Bucharest In Your Pocket, like all In Your Pockets, isn’t meant to have favourite places. As objective observers – swayed neither by personal preference nor the filthy lucre of an advertiser – we say what we see and leave the conjecture to our readers.
That’s one of the reasons we started Bucharest Life. For while the editor of Bucharest In Your Pocket couldn’t possible divulge his favourite places in the guide, he can do so with impunity in an unofficial capacity over here on these pages.
And one of them is Carturesti/Gradina Verona.
In a large house (an historic monument, built in 1883) set back from the bustle of Bulevardul Magheru, Carturesti is Bucharest’s best attempt at a bookshop (we have commented on the poverty that is the bookshop scene in Romania elsewhere). Books are arranged – by and large – in the correct way, and are everywhere: on the stairs, on the floors, on the windowsills; like all good bookshops you get the feeling that they simply do not have enough space (compare with branches of the dreaded Diverta).
They also sell a vast range of CDs – there must be thousands of them – though we have to ask: who is still buying CDs in Romania?
The children’s room is a winner too: a good range of children’s books, good children’s toys and an area for kids to play in, and to read without being told off.
Then there is the cafe. Carturesti has had a cafe for years (it was one of the first Bucharest bookshops to serve coffee), joined in recent times by a garden and courtyard out back. This year serving a decent lunch on weekend afternoons, it is a genuinely nice, cut-price alternative to the awfully overpriced brunches at the big hotels.
And there’s more…
Just down the road (not two minutes walk away) is one of those places that Bucharest does not have enough of: Gradina OAR.
It’s hidden – with only a highly-understated sign pointing to its existence – discrete and quite lovely.
A cafe/cocktail bar for thinkers, there’s not a pitzipoanca in sight. Why would there be? Nobody sees you here. It’s for people of good taste. It is such a shame it is only open during the summer. Enjoy it while you can.