Planning to visit the Romanian capital and looking for the best Bucharest travel guide that will help you plan your trip to Bucharest? You are in the right place.
Bucharest is an underrated gem of Europe and the capital of Romania. It has a strong French influence, so it is called a little Paris of the east, but it stands hand in hand with communist-era architecture creating a very unique mix all around the city. It has a rich and interesting history and it is one of the most affordable European destinations.
In this Bucharest travel guide, we will cover what to see in Bucharest, discover cool experiences that you shouldn’t miss, and other useful travel tips that you should know before visiting Bucharest. I have created a 2-day itinerary for Bucharest and cover some of the best day trip options, so after reading this article, you will be fully prepared for your trip.
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Reasons to visit Bucharest
While Romania is probably not the first destination you hear of when planning a vacation, I guarantee you that Bucharest is a vibrant city with many gems to offer. There are a lot of fun things to do in Bucharest, the city offers great nightlife and a lot of restaurants where to try local specialties. A vacation in Bucharest will give you the chance to explore other beautiful places in Romania and there are many day trip options from Bucharest.
Visiting Bucharest will also show you a city of contrast. Here, you will find elegant buildings in Neo-Classical, Baroque, or even Liberty styles, next to communist-era architecture. Bucharest is known as the Paris of the east due to its architectural style, so let’s see some of the most relevant sights to discover in the Romanian capital and set up your Bucharest travel guide.
If you are still not sure, take a look at these photos that will inspire you to visit Bucharest.
What to see in Bucharest
We will cover the main attractions of Bucharest, important historical sights, museums and some hidden corners around the city that you shouldn’t miss during your trip. Keep on reading and discover what to see in Bucharest.
Romanian Athenaeum is one of the must see things in Bucharest. This beautiful concert hall opened its doors to the public in 1888 and it is built in a Neo-Classical style. Once you see the concert hall, you will immediately understand why the Romanian Athenaeum is included in every Bucharest travel guide, nevertheless, the beauty inside will leave you speechless.
The hall s a wonderful example of Neo-Classical style with Romantic touches – massive marble columns, and beautiful frescos that will astonish you. A special mention is for the beautiful staircases that will take you to the real gem of the Romanian Athenaeum – the stage hall. The paintings and the decorations are eye candy for aesthetics, but most importantly, its circular shape gives the place an outstanding acoustic.
As a matter of fact, the Romanian Athenaeum is one of the most successful constructions of its kind in the world. A Bucharest vacation can’t be complete without visiting the Romanian Athenaeum.
The entrance fee is 10 RON (2 EUR). Payments by card are not allowed, so bring with you some cash for the ticket. We visited the Athenaeum at 9.00 am, but we didn’t find the official opening and closing times.
Arcul de Triumf
The Arcul de Triumf symbolizes the victory of Romania in the First World War. The first structure was made in wood and dates back to 1922. It was supposed to be a temporary building but after some time, the Romanian government decided to add granite and make it a permanent monument.
The arch lies on the north side of the city and from here you can access King Mihai I Park. This park is one of the biggest and nicest parks in Bucharest, it is particularly beautiful in spring when the Japanese Garden blooms.
You cannot travel to Bucharest and miss this beautiful place and iconic place that plays a big part in Romanian history.
Photo tip: it is one of the most instagrammable places in Bucharest, so bring your camera and look for this special clock to find the best angles.
Sounds Greek, right? The Stavropoleos Monastery was founded by a Greek monk in 1724. It was built in the Brâncovenesc style but was partially rebuilt after an earthquake. Stavropoleos, in Greek, means The City of the Cross.
This wonderful monastery is located in the old town and it is one of the best places to see in Bucharest, not only for its artistic relevance but for finding a little relaxation from the chaos of the city. When you visit the monastery, admire the paintings of the church and the cloister with its beautifully decorated arches.
The Entrance is free of charge, but the opening times are irregular. You should be able to visit shortly after 9 am up until 6 pm. Also, don’t forget that this is a religious place, so respect the environment and keep it quiet as this is an actual home of many local nuns.
The Palace of Parliament
The Parliament of Romania is said to be the world’s largest administrative building right after The Pentagon. Thanks to its solid wood furniture, crystal chandeliers, impressive dimensions, huge marble columns, and other carefully chosen interior design elements for each room, this palace is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Bucharest.
The famous Romanian leader Ceausescu stands behind this building and is responsible for its size. He even hired architect students instead of real architects, so he would be able to manipulate the outcome. Once you see the Parliament, you will notice different architectural styles as he kept changing things during the process and adding new elements, making this one of the most extravagant places to see in Bucharest.
The story behind this building is fascinating but very complex. The building represents a huge part of Romanian history, so I highly recommend a guided tour. We choose to do a private communist driving tour in the old Romanian car with a local expert. His tour covers Parliament and shares a lot of cool stories behind this building. You can book this unique tour here, but I will talk more about the tour later in this article.
The entrance fee is 40 RON (8 EUR). You can visit Parliament from March to October, from 9 am to 5 pm, and from November to February, from 10 am to 4 pm. The last entrance is 30 minutes before closing time.
Caru’ Cu Bere
Looking for some fun things to do in Bucharest? I already mentioned the nightlife, but let’s not forget about unique dinner experiences and Caru’ Cu Bere is here to serve you that.
This is one of the best restaurants in Bucharest and it offers more than just amazing Romanian dishes and local beer. In the evening, you will find some special shows like live music or dance shows. And the best part is that you become part of the show and interact with the entertainers.
I believe you have seen the photo above, but I have to mention the design of the place. The wooden details together with stained glass and tiled ornaments on the floor will take you back in time with style. This is why it is one of the best places to see in Bucharest.
Do you think it comes with a big price tag? Well yes and no. This is not the cheapest place in Bucharest, but a big dinner for two with drinks will cost you around 40 euros, so that is still very affordable if you ask me.
The CEC Palace
The CEC Palace is built in an Eclectic style and today holds the headquarter of the CEC bank. It is considered a symbol of the city and one of the places to see in Bucharest. Also, from this palace, you will understand why people call Bucharest the little Paris of the East.
Unfortunately, visits inside the buildings are not allowed, but you can still enjoy the beauty of the facade and the huge main dome made of glass and metal. The palace has in total of 5 domes, the main central one and 4 on every side of the building. Miraculously the palace remained intact despite the earthquakes and the bombs of the Second World War.
If you want to take some photos, head to Strada Stavropoleos and play with your zoom lens. Or go to the National Museum of Romanian History and frame it with arches from there.
Carturesti Carusel is hands down the best photo spot in Bucharest. This fantastic bookstore opened its door for the first time in 2015 after 5 years of renovation, and the final result is spectacular. It is one of the gems of the old town and, one of the must see things in Bucharest, whether you are a book lover or not. The brightness and the design will allow you to take epic photos from every angle of the place.
Here you can find books in Romanian and English but also souvenirs and presents from Romania.
I always recommend supporting the business and since there is no entrance fee, you can use this opportunity to buy some postcards or other local products.
Photo tip! if you are a photography lover, come here at 10 am for the opening time as it gets busy later in the afternoon. It is open until 10 pm, but the lights get very poor at that time of the day, so morning is the best time to snap some amazing photos from Bucharest.
Romanian National Museum of Art
A Bucharest travel guide couldn’t be complete without a visit to one of its museums. Just a few steps away from the Romanian Athenaeum, you will find the Romanian National Museum of Art.
This museum has a big collection of masterpieces, from the middle age to modern times. Pieces from Romanian artists like the sculptor Constantin Brâncuși or the painter Nicolae Grigorescu are displayed here. Together with international artists like El Greco, Rubens, Monet, and Tintoretto. The beautiful design completes the museum making it one of the must see things in Bucharest.
The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm. There are multiple tickets available, so click here to see the prices.
National Museum of Romanian History
Another museum to complete your Bucharest travel guide is the National Museum of Romanian History. The museum is just in front of the CEC Palace and it’s the most important museum for history and archaeology in Romania.
The museum holds artifacts from the prehistoric era to modern times. Here, you can count more than 3000 pieces of jewels, objects, documents, and valuables that belong to the several civilizations that lived across Romania, including the Dacian Golden Bracelets.
The entrance fee for an adult is 22 RON (4.50 EUR). Just like the majority of other museums in Romania, the National Museum of History of Romania is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm.
Picturesque corners around Bucharest
So we covered the main attractions of Bucharest, but some other places deserve your attention as well. Here is a list of hidden gems in Bucharest.
The Macca Vilacrosse Passage is a gallery located in the center of Bucharest. You can relax in one of the several restaurants and it is certainly worth visiting during your time in Bucharest. It is part of the historical monuments of Romania and it hosted the first Stock Exchange House of Bucharest.
If you are looking for more photo spots, don’t miss the umbrella street located in the Pasajul Victoriei. Early morning is the best, as the cafe shops inside the passage are still closed.
Another important attraction, The House of Free Press is located in the suburbs of Bucharest, and it originally served as the headquarters of the Communist Party publication. This massive building is one of the most famous examples of brutalist architecture in Bucharest.
Important! You will see Cantacuzino Palace or George Enescu National Museum on many Bucharest travel guides, but as of 2022, it is completely under construction and nowhere near the end. If you are looking for a similar place, visit Casa Oamenilor de Știință instead. It’s a restaurant in a historical palace, but I don’t advise you to eat there.
Cool experiences in Bucharest that you shouldn’t miss
Now that we covered what to see in Bucharest, it is time to add some fun and interesting experiences to your Bucharest itinerary. Are you a foodie, history lover, or wine drinker? If yes, one of these experiences will be perfect for you.
Take a ride back to the communist era with a local guide in the old Romanian car
The Red Patrol Communist Tour of Bucharest is one of the most fun things to do in Bucharest. I have done many guided tours around the world, but this one goes to the top of my list, so I cannot let you miss it.
A local guide gives you a ride around Bucharest in the old Romanian car and shares curious facts about history, culture, and traditions. We choose to ride a red Dacia 1300 from 1978 which is the oldest one in his collection, but there are other cars available as well. Letitia is the name of the car and it is the cutest if you ask me. Once you sit down in the car, you become part of Romanian history and that is the best way how to learn… at least for me!
Our guide Serban was really passionate about his project and he makes you understand the history of Romania in a very fun and enjoyable way. Nobody wants a boring tour with endless numbers. My partner is the one who loves retro cars, but I ended up loving the tour even more!
The tour takes you through the main attractions of Bucharest, some important historical buildings, and even hidden gems. There are different tours available, but if you are interested to learn the history of Romanica, you can book your tour here.
Treat yourself to a meal at Manuc’s Inn
You are already familiar with Caru’ Cu Bere but it would be a shame not to mention the Manuc’s Inn in a Bucharest travel guide as it is one of the best restaurants in Bucharest. As we traveled to Bucharest during the summer we choose the table in the garden, and it was a really pleasant experience.
But the food is the main reason why you should visit Manuc’s Inn. It offers essential dishes from Romanian cuisine that you shouldn’t miss and a lot of crafted house beers.
The absolute highlight of our food experiences in Romania was the caramelized lamb knuckle with baked potatoes and greens. It is a huge dish for 2, so make sure you arrive hungry and forget about the starter. I am not a person who eats a lot of red meat, but I knew that this was an important dish in Romanian cuisine and I decided to try it and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. This is hand down one of the best culinary experiences in Bucharest, so if you are a foodie, don’t miss it.
Wine Tasting Tour of Bucharest Old Town
So far it has been all about the beer, but Bucharest has something for wine lovers as well. Romania is the 13th wine producer in the world and it deserves to be tried. We had the chance to try 4 different kinds of wines with some snacks like cheeses and sausages. I am not a beer lover, so I loved this experience during our trip to Bucharest. I recommend you this tour to unlock some more secrets of Romania’s wine tradition in a fun and exciting way.
What to see in Bucharest in 2 days?
You might be wondering how much time you need to visit Bucharest and cover all these main attractions and the fun things to do in Bucharest. 2 days or a weekend in Bucharest is the perfect time to discover this city. But I advise you to keep more time if you are planning to see more of Romania. Keep reading to discover the best day trips from Bucharest, but for now, let me help you plan your itinerary for 2 days in Bucharest.
Day one of your Bucharest itinerary
Your morning starts with a visit to the Romanian Athenaeum, but keep in mind that it opens at 9 am. Visit it inside, appreciate the beauty and get ready for the Romanian National Museum of Art which is located less than 5 minutes away from the Athenaeum.
After your visit, take a taxi or a bus to see the Arcul de Triumf and relax in King Mihai I Park. You can take a walk to the House of Free Press, or the House of Ceauşescu.
In the evening, come back to the old town where you can take a walk to explore the old town, see the CEC Palace, and the Stavropoleos Monastery and finally have a drink or dinner in Caru’ Cu Bere.
Day two of your Bucharest itinerary
Start your day with a coffee or chocolate treat at the Casa Capsa. It is a historical palace that dates back to 1852. Then get ready to visit the Carturesti Carusel bookstore in the old town, and take a moment to admire some gems like the Palace of the National Bank of Romania, or the Biserica Sfântul Nicolae Șelari. You can visit Stavropoleos Monastery if you missed it on your first day.
Before lunch in Manuc’s Inn visit the Biserica Sfântul Anton, located in front of the restaurant.
It’s time to take a tour to discover the hidden gems and the other main attractions in Bucharest. The Red Patrol Communist Tour of Bucharest will bring you to some secret places like the Stairs of happiness (the rainbow stairs) and the Cotroceni neighborhood. You will visit the famous House of Parliament and the fountains as well.
If you don’t want to do the tour, you can use this time for seeing some shops or joining the wine experience. For your last evening, you can pick a restaurant in The Macca Vilacrosse Passage and spend some time in one of the bars or clubs in Bucharest’s Old Town.
What and where to eat in Bucharest
While I already mentioned two of my favorite places where to eat in Bucharest, I think we should go a bit deeper into this, shall we? Romanian cuisine is famous for soups, meat, and beers, but where to eat in Bucharest to try the best of the local cuisine?
- Vatra Restaurant: the place offers all the classics of Romanian cuisine. We tried the meat on a stir and it was delicious, certainly recommend it.
- Bucatarasul cel Dibaci: this place has fantastic stewed meat, wonderful Mici, and delicious potato purée. On top of that, the place is super affordable. You should include this restaurant in your list of places where to eat in Bucharest.
- Excalibur: probably many people will think of this as a tourist trap. And yes, the prices were higher compared to other restaurants in Bucharest. But at the same time, I have to admit that loved the food there. I think dinner in Excalibur is part of the fun things to do in Bucharest.
- Casa Romaneasca: this restaurant is located near the airport in a graceful old house. Since we had some time to kill before our flight, we decided to give it a go. What a great decision! Keep in mind that the place is very simple, but it comes with delicious food and affordable prices.
Where to stay in Bucharest
Bucharest is a big city and it is essential to stay close to the main attractions. So, when visiting Bucharest you should choose carefully your accommodation to suit your needs. Here is a list of the best hotels in Bucharest.
The Marmorosch is one of the best places to stay in Bucharest due to the beautiful design of the palace. Outside you will find some fabulous classic cars that give a certain charm to the place. This was our choice for Bucharest as well!
Suter Palace Heritage Boutique Hotel is a wonderful 5-star hotel in Bucharest. The lavish interiors will make you feel like royalty. The attention to detail in the rooms and in the buildings is simply impressive and makes it one of the most unique and best places to stay in Bucharest.
MID-RANGE: Athina Suites Hotel
Athina Suites Hotel is close to the Romanian Athenaeum and other important museums. It offers modern and bright accommodations with private balconies and is decorated with exquisite taste and style. If you are looking for good value accommodation, this will be your best choice where to stay in Bucharest.
AFFORDABLE: Hotel Boutique Monaco
Despite the name, this hotel has affordable options without giving up the quality. Hotel Boutique Monaco offers all the essential amenities like air conditioning, soundproof rooms, and private bathrooms. If you want to keep your Bucharest vacation low-key, this is a great budget option.
How to move around in Bucharest
Bucharest is a big city, so walking won’t always be possible. Most of the attractions are located in the central part and it is very walkable.
Once you arrive at the airport you can comfortably take a bus to the city center. You will find the ticket machine in front of the bus stop and it costs less than 1 euro per ticket. However, you will have to buy at least 2 tickets, so you can use the other ticket to get back to the airport. In general, public transport seemed great in Bucharest and there is a metro as well.
Another option is to download Uber. The ride from the airport will cost you from 10 to 20 euros depending on the traffic. Within the city, Uber is very affordable and you won’t spend more than 5 euros per ride.
Best day trips from Bucharest
The position of Bucharest makes it ideal to visit the rest of the country and some of the most beautiful places in Romania. I normally suggest renting a car, but driving in Romania is not easy due to the traffic, speeding, and road quality. Unless you are an experienced driver, many affordable tours will help you see more of Romania. So what are the best day trips from Bucharest?
We choose a day trip that covers Peles Castle, Dracula (Bran) Castle, and Brasov. All these places were on my bucket list, so I agreed to a 12-hour tour. Yes, it was a long day, but eventually a very relaxing one. Peles Castle is an absolute gem and one of the best places to visit in Romania for its interiors and architecture while Dracula Castle is an iconic landmark of Romania you shouldn’t miss. Brasov is one of the best towns to visit in Romania. The picturesque old town and the historical sights make it one of the must-visit in Romania. If you are interested to join a tour, you can book it here. But I suggest you spend a night in Brasov if you have more time. You can use the train to reach it from Bucharest.
If the beach is your happy place, Constanta and Mamaia Day Trip can be a good idea for you. Constanta is the favorite summer destination for the Romanians. You can book an organized tour here or you can use the train instead.
Transfagarasan Road Trip with Curtea de Arges is another experience that nature lovers should consider when visiting Romania. Driving the spectacular Transfagarasan Highway is an experience you shouldn’t miss. You will also have the chance to take a hike near Balea Lake, and discover the Curtea de Arges Monastery, and the fortress of Vlad the Impaler. You can book an organized tour here.
There are many other interesting cities like Sibiu, Sighisoara, and Oradea, but it might be complicated to plan a day trip to these cities.
More things to know before visiting Bucharest
Bucharest is part of the European Union but not Schengen. Even if you are a European you will have to go through passport control. The currency is the Romanian Leu. Cards are widely accepted but I still recommend you bringing some cash with you. A curious fact, Romanian banknotes cannot be torn off as they are made in a special material.
Wondering if Bucharest is safe? I personally felt very safe, but I didn’t experience the nightlife and I didn’t travel alone. Rules of common sense always apply as in any other European city.
When it comes to weather, winters can be very cold and summers can get very hot in Bucharest. So shoulder season is the best time to visit Bucharest. Visiting Bucharest in spring means an explosion of flowers while fall gives the city a lovely charm with some foliage.
Resources for your trip to Bucharest
- Luxury hotel in Bucharest: The Marmorosch Bucharest, Autograph Collection
- Unique hotel in Bucharest: Suter Palace Heritage Boutique Hotel
- Mid-range hotel in Bucharest: Athina Suites Hotel
- Affordable hotel in Bucharest: Hotel Boutique Monaco
- Private Communist Driving Tour in a Vintage Car: book here
- Romanian National Museum of Art: check prices here
- Wine Tasting Tour of Bucharest Old Town: book here
- Dracula’s Castle, Peleș Castle & Brașov Day Trip: book here
- Transfagarasan Road Trip with Curtea de Arges: book here
- Constanta and Mamaia Day Trip: book here.
I believe that after reading this Bucharest travel guide, you are fully prepared for your trip and cannot wait to visit Romania. I hope you will have an amazing trip and you will end up loving this underrated European destination.
If you are a photography lover, don’t forget to check the best photo spots in Bucharest and create your postcards from this beautiful city.
I would love to hear your thoughts, so if you have any feedback or additional tips, leave a comment below. Also, check out my Instagram for regular travel videos and travel inspiration. Or explore other destinations on this travel blog.