As a food lover, sometimes it’s hard to choose my favorite cuisine, but Romanian food definitely stands out. When I had a chance to take the Delish Experiences Bucharest Food Tour, I was excited and definitely not disappointed. Here are the restaurants we ate at and the delicious meals we were served.

Vatra Restaurant

The first stop our guide Georgiana took us to on the tour was Vatra Restaurant. Located in a beautifully decorated building just two streets northwest of Bucharest’s Old Town, Vatra has been serving traditional Romanian cuisine since 2001. As we entered, we were warmly greeted as our table was prepared. In a country where good hospitality is a luxury, I immediately had a great opinion of the restaurant.

Vatra Restaurant

Our meal started with ritual Țuică, a small glass of 40-45% plum liquor to “whet our appetite.” Sweet and strong, it got my salivating mouth even more ready for the meal.

For our appetizer, Georgiana went to town. Instead of picking the best options, she went one step better. We got them all! Caviar spread, eggplant salad, white bean dip, zacusca (a roasted vegetable spread with eggplant, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes and carrots), and an assortment of local meats, cheeses and vegetables. I honestly have no idea which I loved more. Every one of them was amazing.

Vatra Appetizers

If the tour ended there, I would have been satisfied. It didn’t.

Before we had made it through all the appetizers, the main course arrived. Sarmale (Romanian pork-stuffed cabbage rolls) and polenta. Even with six “foodies” gorging ourselves on the scrumptious dishes, there was plenty of food to go around for all of us. Yet by the end of the meal, we had scraped the plates clean.

Sarmale at Vatra Restaurant

Concerto Fine Dining

The second stop of the tour was at Concerto Fine Dining, the restaurant attached to the Grand Continental Hotel. Yeah, definitely dining at its finest! The menu might not be entirely budget-friendly, but it’s still a great price by Western standards, especially for the incredible dishes they serve.

We started with a local demi-sec (medium-dry) champagne. I had no idea that Romania is the six-highest wine-producing country in Europe and #14 in the world.

Wine at Concerto

Concerto prepared a special meal for us that wasn’t on their official menu. We were served momițe, a unique Romanian dish made from veal neck glands mixed with egg and then deep-fried. Talk about yummy! It wasn’t a lot of food, but we were all still full from Vatra.

Momite at Concerto

Origo Cafe

The final stop on the tour was Origo Cafe. I first discovered third-wave coffee at Brew Lab in Edinburgh. Single-origin roasts are a whole different level of coffee, and they’ve found their way to Bucharest. Origo takes them one step further. Not only is their coffee incredible, but they appeal to all five sensations of taste. They’ll also take the time to give you the full story behind third-wave coffee – something that Brew Lab was often too busy to do.

Bucharest Food Tour at Origo Coffee

Origo also offers barista and coffee classes every Tuesday and Wednesday. I went back for a latte more than once after the tour but they don’t allow laptops so it wasn’t the best location for work. Only socializing there. Someday I plan to take one of their classes when I’m back in Bucharest.

Selfie at Origo

Book Your Delish Experiences Bucharest Food Tour

The restaurants listed here were the three that we were brought to on our tour, but are not guaranteed for all tours. Georgiana does vary the tour as other restaurants are found. There are four different tours available. The first is beer and mici with the “On the Back Streets” tour. Both the “City Lights, History and Food” and “Hungry for History” tours include a meal at the 200-year-old, beautiful Hanul lui Manuc restaurant in the Old Town. Finally, you can customize your own bespoke tour with a Private Food Tour.

Meeting Location: As arranged
Hours Available: Mon-Sun 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Price: Starting at €55
Phone: (+40) 746 02 55 65
Website: Delish Experiences
What to bring: Comfortable walking shoes and a big appetite. Appropriate clothing for the season. No mandatory dress for restaurants, but informal to semi-formal recommended.
Best time of year to visit: Jan-Dec. As a good portion of this tour is outside, it’s better to book on a sunny day if possible.

Foodies at Vatra Restaurant on Bucharest Food Tour

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Bucharest Food Tour

Further Reading

Looking for more activities in Bucharest? Check out my other articles on Bucharest.

Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.

I learned how to drive on the streets of Los Angeles. In America, LA is considered one of the most dangerous cities to drive in, perhaps only second to New York. However, in my travels, I’ve found other places far more difficult than LA. Mexico City, London and Bangkok are up there. Then there was Bucharest, Romania. While I didn’t actually drive there myself, I almost lost my life in a taxi ride, and seeing car accidents was a daily occurrence.

Studies have found that Romania has the most dangerous roads in Europe, with the number of accidents several times greater than those in the UK. Then again, the UK is fifth in the world for safest roads – a fact which was rather humorous considering how terrified Romanians were of driving in the UK. Several of the told me to be careful when I said I was headed to the UK to drive around the country.

Romanians certainly know how dangerous their own roads are. This was most apparent at the intersections. Throughout many countries in Europe. there is a complete disregard of red lights by pedestrians crossing the street. This is mitigated in some countries like Poland and Germany, where law enforcement against jaywalking is vicious. Yet it was in Romania where I saw the fewest people crossing on a red light. It did happen, but very rarely. It wasn’t for fear of the cops, but from being hit. I didn’t even see that regard in Macedonia, where the cars themselves tended to ignore red lights if there was no oncoming traffic, and sometimes even if there was.

Terrifying Taxi Ride

Returning from a birthday party at the Barka Saffron Indian Restaurant with a couple friends from the hostel, we were in a taxi when we literally thought we were about to die. The cab was doing about 50 mph down the road when it came up to a bus parked in the middle of the road. Instead of stopping behind the bus, the driver decided to swerve into the center lane of the street to avoid the bus, while simultaneously stomping on the gas. Halfway down the length of the bus, the car that the bus was waiting for starting turning left.

Our taxi slammed on the breaks, and literally skid several feet down the road, stopping a mere few inches away from the car. Despite our taxi’s insane maneuver, he considered it the other car’s fault, and rolled down his window to scream at the other driver. He then jumped the taxi even closer to the other car, pretending to ram him!

With my racecar training and extensive driving experience, I was able to remain relatively calm through the experience. My friends in the back didn’t fare so well. Venessa swore she would never take another taxi in Bucharest. I’d personally recommend skipping the taxis in Bucharest, and stick to the metro, as most of the locals do. Uber is another option, but it turns out many drivers on Uber are actually the taxi drivers making extra money on the side. There are also a bunch of scams with the taxis and Uber, which is just another reason to use the metro.

Romanian Road Rage

Romanians are rather infamous for their rage on the streets. When they do get into an accident, it’s not uncommon for them to get out of their cars and start duking it out, either verbally or physically. Perhaps this is because Bucharest is considered the fifth worst city in the world when it comes to traffic. Or perhaps it’s the other way around, the constant accidents and subsequent altercations contributing to the gridlock.

Riding the streets of Romania, it’s hard to imagine that the drivers there have had any lessons in driving. Everyone seems to have a free-for-all mentality, an “anything goes” in order to get to their destination. As our taxi driver demonstrated, if there is a car stopped in the road, Romanians will swerve around it rather than wait for it to start moving. Highways are far worse. I felt like I was on a movie set, with every car speeding in an attempt to overtake one another.

The conditions weren’t limited to Bucharest either. rides I had to Brasov and Cluj were just as hectic, and even the bus to Moldova had a disregard for other cars on the road. I honestly don’t know how I wasn’t involved in an accident myself, except that my drivers somehow had a skill in their madness.

How to Improve the Streets of Romania

It’s interesting to consider how the streets of Romania could be improved. Having every offense fined by a police officer would obviously be the most logical. However, Romania has quite a reputation of being corrupt, and getting the policemen to correctly ticket the offenses could prove difficult. There’s also a question of whether the citizens themselves would pay the fines.

Having every citizen take a driving class would probably help a lot, but wouldn’t eradicate the problem entirely, as the basic nature of Romanians is still likely to come through. Don’t get me wrong, I have tons of Romanian friends. But Romanians in general have a bit of a rough side. This would also have to be addressed in conjunction with the training.

Thus, the simplest solution would seem to be designing the streets themselves to prevent accidents and bad driving. Installing speed bumps throughout the city, and poles between lanes to guide drivers to drive straight at a correct speed.

Obviously, Romania isn’t the only place this could be implemented. It’s only where it came to my attention the most recently. I remember my trip to Mexico City where I was astounded to find the roads devoid of street lines. Cars would drive pretty much anywhere they felt like, and sometimes even into oncoming traffic. Thailand is another challenge, although that might be an even tougher nut to crack.

Perhaps the correct test to give drivers wouldn’t be a driving test, but rather a reaction and morality exam. Those who could be trusted to drive competently and ethically would be entitled to a license, and the rest would be bound to carpooling or public transport.

Planning to visit Romania?

Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.

My day in Cluj came about almost by accident. I never had Cluj on my itinerary, and I had no idea what I would do if I spent a day there. Now that I have, I can give you an idea of what’s available…which isn’t a lot.

Ending Up in Cluj

Cluj is the second-largest city in Romania, after Bucharest (the capital). It’s located in the northwestern quarter of the country not far from Hungary. As this region used to be part of Hungary, many of the people there are Hungarians, the cuisine is partially Hungarian, etc. The landscape is thick forests and mountains with some amazing hidden waterfalls and not-so-hidden castles.

St. Michael's Church in Cluj

After six weeks in Romania, I decided to take a trip to Cyprus. The only problem was that the flights from Bucharest (where I was living) were nearly $200 round trip. Following the tips I give for finding cheap flights, I searched for flights to Cyprus from any city in Romania. The cheapest last-minute tickets were from Cluj – a paltry $50

Getting to Cluj wasn’t too hard either, even though it’s nearly 300 miles from Bucharest. In Europe, one of my favorite ways to get around is with the Blablacar rideshare website. I was able to find a ride for only $15, which would get me to Cluj a couple hours before my flight. Sure, I spent the whole day traveling from Bucharest to Cluj to the airport to Cyprus, but I saved over $100. When it comes to long-term travel, that’s the way to do it!

I didn’t have any time to explore before my flight. Instead, I spent a day in Cluj when I returned from Cyrpus, and before I took a bus to Moldova. I even had a local help to show me around, which is the best way to explore.

Cluj City Center

Cluj is fairly similar to other Romania cities as far as architecture goes. Despite being the second-largest city in Romania, it doesn’t have nearly as much traffic or chaos as Bucharest. I started my exploration in the old town at St. Michael’s Church. It wasn’t nearly as busy as I was expecting it to be, especially for the summer. Maybe that’s just because it was still morning, and the city was way too hot for walking around.

Interior of St. Michael's Church in Cluj

Reminiscent of Timisoara and Brasov, the city center was lined with cafes and terraces. There were no market stalls set up. Instead, they were constructing a large concert stage for the jazz festival that was launching the day after I left. Speaking of which, there were three large concerts coming up, including the Electric Castle which I’ve been wanting to attend for years. I even had a friend working there who offered me a free ticket, but it coincided with my Portuguese press trip! (sad face) I’d say next year, but I might be in Zimbabwe then…

There are only a small handful of other attractions worth visiting in the city center. Next to St. Michael’s Church is the Matthias Corvinus Statue (the Hungarian king that was born in Cluj). A couple streets away is another beautiful gothic church – the Assumption Cathedral (now housing the University of Cluj Faculty of Art and Design). Lastly, just down the street from the cathedral is the Cluj Tailors’ Tower, part of the 15th-century fortifications.

Alexandru Borza Botanical Gardens

A little past noon, I met up with Madalina, a local I’d found on Couchsurfing who was able to take a break from studying for her medical finals in order to spend a couple hours exploring with me. I’d seen the botanical gardens on the map, and she agreed they were worth a visit.

The entrance to the gardens is 10 lei ($2.50), or free if you’re a student. The gardens are nearly 35 acres and include a watchtower with a great view, Japanese gardens, greenhouses, a stream running through the middle and most of the rest of the things you usually find in a botanical garden.

Madalina at Cluj Botanical Gardens

Perhaps the best part of the gardens was the ability to escape from the summer heat. In truth, I might have enjoyed learning about my host Madaline and her stories of Romania more than I did the gardens. Not only is she finishing medical school, she’s also a mountaineer, a black belt and an avid traveler. I recently posted my views on traveling solo, but you’re never really alone when you travel. Couchsurfing is a great way to meet up with locals and learn about the culture, cuisine and customs.

Other Attractions Near Cluj

That’s about all there really was to see in the city of Cluj, but there are other attractions out in the countryside.

Turda Salt Mine

A 20-mile drive southeast of Cluj, the Turda Salt Mine is on part with the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Krakow, Poland. The mines are nearly 1,000 years old and opened as a tourist attraction in 1992. They’re not nearly as famous as the Wieliczka Mine, but still definitely worth a visit.

Bánffy Castle

There are dozens of castles throughout the hills around Cluj, many of which offer tours. The one I’d like to visit is Bánffy Castle where the aforementioned Electric Castle Festival takes place in July. I’ll let this video speak for itself.

Vadu Crişului

If you have a couple days in Cluj, spend one of them out in nature. I’d recommend Vadu Crişului, where you’ll find some stunning waterfalls and a deep cave you can go spelunking in. You might need to rent a car to get out to this location or find some friends on Couchsurfing to join for a trip there.

Off to Moldova

The day certainly didn’t last long, and after a couple hours, she had to get back to her exams while I went for my bus to Moldova. That 14-hour bus ride wasn’t most comfortable I’ve been on, but Moldova was fantastic. I’ll get those posts written soon. And then there will be Ukraine to write about…

Selfie on Bus to Moldova

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A Day in Cluj Pin

Further Reading

Don’t forget to also read my stories on Timisoara and Brasov, or any of my articles on Bucharest:

Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.

Had you asked me last Friday morning what I was going to do for the weekend, I would have never guessed I would be on a spur-of-the-moment road trip to Brasov and beyond in Romania to see tiny homes and some gorgeous locations.

On Friday afternoon, I was working on my itinerary for the rest of the year when Tudor, the director of Travel Massive in Bucharest and owner of Pura Vida Hostels, asked me if I wanted to do a road trip to Brasov for the weekend. Of course I said yes. He said “Great, we leave in an hour.”

Ten minutes later, my bag was packed and I was ready to go. We picked up his wife, mom and dog Zazou, and were on our way.

Traffic in Bucharest is rated fifth-worst in the world, and it took us over an hour to get out of the city. However, we still made it to Brasov before sunset, and I was dropped off at the Kismet Dao Hostel to spend the night. Kismet Duo was the first hostel in Brasov, and one of the best. Close to the old town, spacious, good facilities with a full kitchen, a game room, and clean bathrooms.

After dropping off my bag, I ventured into the town to look for dinner. Twilight was just ending, but I was still able to get a good shot of the Hollywood-esque sign on the hill proclaiming Brasov. From there, I made my way to Beraria Ciucas, a local restaurant the hostel receptionist had recommended as being cheap with large portions. The waitress hardly spoke any English, but I was able to get a recommended dish to try – meat with a side of polenta. Unfortunately, I have absolutely no idea what the meat was, but it certainly wasn’t muscle meat. It tasted like mutton and was vaguely reminiscent of liver. I can’t say I was the biggest fan of the flavor or texture, but I could tell the quality was really good. I also got one of their mititei, meaning mini sausage. Ciucas is known for their mititei, and theirs is anything but mini. I could definitely see why they were voted as the best.

The next morning, Tudor picked me up early and we drove up to Lake Frumoasa. There, we met up with Tony, who has started one of the first Tiny Home companies in Romania – Eco Tiny Houses. We got to see their biggest model, built on a 24-foot trailer. Tudor even got to drive it along the side of the lake to test how it towed. He’s looking at getting them for his hostel in Vama Veche on the coast of Romania, and I want to get one for my travels. While a tiny home like that would go for $75,000 or more in the US, the cost is a mere $30,000 here in Romania. Still out of my budget, but something to aspire to.

Eco Tiny House Romania

Eco Tiny House at Lake Frumoasa

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That evening we all went to Miercurea Ciuc, where we ate dinner at Gambrinus. What an amazing little restaurant. This could hardly be counted as a tourist town, but then again practically the entirety of Romania would have to be classified as cute, quaint and charming. Gambrinus epitomizes this. Decorations are everywhere, the ladies are all dressed up in traditional costumes, and the food is simply delicious. I had the smoked sausages with a side of mint lemonade.

Friends at Gambrinus

Smoked Sasusages at Gambrinus

Since it was a weekend of Tiny Homes, we spent the night in one on the outskirts of Miercurea Ciuc. It was the same design as the one we had seen on wheels, but slightly larger. It was also established on the grid, with a full bathroom, washer machine and kitchen. I got to sleep in the loft, which is always my favorite. The next morning we had breakfast on the porch (Tudor’s mom cooked) and then head out to explore the town some more.

View from Tiny Home in Romania

Miercurea Ciuc is really interesting. It’s a predominantly Hungarian town, as is much of that region of Romania. Even at the restaurant, all the dishes were written in Hungarian, and then translated into Romanian (no English for me). We explored Castle Miko, a seventeenth-century fortress containing a museum showing the culture and history of the region. My favorite part was the well, where they had discovered 4-century-old artifacts at the bottom when they renovated a few years ago.

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Church in Miercurea Ciuc

From there, we stopped in another beautiful village. the resort town of Baile Tusnad. As gorgeous as everywhere else we had been was, this place topped them all. The reflection of the mountains on the lake, the trains going by, the little castle tower on the hill all combined to make a truly idyllic scene. While there we had a plate of Langos, a deep-fried open sandwich I’d originally tried in Hungary and found disgusting. This time it was delicious, which many of my Hungarian friends will find as a relief. While I’ve been told you either love it or hate it, I had some disappointed friends after my previous experience.

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Langos at Băile Tuşnad

Finally, we stopped back in Brasov for another dinner, this time at Vino e Sapori where I had the pasta carbonara. It wasn’t the best, so perhaps I’ll stick to having Romanian dishes while I’m in Romania. At least the restaurant was right next to the central square in Brasov. I spent the time while the food was preparing to explore. The famous “black church” was closed for the night, so I just took some great shots of the outside. The old town square was simply magical (although a little crowded), and I stayed for the sunset.

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From there, we drove back to Bucharest, arriving at nearly 1 am. Overall it was a fantastic weekend, and served to whet my appetite even more for seeing the rest of Romania. I have a tour coming up in August, and another in November. Read more about my travel itinerary for 2017. Are there any places you know of in Romania I must visit? Would you like to come join me in this amazing country?

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Further Reading

Looking for more activities in Bucharest? Check out my other articles on Bucharest.

Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.

In 2016, I slowed down considerably from the 35 countries I visited in 2015. Now I’m at it again. After having my home base in Thailand for the first four months of the year where I taught English and had all sorts of adventures, I’ve returned to Europe with a big itinerary.

My plan is to visit my remaining 15 countries in Europe before the end of the year. These include Iceland, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland, Slovenia, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, Malta, Cyprus, Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus.

Man of those countries are quite small. I probably won’t end up spending more than a day or so in Monaco. San Marino and Andorra are also tiny, but I hear there is still a lot to do there. Moldova and Ukraine are quite a bit larger, although I don’t know how much they have to offer in terms of unique experiences. Sometimes I’m not the best when it comes to researching ahead.

Then there are the countries which I’ve been putting off due to them being the most expensive countries in the world to visit. Those are Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Luxembourg. Monaco might also fit into that list. Unfortunately, those four countries have some of the most gorgeous locations I’ve seen pictures of, and I really want to spend more time there. A cruise through the Norwegian fjords would be divine. A train trip through Switzerland might be unrealistic, but I grew up thinking my Grandmother was Swiss (don’t know where that came from), and I’ve always dreamed of skiing in the alps.

Currently I’m in Bucharest, the capital of Romania. I flew back to Europe on May 4th to take my dad to the Isle of Skye, and then came to Romania at the invitation of Experience Bucharest to get familiar with the city. I had decided back in 2016 to make this my home base after Thailand. So far, I’m thoroughly happy with my choice. I might have just found an apartment here for a whopping $130 a month! Thailand was $200, plus nearly $100 for the AC!

But Bucharest is just my base – a place to leave my extra baggage while I travel around Europe. I’ve already booked my first two trips! On June 20th, I’m headed to Cyprus for a week! Once again, I don’t know a lot about the country, but Paphos was just listed by Lonely Planet as one of the top 10 destinations to visit in Europe in 2017! I even have a travel partner to go with – Iulia from Julia Something. We can split costs on Airbnbs and adventures, but in general I’ve just come to appreciate having an adventure buddy so much more.

Then in July, I’m headed to Portugal with Visit Portugal to explore the beaches and (re)learn surfing. If you’re not interested in seeing the southwestern-most country of Europe yet, I’ll bet I’ll have you drooling by the end of that week. Don’t worry, I’ll also give you all the tips and tricks to plan your trip.

After that, I don’t have anything really set in stone. There are tentative plans to help at a yoga retreat in Romania at the end of July, a full tour around Romania at the end of August, and a tour on the Greek islands at the end of September. I’m looking at where I want to spend my birthday on September 23rd, and I’ve also got several invitations from friends in countries I’ve already visited all around Europe (particularly Sweden, Hungary, Czech and Italy).

At some point, I will plan a road trip through Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus. That last country is also the only country in Europe I need a visa to enter, and I hear it can get a little tricky. But that’s all part of the adventure.

The real question is when I’m going to get to Iceland. Should I go in the summer when I can see the beautiful waterfalls and midnight sun, or should I attempt to see the northern lights in the winter? I do love snow!

So that’s 2017. I’ve already traveled over 12,000 miles this year, and I’m sure that will multiply several times before 2018. Speaking of which, I do have a great announcement. I’ve booked my tickets to TBEX Zimbabwe in July 2018! TBEX is the Travel Blogger Exchange, where we all get together to hobnob with the travel industry and catch up with each other. Not only will this be my first trip to Africa, it will also get me to South Africa where half my family lives. My dad was born and bred in South Africa, and I’ve spent my entire life researching and dreaming of visiting. Well, one more year to go!

What do you think? Are there any places in those countries I can’t miss? Would you like to meet up with me in my travels? Where should I have my home base next year? I always love hearing your input. Bring it on!