Selecting a hotel in Bucharest creates an interesting conundrum for travelers. Several of the major chains (Hilton, IHG, Marriott, Starwood) have a presence in Romania’s capital city, so if you’re a points junkie, you have ample options to choose from. On the other hand, a little searching showed that Bucharest has a plethora of small boutique hotels/bed & breakfasts around the city – and at these hotels, you can get a LOT of hotel room for not very much money. Ultimately, since my wife and I were in Bucharest for our wedding anniversary, the boutique hotel seemed the more appropriate choice. We eventually settled on the Hotel Scala, a bed & breakfast in a restored historic building on a quiet side street near the city center. Why the Hotel Scala? It was walking distance to much of what we wanted to see in Bucharest, and generally received good reviews from visitors on honeymoons/wedding anniversaries, but as an added bonus, a rather palatial looking “premium” guest room was advertised at just 95 euros a night. That was a deal I couldn’t pass up.
- C.A. Rosetti nr. 19, 020011, Bucharest, Romania
- Features: 4-star hotel, free full breakfast, free Wi-Fi, computer available for common use in lobby, restaurant, bar, airport transportation available (EUR 35 each way)
Near the city center, right off Bulevardul General Gheorghe Magheru, one of the main north-south thoroughfares through Bucharest. The Romanian Athenaeum (the city’s historic concert hall) and the National Museum of Art are a 5-10 minute walk to the west. Many other items on your Bucharest wish list – the Palace of Parliament, the National Museum of Romanian History, the historic Strada Lipscani, the city’s expansive parks, numerous restaurants – are all a 25 minute or less walk away. In other words, from here, there’s a lot you can do on foot. It is roughly equidistant from the Piata Romana and Universitate Metro stations, roughly 10 minutes walking time north and south, respectively.
Unfortunately, direct service to the airport via the Metro isn’t offered, and while express buses do run from the city center to the airport, the nearest stops are roughly a 15-20 minute walk away. If you’re carrying bags, you’re better off booking a shuttle (available for around RON 80/EUR 20 total for 2 people – more details about that in my post about Bucharest itself next week) or taking advantage of the hotel’s Mercedes pick-up service (EUR 35 each way).
Date of Stay: October 28-30, 2015
If you book through the hotel’s website, the reservation form suggests that the front desk is only open until 11 P.M. That would have been something of a problem for us, as our flight wasn’t scheduled to arrive from Prague until 12:55 in the morning, so I e-mailed the hotel before booking to see if there would be an issue. No worries, the hotel replied, and sure enough, our driver was waiting for us as promised, and the night clerk was waiting for us when we arrived to check us in. There are only 11 rooms in the hotel, and each one has a name instead of a number; in our case, our “Premium” category room was named “Opera”. It was pushing 2 A.M. at this point, so I went straight to bed.
It wasn’t until the next day that I had the chance to explore our room. It was, in a word, gorgeous. The hotel features an early 19th-century feel, and while perhaps the look is a bit to classical for some, my wife and I really like the old school design, especially the wood flooring. And it’s enormous, to boot, with a quite large working/sitting area at one end of the room. The one problem – plugs are in short supply, with only one to the right of the bed along the wall. That necessitated having to sit facing the foot of the bed if I wanted to use my phone while plugged in.
There’s also a chess board on the small table in the corner.
The bathroom was pretty equally insanely large, featuring a sort of “powder room” setup in the middle, and a small-ish jacuzzi tub.
And last but not least, the room features a small balcony overlooking the street below. It was a little cold for sitting outside during our stay, but on summer evenings, this would be a nice spot to sip a drink and people watch.
A full breakfast is provided free of charge in the basement restaurant, “Repertorium”. There is a reasonable selection of breads, cereals, pastries, cold meats, and cheeses, with a couple of hot items such as baked beans. The juices, however, aren’t very good; very watery versions of orange and green apple on the two days we ate downstairs. If you don’t like what’s on tap, there is also an on-duty chef in the back of the restaurant. There didn’t seem to be a set menu, but rather, you could just ask him to make you something like an omelette or crepe and he’d bring it to you. Also available were capuccino and espresso – definitely take advantage of this, as the regular coffee on the buffet gets the dreaded Professor Snape “D” for “Dreadful”. It was cold every single time I poured a cup, and the server didn’t seem to pay attention to refilling it, meaning it was empty half the time. Which is really the issue here; the waitress was nice and pleasant enough, but wasn’t attentive or proactive at all. You had to chase either her or the cook in the back down to get something.
Seating area, with a cool old phonograph in the corner
Juice, bread, cereal, and pastry selection
Meats and cheeses, and a couple of hot items
Repertorium also offers dinner service each evening. We ate there one night following our all-day tour to Transylvania. I have a post scheduled to discuss the various cuisine we sampled in both the Czech Republic and Romania, but to provide a brief overview, at the time of our visit, Repertorium offered a variety of traditional Romanian dishes, but unfortunately not an English menu. Our waitress, who didn’t speak much English either, ended up picking something out for us, and despite the initial trepidation, it actually turned out to be quite good – a smorgasboard of roasted and barbecued meats and potatoes, plus a really incredible doughnut looking thing for desert. If you’re not adventurous enough to do as we did, fear not, as the restaurant appears to have rebranded as an Italian one, with an English menu available on the website.
Meat sampler w/ roasted potatoes
A papanasi – a fried donut, plus the hole, with cream cheese icing and fruits
I finally had time to explore the common areas on the last day of our stay. You’ve probably already noticed a recurring theme from the room and the restaurant – that the hotel is a trip back in time to 1920s Bucharest – and that theme continues with the lobby areas and the lobby bar. The lobby bar is beautiful, but I never actually saw anyone in it. Late October isn’t exactly peak tourist season in Bucharest, so perhaps that had something to do with it.
Staircase to 2nd floor
2nd floor sitting area
Lobby table w/ laptop for guest use
Front desk and main sitting area
Pathway to restaurant
What about service? A bit hit-and-miss, I’d say. On the one hand, I didn’t find the front desk to be particularly attentive, though I’m not sure how much of this is the hotel’s vault vs. different standards at B&Bs in the U.S. vs. the rest of the world. Here in the States, the front desk staff at small B&Bs tend to be very attentive to their guests, even sitting and eating breakfast with them in the morning to get to know more about them. At the Scala, on the other hand, we never received so much as an acknowledgement when leaving or coming back. On the other hand, while service at the restaurant was consistently sloooooow, I have to say I was impressed with the way our dinner turned out. The chef came out to personally explain what everything was on the plate, and even surprised us with the papanasi at the end.
Overall thoughts: some may find the throwback look too over-the-top and/or kitschy, but call me a sucker for period furnishings, so I found the hotel gorgeous from top to bottom. And let’s face it, 95 euros a night for the ginormous room we ended up with is incredible. The location is also fantastic, being walking distance from many of the important destinations in Bucharest, and the Metro for those that aren’t. I just couldn’t help shake the feeling that service levels by the hotel staff were annoyingly mediocre, though, especially for a 4-star hotel. But given the price paid, I’d come back for sure.
This post is part of my trip report series about our trip to the Czech Republic and Romania in October. Click here for the introductory post and trip report index.