To the north of Bucharest’s city center is the beautiful Parcul Herăstrău. This large city park surrounds a lake and part of the Colentina River. It’s got several trails for walking, running, and biking, boats on the lake, a sports club, an aquarium, a hotel, restaurants, snack bars, lounges, an open air theatre, and even a Hard Rock Café. It’s a great place to unwind.
There are sculptures of several artists, writers, and composers scattered throughout the park. A more recent memorial honors Michael Jackson.
The entrance to Parcul Herăstrău is at Piața Charles de Gaulle. The square has had many names, including Piața Adolf Hitler from 1940 to 1944 while Romania was a member of the Axis Powers, and Piața Stalin, complete with a statue of Joseph Stalin which was removed in 1962. It got its current name in the late 1990s and a statue of Charles de Gaulle was added in 2006. The Aviatorilor metro station is at Piața Charles de Gaulle.
In keeping up with Bucharest’s love of all things French, the Arcul de Triumf (Triumphal Arch), reminiscent of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, is on the southwest corner of the park. The first arch was built of wood in 1878 for Romanian troops to march under it after Romania gained its independence from the Ottoman Empire. The current arch was built in 1936 to honor the heroes of World War I. It stands 27m high.
On the west side of the park is the Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum. If you don’t have a chance to visit rural Romania, this is a great place to come and see some authentic traditional structures from all over the country.
The museum, which opened in 1936, contains over 250 structures. They were brought from villages all over Romania and reassembled in Bucharest, including homes, churches, inns, and mills. Every structure on display is labeled with the location it was pulled from, approximate construction date, and a short description.
Admission is 10 lei for adults, 5 lei for seniors, and 2.5 lei for students (as of November 2016). An audioguide is available for 50 lei. The museum is open daily but some parts of the exhibition may be closed for maintenance.
Also on the grounds of the park is the Elisabeta Palace. It’s private property and the residence of the Romanian royal family. At the time of my visit, King Mihai I was living there. It was built in 1936 and named after Princess Elisabeta of Romania, the daughter of King Ferdinand and Queen Marie. She married the future King George II of Greece but they divorced.