Bucharest – the city of hidden gems and the place I’ve never imagined falling in love with.
Since the day I moved to Budapest, I have been planning all kinds of trips to neighbouring countries just to experience as much as possible during my stay in central Europe. Romania was that destination that I wanted to visit for its history of the famous Dracula and, of course, Transylvania. The capital of Romania, Bucharest, was only a short stop in my initial travel plans as I thought it was quite similar to Budapest. Oh, how I was wrong… Turns out Bucharest is so much more than your average European capital city.
What to do and see in Bucharest?
There are lots of things you can do while staying in Bucharest. I stayed for 4 days and I feel like there are still many places that I haven’t checked out. So here are the top things you can do and see in Bucharest!
Wander around the old town
Unlike the old towns I’ve visited in other European countries, this one is very vibrant and has a nice mix of old and new. You can stroll along the narrow streets and see such famous landmarks as Stavropoleos Monastery church, the ruins of the Old Court, CEC Palace, National Museum of Romanian History and many more. Plus, some of the streets are filled with bars, restaurants and even clubs making the whole Old Town an alive and crazy place during the nighttime. You can easily spend the whole day just discovering the hidden gems of the Old Town and tasting various dishes.
Observe the city from the Arcul de Trumf
In the past, Bucharest was known as “The Little Paris” due to a heavy Parisian influence and the city’s elegant architecture. So it’s no surprise that Bucharest has its own Arch of Triumph similar to the famous one in Paris. Thanks to Bucharest Town Hall, we got a special invitation to visit the Arch and even climb up the stairs to the very top of it. The view is simply mesmerizing from the top and I would highly suggest you climb on top as well. We’ve been told that the Arch will be open to the public from January 2019. How great is that!
Take a free walking tour
What a better way to discover the city than to hear it from the local, am I right? This is why I love free walking tours as you get to hear all the inside stories and interesting facts from the locals. BTrip has two free walking tours to choose from: Monarchy vs. Communism and Old Town Legends & Stories. Each of them takes around 2 to 2,5 hours and are in English. I took the Old Town Legends & Stories and I can 100% vouch for it. The guide, Ciprian, knows how to capture your attention and told us some very intriguing stories about the places in the old town. Check out their website for more information.
If you don’t mind spending a bit of money on the tours, I would definitely suggest taking a look at Open Doors Travel and Good Living Bucharest tours. All of them are around 19 EUR and worth every cent. I did Communist Tour with Open Doors Travel and the guide Elena exceeded all the expectations and more. Plus we got a nice little goodbye surprise at the end!
Visit the Palace of Parliament
Bucharest’s Palace of the Parliament is the second largest administrative building in the world right after the Pentagon. I bet you did not know that! The building is massive and, let me tell you, it is not easy to photograph due to its size. If you want to pay a visit to the Parlament, you will need to book or purchase a tour. The prices start from 40 lei/person (8,5 EUR) and can be purchased at the ticket office near the building. For more information about opening hours and tariffs, check their website.
Discover unique passages
Bucharest has quite a few passages scattered around the city that are worth checking out. Pasajul Macca – Villacrosse is roofed with an arcade-like yellow glass to allow a natural light to come in. It is now filled with little cafes and bars that offer water hookah pipes and exotic tobaccos. Not going to lie, probably the most fragrant place in the city.
Next, Pasajul Englez (English passage) was once a luxurious hotel, then brothel and now serves as an apartment complex for families. This passage has seen a lot of changes and it’s a nice place to visit if you’re interested in architecture and a bit of history.
Last but definitely not the least, Pasajul Victoria – a tiny passage with hundreds of colourful umbrellas. If you searched Bucharest tags on Instagram, this place would appear in the top results. A very lovely place to take a photo of and enjoy a nice pizza in one of the restaurants. Just be prepared to wait a bit if you want to take a proper photo, it’s one of the most Instagrammable places in Bucharest for a reason.
Relax in the Carol park
Very close to the city centre, Carol park is a great option for a nice and laid-back afternoon. You can walk along tree-lined paths or even have a picnic there. At the very end of the park, you can have a nice view of the city if you climb up the stairs of the monument for fallen heroes of Romania. Also, you can see a military shift change if you’re lucky enough. It usually happens around 7:30 p.m.
See the alternative side of Bucharest
The city has quite a bit of street art going on all around it, it kind of reminded me of Berlin. You can find lots of graffiti and other types of street art everywhere, especially in abandoned spots such like Chimopar and other rundown buildings. If you want to have the full experience of Bucharest’s street art, I would recommend booking an alternative tour. The one by Open Doors Travel was very insightful and fun as the guide showed us the best murals and told a bit more about each artist and the story behind their art pieces. For more information about the details of the tour, take a look at their website.
Watch the biggest fountain show
Recently re-built and re-newed fountains in the Unirii Square are a bit controversial but a sight to see, nevertheless. The city has spent 7 million euros for the reconstruction, so you can imagine why some weren’t too fond of such costly entertainment. However, once the fountains were opened, it managed to attract the attention of the majority of locals and tourists. Every weekend from 8 p.m. you can see a massive and quite impressive show with lots of lights, classical and modern music, and, of course, big fountains.
Lose yourself in Cărturești Carusel
Named one of the world’s most beautiful bookshops, Cărturești Carusel is a must stop for all book lovers. The shop has opened in the restored 19th-century building (a former bank) and now is home for 10,000 books and 5,000 albums and DVDs. This bookshop is a heaven, I am not even lying. I spent 2 hours looking at everything and I could have easily spent some more if it wasn’t closing at that time. There are 3 floors of books, CDs, DVDs and the last 4th flour hosts a bistro where you can have a nice cup of coffee while reading your newly bought book.
Enjoy the evening in the coolest rooftop bars
After a long day of exploring, you can relax at one of the coolest city’s rooftop bars. There are plenty to chose from but I definitely recommend to check out Pura Vida Sky Bar. From the bar terrace, you can admire the lovely view of the old town while drinking a fine cocktail. Also, Nomad Skybar is a popular spot for those who want to catch up with their friends and have a quality dinner. The music in the bar is quite upbeat and gets louder as the night progresses. Great way to end the day if you ask me.
Where to eat?
Just like the city itself, you can find a very diverse selection of places to eat in Bucharest. Here are some of my favourite ones:
The best tex-mex restaurant in the city. From burritos, tacos to margaritas and tequila. Incredibly tasty meals and quite big in size, so be prepared to eat lots before going there. The whole atmosphere is very much Mexican: live Mexican music, decorations, sombreros everywhere, a wall dedicated to tequila and Spanish speaking staff.
Address: 3 Apolodor Street, Bucharest
According to locals, this is one of the best restaurants in Bucharest. It’s a family run restaurant with a lovely terrace in which you can enjoy a bit of sunshine while devouring a delicious meal. You can choose from a huge variety of Romanian, Serbian and Albanese dishes. The Tres Leches Dessert is a must if you swing by!
Address: 63 Ion Neculce Street, București
From burgers to freshly grilled lamb, this place has it all. You can select from a wide food and drink menu while enjoying lovely background music and sitting on the terrace in the warmer weather. It is not that crowded in colder seasons, so I think it makes a nice place to have a dinner at if you are not a fan of crowdy places and loud music.
Address: 225 Splaiul Unirii, București
Where to stay?
I had the pleasure of staying at Intercontinental Bucuresti during my visit to Bucharest. It has to be one of the best more on the luxury side places to stay at. The view from the room (15th floor) was incredible and I simply couldn’t stop taking photos of it. Also, the hotel has a great variety of breakfast options and super comfortable beds. After our Slovenian adventure, I slept like a baby there.
Booking.com – BOOK HERE
If you’re looking for a bit more budget-friendly accommodation, take a look at Pura Vida Hostel that is situated in the heart of the Old Town and offers dorms for a very reasonable price.
Booking.com – BOOK HERE
Hostelworld – BOOK HERE
Have you ever been to Bucharest? Let me know in the comments below!
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Blogger Transparency: My trip to Bucharest was sponsored by the team of Experience Bucharest and I was a guest of Intercontinental Bucuresti. All my thoughts expressed and opinions are my own. I value transparency between me and my audience.
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