing architecturally, it gives the visitor a contradictory but nonetheless an exciting experience.
Please tell us some of your favorite places to go in your city!
My favorite places to go to depends on the season. I like the summer garden pubs and teahouses hidden on the narrow streets. I like the boutique theaters and underground art venues, exclusive parties that are organized on the alternative/electro scene, numerous milongas and atmosphere of the Argentinian tango attics.
What sets the people and culture of your city apart?
It is a place in Southeast Europe with both Balkan and Central-West European influences; it is a mixture of color, history, mysteries and it needs … well … translation.
Talk about some of the main attractions in your city.
It has all the features of a modern city and intriguing nuances of a contradictory past. Nightlife is clearly one of them, the classy and bourgeois venues, secret backyards, colorful and vibrant grocery markets, antique shops and meetings with local artists in a 19th-century garden.
Where are the best places to stay? And where are the best restaurants?
Staying in the central hotels (Hilton, Marriott, Radisson, Sheraton, Novotel, Ramada), boutique hotels (Rembrandt, Cherie, Epoque) or numerous hostels in the Old Town represents a wide variety of choices for all budgets and all types of tourists.
The food venues offer the chance to get back on your feet at 3 a.m. at exquisite kebap places, Romanian taverns, sushi or Mexican, wine bars and tastings, either in the Old Town or by the lakes of northern Bucharest. Anything is available!
Check out more things to do in Bucharest.