No visit to Bucharest is complete without spending at least an hour walking around Cismigiu Gardens, a park located smack dab in the center of the city.
Popular year-round, this park is where Bucharest locals spend their free time on a regular basis meeting with friends, taking a coffee or beer, or even just for a leisurely stroll during pleasant weather. Immaculately maintained, Cismigiu Gardens may appear to be a better fit in a city like Vienna or Paris, but the fact that it is found in the sometimes dirty capital of Bucharest makes it all the more enchanting.
The History of the Park
Developed in the year 1847, Cismigiu Gardens has been a popular point in Bucharest for well over a century and a half. Originally, the space was a fishing pond and was also used as a vineyard that produced local wine.
When the decision was made to turn the land over to public ownership and create a central park, a team of urban planners and horticulture experts were brought in to lead the design. Since this initial beginning, the park has always been a source of pride for both Bucharest natives and the administrators that have continued to make sure it is accessible, clean, and enjoyable to present day.
What to Do in Cismigiu
The biggest draw to Cismigiu is its central location and the many activities that happen within the borders of the park. There are a few cafes and bars that have outdoor seating, making it a frequent place to simply take a break from the hustle and bustle of Bucharest’s teeming urban life.
During the summer months, inexpensive pedalos and rowboat rentals are available to drift on the shallow lake that makes up the centerpiece of the park. For a person that enjoys a good game of chess (sah in Romanian) or backgammon (table), there is a small area in the southwest corner of the park where retirees and up and coming players gather everyday to test their skills against the local masters.
A person wandering through Cismigiu Gardens will quickly notice that there are several statues located in random places throughout the park, culminating in the Writers’ Rotunda (Rotunda Scriitorilor) which features busts of many of Romania’s famous writers, such as Mihai Eminescu, Ion Luca Caragiale, and George Cosbuc.
Other statues are dedicated to Maica Smara, a women’s rights leader, and the French soldiers that lost their life on Romanian ground during the first World War.
Cismigiu in Winter
One might think that an outdoor public park would shut down in winter and that it would remain empty until the thawing spring. Not so with Cismigiu Gardens. When the freezing winter months come, the lake turns into an ice skating rink, complete with small vendors selling food items, coffee, and boiled wine (vin fiert), a Romanian tradition to warm up on a cold winter’s day. Attracting visitors of all ages and from all walks of life, Cismigiu Gardens is truly the soul of Bucharest, reflecting perfectly the melting pot city and the many pleasures it has to offer.