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Romania's capital city isn't called the Little Paris for nothing: The city is packed with exquisite architecture, sophisticated culture, and prime real estate at the crossroads of some of the greatest empires from Europe's history-and with one of the largest populations in the European Union, it isn't even that little. If that's not enough, the surrounding country is filled with ancient monasteries, palaces and great views of Carpathian Mountains, while great food, busy shops, and towering landmarks ensure that you don't run out of things to do in Bucharest.
Bucharest's old town was the city's commercial center as far back as the Middle Ages, and it still has its share of cobblestone roads and ornamented storefronts that show off the charm of a city designed for the horse and carriage. Between the monument to Vlad the Impaler and the rows of cafés along Covaci Street, the district is a great place to enjoy some 17th-century flair.
Built on a hill over the Dâmbovița River, this neighborhood has kept a respectable piece of the forest that used to cover most of the city. Roads lined with magnolias and huge, proud oaks front some of the city's grandest villas, and the Bucharest Botanical Garden holds a menagerie of plant life in its 19th-century greenhouses.
One of Bucharest's newest neighborhoods, Bucharest's northern district of Băneasa stands between the woodland of Băneasa Forest and the city's international airport. Bordered by lakes and one of the city's biggest parks, Băneasa gives you a good sense of what the Romanian countryside has in store for vacationers in the outskirts of town.
If you like palatial buildings and towering monuments, this city has you covered. Visit grand attractions from the gargantuan Palace of the Parliament, one of the last and biggest products of Communist rule, to the 17th-century Patriarchal Cathedral and the Neoclassical theater of the Athanaeum. For a look back at the days of Vlad the Impaler, visit the medieval palace of Curtea Veche and explore the court of the kings of Wallachia. You can get acquainted with the twists and turns of Romania's history at the National Military Museum and the National Museum of Romanian History, look back at the simpler life at the Museum of the Romanian Peasant, or explore the finer side of Romanian culture at the National Museum of Art.
Plenty of guides are waiting to help you navigate the cornucopia of destinations on a sightseeing tour through Bucharest, whether you're interested in the landmarks or want an introduction to the best Romanian food. You can get an in-depth look at the city's past with a specialized outing focused on the days of Communist rule or the history of the Jewish community.
Outside the urban boundaries, the Romanian landscape offers a whole other world of wonders. You can visit a couple of the region's most beautiful country estates, including the monastery said to hold Dracula's tomb, or discover some of Romania's most incredible natural wonders, like the Berca mud volcanoes and Prahova Salt Mine. A ride on the Transfagarasan Highway showcases the scenery in the southern Carpathians, or you can venture east for a day spent relaxing on the shores of the Black Sea.