Craiova – An unknown city with a rich culture, amazing nature and welcoming people.
– A little review about Craiova and its people before presenting the city –
Situated in the South West of Romania, Craiova is the 6th largest city and the capital of Dolj County, a city that screams for exploration. Certainly, when you think about Romania, you think about vampires. Well, not this time! This city is all about relaxation, good vibes, having a good time at a low cost, learning things that you most likely didn’t know and get to taste different food, very rich in flavor that we, “oltenii”, as well as all Romanians, like very much.
What to visit
As it is my native city, I’ve been to Romanescu Park millions of times and I’m still not tired of it! Romanescu Park is considered the biggest natural park in Eastern Europe and it was declared a historical monument. Apart from that, it is a place you can visit any time of the year, and it still gives you a wonderful feeling of connection with the nature. You can simply walk or go for a run, ride a bicycle or go and have a picnic. Although, if you want to try specific Romanian food, you can go to the Terrace and enjoy some “mici” and drink Ursus or Ciuc beer with a view over the lake. And the best part is that all this is very affordable. You can go and see the view of the park from above at the suspended bridge and check out the Enchanted Castle which is nearby. Well, after all, it is a little bit about vampires!
– City Center and The Old City Center – A stroll through culture and cheerfulness
If you pass Craiova, you definitely have to see the city center, as well as the old city center also called the Historical City Center. There are plenty of stores where you can go for shopping, terraces and restaurants where you can enjoy a nice meal, or just a cup of coffee or a juice along with some pastries any time of the day. You can buy a natural ice cream for only 3 lei (about €0.70). The main square is the place where most events take place. For example, if by any chance you go there during a festival, a concert, a fair, the national day of Romania (which is on 1st of December), or a holiday, the action will be taking place in there. Otherwise you can just walk and see the Prefecture, the City Hall, the statue of Mihai Viteazul on his horse and listen to the wonderful “show of the fountain”. Mihai Viteazul, or Michael the Brave, was the first to unite the three principalities that now form Romania and the Republic of Moldova: Wallachia (which includes Craiova), Transylvania and Moldavia, having the status of Prince and leader, great national hero. You can also feed the doves that are there almost all the time and you can admire many different statues and many paintings all over the streets! It’s like a visit to an open museum!
The Art Museum
Speaking of museums, The Art Museum is a place you might want to go too. The architecture is incredibly beautiful and the inside will delight you. One of the pieces of art you can see are the ones belonging to Constantin Brâncuși, famous Romanian sculptor who studied in Craiova’s School of Arts and Crafts and managed to work in Paris with different artists.
The Botanic Garden
Another peaceful place, but also a romantic one, is the Botanic Garden, where you can breathe fresh air, admire the nature and, if it’s not idyllic enough, you can go to the Lovers’ Bridge and hang a padlock on the railing, as a symbol of eternal love.
Oltenia’s Museum has a variety of departments: the Department of Natural Sciences, the Department of History and Archeology and the Department of Ethnography for around 5 lei, or 2.5 lei if you are a student or if you are retired. Of course, you’ll need a document or proof that shows that you actually are, so don’t forget it! If you’re craving knowledge, you should give it a chance. And don’t worry about the language because there are audio books in different foreign languages! All you have to do is ask for one at the entrance.
Casa Băniei is a medieval architecture belonging to the Department of Ethnography of Oltenia’s Museum and it’s the oldest building in Craiova whose purpose was for living. It was reconstructed in 1699 and what’s left from the original building is now part of the cellars.
Well, enough about nature and relaxation. If you’re a party person and you’re up for fun and cool activities, you can always go to the club. As a reference, I would go to Ambient because I believe it can be cool even for “not so cool” people, just like me. As a plus, even though you pay like 6 lei for a soda or 8-10 lei for alcohol, or even more depending on the brand, the entrance and the tables are free! They have good music and they also have karaoke! Therefore, you can all enjoy the night, either singing or dancing, or just listen to the music and drink with friends.
How to get to Craiova
From the Henri Coandă International Airport you can either go by bus or train. First you have to take either a taxi or a bus to get to București Gara de Nord (Bucharest North railway station) and there you take the bus or the train. Both the bus and train take about three hours. Remember that the last train leaves around 11-12 in the night! So don’t miss it, or you will have to wait until the morning. Craiova also has an airport, but it’s smaller and there are less chances to find a flight there.
Choosing your transportation
When it comes to the common question “How do I get to all these places spending as little money as possible?” you don’t have to worry because you have many options and none of them is overpriced. A bus ticket is €0.60 and even taxis are like €0.38 per kilometer. It is by far one of the cheapest places where you can go by taxi and this has been confirmed by many foreigners.
It may not be the most modern city, but it has a charm that will reach out to you and you will certainly not regret adding it to your bucket list. It is a quiet city that doesn’t have many tourists, but it gives you a private and vivid Romanian experience.
An advice before you go to Romania: change your Euros to Lei or “Ron”, the currency of Romania, because there are almost no places where you can pay in Euros, especially in a local boutique, on the bus, taxi, or in restaurants. However, credit and/or debit cards work just fine!
Romanian food and places to eat
Except for the park, you can also eat in the restaurant area at the ElectroputereParc or Auchan, the Mall in Craiova which is on the main street Calea București. If you go upstairs you can find some restaurants or fast food places, among which I recommend the Romanian restaurant “Restaurant Ardelenesc Oșanu” and try the dish “tochitură ardelenească” for around 25 lei or €5. Another restaurant you should go to is “Restaurant Galaxy” which is on Gheorghe Chițu 66 Bulevard. They have really good traditional food and authentic decorations inside and outside the restaurant. The prices are acceptable, depending on what you order. This plate (see picture below to the right) is 80 lei or €18.70 and it’s the specialty of the house. It is supposed to be for two people, but it’s 1100 grams and you can easily share it between three or four people and split the check.