Thursday, 12 January 2012

Bucharest Scenic Loop Running Route

Click here for route map  
Length 6.3 km (3.9 miles)

For more running routes, see the Route List!

NOTE: Be prepared to feel like an exotic. I didn't see one other runner in the few days I was in Bucharest.

Bucharest is a pretty funky place. The country is still, even after the post-communist boom, pretty poor. But I have a soft spot in my heart for these kinds of places. The people are down-to-earth and likable. And, despite the new casinos and Gucci- and Armani-shops, the city doesn't try to dazzle you with too much glitter.

But don't let that introduction make you think that there aren't a lot of impressive sites in Bucharest, with an astounding variety of architecture, including more art deco than I've ever seen anywhere else. Every few seconds, you'll come across a beautiful church, theater, bank, villa or government building.

Along Strada Lipscani in the heart of the old town
This route will circle through a lot of the most interesting sights in the city, past palaces, ministries, churches, the old town, and normal residential neighborhoods. I guarantee that you'll have a good feel for what Bucharest is about by the time you finish the run.

I was in the city this week, in early January, so not the perfect time to run. But the temperature was about 5 degrees Celsius during the days, with no snow.

This route starts in the heart of town: on Calea Victoriei, at the corner of Strada Rosetti, in front of the old royal palace. The palace now houses the National Museum of Art. And across the street from it is the beautiful University Library, with its black mansard roof and the equestrian statue of King Carol I.

The university library and Carol I
Face southwards on Calea Victoriei, with the library and statue on your left, and start running. You'll pass the monument to the 1989 revolution that overthrew Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. Locals call it the "potato on a stick", which well describes the reality.

Did they say "potato on a stick"?
You'll run past a beautiful old church, the Grand Hotel, some art deco buildings, a casino, and then, before you reach the CEC Palace building, turn left on Strada Lipscani into the city's old town, a maze of pedestrian streets.

Keeping with Bucharest's funky character, a few of the old buildings are beautifully restored, some are just half-way fixed-up, and some are still total ruins. On the first block, you'll run between two perfectly restored National Bank buildings, with some uncovered Roman ruins in the street.

At Strada Selari, turn right and run south until you hit Strada Franceza, where you turn left. This street is great: first, you run by the ruins of the Curtea Veche, the palace of Vlad III ("the Impaler"), better known for his party name of "Dracula".

Vlad the Impaler, alias Count Dracula
Then, just next door, you'll come to the beautifully restored St. Anton church, with its non-stop stream of visitors.

Lively St. Anton's
Then, across the street on the right, you'll see the gate for Hanul lui Manuc (Manuc's Inn), Bucharest's oldest. Make sure you run into the huge courtyard and take a look around. There are shops and restaurants in there, and some day the hotel should reopen after years of refurbishing.

In the Mannuc's Inn courtyard
After leaving Manuc's Inn, turn left, then left again to leave the old town towards the south.

You will cross the Dambovita River, with the impressive Justice Palace on the other side. There are a lot of pedestrians here, and little old ladies selling their vegetables along the street.

Keep running straight south, with what looks like an open, green square on your left. After a block, you'll come to Bulevardul Unirii, the huge boulevard that Ceausescu built, tearing down half the old town to do it. If you look to the right, you'll see the huge palace that he built for himself crowning the hilltop at the end of the street. Today, the parliament meets there, but I can't imagine how they fill all the rooms.

Along Bulevardul Unirii
Cross the boulevard. Also cross the next street with the streetcar tracks, Bulevardul Regina Maria. Then turn right to run uphill along Aleea Dealul Mitropoliei to the collection of buildings at the top of the little hill: the cathedral, the patriarch's palace and the old parliament building.

You will run past an old brick church-tower, then past the cathedral. On the other side of the cathedral, you will see its main entrance, with its golden icons. It forms a courtyard with the Romanian Orthodox Patriarch's small mansion. The Romanians are very religious, and there are huge crowds of people that come here on festive days.

Patriarch's Cathedral and old Parliament
Circle to your left. The building on the right, with the dome, is the old parliament, much nicer than Ceausescu's palace, where the parliamentarians have to work nowadays.

Head down here!
When you get back to the brick tower, take the small stairs to the right leading between the houses to the street below. This brings you into a typical old Romanian neighborhood. The old houses are not so urban: there are a lot of 1- and 2-storey homes. And even the smallest houses have decorative facades. Many homes are in disrepair, but they sure have style.

Turn left, then right to run southwards down Strada Ienachia Vacarescu. Run two blocks to Strada Principatele Unite, where you turn right. This residential neighborhood is old Bucharest like it has been for many years.

Typical old Bucharest houses
Run until the street ends, at Strada Justitiei, where you turn right. You are now running northwards again.

Cross Regina Maria, with its tram tracks, again, and keep running straight. At the end of the street, you'll see the old Antim monastary on the right. You might want to do a small loop through the grounds and check it out.

Then keep running north, through the big, newer apartment buildings, and you come out onto the very wide Bulevardul Unirii again. Turn left to face the huge palace building, looking westwards.

Now run the one block to cross the Bulevardul Libertatii, in front of Ceausescu's palace (think "Parliament"). Now turn right to run along the huge park in front of the palace, running towards the north.

The Ceausescu's Palace is now the Parliament building
When I ran along this spot, I came upon a pack of 4 stray dogs. One dog looked at me with a wolfish eye and growled. But then they all preferred running across the 6-lane street rather than to allow a person to approach them. They must have been very mistreated dogs. Very sad.

At the next intersection, you will come to a park, the Parcul Izvor. Turn left into the park entrance, and follow the white gravel path diagonally past the little playground towards the northern exit of the park, towards the building with the pointed tower.

The Dambovita River at Izvor
The exit, at the Izvor metro station, takes you across a bridge over the river. Run straight northwards for two blocks and you will come to Bulevardul Elisabeta. Cross the street and turn right to run just 100 meters to the entrance of the next park, on the left.

This is Parcul Cismigliu, Bucharest's oldest park, and a very pleasant place, with its lake and big playground.

In Cismigliu Park
Run straight north through the park to the other end. You will come out at Strada Stirbei Voda, where you turn right and run eastwards back past the royal palace to Calea Victoriei. You will see the elegant round classical building straight ahead, the Ateneul Roman, a symphonic hall.

The Atheneum concert hall
Turn right on Calea Victoriei and run the final 100 meters past the royal palace to your starting point.