Romania had been on our minds for quite some time before deciding to plan a trip there after all. Besides the allure of the Transylvanian countryside, the prospect of visiting a country which still breathes recent history also fascinated us. Bucharest is like a huge living museum constantly recreating its troubled past. The best way to explore the capital of Romania is by taking a walking tour from many available. We wanted to learn as much as possible about Romania’s communist past. Therefore, we chose the Bucharest walking Tour of Communism.

Getting to the meeting point for this Bucharest walking tour, we couldn’t help but notice the intense contrast between busy and grey Union Square (Piata Unirii) and the tranquil, tree-lined cobblestone street which led us to the Patriarchy Hill. Marius, our guide, was waiting for us under the bell tower of the Patriarchy. Funny place to start a Tour of Communism, right? 

This photo shows the Patriarchy hill, the meeting point of our Bucharest walking tour of communism, Romania.
Tranquil Patriarchy Hill in Bucharest

Romania was a socialist republic from 1947 to 1989. However, when we talk about the country’s communist past, we mostly refer to the period when Nicolae Ceausescu was Romania’s leader, namely from 1967 to 1989. During our 3-hour Bucharest walking tour of Communism, Marius gave as an invaluable lesson on Romania’s history. Most importantly, we understood how the mentality of the Romanian people affected their choices and, consequently, their lives. He told us about when the seed of Communism was planted in Romania, how it grew and why it withered. At various stops along the tour, he explained how the Communist regime under Nicolae Ceausescu had a serious and, sadly, lasting effect on how Bucharest looks today.

This photo shows the unfinished Romanian Academy we saw during our Bucharest walking tour of Communism in Romania.
The Romanian Academy, Elena Ceausescu’s favourite project, remains unfinished to this day.

First of all, during our Bucharest walking tour we noticed that most buildings in the Romanian capital were in bad shape. We could hardly believe that the dilapidated houses we saw were actually inhabited. More shockingly, we learned that this state of neglect doesn’t have to do with inability to cover repair costs but rather with the fact that there is no private property legislation. To put it simply, these houses belong to no one and everyone. People live in houses which may or may not belong to them. Therefore, they are reluctant to spend money on fixing them. Communism under Ceausescu may have caused many problems. However, current governments don’t seem to care much about putting things straight for the Romanian people either.

During our Bucharest walking tour of Communism, we realised that most buildings in the capital of Romania are in seriously bad shape.
Residential buildings scream abandonment and deprive Bucharest of its chance to be among Europe’s prettiest capitals.

Bucharest offers many opportunities to witness the results of Nicolae Ceausescu’s extravagance. Yet nowhere is his madness so unmistakably evident than on this Bucharest walking tour of Communism. During his final years as Romania’s leader, Ceausescu ordered the demolition of the better part of Bucharest’s historic centre. The city formerly known as Little Paris was doomed to be buried underneath giant structures and soulless apartment blocks. At some point during the tour, Marius took us to a site which screamed abandonment and neglect. There he voiced the unspeakable truth. That was where the heart of the vibrant old town used to beat. Marius painted a picture of Bucharest full of beautiful architecture and quaint cobblestone streets. We would never have believed a word he said if not for the fact that we were actually standing on the remains of those very cobblestone streets that ceased to exist almost overnight.

This photo shows a part of the demolished historic centre of the capital of Romania. Bucharest walking tour of Communism.
What remains of the historic centre’s cobblestone streets.

We kept on walking wondering why on earth would a destruction of this scale need to take place? The answer was waiting for us just around the corner: the infamous Palace of Parliament. This was meant to be the centerpiece in Ceausescu’s vision to build his very own version of Pyongang. Upon return from his visit to North Korea in 1971, he became obsessed with this project that brought suffering upon his people and, ultimately, cost him his own and his wife’s lives.

This is a photo of the palace of Parliament, an essential stop in our Bucharest walking tour of Communism, Romania.
The infamous Palace of Parliament

One of the most impressive facts we learned during our Bucharest walking tour of Communism was how a lot of churches were salvaged from Ceausescu’s demolition folly. Eugeniu Iordăchescu was a Romanian civil engineer who came up with the idea of rolling entire buildings on metal tracks. Thanks to this brilliant idea several buildings were safely moved out of harm’s way between 1982 and 1989. Marius showed us impressive photos of this seemingly unbelievable task.

This photo shows Schitul Maicilor, the 18th century church that was the first to be moved out of harm's way during Ceausescu's demolition folly. Bucharest walking tour of Communism, Romania.
The 18th century Schitul Maicilor was the first church that Iordăchescu’s technique saved.

The tour ends at Revolution Square (Piata Revolutiei). On our way there, we shivered at the great number of bullet holes we witnessed on buildings. Once at the square, Marius didn’t just narrate the events that took place on December 22, 1989; the day the swift yet extremely violent Romanian Revolution peaked. He actually took us back in time with him. We could almost see the crowds of protestors gathering in the square. We could almost feel Ceausescu’s agony when his desperate final attempt to reach out to the Romanian people was an utter failure.

This photo shows the great number of bullet holes on buildings near Revolution Square. Bucharest walking tour of Communism, Romania.
Approaching Revolution Square, the number of bullet holes on buildings increases.

All in all, this Bucharest walking tour of Communism offered us an unforgettable experience. No matter how many books one may read, nothing beats visiting the actual spots where history took place. Especially when you get to see those places through the eyes of a local. You see, history is not just facts and dates put down on paper. History is feelings. Terror, sadness and hope. History is tastes. Like the sweet treats dating back to the Communist era that Marius offered us. History is first and foremost understanding and respecting our past so as to make the best of our future.

NOTE: This tour costs 19€ per person. The tour includes a stop at a café where we rested for about 30′. We appreciated immensely the fact that we actually sat and had a refreshment during this packed with new information tour. We also had the chance to chat with our guide about whatever it was that had caught our attention until then.

Disclosure: Tour of Communism kindly offered us 50% discount for this tour but, as always, we express nothing but our very own and honest opinion about the experience we had.

36 Comments

  1. I’m intrigued by the history of places I visit. As life can only be understood backward and lived forward; any place can also be best understood by its past. Bucharest has a rich history and loved that you choose the walking tour of communism.

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Hey Anjali, thank you so much! You put it brilliantly, we couldn’t agree more!

  2. This could not have come at a better time as I’m visiting Bucharest for New Years Eve this year, and I will definitely add Bucharest walking tour of Communism to the itinerary!

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Hi Charlotte! We are so glad we inspired you to join this walking tour during your upcoming trip to Bucharest!

  3. Thank you for providing such a unique perspective that you don’t typically see in posts about travel. I am glad I found it!

    Thank you.

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Oh Michelle thank you so much for your beautiful comment! It means a lot to us to know that what we do is so dearly appreciated 🙂

  4. I love tours like this – it’s gives you such an amazing insight into a place. Sounds fascinating!

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Hey Reeva, we love tours like this one, too. It really was fascinating!

  5. Thanks so much for captivating article! It’s always interesting to see how much regimes have influences not only history and mentalities, but also the looks of today’s cities. I’ll be sure to try this tour if one day I will get to Bucharest!

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Thank you Zenja! We hope you get to visit Romania some day. It’s a unique destination.

  6. I will soon be heading there for a conference. I love how you have given so much history about the city. It actually seems like I am walking along with you. I love architecture but seldom do I know all the history behind a building when I look at it. bookmarking your post for when I visit!

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Oh, Arunima, how sweet of you! Thank you! It really means a lot to us that we have managed to actually “take” you on this walking tour with us! 🙂

  7. How Fascinating! I like to visit places with historic significance and rich culture! It really looks interesting. You have put all the facts together so perfectly in the post. Would love to go for the walk tour of communism in Bucharest someday and explore it.

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Thank you so much for your kind words Anjali! I am glad you liked our article and I hope you join this walking tour yourself very soon!

  8. I was recently looking for flight to Bucharest during Halloween as I feel like it would be the best time to visit 🙂 I had no idea its such a interesting city ! Looks like some places are very similar to those in Poland where also was communism. Your photos are fabulous !

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Thank you so much Ada! We hope you planned your trip to Bucharest after all.

  9. This was a fantastic article. I am a big history buff so taking a tour like this would be up my alley. Here in Austin, you can still see the bullet holes in the UT Tower that involve a mass shooting years ago.

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Thank you John! You would definitely love this Bucharest walking tour then!

  10. This tour looks amazing. Knowing the history of a place always helps put things into a perspective and help us appreciate the place even better. Will watch out for this if I go there

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Thank you for your comment Sinjana! We totally agree with you. Yes, when you visit Bucharest try not to miss this tour.

  11. Walking tours are such fun ways to learn more about a city’s history. Bucharest looks beautiful and I bet it was so interesting to learn about its communist pass. That isn’t a bad price for a walking tour either!

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Bucharest is indeed an interesting city because its history is so recent. We agree, it is a reasonable price for such a remarkable walking tour.

  12. What a beautiful city! The buildings in Bucharest are grand, to say the least. I love walking tours. I think it’s a wonderful way to get acquainted with a new city.

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Hi there! We couldn’t agree more. We absolutely love walking tours!

  13. It’s a great idea about spending a few hours in Bucharest. There are a lot of other things to do around, that’s true but it’s really important to discover the city’s history while you’re there. Thank you for sharing

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Hi Daniel! Thanks for your comment. We always try to learn a bit more about each destination we visit and we’ve come to realise that a walking tour is one of the best ways to do so.

  14. I love Heritage walks and looks like your experience with the Bucharest walking tour of Communism was very intriguing and interesting!! That’s what I like about such walks, kids can learn so much more visually seeing these places than reading about it.

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Hey Richa, thanks for your comment! We couldn’t agree more. We all learn a lot more by visiting a place rather than reading a book 🙂

  15. Bucharest is one of the few capital cities in East–Central Europe that we haven’t been to yet, and we were looking at flights just last month in fact! We love taking walking tours, and actually did a similar communism walking tour in Krakow. I am fascinated in this part of European history as I have family roots in the region. Will definitely be taking this tour when we finally make it to Romania!

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Hey Alex, thanks for commenting! We are also fascinated by the recent history of Eastern Europe and we can’t wait to visit other capital cities in this part of the world ourselves.

  16. Your walking tour of Bucharest is so interesting. We visited Budapest this past summer and had a similar walking tour. I’m amazed at how similar the history and stories are. These beautiful buildings that are so grey due to lack of care, the bullet holes in the buildings… so sad.

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Thank you for your comment, Joanne. It really is sad. But it is also a way to teach future generations not to repeat the mistakes of the past, don’t you think? We love these walking tours. We’ll sure join one too when we plan a trip to Budapest.

    • Maria Spyrou Reply

      Thank you Claire! Bucharest is a really interesting city, I hope you visit some day.

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