Bucharest, Romania’s capital, is undoubtedly one of Europe’s tourist gems. Once dubbed the ‘Little Paris’ due to its elegant French-inspired architecture and culture in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the city rapidly emerged from its almost half-a-century communist past to become an attractive city. Here are our recommendations for Must-see things in Bucharest.
Many are surprised to discover how Bucharest has something to offer to everyone’s interests and budget. From the many museums, you’d expect huge beautiful parks that will make you forget you’re in a bustling capital. From a lively nightlife scene to places where street art and local culture thrive.
10 Must-See Things in Bucharest
Locals in Bucharest are welcoming and eager to show you around. And a city break will be 20-30% cheaper than in comparable European capitals too! So let’s see some of the best places to visit in Bucharest!
1. The massive Palace of Parliament
The Palace of Parliament (or the People’s House, as it was called by dictator Nicolae Ceausescu) is the city’s top attraction and the world’s second-largest administrative building – an architectural colossus.
Sitting on more than 360,000 square meters of land, it took 11 years for this building to be finalized. The human and resource cost was so high that it’s ranked the most expensive building in the world. If you think the building looks impressive from the outside, wait to see it from the inside! You’ll get to admire more than 1400 mirrors, around 500 chandeliers, the best-looking marble, and numerous luxurious decorations to make it even more impressive. Typical of a dictator’s megalomanic dreams…
Because of the huge sacrifices made for its construction, the building is controversial and Romanians have a love-hate relationship with it. Since it is an integral part of Romania, it will give you an understanding of the country’s history. On a guided tour of the building, you can find out more about its past, present, and future. Keep it on top of the Must-see things in Bucharest.
Also read: Handsome Parliament of Hungary – Must-see Budapest
2. Bucharest Old Town
Not a long time ago, Bucharest didn’t have a central place where you could meet with your friends – but that’s no longer true. When the Old Town area was restored around 2010, the city caught new life. The Old Town area is now popular for its lively atmosphere with close to 120 bars, restaurants, and cafes. That’s why it’s known as the hotspot for Bucharest’s going-out scene and turned into a popular tourist destination for Bucharest tourism.
The Old Town was among the earliest settlements of Bucharest and has impressive structures dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries. The Old Princely Court (Curtea Veche) is the most important one. It’s an interesting archaeological site that was once the residence of Wallachian rulers. You’ll see a statue of Vlad the Impaler, the famous Romanian prince who was the inspiration for Count Dracula.
As you explore Curtea Veche you’ll get an insight into the history of Wallachia, one of Romania’s three main historical provinces, and you’ll understand how Romania became what it is today.
Do read: Things to do in Krakow Old Town in Poland
3. Calea Victoriei: the perfect place for a walk
Calea Victoriei, also known as Victory Avenue, is among the most stylish boulevards in Romania and probably the most important thoroughfare in Bucharest. With its expensive shops, gorgeous baroque houses, and five-starred hotels, this place is indeed one you can’t miss when visiting the capital of Romania.
Bucharest has been called Little Paris due to the palaces found on Calea Victoriei with architecture inspired by the French Renaissance. This is where you’ll see some of Bucharest’s most important landmarks: the Romanian Atheneum, Revolution Square, and the National Museum of Art (former Royal Palace). Here you can also visit impressive museums: Stirbei Palace, the Museum of Art Collections, and George Enescu memorial house.
Go for a stroll on the same road where the elites of Romania lived, walked, and shopped. Make sure to admire Cantacuzino Palace which belonged to Romania’s richest person in the 19th century and is one of the most beautiful buildings in Bucharest. In its impressive courtyard, there’s a beautiful garden cafe where locals love to hang out far from the city’s hustle and bustle.
4. The Romanian Athenaeum, more than a concert hall
The Romanian Athenaeum is a famous tourist attraction and Bucharest’s most important concert hall. The building was designed by Albert Galleron, a French architect, and looks like an ancient Greek temple. While its overall style is neoclassical, there are also some romantic elements. In front of the Romanian Athenaeum, you can relax in a small park while enjoying a cup of coffee.
The building is a symbol of culture and also illustrates Romanians’ love for music, as it is home to the George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra, hosting many classical concerts over the year. So, if you are a fan of this music genre, check the schedule – you may enjoy an amazing concert during your trip to Bucharest!
You can visit the main concert hall which is jaw-dropping. On the ceiling, you’ll see important figures from Romanian history and culture, which is why the Atheneum is a significant cultural attraction in the country.
5. Relax in Bucharest’s huge parks – Must-see things in Bucharest
Bucharest boasts many beautiful and huge parks that locals love to go to and disconnect from the city. Cismigiu Gardens is the favorite one close to the city center. Designed in the 19th century by German architect Carl Meyer, the park is a peaceful green oasis where you can take a break from the hustle and bustle of the busy city. It has many different areas you can admire: a flower garden, a duck pond, a lake where you can rent a rowboat, and a chess corner.
Herastrau Park in the North is the biggest in the city and is worth a visit for its breathtaking scenery. Carol Park in the South with its WW I memorial called Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is another favorite since it offers great views of the city.
6. Delta Vacaresti: Wildlife in the city! – Must-see things in Bucharest
Speaking of green areas, did you know Bucharest is the only capital in Europe with an urban wetland comparable to a small river delta? In the South-Eastern part of the city, the communist authorities cleared an area of 18ha for a large industrial complex – but those plans never happened!
Instead, Mother Nature took over and in the last 40 years it turned the whole area into a natural reserve with 96 species of birds, small mammals and rodents, and many species of plants. Delta Vacaresti gained National Park status in 2014 and is a great place to visit if you can’t make it to the UNESCO Danube Delta reserve 3h away. There’s a 2,4km and an 8km trail for you to explore the area and admire nature’s beauty!
7. Churches in Bucharest, more than religious sights!
As you walk through the streets of Bucharest, you’ll see many churches everywhere – and since some of these churches are truly remarkable, we recommend visiting them. More than a place of spiritual practice, they are a part of Romanian culture and history. And although they may not impress through size they compensate through sheer beauty and a profound spiritual atmosphere.
85% of Romanians are Christian Orthodox but in Bucharest, you’ll find a lot more religious diversity which implies architectural differences too. Visit Kretzulescu Church, St.Nicholas Church, and Church of Saint Anthony to see the differences.
Our favorite? Stavropoleos Monastery – a unique landmark in Bucharest’s Old Town – is tiny and peaceful, featuring fine stone and wood carvings and merging Byzantine and Romanian elements. Inside the church, you can admire wood icons and frescoes and take a look at the collection of books about Byzantine music. Other
8. Museums are Must-see things in Bucharest
Bucharest has so many museums that it’s impossible to explore them all in a day or two. However, they are among the city’s top attractions and are worth a visit if you’re planning your trip to the capital of Romania.
The National Museum of Art Romania is one of the most noteworthy museums in Bucharest, housing a collection of medieval and modern Romanian art. It even has one room dedicated to Constantin Brancusi – the world-famous Romanian sculptor of the 20th century.
The National Museum of Romanian History is also remarkable, displaying fascinating historical exhibits of Romania dating back to prehistoric times. Trajan’s Column is one of its most extraordinary exhibits, built in honor of the Roman emperor Trajan.
The Museum of the Romanian Peasant and the Museum of Art Collections are also meaningful, so consider visiting them too.
Also Read – 10 Must See Artefacts At British Museum In London
9. Inspiring Carturesti Carusel library
Carturesti Carusel is a library located in a beautifully restored building in the Old Town area and is one of the most impressive bookstores in Romania. While the building doesn’t show its potential from the outside, once you enter it, you’ll be delighted as you discover its greatness.
Carturesti Carusel is a building of 1,000 square meters spreading across six floors and a space where you can read, socialize or explore art. There are more than 1,000 books, 5,000 albums, many games, and small handmade trinkets and decorations on its shelves – a heaven for all the art lovers and book lovers out there!
With an impressive minimal design, the building makes you feel like you’re in a moving carousel (as the name of the bookstore itself suggests) which makes it one of the most Instagram-able places in Bucharest!
10. Enjoy traditional Romanian dishes
You can’t visit Bucharest without enjoying a traditional Romanian meal. And the capital of Romania has the best selection of restaurants for that!
Caru’ cu Bere, located in the Old Town, is probably the city’s most popular restaurant serving local food. If you go there, expect to indulge your taste buds in authentic, delicious Romanian cuisine and enjoy fine wine in a unique atmosphere. The menu includes various dishes, such as meats, soups, stews, and vegetables, so if a memorable dining experience is on your bucket list, make sure to visit this Bucharest icon.
Other restaurants to try for Romanian food are Lacrimi si Sfinti, La Copac, and Curtea Berarilor.
As you can see, there are many things to do and interesting must-see things in Bucharest, so you should plan a trip to this dynamic city. And wait till you start exploring the rest of Romania and the famous region of Transylvania!
This is a guest post by Marius Iliescu. He is the founder of Romanian Friend: a one-stop-shop website with travel inspiration, tour ideas, and practical info for those planning to visit Romania. His mission is to make sure people experience the best of his country while supporting responsible, inclusive tourism that helps local communities. Follow them on Facebook or Instagram. For this post, all the photographs were provided by Marius.