Cruise passengers heading to the Black Sea this fall might notice a change in their itineraries: due to the political unrest in Ukraine, Silversea cruises in particular is proposing an alternate route, including a "bonus" excursion in Bucharest. Two hours inland from the Black Sea, the capital is not only a necessary stop for anyone interested in Eastern European culture — it's also in the midst of a substantial renaissance. Here are four things to do next time you find yourself in the "Paris of the East."
Binge on contemporary design
One group that's helping to keep Bucharest fresh (at least, from a tourism perspective) is the Bucharest Design Center, which offers a guide to stylish local businesses. By that, they mean places like the chic furniture boutique Intro, and Carturesti Verona Bookstore, which offers custom stationary, frequent readings, and a tearoom in the back.
Explore on two wheels
If you like the thought of cruising past landmarks like Palace of the Parliament (the second largest building in the world) and the monumental Victory Square (called Piaţa Victoriei), without having to actually go inside, why not rent a bike for the day? The best way to get around the city on two wheels is Cicloteque, which offers a decent network of shops near major parks like Tineretului Park, Herastrau Park, and Titan Park — and at just $6.25 per day, the rates aren't too shabby either.
Check out the art galleries
Last month, a major contemporary art festival known as White Night of the Art opened dozens of Bucharest's most in-demand galleries to the public for a night of art-browsing, wine-guzzling, and various site-specific performances. The party came and went — but if you're looking to tap into Bucharest's buzzing art scene, the website has a comprehensive index of all the galleries that participated.
Try tripe and sausages
Romanian cuisine has yet to break through to mainstream western culture, but in Bucharest, that hardly matters. Two blocks from lively Lipscani Street, whose cocktail bars and outdoor cafes come alive at night, is the upscale Lacrimi si Sfinti. Riding a recent wave of rave reviews, the restaurant prides itself on market-fresh ingredients, as well as stunning interiors that make use of reclaimed barn doors and hand-painted earthenware. When you're not gaping at the space itself you'll be chowing down on family-style dishes like Ciorba de Burta (tripe soup) and Carnati Acordati (herbed sausages with house mustard).