How Bucharest Managed to Disappoint Me

For a few days now we’ve been in Bucharest, visiting the mother in law and getting ready for a quick visit to Eforie Nord – this year’s destination for our summer vacation. I’ve never been a huge fan of the city, especially because it’s huge size makes it a big time waster (for somebody coming from a small city where everything is within 15 minutes of walking, having to ride the subway for 40 minutes to visit some friends is a big turn off…) and because, well… Bucharest is ugly in my opinion.

However, I’m now starting to see things that I didn’t see in the past and I can say that in the last few days, Bucharest managed to disappoint me more that I had expected it to: below, I will tell you how.

First, we decided to visit one of the best known parks in Bucharest – Cismigiu. Situated in the heart of the city, Cismigiu was always welcoming: there are always events taking place there, the kids and adults can check out the peacocks and swans (including black swans) and a few other types of birds that are being kept there, or you can simply order a drink near the lake, enjoying the nature. Doing a quick Google Image search for Cismigiu, you see an idyllic place:

One of the first images that pops up if you do a search for Cismigiu on Google.
One of the first images that pops up if you do a search for Cismigiu on Google.

However, the reality is completely different and the park itself will look something like this:

cismigiu 1

I was shocked to see how dirty Cismigiu actually is and how much it has been ignored in the past. A lot of it is because of the people (bottles, wrappers and all sort of trash) is almost everywhere, especially in the water, but also leaves and a ton of pigeon poop.

Nobody seems to ever clean it, really: there are areas where it smells so bad because of the poop that it’s unbearable. The playgrounds for the kids are dirty – horribly dirty – and everything looks like it’s been ignored for a looong time. And we’re talking about one of the first destinations that pops up (at least parks-wise) when it comes to things to see in Bucharest!

Romania’s capital is a dirty city. There are still a lot of people who throw away trash on the streets (it happens everywhere in Romania, that’s true), most people don’t clean after their dogs – and things are insanely ugly in very crowded areas with lots of dogs, while many buildings are starting to show their age and nobody seems to care…

The people are not nice at all, they’re always in a hurry, they are always loud, they leave the impression of a truly uneducated bunch. Taking the subway will always be surprising and maybe even shocking. Things that should attract tourists, places that are actually visited by tourists are ignored by the authorities and look like crap. People act like crap:

I was in a store near Cismigiu, on our way home, and a tourist asked an employee where is the Palace of Parliament (or something similar, I didn’t really understand). The employee started laughing at her because she didn’t know where it was. As if everybody should have a map of Bucharest inside their brain and know where everything else…

It’s true, after the initial laughter, the employee told the lady tourist where to go, but I considered her reaction and way of dealing with this situation completely wrong and stupid. And this was done with tourists, who usually tip more than locals. At least for that reason alone, the worker should’ve been more polite: to keep earning those tips!

Not all the people in Bucharest are as described above and there are still a lot of nice people, places (and parks, yes) to visit. But, all in all, I think that this city is the most over-rated in Romania and there’s still a lot of work left to be done to change things around.

It’s disappointing and I believe that if I were a tourist (which I mostly am since I am not living here), I would be completely, completely disappointed with it. So be warned about this: the photos that you see online might not always present you the truth. Nobody seems to care about sharing the truth nowadays and all that matters is catching that perfect moment for Instagram. Even if that doesn’t look like the real thing. I hate this!

So my advice, unless you really want to visit Bucharest or you have to, is to stay away from it. Or, if you are coming to Romania, don’t just stick to our capital city. There are other cities which are in a much better shape and have a lot to offer as well.

It is true that Bucharest is the largest city in Romania and there are many nice things to see here, especially in terms of museums… but the overall look of things is not impressive.

I don’t really want to make this article anti-Bucharest or anti-Romania. I am usually trying to show the beautiful and the nice things that make the country a perfect one to visit or retire to, but I also believe that the truth has to be told. It’s not all diamonds and pearls when it comes to Bucharest (nor is it with most of the cities in this world), so don’t expect to find pure heaven here, because you won’t.

It also depends a lot on the things you like to see and the things you don’t enjoy seeing. Some people seem to love Bucharest with all their hearts, which is perfect. But some – like myself – can’t find enough reasons to like it. So, in the end, since you’re getting mixed opinions here, you’re probably better off checking it out for yourself and deciding if it’s beautiful or ugly.

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17 thoughts on “How Bucharest Managed to Disappoint Me”

  1. What a shame that the reality is so different from the photo. It sucks, doesn’t it? The worst part for me about Malta and Spain has always been the poop situation. Why can’t people just pick up after their dogs??? The neighborhood in Malaga was so like that, the city just takes care of the touristy areas and completely ignores the rest. I would still like to see Bucharest, but perhaps not stay for long :-).

    • I am sure that there are still a lot of nice things to be seen… but until today, if anybody would’ve asked me where to go in Bucharest, Cismigiu would’ve been my top pick for a park, especially since it’s in such a central location.

  2. Hi Calin:
    Well, I was hoping one day you’d do the “top 10” things you love about Romania, and the “top 10” things you hate. I guess I at least know one of the 10 “hates.”;-)
    Certainly, as mentioned in one of your previous posts about the new mega-church in Bucharest, it seems the priorities are all “bass-ackward”–at least in the capital. From what I’ve read, most people are either neutral about Bucharest, or negative. I remember “Wandering Earl,” was as positive as possible.
    Surely if Bucharest wants the tourists’ money, the city needs to be more welcoming and take more pride in place. It’s a shame, because I am sure there are a lot of sights which would impress tourists–certainly a clean Cismigiu as pictured in the Google search. What does Wife Romanian think, as she is a native of Bucharest?
    You’ll have to take pictures of Eforie Nord for us. In the mean time, I’ll do a Google search;-)
    I am still focusing on someday coming to Oradea. I just have to get away from this gun-crazed country (USA)!!! Hopefully, one day you’ll do a story on your top ten cities–including yours;-)
    So, what is the take on the poor refugees coming from North Africa? I’ve seen their plight on the news, and it’s just heartbreaking! I know a lot of the people use Hungary as an entry way to the EU for the ultimate goal of reaching England. I know Hungary is building a fence to deter the people, so is Romania their next entry? I hope the true refugees will find some place where they can make a new home–no human should have to go through what they have!
    Thanks again for the truth;-)
    p.s. If you want to see something funny, go to You Tube and check out Donald Trump tirades. Would he make a good leader in Romania? He says what’s on his mind, and I like that–even though he does cross the line a lot;-)

    • Hello Teil – Wandering Earl is usually extremely positive about every place he visits. I really believe that he can completely filter out all the bad things and experiences 🙂

      My wife doesn’t dislike Bucharest as much as I do, but she did agree that Cismigiu was a complete disappointment. Yesterday, we went shopping – and went on foot – and I admired the buildings that have been rehabilitated an some nice green areas that have been built around her place, so there are definitely signs of improvements here and there.

      Romania isn’t really the top entry point for the refugees in Africa, most are coming from Bulgaria – and they are building a fence too (I know nothing about Hungary – they aren’t even near the sea). Only time will tell if they will move up towards Romania if Bulgaria’s plan will work…

      And yes, I laughed a little at Trump’s speeches and got worried a little that he might become the next US president. I don’t think that the Romanians would vote for him, and I am sure he doesn’t stand a chance in the US either.

    • Hi Teil,
      Regarding Bucharest, for me it seems the same, it’s not a shock, it never was. The garbage in the parks, the poop on the streets, were always there, but Cismigiu and every other park and street has nice, new and whole benches to sit on, a thing that I didn’t have when I was a kid. I’ll visit a big park soon, that’s near us, and that was completely renovated and taken care of for the last years, I expect that to not be a let down.

      Something else that seems nicer and I really like it, and wished that Severin would have it too, are the kid’s parks in the neighborhood. They are new and modern and one in every area. Also, something that Severin doesn’t have enough of, at least in this area I grew up in, there are lots and lots of trees, green spaces, and people took care of them, they don’t look like a jungle like most green places in Severin do. Comparing with Budapest, YES, Bucharest does not have the same class, and should not be in the top of any bucket list.

      For me though, it’s home, it’s new opportunities and lots of things to do, to see, and options.
      Hope I answered your questions 🙂

  3. I am not disagreeing with you, just giving my own experience there in Bucharest. Parcul Cismigiu was a true gem. It seemed clean to me and I enjoyed the time I spent there. Now, that was before 2003, the last time I was there… But Romania is notorious for garbage everywhere. I was with a group of (East) Germans and we were driving in a minibus to Piatra Neamt. One of the Germans casually opened his window and tossed a plastic food wrapper out the window. I let him have it, but he just sheepishly said, “Well, the Romanians all do it!”

    I now live in Japan, in Hokkaido, and I was shocked to see refrigerators, tires and other garbage just dumped in the forest next to the road. Right now I’m in California, visiting my dad. Well, what do you know, garbage everywhere, chewing gum all over the sidewalks…

  4. As a Brit who has lived in Bucharest for 5 years now,to be honest I have always been quite impressed with the City,the parks of Herastrau,and Kislev with the lakes are great,clean well kept and relaxing not been so much to Cisimigiu so cannot comment,but yes many of the buildings are run down and need restoration,Lipscan has turned into something of a tourist trap since we arrived and now best avoided at night,we like Dorabanti a nice part of town and walking round the back streets is always pleasant with some really nice old houses to look at (some however still have bullet scars dating from the revolution) ,we now live near the zoo in Ilfov,Voluntari,supposed to be a nice area but the arrogant behaviour of some of the wealthier residents is very bad all big cars driven to fast and no regard for neighbours at all but these neavue riche types are much the same all over the world,in a few days we are moving away up to Transylvania ,and hoping for a more tranquil life,visited the area a lot and love it so bought a house just outside Medias.

    • A friend told me that Herastrau too is starting to look worse, but haven’t been there. I am really curious how the transition from Bucharest to Medias feels for you and I would love it if you could share your experience with us after the move.

  5. Native of Bucharest, living in North America for a long time now, I’m still fond of the city of my childhood and more, but , of course, the negative is there, big, visible, disappointing in high degree. We were in Cismigiu in 2013, no dirt, no smell, so what Calin discribes is an ominous sign of neglect , two fold, by authorities and by citizens. Cismigiu is across from City Hall, and the Mayor S. Oprescu prides himself as keeping most areas clean. Yet, the people are revoltingly passive, they do not react when somebody in front of them doesn’t pick up after his/her dog. They do not write or go out to protest against the neglect of the city , or against a corrupt Prime Minister.

    There are well kept areas of Bucharest, Dorobantzi, Calea Victoriei, Herastrau, Cotroceni, Gradina Icoanei, Dacia, Cotroceni, and is explainable, for these are most visited by foreigners, and also because the denizens are more civilised and take care of the neighbourhood.

    Bucharest has changed its demographics: In the last three decades, many have left the city, country, older people died, and the capital has been invaded, occupied by people who don’t love the place, they want to make money and have a good time for themselves.

    Yes, we also dislike LIPSCANI, mainly for the noisy, mindless, unpleasant crowds there.
    We also had the most disturbing experience with thieves, but true, in all European major cities the pick pocketers are present.
    We like the city, but it’s because we know its good places, we go to concerts and the theaters, excellent restaurants, true not affordable by the average Romanian, but reasonable to foreigners and their currencies. Bucharest has more British, Americans, French, Italian, you name them, visiting than ever, and that’s the sign it improved, at least in the last 5 to ten years, mainly since the membership in Europe, but until a radical change happens with its people, will remain a city with a few nice areas. We noticed that the city now has plenty of garbage containers everywhere, but people still throw stuff on the streets, in parks, and spit heavily.
    It happens more and more everywhere in today’s world, but too obvious in Bucharest. We understand why smaller towns in Transylvania are preferred, it’s their people who have respect for themselves and the traditions.

  6. Thank you Calin and Wife Romanian for your responses. It’s great to hear, too, from other people who’ve “been there and done that.” Calin, you are very right about Wandering Earl. Wife Romanian, are there town meetings where you could bring up the issue of a lack of children’s parks? Maybe you could get a group of like-minded people to
    storm city hall;-) and make them understand your very reasonable wishes.
    In the USA in the 1960s (yeah, I go that far back;-) we had a big problem with littering on the highways. Then Lady Bird Johnson (President Johnson’s wife) started her nationwide beautification (mostly with flowers) program which made the highways more attractive. People would be shamed for littering after that. Sadly, the highways aren’t as colorful as in the past, but there are hefty fines for littering.
    A good idea would be to fine people who don’t “scoop the poop,” and who litter. (Of course this is predicated on there being enough waste receptacles available.) If you hurt people in their pocketbooks and wallets, I reckon there’d be some changes in behavior. Also, PSAs (public service announcements) touting a more cleaner Romania would attract more business and tourists. Just my 2 cents worth;-) ~Teil

    • There could be town meetings, but not like-minded people. As a good friend recently told me, the uneducated people are too many, and instead of DOING something, they rather enjoy their stressful life and work with what they have. Their thinking goes a bit like this “A slide broke? no problem, my baby can play with something else, or we can walk or take the car a couple blocks down the street and find another slide.” I have seen some neighbors taking care of the gardens and doing some really nice landscaping (I think that is the word I’m looking for), BUT they were old and retired, so they are the ones that have time to DO, but most prefer to sit and relax, they lack will and hobbies 😛 Where there’s a will, there’s a way, unfortunately we don’t have lazy and uneducated.

  7. I stayed a mile from Cismigiu this May 2015. I visited the park several times. It was almost devoid of people but there were several, (Romprest I think), people sweeping and cleaning and the park did not seem dirty. I didn’t mind Bucharest but I lived in Los Angeles for many years so I am used to big cities. I found people friendly and helpful and patient with my lacking Romanian language skills. One gentleman missed his train so he could show me where mine was so I could get to gara de nord on the metroul.

  8. I’m a romanian born in Bucharest and this article is accurate . Streets are dirty with dogs and human urine or excrement, cars are parked chaotic , buildings look like are abandoned.
    After The revolution all criminal and prostitutes from all over the country came here . But criminality drop off after west borders got closed and we entered the union , many of them went to steal there . but they still come back with expensive cars and metrosexual clothes .
    I was born here and i hate this city. Try to visit other cities from Romania but dont go east such as Moldova or on the sea side.

  9. Date: June 12, 2017

    I travel alone. I’ve been to many cities and I’d say that Bucharest sucked big time! I won’t recommend it. Most of the people are rude, especially the transportation ticketting staff. Without my roaming internet service, I’d be lost.

  10. Greek born in bucharest whole rumanian folk is awful i suggest avoiding rumanian land and women for life ! Rumania is the most irrelevant nation of Balkans and Europe !
    I wanna immigrate to Malta or Argentina asap i dont have any future in rou i cant even socialize with a local woman they want tons of money and they give nothing back ! Avoid rumania and spread the word on internet asap !
    Rumania has been hell on earth for me since 1991 !


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