Bucharest's daunting Palace of Parliament
Bucharest's daunting Palace of Parliament ©Getty Images

Bucharest is ...
• The capital of Romania, having previously been the capital of Wallachia (until 1859), the Principality of Romania (until 1881) and the Kingdom of Romania (until 1947).
• The city of Steaua Bucureşti, who won the European Cup in 1986.
• The city where Ilie Năstase learned tennis, and where Constantin Brăncuşi studied art before moving to Paris.
• The birthplace of Henri Coandă who arguably built the first jet engine.
• Twinned with Beijing, Sao Paulo, Manila, London, Moscow, Atlanta and Montreal.

Where is it
Romania's cultural and commercial hub, Bucharest was known as 'Micul Paris' (Little Paris) from 1918-47, before an extensive communist makeover. In the middle of the Romanian Plain, Bucharest is 60km north of the River Danube, 8,000km east of New York and 7,000km west of Beijing.

The National Arena staged the 2012 UEFA Europa League final
The National Arena staged the 2012 UEFA Europa League final©Getty Images

National Arena Bucharest
• Completed in 2011, the National Arena stands on the site of the old National Stadum, previously home to Romania's national team and the preferred venue for cup finals.
• The old ground staged two Michael Jackson concerts and a famous 1983 defeat of Italy, 1-0 in UEFA European Championship qualifying.
• The new stadium's biggest showcase to date was the 2012 UEFA Europa League final, where Atlético Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao 3-0.
• The stadium has a capacity of just over 54,000 and a retractable roof.
• The National Arena is around 4km from central Bucharest and 7km from the main railway station.

Matches at the National Arena Bucharest
14 June, time tbc – Group C match
18 June, time tbc – Group C match
22 June, time tbc – Group C match
29 June, time tbc – Round of 16 (1F v 3A/B/C)

Getting to and around Bucharest
Henri Coandă International Airport is situated north of the city. The city has an affordable, reliable metro system, with the stadium not too far from Piaţa Muncii and Iancului stations, which is also served by buses, trolley-buses and trams above ground. A limited number of parking spaces within the city means tourists are advised not to navigate Bucharest by car.

Where to stay
Many of the major international hotel chains have establishments in Bucharest, but there are plenty of cheaper options, from hostels to pensions. See useful links below.

Bucharest's National Museum of Art
Bucharest's National Museum of Art©Getty Images

What to see
For culture: Bucharest's Old Town is grand, while the National Art Museum, the George Antipa Museum of Natural History, the George Enescu Museum and the Romanian Athenaeum (which specialises in chamber music) give a taste of Bucharest's cultural life.
For atmosphere: Bucharest's imposing Palatul Parlamentului (Palace of Parliament) and the bullet-scarred Piata Revolutiei (Revolution Square) give some impression of Bucharest's complicated 20th century.
For fresh air: Cişmigiu Gardens is the most notable of the city's central parks, while a little further out, Herăstrău Park is home to the open-air National Village Museum, with fascinating insights into rural life.

Eating and drinking
Experienced travellers may note elements of Turkish, German, Greek and Hungarian cuisine in the most celebrated local recipes, but Romania has a special taste of its own. Big meals often kick off with a sour soup, ciorbă, with sarmale – cabbage rolls stuffed with spiced pork and rice – regarded by most as the national dish. A tochitură (pork stew) with polenta is also popular. Local wine is excellent, but ţuică (plum brandy) is the drink of choice for many.

Football in the city
Dinamo Bucureşti got to the European Cup semi-finals in 1984, but that achievement was trumped when Steaua Bucureşti beat Barcelona on penalties to win the 1986 edition – still Romania's most dramatic footballing achievement. Founded as the club of the Romanian army, Steaua remain the nation's most popular team, with the one-time interior ministry side, Dinamo, and Rapid Bucureşti, founded by local railway workers, completing the capital's big three – though plenty of other local teams play in the top divisions.

Get out of the city
Around 10km north of the city is the lake-side Mogoșoaia Palace, which was built by the Wallachian sovereign Constantin Brâncoveanu between 1698 and 1702 as a summer residence. A little further afield is the atmospheric Snagov Monastery, secluded on a tiny island in another lake, which some claim is the burial place of Vlad the Impaler, whose story partly inspired that of Dracula. A 125km drive away is Peles Castle, the one-time summer residence of the Romanian royals.

Useful links
Romania Tourism: http://romaniatourism.com/bucharest.html
Lonely Planet: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/romania/bucharest
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bucharest
Romanian Football Federation (FRF): http://www.frf.ro/