Christmas & New Year's Events in BucharestChristmas (Crăciun in Romanian) is - despite the country being Orthodox - celebrated on December 25. It is generally considered to be the second most important religious Romanian holiday, surpassed only by Easter (which, in these parts, is a far bigger deal).
That said, Romanians probably eat more at Christmas than at any other time of the year, and huge, hearty dishes - often prepared days in advance - are eaten throughout the day and night. The Romanian Christmas meal centres on pork, which in the countryside will be a porker sacrificed in the traditional way (by having its throat cut in early December after months of fattening up). Every part of the pig is used, from the meat (roasted) to the organs (used to make drob and piftie). Even the ears and the trotters are often fried as a snack. The thick skin of the pig is also often fried and served up as an appetiser. Minced pork is used to make sarmale (stuffed cabbage rolls): a must at Christmas, while dessert will consist of cozonac, a sweetbread with sultanas, raisins, chocolate or Turkish delight. Lighter, Italian-style pannetones are also increasingly popular.
Romanians tend to spend Christmas at home, with family. Those (many) people from the provinces who live in Bucharest will head off to the family home for Christmas, which can make the capital feel eerily empty on Christmas and Boxing Day. They return, however, for the biggest party of the year: New Year’s Eve. While many restaurants close on Christmas Day, the big five-star hotels have become famous for their extravagant Christmas Brunches and Christmas Dinners. All of the city’s major hotels will be putting on some kind of Christmas event: many will have festive brunches on the Sundays leading up to the big day too. Incredibly popular, you are advised to book in advance.
Throughout December there are various Christmas gift markets around the city, the biggest of which is in Piata Universitatii. The Athenee Palace Hilton is also this year hosting a market, a German/Austrian Christkindlmarkt where you can warm yourself with a Gluhwein and munch on Schmalzkuchen as you browse the stalls looking for gifts.
Finding something to do or somewhere to go on New Year’s Eve in Bucharest is not going to be a problem. Almost all of the venues listed in this guide will be holding special events, usually with food and drink included, though note that most will require you buy a ticket in advance: the chances of being able to simply turn up at your chosen location on the night will be few and far between. The most upmarket events are - as with Christmas - at the big hotels, who lay on a number of amazing parties and balls. Some of the hotels have offers that include a cut-price room, so you do not even have to worry about getting home.
If you want to enjoy New Year’s Eve on the streets with revelling locals, head for Piata Constitutiei (in front of Casa Poporului). From around 21:00 you can expect a host of local bands performing live, a fireworks display at midnight and thousands of little idiots setting off firecrackers (known locally as petarde) Be brave.
Bucharest is blessed with a load of good cinemas, from big multiplexes in the shopping malls to small, musty, independent cinemas in the city centre. Films in Romania are shown in their original language with Romanian subtitles. The exceptions are animated films: these are usualy dubbed into Romanian, though in larger multiplexes you may also find an original language version.The key words to look for are dublat (dubbed) and subtitrat (subtitled). To find out which films are showing, check the individual websites of each cinema, or browse the full programme of all the city's cinemas here.
Classical Music Concerts in BucharestBucharest boasts two excellent classical music venues, both with their own orchestras: the Atheneum, and Sala Radio. Both venues host concerts at least three times per week.
You can view the programme of the Atheneum (home to the George Enescu Philharmonic) here. Sala Radio (which hosts the Romanian National Radio Orchestra) publishes its programme here.
Opera, Operetta & Ballet
The Romanian National Opera (Opera Romana) is at B-dul Kogalniceanu 70-72, tel. (+4) 021 314 69 80, www.operanb.ro. It serves up a familiar repertoire of classic operas and ballets, and stages child-oriented matinees most weekend mornings at 11:00. Tickets cost from 5.30 - 63.60 lei, and can be purchased online here or from the Opera’s own box office, open 09:00-13:00, 15:00-19:00. While black tie is not compulsory, you are expected to dress smartly when attending evening performances. The full opera programme is online here.