Bucharest, Romania’s vibrant capital, isn’t just a dot on the map—it’s the 6th largest city in the EU and a treasure trove of experiences.
As someone who’s navigated its cobblestone streets and alleys, starting with a free walking tour and exploring with my then 9-year-old son, I can vouch for its charm and vibrancy.
Let’s dive into what makes Bucharest a must-visit destination, and I’ll share some of my top recommendations of what I loved most about my time in Bucharest.
This city, the largest in Romania, serves as the nation’s hub for culture, finance, art, and industry. It pulses with life, offering a unique blend of historic and modern. Bucharest, once dubbed ‘little Paris‘ for its elegant architecture and sophistication, still holds its ground as a significant Eastern European city.
It’s perhaps one of the most underrated gems in this part of the world.
Despite being less known than its neighbor Budapest, Bucharest’s many historic buildings, monuments, and green havens offer a retreat from the urban rush. For a city of its size and stature, it’s unsurprising that it’s packed with attractions and landmarks.
Below, you’ll find a curated list of the best things to see and do in Bucharest, along with some fantastic spots to eat and drink.
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Best Things To Do In Bucharest
Nearly all major things to do in Bucharest are found well within the city center. Although this is a large city, getting around is a piece of cake. The Bucharest public transportation network is one of Europe’s largest cities, consisting of buses, light rail, trolleys, and trams. You’ll be able to travel between all of Bucharest’s top attractions without any fuss.
Just because everything is so accessible, even if you want to visit all the best places in Bucharest, you can do so in just a day or two.
This makes the city a fantastic destination for a weekend break. Alternatively, if you have more time at your disposal, there are several fascinating day trips from Bucharest you can take, too.
1. Palace Of Parliament
When you’re in Bucharest, you can’t miss the Palace of the Parliament. It’s huge, and you’ll see why as soon as you get there. This place isn’t just where the Romanian Parliament hangs out; it’s a central spot in the city packed with some pretty cool stuff.
Inside, you’ve got the Senate, the Chamber, a Convention Center, and even a couple of museums – the National Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of the Palace, and the Museum of Communist Totalitarianism. They’re all worth checking out, especially if you’re into history or art.
Here’s a fun fact: it’s the second-largest administrative building in the world, after the Pentagon in the USA. And it’s not just big; it’s heavy. Made of stone and concrete, this building is literally the heaviest in the world. So, when you’re walking around inside, remember you’re in a record-breaking spot!
Speaking of the inside, I took a tour there with my son, and it was pretty awesome. They showed us around various rooms, and let me tell you, they don’t hold back on the luxury.
Everything looks super expensive, from the carpets to the drapes and furniture. And my son, who was the only kid in the group, had a great time. He was really into the guide’s stories and loved seeing all the huge rooms and fancy details.
So, if you’re putting together a list of the best things to see in Bucharest, make sure the Parliament building is rig. And who knows, you might learn a thing or two while you’re there!
2. Revolution Square
World-famous as the setting of the Romanian Revolution of December 1989, which resulted in the fleeing of Nicolae Ceaucescu, Revolution Square is home to a few visit-worthy buildings. As a whole, it’s without question one of the most incredible places to visit in Bucharest. Actually, this is unquestionably one of the most famous things in Romania in general!
Arguably, the most striking structure on the square is the former Royal Palace, which now houses the highly recommended National Art Museum. In this incredible museum, you can see various works of art, from medieval and modern Romanian art to art from Western Europe, East Asia, and the Islamic world.
Another landmark on Revolution Square is the Romanian Athenaeum. Completed in 1888 and designed by French architect Albert Galleron, the building was almost entirely financed by public donations. This magnificent concert hall boasts a ring of pink marble columns, gorgeous curved balconies, arches with brass lanterns, and frescoed ceilings. This is the premier concert hall in Romania, the home of the renowned George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra.
Less spectacular than the two buildings mentioned above, the Kretzulescu Church still makes for a nice place to visit. A small orthodox church made with red bricks, this is a charming building featuring beautiful interior frescoes.
3. Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum
If you’ve ever wondered what Romanian village life was like, the Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum in Bucharest is the place to go. Tucked away in Herastrau Park, this open-air museum is one of the largest of its kind in Europe.
Picture this: over 250 authentic buildings spread out over a large area, all showcasing different aspects of rural Romanian architecture. From cozy peasant houses and farm buildings to intricate churches, watermills, and thatched barns, it’s like stepping into a different era.
It’s not just a quick walk-through kind of place. You’ll want to spend at least half a day here. Wander through the grounds, peek inside the rooms, and let the kids have a blast running around.
My son had a great time exploring the various buildings, befriending the local cats, and discussing the different Romanian architectural styles we came across. It’s a fun, interactive way to learn about Romania’s history and culture – perfect for a family day out.
4. Cismigiu Gardens
If you’d like to escape the bustling inner city, head to Cismigiu Gardens, a vast green oasis that opened to the public in 1860. It is the oldest public park in Bucharest.
There’s a lot to do there, from renting a rowboat on the lake and playing amateur chess to people-watching from a well-positioned bench and strolling the botanic garden. Beer lovers will undoubtedly relish the opportunity to visit the historic Gambrinus Brewery.
5. Herăstrău Park
Besides housing the National Village Museum, Herastrau Park is a fun attraction in its own right as well. Surrounding Lake Herastrau, this 400-acre park has boat rentals, an old fairground, tennis courts, walking trails, ferry rides, gardens, cafes, and restaurants.
Also, make sure to explore the area around the park, which boasts a variety of beautiful houses, from 19th-century Neoclassical homes to Art Nouveau buildings and modern villas.
6. University Square
One of Bucharest’s busiest meeting spots is University Square, an area that buzzes with activity from dusk to well into the night. This square is where you’ll find some more iconic Bucharest attractions.
A busy traffic intersection, all four corners have their own architectural and cultural landmark. First of all, there’s the appropriate School of Architecture at the University of Bucharest. Then, there’s the Bucharest National Theater.
Other landmarks are the Neoclassical Coltea Hospital and church and the astounding Sutu Palace, which houses the Bucharest History Museum.
In terms of things to do in Bucharest, University Square is one of the main areas in the city.
7. The Arch Of Triumph
The first “Arcul de Triumf” was built in 1878 and made of wood, honoring the soldiers who fought and won the Romanian War of Independence. Later, it was renovated and decorated again, this time in honor of WWI troops. You can climb the interior staircase to the top for fantastic views over the city.
8. Calea Victoriei – Victory Way
Calea Victoriei, or Victory Way, is like taking a step back in time in the heart of Bucharest. It’s been around since the late 17th century, originally built as a path to the Mogosoaia Palace and Old Princely Court. What started as a road laid with oak beams has turned into one of the city’s most iconic streets, especially after it got its current name in 1878 to celebrate Romania’s independence.
Walking down Calea Victoriei is like flipping through the pages of Bucharest’s history. You’ll pass by a mix of old and new – from grand historical buildings to chic boutiques and cozy cafes. It’s not just a street; it’s a story of the city’s past and present.
Whether you’re into photography, history, or just a casual stroll, Calea Victoriei can’t be missed. It’s a bustling, vibrant part of the city. It’s more than just a street; it’s an experience that captures the essence of Bucharest.
9. Old Princely Court & Church
Right in the middle of Bucharest’s bustling historic center, you’ll find the intriguing remains of the Old Princely Court.
Built back in the 1400s on the orders of none other than Vlad Tepes – yep, the guy better known as Vlad Dracula – it’s a place shrouded in legends and dark tales. Rumor has it this was where Vlad kept his prisoners in dungeons. Today, what’s left of the Court includes some tombstones, a few walls, and a striking Corinthian column.
While you’re there, definitely check out the Old Court Museum. It’s a treasure trove of stories and facts about this once-imposing building. You’ll get a real sense of the history that unfolded right where you’re standing.
And don’t miss out on the Old Court Church next door. Dating back to 1559, it holds the title of the oldest church in Bucharest. Step inside to see the preserved 16th-century frescoes – they’re pretty impressive and give you a glimpse into the city’s artistic past.
Here’s a pro tip: if you want the entire story behind these historic gems, join the free walking tour of Bucharest. It usually starts right at the Old Princely Court. The guides are excellent at giving a detailed and entertaining overview of Vlad Tepes, Bucharest’s history, and much more. It’s a fantastic way to kick off your exploration of the city and dive deep into its rich past.
10. Old Town Bucharest
Bucharest’s Old Town is the most charming district in the entire city of Bucharest. Flanked by the Calea Victoriei, the area is known as the Lipscani Area. This maze of historic streets originated in the 15th century when craftspeople and merchants from all over the region set up shop. Many different nationalities have lived there throughout the centuries, a combination of cultures that resulted in various architectural styles.
Visit the art galleries, nightclubs, restaurants, antique stores, and cafes. It’s a vivacious area, still bustling with outgoing shopkeepers who try to entice passers-by to visit their stores. It’s the perfect place to try some of Romania’s classic dishes or street food – my son loved the pancakes here, so much so that he ate them three times in one weekend.
11. Stavropoleos Monastery & Church
Dating back to the 18th century, this stunning Eastern Orthodox monastery is a must-visit place in Bucharest. The church is built in Brancovenesc architecture, and Michael and Gabriel are the archangels associated with the building.
The Stavropoleos Church might be small, but it’s truly beautiful and will definitely give you some Insta-worthy snaps. Dating back to 1724, the church used to be one of the most opulent in central Bucharest and now sits in pride of place. It has been restored several times following earthquake damage.
12. Pasajul Victoriei – Umbrella Street
If you’re looking for places to take fantastic photos, then Pasajul Victoriei is a great starting point.
Located in the center of the city, look up, and you’ll see colorful umbrellas shielding you from the weather, be it sun or rain! There are also many small coffee shops and vintage bookshops to check out.
Simply wandering through the narrow passageway will make you feel a thousand miles away from the hustle and bustle, even though, in reality, you’re in the heart of a busy city!
13. Villacrosse Passage
This is another passageway in the center of Bucharest, which is packed with history and things to see and do. The passage is shaped like a horseshoe with a yellow glass covering with beautiful architecture overhead.
Back in the day, this was the most opulent mall in the city, where the rich often used to go to purchase their clothes and accessories. Nowadays, it’s a top spot for coffee and cake, the perfect place to people-watch. If you’re a shisha fan, you can also partake here while watching the world go by.
14. New Saint George Church
Built during Constantin Brancoveanu’s reign in 1705, Saint George Church is situated on the ruins of an older church. Restored a few times throughout history due to earthquake damage, the church is a beautiful example of architecture and a serene place to enjoy a little peace and quiet during a day of sightseeing in Bucharest.
Inside the church, the exemplary architecture gets better. These days, the church has a beautiful porch area and has ten arches in total with large and ornate columns. Surrounded by gardens and trees, this is a shady spot in the summer and a stunning sight during the winter snow.
15. Ateneul Român
This stunning concert hall is located right in the heart of the city and is a place to visit, even if you do not intend to catch a show. Founded in 1888, the beautiful domed ceilings are genuinely breathtaking, and its dominating position in the city shows how important it is to Bucharest as a symbol of its culture.
Ateneul Roman is also the official home of the George Enescu Philharmonic, and if you can catch a show while you’re in the city, you won’t be disappointed.
16. Athenee Palace Hilton Bucharest
You might wonder what is so special about a Hilton Hotel, but this is no ordinary branch of the famous chain! Located next door to the beautiful Athenaeum, the central location is one position. Still, aside from that, you have history, gastronomy, and a great place to stop and take some photos, such as the building’s beauty.
The lobby is beautifully built with marble columns and huge glass chandeliers. It’s all very typical of architecture in the Belle Époque niche. The ballroom, Le Diplomate Ballroom, is a heritage monument, and the Cafe Athenee is the best place to try delicious French and Italian dishes. There’s also an English Bar inside. It’s a great place to stay!
17. Carturesti Carusel (Bookshop/Giftshop/Cafe)
There is something special about old bookshops. The history, the smell of the old books, and basically a feel of culture in the air. Carturesti Carusel is a top spot for book lovers but also anyone interested in the history of Bucharest.
Located on Lapscani 55 Street in the city’s Old Town section, the building was initially owned by the Crissoveloni banker family in the 20th century. At that time, it was the central bank office, but it was changed into a shop, cafe, and bookstore in the 1990s. This is a top spot for a coffee, buying books, or a few gifts to take the wonder of Bucharest back home with you.
18. Union Square With The Fountains
One of the biggest squares in the heart of the city, this is the best place to sit and people-watch while enjoying the huge fountain show that goes on throughout the day and early evening.
This square is where locals arrange to meet, and people mill around with a takeaway coffee and nothing much else to do. It’s also historic as it was built during the communist regime and is a symbol of the Romanian Revolution, too. If you need to catch any form of public transport, you will also find they all connect at Union Square.
19. Museum Of Senses
This isn’t your ordinary museum! Visit the Museum of Senses as a great day out for all the family. Packed with science and illusions, there are 40 different things to check out, and your kids will learn without even realizing it. It’s a little wacky and strange sometimes, but it’s fascinating and a great spot to spend a few hours.
- 20. Shop at Hanul cu Tei
- 21. Shopping in the former Stock Exchange Palace
- 23. Relax at King Mihai I Park
- 24. Find Ceaușescu’s House
- 25. Discovering the local street art scene
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Best Places To Eat & Drink In Bucharest
26. French Revolution Eclairs
If you’re an eclair lover, you will be in your element in Bucharest. Put simply, this is THE place for eclairs, and French Revolution eclairs are simply the best. Think of all the flavors you can think of, and you’re not far off the mark.
Where does the French Revolution come into it? It’s a cafe, and the eclairs here are made with mille-feuille fondant icing and the finest ingredients available. The cafe makes up to 500 eclairs daily, and if you’re into large portions, you’re lucky because these are twice as big as a regular eclair!
27. Caru’ cu Bere
If you want to eat traditional Romanian food and you want to do it in a place that’s packed with history, you won’t go far wrong with Caru’ cu Bere. The name means ‘The Beer Wagon,’ The restaurant has over 130 years of history, having been founded by the famous Mirceal brothers. The restaurant aims to keep alive the old spirit of the city and to serve the very best local dishes with the freshest produce.
Be sure to try sarmale, a type of Romanian cabbage leaf sarma which is stuffed with juicy mince meat; it’s also available in other flavors too. You should also make cod roe salad a priority; although the menu is so extensive, you won’t struggle to find something to suit your tastes. This restaurant does get pretty busy at weekends, so you may need to book your table ahead of time.
28. Pancakes At CLATeatARIE Food Truck
Let’s be honest: who doesn’t love pancakes? Great prices, a huge range of toppings, and the most delicious fluffy base around make this a must-visit for anyone with a sweet tooth. Located in the city’s heart, be sure to grab some as a dessert or simply because you fancy something sweet!
29. Hanul Lui Manuc
Romanian food is delicious, but you need to be sure you’re going to the right place to sample the best dishes. Manuc’s Inn, as it is also known, is a great spot, and it’s also the oldest Inn in the whole of Europe! There are regular conventional music nights with delicious, traditional food, and the surroundings are chilled out yet opulent simultaneously.
However, choosing what to eat could be a problem, as there are countless dishes on offer. Check out mici, which is a meat roll with delicious spices, or papanasi, a fried pastry with sour cream and jam – the perfect dessert!
30. Linea / Closer To The Moon Rooftop Bar
For your evening’s entertainment, head to Linea, also known as the Closer to The Moon Rooftop Bar. As the name suggests, this is a stunning rooftop bar with fantastic views over the entire city. It is open from 5 pm and has a huge menu, so you won’t struggle to find something to enjoy. It also has some of the best cocktails in Bucharest, all with that fantastic view before you. The sunset is awe-inspiring.
Open from 5 pm, head to Strada Lipscani, and you’ll see a light sign that takes you towards the elevator. You’ll certainly be closer to the moon in more ways than one!
31. Bacania Veche / Romana / Delicatese & Gradina
Sometimes, you want to grab something simple yet amazing on the go, and when you’re sightseeing in Bucharest, the best place to do that is Bacania Veche. Located in an old-style deli shop, you’ll find lots of fresh produce here, and you can also purchase jams, spices, wines, and cheeses here.
If you’re a cake lover, there is a huge range of freshly baked choices for you to have a go at, and you can also enjoy the Tastes of Romania tasting menu, so you can try small pieces of different dishes and decide what you like best.
32. Casa Capsa
Be it a restaurant or now a hotel, Casa Capsa has always been known for luxury. Having first been opened in 1852 as a fine-dining restaurant, the building is now an exceptional 5-star hotel, packed with massive, sparkling chandeliers and total luxury for those who stay there.
You can still eat in the original restaurant and try amazing pastries and local foods. The restaurant is also well-placed for sightseeing.
33. Take A Day Trip
- Bran Castle (Dracula’s Castle): approx. 2.5 hours by car
- Peles Castle: approx. 1.5 hours by car
- Constanța and the Black Sea: approx. 2-3 hours by car
- Transfăgărășan Road: approx. 3-4 hours by car
- Sibiu: approx. 2.5-3 hours by car
- Râșnov Fortress: approx. 2.5 hours by car
- Curtea de Argeș Monastery: approx. 2 hours by car
- Mud Volcanoes (Vulcanii Noroioși): approx. 1.5 hours by car
- Slănic Prahova Salt Mine: approx. 1.5 hours by car
- Bulgaria – Veliko Tarnovo or Ruse: Approx. 2-3 hours by car
These are the top things to see and places to eat in the capital city of Bucharest. All these places characterize the city, its culture, and its history. Make them the cornerstones of your itinerary.