Metro Magazine, London – Wednesday, 24 November 2010
Stepping out of a tyrant’s shadow
"Europe’s current darling, plaudits bestowed upon Bucharest include ‘the Paris of the East’ and ‘the new Berlin’. No pressure, then. Though a little overstated, such praise is just. Since Ceausescu’s death 20 years ago, the Romanian capital has been desperate to break free of its heavy concrete shell and a flourish of additions to its newly vibrant cityscape has seen it do just that. A confusion of gleaming 21st-century offerings stand proudly beside tattered gipsy dwellings, the gritty tableaux of yesteryear adding a welcome air of authenticity to a rapidly changing city.
By Polly Humphris
Atelier Aiurea, Covaci 19 (+40 21 311 33 18); www.atelieraiurea.blogspot.com
This new vintage dressing-up-box is more like a modern art installation. From the central light fitting which creeps across the ceiling like a graceful spider to the Romanesque columns showcasing Westwood shoes as though they were busts of emperors, the word ‘shop’ doesn’t do it justice. Extravagant, elegant and constantly changing the shelving layout and what’s on them, anyone who things themselves a tad Vivienne, Coco or Audrey has found your bellwether boutique.
National Art Museum, Calea Victoriei 49 -53 (+40 21 313 30 30; www.mnar.arts.ro)
Bucharest is so rich in cultural activity it’s hard to know where to start, though the National Art Museum is a pretty good bet. “Located in the neo-classical former Royal Palace set amid a wealth of historic buildings such as the Romanian Athenaeum and Kretzulescu Church, the museum currently exhibits more than 100,000 works’, says Maria Iordache of Romania Tourism. ‘Its National Gallery features the works of major Romanian artists including Grigorescu, Aman and Andreescu and the European Gallery displays little known art gems from the like of El Greco, Monet, Rembrandt, Renoir and Rubens.’
Hotel Cristina, 13 Ion Slatineanu Str (+40 21 210 73 03) www.hotelchristina.ro; doubles from 84 EUR
Riding on the current cool-but-with-a-conscience wave, this chic new boutique hotel seamlessly blends hi-tech spaces with a classic décor and is a sleek example of modern, minimalist living with an eco-friendly backbone. Employing solar panels, custom made furniture produces from corian, a non-gas-emitting material, and LED lighting systems, the shared spaces and five rooms are decorated in a simple but contemporary fashion: mostly white with chrome that add a futuristic, stylish look. Hassle-free, this fine hotel has it covered, from car rental and laptop hire to babysitting.
Caru’ cu Bere, Stavropoleos 3-5 (+40 21 313 75 60; www.carucubere.ro)
Granted, this eatery lies just on the acceptable side of tourist trap and the food, though palatable, is not cordon bleu. But you don’t go there for the fine dining; you go there because of the building’s sheer resplendence. ‘In the past, this restaurant was a popular meeting place for Bucharest’s literati,’ says Maria Iordache of Romania Tourism. ‘It’s neo-Gothic architectural style is reflected in the impressive façade and the interior design.’ An authentic throwback to Bucharest’s 19th-century heyday, the high-arched ceilings, gilded overhanging balconies and stained-glass windows are the tip of this decadent iceberg.
Bruno, Covaci 3 (+ 40 21 317 17 41; www.brunowine.ro)
Located in Lipscani, Bucharest’s area du jour (made even cooler by the fact you’re as likely to bump into an electro-loving hipster as you are a 150-year-old gypsy), Bruno is a new wine bar and a very laid-back alternative to the equally attractive swathe of clubs springing up the for the city’s massive and discerning crowd of techno-heads. Outside, the bar has the welcoming look of an Amsterdam coffee shop and the interior is a charmingly understated sea of dark wood and soft lighting. The menu offers more than 100 wines from 21 varieties and the owners seriously know their stuff."