A ghost town not so long ago, the Old Town today is fully in the midst of revival. While some corners exude full-on tourist trap or a dazzlinging number of cafés and music-pumping bars, others display marvelously restored, and repurposed historical monuments, such as the Instagram magnet of Cărturești Carusel, one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, as well as the cultural center of ARCUB Gabroveni, in what used to be a historic inn. Walk the maze of cobblestone streets and let yourself be surprised by the old, and in equal measures, by the new.
The city is healing its still-visible scars, and charging ahead. So sure, come and see monuments of Communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu’s depraved indulgence, like his enormous, iconic 1,100-room Palace of Parliament or his 80-room mansion, opened to the public in 2016, where you can tour his gold-plated bathroom. They are a part of the city, just as Bucharest’s inter-war architecture -- when it was considered the Paris of the East -- or today’s New Romanian cuisine, a truly multicultural gastronomy that draws from the country’s agrarian riches.
In truth, Bucharest cannot be described in any one way because if anything, it’s eclectic. At the crossroads of East and West and influenced throughout history by its neighbors and occupying forces, Bucharest is unique precisely because of it all; the living proof of its dramatic history and vibrant future. The city is a canvas of contrasting realities on which new directions are being played out.
Bucharest is now more effervescent than ever, but it’s also safer, cheaper and more entertaining than better-known European destinations. Wi-Fi here is the fastest in Europe, most people speak English (and probably two more languages), and it has parks -- lots and lots of parks. This is why I moved back, and why you should undoubtedly visit.
MORE: Great cities in Eastern Europe you shouldn't miss out on