Calea Victoriei, a major street running north-south in downtown Bucharest, has many bookstores, hotels, and fashion stores. This elegant, tree-lined, meandering street is a quieter walk than the thundering thoroughfare of Magheru-Balcescu-Bratianu.
At number 141, on the right-as you walk south, is a gorgeous mansion built in 1905, housing a museum dedicated to the composer George Enescu. It is worth the entrance fee even if you are not particularly interested in Enescu. arther down on the left, at number 120, look for Green Hours, a pleasant jazz club and cafe that opens its garden in summer.
Continuing southward, you cannot miss the Athenee Palace Hilton, Bucharest’s most famous hotel, with various bars and restaurants. Lively and modern, it has been at the heart of high society since the 1930s.
Calea Victoriei then opens out into the enormous space of Piata Revolutiei. Here you will find a dainty, circular concert hall, Ateneul Roman, with a statue of the 19th century poet Mihai Eminescu at its entrance. You’ll also see two large palaces flanking the square. To your right, the former residence of the Romanian monarchy, completed in 1937, now houses the National Museum of Art. To your left is its apparent clone, constructed by communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu to house the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Imagine the dictator speaking from its balcony with the square full of angry people, and you have one of the scenes from the 1989 uprising that ended with Ceausescu’s death. In front of that building now stands a statue of Iuliu Maniu, a politician who opposed the arrival of communism after World War II and spent his last few years in prison.
Proceeding south down Calea Victoriei, where it crosses the western end of Piata Universitatii, is a tall Art Deco building from the 1930s, the headquarters of the national telecom company. Opposite it is an old dining establishment recently restored to its former glory: Casa Capsa.
In the final stretch of Calea Victoriei, you will see the badly-organized Museum of Romanian History on the left and the glittering glass dome of the CEC Palace, built in 1900 and formerly housing a bank, on the right.
As pleasant as a walk along Calea Victoriei may be, taking a couple of divergent turns along the way can take you to other very interesting places.
Turn right, for example, at the point where the street crosses Piata Universitatii, and you will head down Bulevardul Regina Elisabeta, where, on your right, you will find the pretty Cismigiu Park. This includes a lake with an island in the middle, on which there is a fairly good restaurant.
Or you may want to turn left off Calea Victoriei, just before the CEC Palace, and you are on an interesting pedestrianized street named Strada Lipscani. Here you can see the Romanian central bank building, buy cheap fur-coats, pop into a pub for a beer, or grab some mustard-slathered grilled meatballs from open-air food vendors.