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Cruises to Bucharest

Bucharest (Photo:Augustin Lazaroiu/Shutterstock)

About Bucharest

The word on Bucharest is that it's ugly, gritty, grimy -- and parts of it are. But don't make do with first impressions. As our guide aptly put it: "New-old-beautiful-ugly. This is what Bucharest is."

Energetic, hectic and just two decades out of Communist rule, this textured capital city of 2.2 million people is an acquired taste, and it's still in the process of defining itself. Just as Romania has been touted as the New Italy, Bucharest is being hailed as a sophisticated but less pricey alternative to Budapest and Belgrade.

The overarching signature of Bucharest today is the intersection of Communism and capitalism: Buses carrying tourists routinely pull up to the massive Palace of Parliament, built by Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu as a tribute to himself. (More than one-sixth of the city was leveled to accommodate his indulgence.) The endless grey blocks of apartments that rose during Communist times are still in evidence, but so are outlets for Ferrari and Maserati, Hard Rock Cafe, ING, Starbucks and McDonald's. And the national sense of humor that Romanians quietly relied upon to help them survive Ceausescu's dictatorship is out in the open now. Locals, for instance, call the Judicial Ministry "the laundry": where politicians go in dirty and come out clean.

Located between the Carpathian foothills and the Danube River, Bucharest in its golden age -- the late 19th and early 20th centuries -- was known throughout Europe as "Little Paris." Royals ruled at the time, and the city was famous for its elegant architecture, grand thoroughfares and cultural elite. There are still some gorgeous neo-Classical buildings that date back to Bucharest's heyday, but World War II bombings and two earthquakes altered much of the skyline.

A member of the European Union since 2007, modern-day Bucharest is trying hard to regain its fallen stature as a European capital. In a recent travel piece in The Guardian, the British newspaper calls Bucharest "Paris eaten then spat out." Get real. Bucharestians make no apologies for their city -- and they shouldn't. Just like its residents, it's a place with a big personality and a huge heart.

With its elegant, historic city center, emerging cafe society, architectural high points and proximity to lovely Transylvania, Bucharest has a lot to offer tourists. That is why many companies book their Danube River cruise passengers on Bucharest (and nearby Transylvania) pre- or post-trips, even though passengers, depending on their itineraries, will embark or disembark their river ships in Ruse, Bulgaria, a few hours away. Buses transport them between Bucharest and the Danube. Ruse, for its part, has little to recommend it.

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  • Why go to Bucharest?

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Avalon Passion
Avalon Passion

23 Night
Iconic Rivers Of Europe - The Rhine, Main & Danube...Details

49 Reviews
Leaving:Amsterdam
Cruise Line:Avalon Waterways
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Avalon Impression
Avalon Impression

23 Night
Iconic Rivers Of Europe - The Rhine, Main & Danube...Details

68 Reviews
Leaving:Amsterdam
Cruise Line:Avalon Waterways
May 23, 2024
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Avalon Passion
Avalon Passion

24 Night
Iconic Rivers Of Europe - The Rhine, Main & Danube...Details

49 Reviews
Leaving:Amsterdam
Cruise Line:Avalon Waterways
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Cruise Critic Favorite
Avalon Passion
Avalon Passion

10 Night
The Danube From The Black Sea To BudapestDetails

49 Reviews
Leaving:Bucharest
Cruise Line:Avalon Waterways
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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15 Night
The Danube From Germany To The Black SeaDetails

68 Reviews
Leaving:Deggendorf
Cruise Line:Avalon Waterways
Aug 20, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Cruise Critic Favorite

8 Night
Enchantment Of Eastern EuropeDetails

168 Reviews
Leaving:Budapest
Cruise Line:Emerald Cruises
Jun 12, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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22 Night
Bucharest To Amsterdam - Discover The Rhine, Main...Details

88 Reviews
Leaving:Bucharest
Cruise Line:Emerald Cruises
May 11, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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7 Night
Black Sea ExplorerDetails

115 Reviews
Leaving:Bucharest
Cruise Line:Scenic
May 24, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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8 Night
Enchantment Of Eastern EuropeDetails

88 Reviews
Leaving:Budapest
Cruise Line:Emerald Cruises
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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8 Night
Balkan DiscoveryDetails

49 Reviews
Leaving:Budapest
Cruise Line:Avalon Waterways
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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10 Night
Balkan Discovery With 2 Nights In TransylvaniaDetails

18 Reviews
Leaving:Budapest
Cruise Line:Avalon Waterways
Aug 12, 2024
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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11 Night
Balkan Discovery With 1 Night In Budapest & 2 Nigh...Details

60 Reviews
Leaving:Budapest
Cruise Line:Avalon Waterways
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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10 Night
Balkan Discovery With 2 Nights In TransylvaniaDetails

1 Review
Leaving:Budapest
Cruise Line:Avalon Waterways
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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13 Night
Active & Discovery On The Danube From Croatia To T...Details

49 Reviews
Leaving:Dubrovnik
Cruise Line:Avalon Waterways
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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11 Night
Istanbul & Enchantment Of Eastern EuropeDetails

88 Reviews
Leaving:Istanbul
Cruise Line:Emerald Cruises
May 8, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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More about Bucharest

Why go to Bucharest?

Pros:

Bucharest is a complex city with a fascinating history evident in its historic center and Communist landmarks

Cons:

When walking, beware of pickpockets and stray dogs -- both can be a problem in Bucharest

Bottom Line:

This city is not shiny and packaged up for tourist -- it's authentic, unique and well worth a visit

Bucharest Cruise Port Facilities?

As previously mentioned, ships do not dock there.

Good to Know?

Pickpockets troll the public transportation system during the peak hours of 7 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 5 p.m., so use caution. Bucharest also has a severe problem with stray dogs -- tens of thousands of them. It's best to steer clear if you happen upon one. Also, Bucharestians joke that there are no traffic rules in the city, only traffic suggestions. Take them at their word when doing something as simple as crossing the street.

Getting Around?

Bucharest's public transportation system covers the entire city with buses, trams, trolleys and subway services, operating from 5 a.m. to midnight. Tickets can be purchased at kiosks and in every underground Metro station. There is reduced service on Sundays.

As for taxis, you can hire a metered cab by phone, by hailing it on the street or by walking up to a taxi stand. Licensed taxis are yellow and have black and white registration numbers printed on their doors. Legitimate drivers will have photo ID's with prices posted. Recommended companies include Cristaxi, Meridian, 2000, Speed, Cobalcescu and Confort. The customary tip is 10 percent -- or 15 percent for extraordinary service.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money?

Even though Romania is a member of the European Union, it still uses the ron, also known as the leu. The plural form is lei. For a currency conversion calculator, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com.

ATM's, or bancomats, tend to be the least expensive way to obtain local currency. Banks are open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 or 5 p.m. Avoid private exchange offices, as they tend to be expensive.

Language?

Romanian, of course. English is not widely understood, although it is spoken in finer hotels and restaurants. It is also taught in schools, so younger folks will be more conversant than their elders.

Where You're Docked?

Bucharest serves as a transfer destination for Danube River cruises. Passengers frequently overnight for one or two nights before journeying across the border to Bulgaria to meet their ships.


Bucharest Cruise Reviews
A real hidden gem in Europe. Beautiful architecture and still some reminders of the days of communism. Very friendly people.Read More
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ypgal
We were surprised at the number of exhibit homes.Read More
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TammaraP
We hired a private guide, Sylvana Rapeanu, to show us around Bucharest. She did a really nice job of showing us the highlights/interesting areas of the city in one day. She was very flexible in what we wanted to see,Read More
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gmf1950
Bucharest was a really exciting and interesting City.Read More
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mary james

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