The Romanian capital continues to redefine itself, merging its storied history with a modern identity.
At first glance, the architecture is dizzying, but it’s a fascinating mix.
Between the dreary Communist-era apartment blocks are Byzantine buildings, centuries’ old churches and Art Nouveau mansions that stand out as the survivors of earthquakes, war and communism.
Look more closely at one of the most promising capitals in the European Union and further charms will be revealed.
There are pristine city parks, excellent museums and gritty yet charming lanes that weave through the Old Town.
Here are more reasons to visit Bucharest right now.
A rejuvenated Old Town
Bucharest is where traders met and travelers have mingled since the 15th century. It survived former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s razing of one fifth of the city to build his vision of a new Socialist capital.
After a period reduced to a slum, the Old Town’s buildings are being slowly restored. The traffic-free cobbled lanes have been transformed into one of the liveliest nightlife zones in Europe.
Bookshops, theaters, restaurants and cafes add more charm.
The princely past of Count Dracula
Once the palatial residence of Wallachian princes, including Vlad Tepes, otherwise known as Vlad the Impaler who inspired Bram Stoker’s tale of Dracula, the Old Princely Court has always had royal connections.
It was the place for succeeding Romanian princes to be crowned. The Old Court Museum exhibits pottery and artifacts that were found among its ruins.
The vast Palace of the Parliament
This architectural colossus wins many plaudits, including heaviest building in the world, the largest building in Europe (nearly four million square feet and one thousand rooms) and the world’s second-largest administrative building (after the Pentagon).
It also wins for categories of vastness and kitsch, a testament to the outrageous luxury Ceausescu envisioned for himself before he was overthrown in a coup d’état.
Concerts at the Romanian Athenaeum
Resembling an ancient Greek temple with a 41-meter-high dome, its interiors are an intricate weave of gold leaf, marble balconies and wide, spiral stairs.
In the concert hall itself, an intricate 70-meter-long and three-meter-high fresco depicting Romania’s history will compete with the philharmonic’s performance for your attention.
The beautiful Stavropoleos Church
Built in Brancoveanu style it features an intricately carved and columned entrance. Fine stone and wood carvings and a combination of Romanian and Byzantine elements can be admired in the Greek Orthodox church’s interior.
The remnants of ‘Little Paris’
Bucharest was once known as “Little Paris,” a capital that blossomed under King Carol, who imported French architects to give his city a grand feel.
Much of that work was disfigured by concrete Socialist-style architecture.
However, Calea Victoriei features some elegant belle époque buildings and monuments.
On walnut tree-lined Soseaua Kiseleff a replica of Paris’s Arc de Triomphe can be found. Traffic swirls around the 27-meter-high Arcul de Triumf which was finished in the early 20th century.
A peerless outdoor museum
Guests can visit about 300 traditional buildings including peasant homes with steep roofs, thatched barns, heavy log cabins, churches and mills — all of which have been transported from towns across Romania.
Miles of parks
Bucharest is swathed in beautiful parks. The oldest, designed in the mid-19th century, is Cismigiu Gardens.
Or there is the 400-acre Herastrau Park which features an open-air theater, as well as public recreation areas.
Boat rentals are available on the lake every summer. Completed in 1906, Carol Park is considered the prettiest.
Find Romania’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier here as well as a Roman-era style open-air theater called Arenele Romane.
Best bookshop in Europe?
Its impressively minimal design plays with light that filters through a central skylight to make the space seem like visitors are in a moving carousel.
Marissa Tejada is an author, travel journalist and founder of the Travel Greece, Travel Europe blog. She tweets @tejadamarissa.