East Balkans by Motorcycle: Sofia to Bucharest

November 6, 2016 8185 188 3 Comments


Road trip Sofia to Bucharest

It’s day three of my road trip and I have traveled 840km so far. Leaving Sofia behind, I move northeast, wanting to get to Bucharest where I will spend the night. The are two routes to Sofia. The shortest one is to turn left after Pleven city towards Nikopol, where I will take a ferry to cross the Danube. Google maps says that I will need five and a half hours to reach my destination via this route.

My second option is to head toward Ruse and take the bridge to cross the Danube. It is 27 km more but 23 minutes faster. I chose the first option as I wanted to take a few shots of the river from the boat while crossing it. The route is an 83km highway. After Yablanitsa the road is one lane per direction. I pass through various villages and cities like Lukovit and continue my way up to the port.

I arrive at the banks of the Danube and continue to ride along it for a while until I reach the port where I’ll cross the river. Unfortunately I learn that I have to wait three hours for the next ferry, which really spoiled my mood. There was no breeze, it was very hot, and the coffee shop wasn’t anything special. I checked how long it would take to get to Ruse on Google Maps and I saw that it’s 134 km and would take about two hours. I preferred driving rather than waiting in a boring cafe and this way I would gain at least one hour. So I headed off to Ruse (Ferry Boat NIKOPOL – TURNU MAGURELE).

I headed east on the inland road rather than going back to Pleven, which was a bad choice because the road is very bad. I rode along the Danube but I couldn’t see it at all because of the tall trees. The road in some parts is wide and in others narrow and unmarked.

I reached Ruse and stopped for gas and to relax a little bit. I continued to the border, where just after the customs checkpoint I took the bridge to cross the Danube. The distance from here to Bucharest is 65 km and as I see on google maps I will need about an hour to reach it. This made me suspect that the road wouldn’t be that good, but it turns out to be fine, with two lanes in each direction in most sections.


Bucharest has a strange architecture and I am often surprised by the buildings I see. It is a patchwork from neoclassical, Bauhaus and Art Deco buildings, mixed with communist blocks, and other structures of the modern period. A city full of clashing images that is still attempting to determine its character.

It is situated on the Ntampovitsa river and is the largest city in Romania with a population of almost 2.2 million. According to historical references it was founded around 1459 and according to tradition it was named after a prince of the region named Bukur, which in Romanian means joy. It became the capital of Romania in 1862, a period when it was one of the richest cities in Europe. The modern history of Romania is very interesting and if you intend to visit it is worth reading up on it a bit.

One of the sights in the city that really stands out is the “Palace of the Parliament”. It is located at the end of Ounirea street and is the second largest building in the world after the Pentagon in the USA. It occupies an area of ​​330,000 sq. meters and was built in 1980 to house the central committee of the communist party. Requiring around 20,000 people to construct it, this palace has 1,100 rooms and 4,500 chandeliers!

Another attraction in Bucharest is the Arc de Triomphe, which resembles the one in Paris. However, at the time of my visit it was covered due to construction, so I couldn’t really see it. On my road trips where I have only a few hours in each city, museums are definitely not a priority for me. However some of the cultural sites in the city are the National Art Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Agricultural Museum of Romania, the National History Museum and the Military Museum.

The historic city center is picturesque with cobbled streets and is a nice place to walk. It has restaurants, cafes and bars, and I also found a Greek tavern.

Among these cobbled streets is the church of Stavropoleos, which was built in 1724 by the Greek monk and Archimandrite John Stratonikea. The inside is impressive with wooden and stone sculptures, paintings, frescoes and an extensive library with over 8,000 books.

Bucharest is a city with a strange energy that is still trying to shape its personality. There are many things to see and do and you can definitely have a really good time here. The hotel where I stayed in, is the Hotel Boutique Monaco which costed 40€.

restaurants in Bucharest

The restaurant where I ate is Caru’ cu Bere.

Enlarge map to see sights of interest in Bucharest: