What would you say if I told you that after visiting the Romanian capital five times, Bucharest has become one of my favorite cities in Europe? If this city isn’t on your radar, read on for some of the best plans and things to do in this city, which is well worth exploring. Without further ado, here’s what to do in Bucharest if you have 24, 36, 48 or 72 hours in Romania’s capital city:
1. Visit the gigantic Palace of Parliament
It is said to be second only to the Pentagon in size. Leaving records aside, the fact is that this large administrative building visible from any elevated point in the city well deserves a visit.
Also called ‘House of the People’, the Palace of the Parliament was designed by the architect Anca Petrescu after the dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu ordered its construction.
More than twenty thousand people have worked to date on their works, still to be completed and it is a quintessential stop in any city tour.
2. Stroll through the old town of Bucharest
Since the fall of communism over thirty years ago, the city has been a mixture of contrasts, of the old and the new, of tradition and modernity. To better appreciate this phenomenon, there is no better place than Centrul Vechi (Bucharest old city). Among other things, make sure to visit these points of interest:
- Pasajul Victoriei and Macca Vilacrosse. Two central galleries with different styles and the same charm.
- Cărtureşti Carusel Book Store (Strada Lipscani 55). One of the most famous in the world, its hashtag gathers thousands of images on Instagram.
- Stavropoleos Monastery (Strada Stavropoleos 4). This tiny orthodox church in the heart of Bucharest is one of the jewels of the so-called brâncovenesc style, which combines local, Byzantine, oriental and Italian Renaissance architectural elements.
- Hanu’ lui Manuc (Strada Franceză 62-64). The oldest pension in the city. Its large interior patio can be freely visited. It also has a famous restaurant on its premises.
- Boulevards and Belle Epoque buildings. At different points in the center of Bucharest, you can see Frenchified buildings that gave the city the name of ‘East Paris ’or‘ Little Paris ’as a result of its construction.
If you are short in time or want to explore the city through an insider’s eyes, here’re a couple of great options:
- Sign up for a Bucharest free walking tour to experience it on foot
- Join a Bucharest bike group tour
3. Try the country’s culinary specialties
Caru’ cu bere (Strada Stavropoleos 5) is the oldest brewery and one of the most famous typical restaurants in Bucharest. So if you are looking for a quiet place, it may not be the right one.
If, on the contrary, the bustle does not represent any problem for you, this art nouveau mecca is an excellent option to start a night in the old area. Their meats, desserts, and dishes like sarmale and mititei are to lick your fingers.
Another great option to have lunch in Bucharest – especially if you are looking for some contemporaneous dishes – is Gram Bistro (America House, Șoseaua Nicolae Titulescu 4-8).
4. Celebrate life
That the Romanian capital enjoys a first-class night scene should not come as a surprise. Its bars and clubs fill the nights of the weekends with locals and tourists until the wee hours of the morning, making it little to envy world-famous party countries such as my own – Spain – in terms of the nightlife. These are some of my favorite places to have a drink in Bucharest:
- Pura Vida Sky Bar (Strada Smârdan 7). Perfect for watching the sunset over the elegant rooftops of the city center with an Aperol Spritz and good background music.
- Expirat (Strada Doctor Constantin Istrati 1). If you are looking for a room with concerts and live music several nights a week, be sure to check out their calendar of events.
- Kulturhaus Bukarest (Strada Sfânta Vineri 4). One of the ones I miss the most, with various settings and an eclectic audience.
- Fratelli Social Club (Strada Glodeni 1-3). Very chic and with strict entry control. To see and be seen.
- Player Club (Montreal Square). It has legendary parties and shows on designated days. Late night.
5. Enjoy a well-deserved rest
Central and safe, the old part of the city and the neighboring neighborhoods are excellent areas to base yourself to get the most of Bucharest. Step into the shoes of the locals and become a part of life in the charming city center, where everything is within a reach.
Here are some of the hotels and hostels that I have stayed in during my multiple visits to the city that I cannot stop recommending:
- Little Bucharest Old Town Hostel (Strada Smârdan). In the historic center, this cozy boutique hostel stands out for its private rooms with en-suite bathrooms on its top floor. For all budgets and for those who like to explore the city on foot.
- Golden Tulip Victoria Bucharest Hotel (Calea Victoriei 166). With everything that is expected of an urban hotel, its corner rooms (in which the interior and exterior are diluted) are a delight for architecture and design lovers.
- InterContinental Bucharest (Bulevardul Nicolae Bălcescu 4). Fans of incredible views, this is your hotel. When booking, do not forget to request one of the rooms on the highest floors. On the top floor, there is a spa. A staple building in the city, it leaves no one indifferent.
- Radisson Blu Hotel Bucharest (Calea Victoriei 63-81). Centrally located, with an outdoor pool and spa, its interior would be perfect for shooting a futuristic movie as it is uniquely lit at night. Great for those looking for a special treat.
6. Tour the historic Calea Victoriei
This avenue, which leads from Splaiul Independenței to Piața Victoriei is flanked by banks, fashion boutiques, cafes, luxurious hotels, and numerous buildings of historical importance. Among them are the Revolution Square, the Roman Athenaeum, the National Art Museum, and the Museum of National History of Romania.
7. Explore its multiple green areas
Extensive like few others, once you leave the historic center of Bucharest behind, there are many parks and gardens where you can spend a relaxed afternoon. One of the busiest is Cișmigiu gardens, which cover an area of 16 hectares next to the historic center.
Inaugurated in 1847, this urban oasis is to this capital of Eastern Europe what the Retiro would be to Madrid, a green lung to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a while.
Carol Park, the Botanical Garden, and Herastrau Park are also exceptional choices.
8. Get to know other nearby destinations
In case you have three days or more in the Romanian capital, here are a couple of ideas of places that you can easily visit from Bucharest:
- Transilvania. Brasov and the castles of Peles and Bran act as a great introduction letter to this region – famous Count Dracula’s tales, but there are many other towns that lend themselves to being visited if the weather permits. It’s less than 3 hours by train from Bucharest.
- The Black Sea. The seaside city of Constanta and the Danube Delta are always a good idea. Especially in summer, when the Romanian coast fills up with tourists in search of beaches and a good atmosphere. To make the most of this trip, it is advisable to rent your own vehicle.
Flydubai flights – among other companies – make it very simple to get there if you want to fly. Otherwise, check Europe’s rail network for a sustainability-friendly trip option.
Bucharest hides multiple treasures. What are you waiting to discover them?