Bucharest is the charming capital city of Romania.
It’s a beautiful place to visit. The city is packed with a seemingly endless number of different things to do, places to see, and areas to explore.
Fortunately, Bucharest is still off-the-beaten-path for most people so for travelers looking for a traditional experience – this is where you’ll find it.
It’s affordable to visit, it’s easy to get to, and Romania is an amazing place to explore if you’re looking for something other than the big city lifestyle.
In this post I want to talk about some of the best things to do in Bucharest so that you can make the most of your time visiting this lovely Romanian city.
Things to Do in Bucharest During Your Visit
The Palace of Parliament
Known in Romania as the “House of the People”, the Parliament building here in Bucharest is one of the biggest buildings in the world.
Construction on this superstructure began in 1983 under the Communist reign of Nicolae Ceausescu. By 1989 after the Romanian Revolution most of the construction ceased and today the building remains on finished.
At the moment there are 400 Chambers and two large halls capable of being used. This seems like a lot but not when you consider that there are a total of 1100 rooms, most of which sit completely empty.
Both the exterior and interior of the structure are impressive. It takes a good 20 minutes to walk around the whole building where you’ll have some great Vantage points for photos.
Tours are available of the inside of the Parliament building. Here you’ll learn about the 700 architects and 20,000 workers that it took to build the Parliament. This is one of the top things to do in Bucharest that you don’t want to miss.
The Parliament building is open for tours throughout the week from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. It’s a good idea to book in advance and don’t forget to bring your passport for identification. The price for a ticket is around $9 USD.
The Old Town
In the heart of Bucharest is the Old Town. This is a pedestrian area that’s packed with small shops, restaurants, cafes, nightclubs, and small markets.
Despite being called an Old Town the area of Centru Vechi is surprisingly new. The old town here is just 3 years old making it one of the youngest old towns in the world!
Over the past few years the area has undergone a number of renovations and general redevelopment. The purpose of this was to bring more locals and tourists into the area so that they can spend money and attract more businesses.
This strategy seems to be working. No matter where you’re exploring in the Old Town area you’re bound to run into crowds of people enjoying themselves.
This area is a great place to visit for a meal or if you’re looking for entertainment. The best bars and nightclubs are found here in the Old Town and the selection of restaurants is enormous. There’s always something available to eat or drink regardless of what you’re looking to do.
Feel free to pop into the Bucharest tourist office for a map if you’re not comfortable wandering around on your own. The Old Town, or Centru Vechi, is a neat place to explore so don’t hesitate to duck down some side-streets or check out somewhere off the beaten path.
Throughout Centru Vechi are a number of attractions and points of interest worth mentioning. These include things like:
- The statue of Vlad Tepes (Dracula)
- The National Bank of Romania building
- The National Museum of Romanian History building
- Countless churches and museums
Free Walking Tours
Going on one of the walking tours in Bucharest is a great way to see the city and learn more about its history.
Personally, I love walking tour and I find them to be the best way to quickly learn about somewhere new. These tours will bring you to some of the best tourist attractions in Bucharest and the guide will show you everything worth checking out.
These tours give you a feel for the city and they’re perfect to go on as soon as you arrive. This way you don’t have to wander around aimlessly. Instead you’ll have a better idea of where to go, what to see, and the places that you want to explore.
There are a few options for free walking tours in the city. Here are the two I recommend checking out:
Walk Along Calea Victorei
Calea Victorei is a famous and culturally important Street in Bucharest. The street stretches from Victory Square all the way to the Dambovita Canal beside the Old Town.
Along the street are a number of palaces, historic buildings, hotels, royal homes, and museums. There are also some small parks and other attractions that you can check out while you’re exploring.
The street stretches nearly 3 kilometers in length so give yourself a few hours to thoroughly wander around.
You’ll find plenty of places to grab a bite to eat for a quick drink along the way.
Some of the notable buildings along Calea Victorei include:
- CEC Palace
- National Museum of Romanian History
- Odeon Theatre
- Ministry of Internal Affairs
- Revolution Square
The Arcul de Triumf
Outside of the main city center area is an enormous roundabout. In the center of this roundabout is the Romanian Arc de Triomphe, known locally as the Arcul de Triumf.
The monument was built originally to celebrate the ending of the first World War. The original structure didn’t last and after it was destroyed it was replaced with the current stone structure that you see today.
This is one of the many architectural features in Bucharest that help to give the city its nickname of Little Paris. Of course the Arc in Paris is grander and more iconic but it’s hard to go wrong with the one here in Romania.
Those of you arriving at the airport will pass right by the Arc on your way into the city centre. Otherwise it’s a bit of a trek to get there.
You’ll have to use public transportation or Uber if you want to check out the Arc up close. There’s a large park beside it but there really isn’t much going on in the area.
Grab Something to Eat
In Bucharest there are some great local restaurants that serve up delicious and authentic Romanian cuisine.
These small eateries are perfect if you’re traveling on a budget. The menu at these places tends to be more affordable than Western style restaurants.
The two places I would recommend checking out are Caru Cu Bere and La Mama.
Caru Cu Bere has been in operation since 1879. It’s one of the best traditional and most famous restaurants in the city.
They serve up a wide array of Romanian cuisine. Depending on when you visit you might get lucky with a live performance.
La Mama is another popular Romanian restaurant in Bucharest. It’s not as fancy or expensive as Caru cu Bere. It’s quieter and more of a cafeteria-style place than a sit-down eatery.
Regardless, they have a large wine selection and it’s impossible not to have a good time and enjoy your meal when you’re at La Mama.
Look For Some Amazing Street Art
There are a lot of amazing examples of street art in Bucharest that you can discover when you’re wandering around the city.
Outside of the Old Town is one of my favorite pieces of street art on Strada Xenofon. It’s a 15-minute walk from the city centre but it’s definitely worth it if you’re into this type of thing.
All over the city are murals, coordinated graffiti, and a number of interesting outdoor exhibits.
The Painted Stairs near Carol Park is the only street in the city that’s made of stairs. Not only is the street art worth checking out but the street itself is pretty unique as well!
You can easily find these stairs in the Cotroceni neighborhood. Check out this article on Romania Insider if you want to learn more about the local artist that painted them.
Head to One of Bucharest’s Prettiest Parks
During the summer locals and tourists alike head to the city parks to escape the heat and relax in the shade. There are a number of different parks in Bucharest with the biggest being Herăstrău Park in Sector 1.
This is a sprawling green space covering nearly two kilometers of the city center. The park was built around Herăstrău Lake which today is the highlight of visiting.
When the weather is nice you can hire a boat to paddle out on the lake. At the park you can spend time learning more about Romanian history at the Village Museum.
Personally, I recommend walking around and enjoying the natural escape that you’re in.
Keep an eye out for the sculptures and pick up a small snack along the way so you can feed the squirrels.
Some of the other parks in the city include the Bucharest botanical gardens, the Cismigiu Gardens, and Carol Park.
Explore the Passages in the Old Town
During the late 1800s the city wanted to make it easier for people in the city centre to get around the different districts. Passages were added between the banking district and current Old Town area.
These covered and private passages are lined with quirky restaurants and quaint shops far from where most tourists ever wander.
If there’s anything that will remind you why Bucharest is known as “Little Paris” it’s these passages.
Walking through them you’ll be reminded of the Latin Quarter in Paris.
Feel free to grab a coffee and relax for an hour or so in one of the many covered passages. You’ll find the majority of them are connected to Calea Victorei which makes them easy to discover.
Hop on the Metro and Explore a Beautiful Neighborhood
One of the best things to do whenever you’re exploring somewhere new is to get on the Metro and get off at a random stop. This is a great way to explore a new neighborhood and discover some of the hidden gems in Bucharest.
The public Metro is affordable with a set of 10 trips costing 20 Romanian Lei. The great thing about taking the metro is that if you end up somewhere that you don’t want to explore you can hop back on and go somewhere new.
Some of the neighborhoods I recommend checking out include:
- The Armenian Neighbourhood
And there are plenty more areas of the city to check out as well
Go on a Bucharest Bike Tour
The great thing about going on one of the bike tours in Bucharest is that the city is very flat. This makes it easy to get around on bicycle and for the most part drivers are courteous.
Exploring the city on two wheels is fun and an enjoyable way to spend time outside during the warmer summer months. The sprawling size of the city means it takes forever to walk to the main tourist sites.
Make it easier for yourself by hopping on to a bike and whizzing around the city with an experienced and knowledgeable guide.
As for choosing the right tour, I recommend checking out the bike tour from the Romania Tour Store.
This tour will show you the big shady parks of Bucharest with a focus on the Communist period. You’ll be able to get a better perspective on the Communist history while spending time outdoors exploring the city.
Alternatively, if you’re comfortable with riding on your own you could always rent a bike for the day. Don’t forget to wear a helmet and be especially cautious when you’re riding somewhere new.
Day Trips from Bucharest
It’s possible to visit all of the Bucharest tourist attractions in 2 to 3 days. Depending on how much time you have in the city it’s worth considering going on a day trip.
This way you can explore somewhere else and make the most of your visit to Romania. There are a number of different day trips from Bucharest you can go on.
Some of the most popular day trips include:
- Bran Castle and the region of Transylvania
- The medieval town of Brasov (check out my post on things to do in Brasov)
- An incredible ride along the Transfagarasan, the most famous highway in Romania
- A guided tour to the coastal city of Constanta
- A private, guided tour to Bulgaria
Expect to spend between $30 USD and $100 USD on a day trip depending on what you’re interested in. Something fully guided and completely planned for you is going to cost more than if you do everything yourself.
Personally, I recommend making your way to the small town of Brasov. This is a beautiful town in the Transylvanian mountains.
It’s easy to get to Brasov from Bucharest on your own using public transportation. Once you’re there you can go on a tour and explore the city before making your way back.
Public Transportation in Bucharest (Getting Around)
Getting around on public transportation in Bucharest is affordable, fast, and easy.
Since 1979 the city has had an extensive underground metro system. The trains run every day between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m. Maps are available online or you can pick one up at your nearest metro station.
For directions, the Google Maps feature can be used for public transportation directions. This is going to be your best way of finding out where to go in the city without having to use any paper maps or asking directions.
Along with the Metro you can also take the bus or tram to get around Bucharest. There is a small but growing light rail system that will whisk you to the outer edges of the city.
For the most part I recommend using Uber. You can easily download the app to your smartphone, it’s surprisingly affordable to get around, and most of the drivers speak English.
Avoid using any taxis in Bucharest at all cost. They are notorious for scamming people and should be avoided.
Where to Stay in Bucharest
During my trip I spent one month in Bucharest and used an AirBnb apartment. Even for short-term stays I recommend using AirBnb to find an apartment in your budget in a great location.
There are a number of reasonably priced hotels and hostels in the city if you’re not comfortable using AirBnb. Expect to spend between $15 and $50 USD per night on accommodation.
If you haven’t already, head over to AirBnb and get signed up. You’ll get a discount on your first trip if you sign up using my link!
The Best Time of Year to Visit Bucharest
The weather in Bucharest is similar to what you would find in Southeastern Europe. The summers are hot and humid and the winters are wet and mild.
Expect warm summer temperatures from April to October. It doesn’t often fall below freezing and the city rarely experiences any snow. It does rain a lot but for the most part the weather is great for tourists all year round.
For a more winter-based experience you’ll want to visit the small Transylvanian mountain town of Brasov.
What to Do in Bucharest on a Rainy Day
There are a lot of museums in Bucharest where you can spend hours wandering around to escape the weather. Be sure to check out the different museums I’ve mentioned already.
Some of the best museums in the city include:
- The National Art Museum of Romania
- The National Museum of Contemporary Art
- The National Library
- The Romanian Atheneum Opera House
- The Museum of the Romanian Peasant
For those of you that don’t like museums there is plenty of shopping for all budgets in Bucharest. Depending on what you’re looking for there are a few large malls to choose from as well as High Street areas with premium shops.
In the city center are gift shops and souvenirs shops where you can pick up trinkets for people back home.
Most of the museums and shopping centers are easily accessible using public transportation. Don’t forget to pack a travel umbrella with you to keep dry and out of the rain when you’re wandering around.