Welcome to Bucharest! Are you wondering what the best things to do in Bucharest, Romania are? Worry not; I got you covered!
Welcome to Bucharest! Are you wondering what the best things to do in Bucharest, Romania are? Worry not; I got you covered!
Get ready to be swept off your feet by the captivating charm, hidden gems, and vibrant energy of my beloved hometown. In this article, I’ll guide you through a thrilling journey, exploring the city’s fascinating history, awe-inspiring architecture, bustling markets, and lively green spaces.
We’ll also dive into the delightful culinary scene, from authentic Romanian dishes to diverse international cuisines and bustling cafes. So buckle up, and let’s embark on this exciting adventure together as we uncover the very best that Bucharest has to offer!
Best Things to Do in Bucharest – Architecture and Culture
1. Palace of the Parliament
Undoubtedly, if you’re planning a trip to Bucharest, you may already be familiar with this iconic structure. It’s likely on your list of must-see sights in the city, and I can assure you that it’s well worth the visit. Personally, I am always in awe when passing by this building, and it certainly merits exploration. That’s by I also included it in my personal top 10 places to visit in Bucharest.
The Palace of Parliament, the most renowned attraction associated with Bucharest, is also commonly referred to as The People’s House. During the communist era, it was known as Casa Republicii.
2. The Village Museum
The Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum, located in Bucharest, is an open-air museum showcasing an impressive array of traditional houses and historical structures from across Romania.
This destination is a favourite among both tourists and locals, attracting large crowds during the summer months and on weekends. To avoid the throngs, consider visiting during the week; however, this museum is definitely a must-see while in Bucharest.
True to its name, the museum represents an authentic village, with life-sized homes and buildings that can be explored from the inside.
Nestled beside a picturesque lakeside, the museum can be found within one of Bucharest’s most stunning parks, Herastrau Park.
The exhibits on display encompass:
- Households and annexed structures
- Various installations
- Intricate tapestries
- Sacred artefacts
- Wooden creations
- Traditional garments
3. The Romanian Athenaeum
The Romanian Athenaeum, a 120-year-old structure, stands as a symbol of national culture and a significant landmark in Romania, often regarded as the heart of Romanian culture.
Throughout its history, it has welcomed prominent Romanians and international guests alike. The Athenaeum boasts exceptional acoustics, making it a preferred venue for world-renowned musicians and orchestras, and it ranks among the finest concert halls globally for its acoustic qualities.
Locals cherish this architectural marvel, frequently sharing pictures of it on Instagram. It is undoubtedly worth adding to your list of must-visit places in Bucharest. Be sure to check their performance calendar; however, note that tickets must be purchased at their office, as online sales are not available. While ticket prices are generally reasonable, it’s best to verify beforehand.
The Romanian Athenaeum is situated in Revolution Square, the epicentre of the 1989 Revolution, where Nicolae Ceaușescu, Romania’s former communist leader, delivered his final speech before the uprising began.
4. Stavropoleos Monastery
The Stavropoleos Monastery stands as a testament to Bucharest’s rich religious and architectural past.
Founded in the early 18th century by the Greek monk Ioanikie Stratonikeas, this Eastern Orthodox monastery has weathered the passage of time, bearing witness to the city’s many transformations. Today, it continues to be a spiritual oasis and a haven for those seeking solace in its sacred spaces.
The Stavropoleos Monastery captivates me with its unique blend of Byzantine and Romanian architectural styles. I am in love with the intricately carved stone and wood elements adorning the exterior, while the interior houses a treasure trove of religious art, including frescoes, icons, and manuscripts. This exquisite display of craftsmanship invites visitors to delve into the monastery’s history and appreciate the cultural significance of the art and architecture that make it a top thing to do in Bucharest.
Best Things to Do in Bucharest – Exploring Bucharest’s Neighborhoods
4. Old Town area
The Old City Center is an essential stop for anyone visiting Bucharest, and some tourists may even find themselves spending their entire trip within its boundaries. However, it’s worth exploring the rest of the city too.
Known as the Old City Center, Lipscani Street and its surrounding areas are characterized by their cobblestone pedestrian-only streets. This lively district offers an abundance of options, from shops, bars, and clubs to terraces and restaurants. A few notable attractions to check out include:
- Manuc’s Inn: The oldest operating hotel building in Bucharest
- Lipscani Street: A historically significant commercial district dating back to the Middle Ages
- Carturesti Carousel Bookshop: A stunning bookstore located inside a beautifully restored 19th-century building, also known as the “Carousel of Light.” I included this spot in my top Instagrammable places in Bucharest
- Stavropoleos Church: An Eastern Orthodox nunnery in central Bucharest showcasing Brâncovenesc architecture
- CEC Palace: Constructed in 1900 and located on Calea Victoriei, this elegant building serves as the headquarters for CEC Bank
- Caru’ cu Bere Restaurant: A renowned bar and restaurant (one of the best restaurants in Bucharest), opened in 1879 and moved to its current location in 1899, featuring beautiful art nouveau interior decoration
- Curtea Veche (Old Princely Court): A palace built during the reign of Vlad III Dracula in 1459
- National Museum of Romanian History: Located on Calea Victoriei, this extensive museum features over 8,000 square meters of exhibition space, including a plaster cast of Trajan’s Column, the Romanian Crown Jewels, and the Pietroasele treasure.
Lipscani Street and its surrounding area form the vibrant heart of Bucharest’s nightlife scene. This bustling district comes alive at night, offering an array of lively bars, clubs, and entertainment venues, all teeming with energy and excitement.
Whether you’re in the mood for dancing the night away, enjoying live music, or simply sipping a cocktail with friends, Lipscani provides the perfect backdrop for a memorable evening out in Romania’s spirited capital.
5. Cotroceni neighbourhood in Bucharest
Cotroceni is a charming neighbourhood in Bucharest. This place is a delightful blend of historical landmarks, lush green spaces, and picturesque streets.
At the heart of this district lies the majestic Cotroceni Palace, a former royal residence that now serves as the official home of the President of Romania. Within its complex, you’ll find the fascinating National Cotroceni Museum, which offers a glimpse into Romania’s history and the lives of its past monarchs.
Adjacent to the palace is the enchanting Botanical Garden, an expansive haven for nature lovers. This serene oasis boasts a diverse collection of flora from around the world, inviting visitors to wander through its well-maintained pathways and marvel at the various plant species on display.
Venture beyond the palace and garden, and you’ll find yourself immersed in Cotroceni’s quaint, tree-lined streets. As you stroll through the neighbourhood, you’ll be captivated by the elegant old houses, each one boasting its own unique character and charm. I personally adore these beautifully preserved residences, which evoke a sense of nostalgia for times gone by.
The area is also home to a variety of cosy local cafes, perfect for a leisurely coffee break or a light meal. These welcoming establishments provide an ideal setting for people-watching and soaking up the neighbourhood’s relaxed ambience.
Best Things to Do in Bucharest – Parks and Gardens
6. Herastrau Park (Parcul Regele Mihai I)
Herastrau Park, a vast green oasis in Bucharest, offers an abundance of recreational activities for those looking to enjoy the outdoors in the city. Spanning over 187 hectares, this beautiful park surrounds the stunning Herastrau Lake, making it the perfect setting for a day of fun and relaxation.
Visitors can take part in a variety of activities, such as boating and kayaking on the lake, strolling or jogging along the park’s many walking paths, or renting bicycles to explore the picturesque surroundings. The park also features playgrounds for children, tennis courts, and numerous picnic areas, providing countless opportunities for leisure and entertainment.
Within the park’s boundaries, you’ll find the “Dimitrie Gusti” National Village Museum, an open-air museum that showcases traditional Romanian houses and structures from across the country. As mentioned earlier in the list of top things to do in Bucharest, this fascinating museum is a must-visit attraction for those seeking to learn more about Romania’s rich cultural heritage.
7. Carol Park
Carol Park is another captivating green space in Bucharest. The park combines lush landscapes with historically significant monuments. This is why I believe this is a perfect destination for visitors seeking both relaxation and cultural enrichment. This picturesque park spans a sizable area, featuring meticulously maintained lawns, charming pathways, and scenic spots ideal for picnicking or simply unwinding.
I believe that one of the park’s main attractions is the Mausoleum and Eternal Flame monument. This impressive structure, originally built as a symbol of commemoration for fallen soldiers, now serves as a poignant reminder of Romania’s past struggles and sacrifices. The Eternal Flame, continuously burning in their memory, adds a sense of solemnity to the site.
The park also offers numerous relaxation areas where visitors can enjoy the tranquillity of nature, read a book, or engage in casual conversation with friends. The combination of Carol Park’s serene atmosphere and its significant historical landmarks make it a unique and engaging destination for anyone exploring Bucharest.
8. Cismigiu Gardens
Cismigiu Gardens, one of Bucharest’s oldest and most beloved parks, is a charming urban oasis steeped in history. Established in the mid-19th century, the garden boasts an exquisite design that blends romantic English-style landscapes with traditional Romanian elements, creating a truly enchanting environment.
During summer, you can rent boats on the artificial lake. During winter, they turn this place into an ice rink.
I have fond memories of visiting Cismigiu Gardens as a child when my nanny would take my brother and me there during our kindergarten years. The park’s captivating atmosphere, complete with meandering pathways, beautiful flower beds, and tranquil ponds, left a lasting impression on me and continues to delight visitors of all ages.
A visit to Cismigiu Gardens is not only a journey through its enchanting design but also a step back in time, offering a glimpse into the rich history of this treasured green space in the heart of Bucharest.
Best things to do in Bucharest – Culinary Experiences
9. Taste the Traditional Romanian Cuisine
Bucharest offers numerous opportunities to savour authentic Romanian cuisine.
From hearty dishes like sarmale (stuffed cabbage rolls) and mici (grilled minced meat rolls) to sweet treats like papanasi (cheese doughnuts), the city’s traditional eateries provide a gastronomic journey through Romania’s rich culinary heritage. Notable restaurants to try to include Caru’ cu Bere, La Mama, and Hanu’ lui Manuc. Check out the best places to taste traditional Romanian cuisine in this list of best Romanian restaurants in Bucharest.
10. International Dining Options
In addition to local fare, Bucharest boasts a diverse array of international dining options. From Italian trattorias and French bistros to Asian fusion restaurants and Middle Eastern eateries, the city’s culinary scene caters to a variety of tastes and preferences. Explore the vibrant dining landscape and discover your new favourite international flavours.
Some of my personal favourites restaurants for international cuisines are:
- Isoletta (Italian Cuisine). I love Isoletta for its authentic wood-fired pizza and warm, inviting ambience.
- The Artist (Fusion Cuisine). The Artist amazes me with its creative fusion dishes and beautifully presented plates. Check out some other fine-dining restaurants in Bucharest here.
- Sushi Room (Japanese Cuisine). I adore Sushi Room for its fresh, high-quality sushi and friendly, attentive service.
- La Cantine de Nicolai (French Cuisine). La Cantine de Nicolai impresses me with its delicious French classics and cosy, rustic setting.
- Alioli (Spanish Cuisine). I enjoy Alioli for its flavorful tapas, vibrant atmosphere, and excellent selection of Spanish wines.
11. Street Food and Casual Eateries
For a quick and budget-friendly meal, explore Bucharest’s thriving street food scene. Enjoy tasty shawarma, grab a slice of pizza, or try local fast food options like covrigi (Romanian pretzels) and gogosi (Romanian doughnuts). My favourite place to get these are Luca’s, and there are all over Bucharest. You’ll soon understand why there is always a queue in front of a Luca.
Casual eateries, food trucks, and street food vendors offer a convenient way to sample the city’s flavours while on the go. Luckily, we have many of those, especially in the centre of Bucharest.
12. Cafes and Coffee Shops
Bucharest is home to a vibrant cafe culture, with an abundance of charming coffee shops and cosy cafes dotting the city. From stylish, modern establishments to more traditional, bohemian-inspired spots, these cafes provide the perfect setting for a leisurely coffee break, a light meal, or a relaxed catch-up with friends.
Don’t miss trying the local speciality – cafea la ibric (traditional Turkish-style coffee) – during your visit. In a day an age when virtually everyone I know owns some type of capsule coffee maker, I still make my coffee using this traditional method. And I love it.
But Bucharest has plenty of cool cafes and coffee shops. Here are some of the most popular ones:
- Origo Coffee Shop. I love Origo for its exceptional speciality coffee and trendy, minimalist atmosphere.
- M60 Café. I appreciate M60 Café for its Scandinavian-inspired design, relaxed vibe, and delicious brunch options.
- The Urbanist. The Urbanist wins me over with its eclectic decor, creative cocktails, and inviting workspaces.
- Acuarela Bistro. I adore Acuarela Bistro for its charming outdoor terrace, adorned with colourful umbrellas and fairy lights.
- T-Zero Coffee Shop. I enjoy T-Zero for its cosy ambience, friendly staff, and delightful homemade pastries.
13. Wine Bars and Craft Beer Scene
Romania has a long history of winemaking, and Bucharest’s wine bars offer the perfect opportunity to sample some of the country’s best vintages. Even my grandparents do that in the countryside, and it’s a huge thing around here.
In addition, the city’s burgeoning craft beer scene has given rise to numerous pubs and bars serving unique, locally brewed beers. Explore Bucharest’s lively wine and craft beer establishments to experience the city’s evolving beverage culture.
- Corks Cozy Bar. I love Corks Cozy Bar for its intimate setting, knowledgeable staff, and diverse wine selection.
- Abel’s Wine Bar. Abel’s Wine Bar impresses me with its rustic charm, delicious tapas, and carefully curated wine list.
- Fabrica de Bere Buna. I appreciate Fabrica de Bere Buna for its wide array of local craft beers and laid-back atmosphere.
- The Beer Institute. The Beer Institute excites me with its extensive beer menu, unique beer-based cocktails, and vibrant energy.
- Energiea. I enjoy Energiea for its chic industrial decor, tasty bar bites, and impressive assortment of craft beers and wines. And they have the best fries in Bucharest; there’s no doubt about it.
We also love summer gardens, similar to German beer gardens. Here’re my top best summer gardens in Bucharest to eat and drink.
Conclusion: Things to do in Bucharest
Bucharest is a city with endless possibilities for exploration, from its rich history and stunning architecture to its vibrant culinary scene and lively green spaces.
I hope this guide has inspired you to discover the hidden gems and must-see attractions that make my hometown truly special.
Whether you’re strolling through the quaint streets, enjoying a delicious meal, or sipping on a glass of wine in a cosy bar, there’s no doubt that Bucharest has something to offer everyone. So go ahead, venture out, and create your own unforgettable memories in my remarkable city!