SAVVY TRAVELLER: Architectural splendour




With wide, tree-lined boulevards and glorious Belle Epoque buildings, Bucharest earns its nickname “The Little Paris of the East”.

Its main attraction — the colossal Parliament Palace (formerly known as the People’s Palace), is the second largest building in the world after the Pentagon.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the palace is the world’s largest civilian administrative building, the most expensive administrative building and the heaviest building.

Another attraction, the Arch of Triumph, will make you feel like you are in Paris. An interior staircase here allows visitors to climb to the top for a panoramic view of the city.

Stroll along Victory Avenue which is Bucharest’s oldest and arguably most charming street, from Victory Square to Astronauts Square, to discover some of the most stunning buildings in the city.

Look out for Cantacuzino Palace, Military Club, CEC Headquarters, National History Museum and Historical Revolution Square.

If you want more architectural masterpieces, spend some time at The University Square. On each of its four corners are buildings like University of Bucharest’s School of Architecture, Bucharest National Theatre, Neoclassical Coltea Hospital and its lovely Church.

The Botanical Garden and Cismigiu Garden are one of the oldest parks and display a variety of plants from all over the world.

Never ever change money on the street. You will not get the best deal or may even be cheated. Go to authorised money changers or the banks instead.

The best-known dish is sarmale, minced meat wrapped in cabbage or vine leaves with polenta. Try local stews made with different kinds of meat, usually chicken or pork with vegetables. Also try Ciorba de burta, which is tripe soup served with garlic or hot chilli pepper and vinegar. It is one of the favourite dishes among Romanians. Also try Romanian pork or lamb chop.

The national drink is the double-distilled Tuica, usually made with plums, apples or pears. For dessert, try baked Clatite cu branza (pancakes with cheese) served with different types of cream.

Major branded shops, upscale boutiques, antique shops and souvenir shops are concentrated along the main boulevard from Romana Square to Unirii Square, along Victory Avenue and Lipscani District. In the past years, numerous modern mega malls have sprung up in the city, the best known are Bucharest Mall, Baneasa Shopping City, Liberty Center and AFI Palace Cotroceni.

Walking plus public transport and a handy map in hand are a cheap, easy and convenient way to discover Bucharest. Check on visiting hours and days, before visiting places of interest. Get a daily or weekly pass for public transport for good deals.


Stunning views

THE modern Hydro Hotel Penang has 322 rooms with stunning views — lush tropical hills on one side and the beautiful blue ocean on the other. It is located between George Town and Batu Ferringhi, with the beach just across the road.

The amenities in its rooms include in-room safe, IDD telephone access and coffee/tea-making facilities. High speed WiFi Internet access is available at a minimal charge.

The F&B outlets offer a variety of dining options and the hotel has a range of meeting and banquet facilities with audio visual equipment. The executive lounge-cum-business centre with free WiFi Internet access allows guests to get connected. To wind down, enjoy live music at the lounge, or take part in the recreational activities. There is also a gymnasium.


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PRADEEP SINGH in Bucharest, Romania

Hydro Hotel

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