Constanța city guide

I firmly believe that the Black Sea and everything around it should be getting more attention. It’s such a mysterious and fascinating place. I almost feel like there’s something ancient hidden there, waiting to be discovered. I’ll be honest: I was absolutely in love with Constanța from the 90s. It was a diamond in the rough back then. It used to have a bit more soul to it. Back when the Savoy was surrounded by dunes and trees, everything was just a little wilder. Now everything is perfectly in line, like in all the other resorts. Some parts of Constanța still hold on to that musky, dusty, old feel. I’ll do my best to introduce you to them.

Let’s start with the Museum of National History and Archeology. No one speaks English, it’s smelly and flat out dirty. But you won’t find a collection of historic artifacts like these nowhere else in Romania. In fact, Constanța is the longest inhabited city in this country. The museum stands in the middle of Piața Ovidiu – the main square – and it looks like Dracula’s summer residence. This particular building is the former city hall. The artifacts inside include all sorts of ancient pagan relics. Statues of snake gods and Pontus the pre-Olympian Greek deity that ruled over the Black Sea: all very cool stuff. The square isn’t half bad either. Named after Ovidu, or Ovidius the famous Roman poet. Famous might be a bit of an exaggeration, I doubt many young people know about Ovidius nowadays. The square is surrounded by modern architecture, shops, beer gardens and an amazing view of the Black Sea.

Casino in Constanta overlooking the Black Sea

Mamaia's casino, a real eye-catcher in Art Nouveau style

Everything looked different some 150 years ago. The plan was to build everything in Art Nouveau style. They more or less succeeded but the outcome just didn’t pass the test of time…and bombs from both World Wars. I can’t think of a better example of such structure than the famous Casino. This absolute marvel was built in 1910 and there’s a legend linked to it. They say it was built by a ship captain whose daughter died young. He wanted Romanian kids to enjoy moments that his daughter no longer could. That’s supposedly why it looks like a giant tomb. The Casino overlooks the Black Sea and it is a sight to behold. Almost otherworldly, especially when it was abandoned for so many years. I can only imagine people spending nights there looking all sorts of paranormal phenomena. It’s being renovated (as of 2020) and access is prohibited, but you can still see the outside.

You can check the Grand Mosque of Constanța, originally known as the Carol I Mosque, out while you’re there. The number of Muslims in Constanța actually surprised me, but what do I know? I hardly ever visit those parts. Climb the minaret for the obligatory view over the city and the Black Sea. There are more museums but remember that Constanța, at its core, is a summer resort. People come here to party and tan for cheap. Of course, the whole sea resort business is seasonal and Constanța is at its best during summer. You’ll quickly notice this city’s potential when you visit the…marina. Clearly, the resort potential is proportionate to the number of yachts at a marina. There are many in Constanța. Almost as many as posh clubs, restaurants and bars filled with foreigners. They are must-visits for fresh seafood and regional specialties.

Mamaia Beach resort seen from above

Mamaia Beach: one of Romania's most prominent tourist destinations in summer, where everyone young of heart in Constanta goes to party

Mamaia is where all the young people gather. It’s kind of part of Constanța, but also separate from it. You can even take a gondola from the city to Mamaia’s main aqua park. There are no landmarks, no museums, no mosques, no unnecessary distractions. Just one huge party. Fun fact is that almost nobody lives in Mamaia all year round. It’s all tourists coming over during summer. I know it’s a little farfetched but it reminds me of Rio de Janeiro. The beaches might not be as spectacular, but Mamaia can hold its own. Even in terms of fake titties and silicon butts. Romania is a former soviet country and it comes with a few shortcomings.

You have those obligatory theme parks which have seen better days. I seriously doubt they would pass legitimate safety inspections. As would some of the fast food bars alongside the promenade. Stuff is overpriced for a typical Romanian, but cheap as hell for everyone else. It can also get a bit too rowdy in the evenings. At least for my old-man tastes.

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