You wouldn’t expect to see farmsteads, barns and rural homes in a bustling metropolis like Bucharest. And yet nestled right in the heart of Romania’s beautiful capital lies one of Europe’s oldest ethnographic collections: the Bucharest Village Museum. An entire settlement with all the appropriate buildings, designed to give you an insight into the rural Romanian life across time.
If you want to experience the folklore and traditional life of the Romanian countryside and learn more about Romanians, you should come here. The museum has one of the most interesting collections of rural homes, churches, farmsteads, barns, and watermills in the entire Europe.
Visiting the museum is one of the best things to do in Bucharest. Walking among the rustic houses will make you feel like you are in the middle of a real countryside.
A Brief History of the Museum
The Village Museum in Bucharest (Muzeul Satului) was created in 1936 by the sociology Professor Dimitrie Gusti and funded by royal decree. Gusti went around the country and after many years of field research he came up with the idea of creating a Romanian village museum.
Initially the museum started with only a handful of houses, windmills and watermills from various areas of Romania. The buildings have been disassembled and relocated here.
During the second World War the museum faced very difficult times being used for war refugees. The houses and artifacts have fallen into total neglect.
Under the Communist years that followed the museum continued to fall into disrepair. But despite of the harsh political and economic conditions, it managed to survive.
In recent years, with grants received from the European Union, the collection has been restored and has grown into one of the most captivating outdoor ethnographic museums in the world.
What to Expect at the Bucharest Village Museum
Today the Village Museum in Bucharest covers almost 25 acres of land. The museum features 272 authentic farms and peasants homes from the 15th to the 19th century gathered from villages in every region of Romania.
Some of the houses display kitchen utensils, wool rugs, pottery and old farming tools. Most of these homes are simple wooden huts or basic shacks furnished with benches, stools and very primitive beds.
The structures are made of traditional materials used by the peasants in the course of history (wood, clay, straw and sometimes stone). But the perishable nature of these materials poses a permanent challenge for the museum, as they are very difficult to preserve.
One of the highlights of the museum is the steep belfry of the wooden Maramureş church, complete with beautiful but faded icons. The original, which is in Maramureş, counts itself among the most beautiful churches in Romania.
I found it very interesting that one of the houses was featuring gypsy metal crafts. Like many of the countries in Eastern Europe, Romania is home to a large population of Gypsies whose traditional occupation is metalworking –tinsmiths and blacksmiths.
Sadly, in Romania being a Gypsy is the worst social stigma. These dark-skinned people who ramble Romania’s countryside in caravans always lived by their own rules.
They never managed to integrate themselves among the country’s white population, therefore remaining outcasts.
Best Time to Visit the Museum
Bucharest Village Museum is beautiful year round, even during the cold winter months. In fact, it’s one of the many fun things to do in Bucharest in winter. The museum
has an ideal location: on the shore of the Herastrau Lake and just adjacent to the park bearing the same name. Strolling through the 25 acres of shaded lanes on the lake shore is just so beautiful!
The museum is open year-round and is equally beautiful in winter as it is in summer. Being born in Bucharest, we visited the museum many times and during all seasons. Falls are especially nice here, when the tree leafs turn yellow, red and orange. However, the best time to explore it is on a clear sunny day.
Weekends will also be more crowded compared to the week-days. On the other hand, exploring the museum on a weekend has its own advantages.
We visited the museum on a Saturday and we had the chance to encounter several wedding parties who came to the museum for photo shoots.
Where to Eat at the Bucharest Village Museum
All around the area there are small kiosks and tables selling home made goods. You can buy sweets, cakes, pies and delicious breads.
There are also a few good eateries around. There is even a nice restaurant Calle La Francu, set in an original 19th-century inn. The restaurant serves authentic Romanian dishes, like grilled mutton pastrami with polenta, or stuffed cabbage rolls.
Guided Tour vs. Self-guided Tour
Bucharest Village Museum is a very unique place to visit in Romania, so don’t skip it if you can spare a few hours. To visit the museum, you can choose to have a guided tour or a self-guided tour. Guided tours are available in English, French, Spanish, Italian, and Russian, but they require a reservation.
If you choose to explore the Village Museum on your own you can rent an audio guides for 50 lei, or 8 lei on your smartphone. Walking the museum grounds is fairly easy, as there are signs both in English and Romanian. Admission fee is very reasonable: 10 Lei (about $3.
A complete tour of the Village Museum in Bucharest takes at least 3-4 hours. However, you can spend a lot more time on the grounds if you want to buy some souvenirs from Romania, have a picnic, or enjoy some of the local foods.
How to Reach the Bucharest Village Museum
You can reach the Village Museum by bus or by metro from the center of the city. If you come by metro, take Line #2 and get off at Aviatorilor.
However, if you don’t want to bother with finding your way around the city, you can always take a cab. Taxis are very inexpensive in Bucharest.
Note: while the museum is open on Mondays, the houses are not.
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