I have to admit that I knew very little about Bucharest before my trip. I googled best things to do in Bucharest and the must-see places of Bucharest and was quite disappointed to see that there is so little quality information available on the main highlights of Bucharest. After all, if you only have one or two days in Bucharest, you probably want to visit the landmarks and see the main highlights of the city.
I have been to Bucharest as a kid and had vague memories of this big city with wide boulevards and huge communist-style buildings. I remember Roma children begging for food on the streets… But that was Bucharest 25 years ago. The city has changed beyond recognition! And if you see all of the activity going on, you cannot help but wonder if it will become the next top destination in Eastern Europe in the next couple of years… Bucharest exceeded all my expectations! Five days flew by and I left the capital of Romania with the feeling that there was still so much more to explore…
And now back to the topic. Let me share the main highlights of Bucharest with you and show you the must-see places of Bucharest. Make sure to also check my other post on Bucharest where I share the less known places, the hidden gems of Bucharest that – in my opinion – are just as worthwhile seeing as the main landmarks of Bucharest. But in the meantime, here are the main things to do and places you shouldn’t miss in Bucharest.
Top places to see and the best things to do in Bucharest
1. Palace of Parliament
If there is one place you just cannot miss in Bucharest, it’s the Palace of Parliament, also called the People’s Palace. With a surface of 365,000 m2 and 1,000 + rooms it’s the second largest administrative building in the world. Make sure to visit inside, as seeing it from the outside just isn’t the same!
It’s a controversial place, and we were told that Romanians still haven’t decided whether they love it or hate it. However, it’s such an integral part of what Romania is today and it will give you a much deeper insight and understanding of Romanian history, so I really recommend to visit the Palace of Parliament when in Bucharest.
Practical info: There are several tour options, but you have to reserve in advance. Check the official website for more info. Alternatively, you can visit with a guided tour (which is what we did), just look for one that goes inside the Parliament. Make sure to carry your passport or ID card.
2. Old Town
In the past Bucharest didn’t really have one central place where people would go out or meet with their friends. So a couple of years ago the City Council decided that the city needed such a place. They designated a couple of streets for this area, laid cobblestones and forbid most traffic, and so now Bucharest has an Old Town. The locals were joking that it must be the newest Old Town in the world…
The Old Town of Bucharest is a real success story, one that has transformed the city completely. Hundreds of bars, trendy cafes, and restaurants have opened in Bucharest in the last few years. The Old Town is the place to be in Bucharest now, and you’ll instantly fall in love with the incredibly lively atmosphere. A bit quiet in the morning, lively during the day, and bustling with activity in the evening, The Old Town is the place that you will end up going to every day of your stay in Bucharest.
3. Revolution Square
Revolution Square in the Centre of Bucharest is a place with lots of history. The monuments and the buildings that you see today have been completely restored and you wouldn’t tell that some of the darkest chapters of Romanian history have been written here.
Tip: I strongly advise that you visit the Revolution Square with a guide. Best is to join one of the walking tours of Bucharest.
4. Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum
Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum (Muzeul Satului in Romanian) is an open-air exhibition showing traditional Romanian village life as it was in the past. It’s also the most visited museum in Romania.
The Village Museum is a nice place to visit on a sunny day. Ideal for families with kids as well. There is lots of place to run around and kids will love exploring the 200 year old buildings.
Tip: Combine your visit with the adjacent Herăstrău Park.
5. The Parks of Bucharest
Bucharest is a very green city and there are many parks you can explore. I only visited three – Herăstrău Park, Cișmigiu Park, and Parcul Izvor. I was told that these three parks are not to be missed, but if you have more time you can also visit the Botanic Garden, Parcul Operei, Parcul Tineretului, and the Urban Delta – Parcul Natural Văcărești – is supposedly very nice as well.
One of the biggest parks of Bucharest – Herastrau Park – is definitely worth a visit. You can rent a bike, go on a boat ride, or tire the kids out in one of the playgrounds. There are several food stalls in the park, and if you go on a weekend or in summer, the chances are high that there will be some kind of an event here.
Tip: Combine the visit to Herastrau park with a visit to the Village Museum and don’t miss the Arch Of Triumph (Arcul de Triumf).
Cismigiu park right in the centre of Bucharest is as nice as a park can get. You will find beautiful green alleys, the most colourful playground for children I have ever seen, a couple of places where you can eat or just have an ice cream, and a small lake where you can rent a rowing boat in summer or go ice skating in winter. If you visit just one park in Bucharest, make it Cismigiu Park.
Parcul Izvor, located right in front of the Palace of the Parliament, is probably the most quiet one of the three parks I visited in Bucharest. It’s one of those parks where locals come for a stroll or to run. There are several playgrounds too. And, of course, you have a beautiful view over the Palace of Parliament.
6. The Churches of Bucharest
You cannot walk for five minutes without running into a church in Bucharest. Some of the nicest churches in the centre of town are:
- Stavropoleos Monastery – Biserica Stavropoleos
- Church of Saint Anthony – Biserica Sfântul Anton
- Kretzulescu Church – Biserica Crețulescu
- St. Nicholas Church – Biserica Sf. Nicolae – Șelari
7. Romanian Athenaeum
Romanian Athenaeum is a beautiful building and one that Romanians are most proud of. It’s actually the main concert hall of Bucharest, so if you like classical music, try to attend one of the concerts. But you can also visit the Athenaeum and admire its beautiful architecture during the day. Check their official website for the tickets and practical information for your visit.
8. Romanian Traditional Restaurants
Enjoy a true Romanian peasant meal in Bucharest!
- Probably the best known restaurant that serves local food is the Caru’ cu Bere in the Old Town. It’s a bit touristy, but the food was good, and it’s worth going just for the interior. We had dinner on Saturday and they even had some traditional dance performances during the evening.
- Another good place to try some local cuisine is Hanu’ Berarilor Casa Oprea Soare, just across the river from the Old Town.
9. Curtea Veche
Curtea Veche is a small archeological site in the Old Town of Bucharest. There is not that much to see actually, but it used to be a residential palace of Vlad III Dracula in the 15th century. So if you want to see the statue of Dracula, this is the place to be.
Romanians will tell you the whole story about how Vlad the Impaler had nothing to do with the fictitious character in the Dracula Novel by Bram Stoker. But it’s become a big commercial thing, so I think they kind of made peace with it.
10. Museums of Bucharest
Bucharest has many museums. In addition to the Village Museum that I already mentioned above here are some of the most noteworthy museums in Bucharest:
- Grigore Antipa National Museum of Natural History
- National Museum of Art of Romania
- Museum of Art Collections
- Museum of the Romanian Peasant
- National Museum of Contemporary Art
So these are the main highlights of Bucharest that you really shouldn’t miss. As already said, make sure to read my post about the hidden gems of Bucharest as well. You really have to see both sides of Bucharest in order to truly appreciate this city of contrasts!
Practical information for your visit to Bucharest
How to get to BucharestBucharest is a perfect destination for a short city break. You can find many affordable direct flights to Bucharest from pretty much anywhere in Europe. Check here for the best flight deals.
Best area to stay in Bucharest for sightseeing
Without a doubt, the best place to stay in Bucharest is the area around Calea Victoriei street, approx. between Blvd. Regina Elisabeta and the Revolution Square. I visited Bucharest on a press trip with many other bloggers and here is a selection of some of the best hotels everyone was very positive about:
- Novotel Bucharest City Centre
- Grand Hotel Continental
- Radisson Blu Hotel Bucharest
- Capitol Hotel
- Park Inn by Radisson
These are all really nice hotels and very well priced compared to most other European cities. You can find plenty of accommodation in all price ranges Bucharest. Check here for the best accommodation deals for Bucharest!
Is Bucharest safe?
One of the main concerns to me before traveling to Bucharest on my own was if Bucharest was safe. As a woman traveling solo and carrying expensive camera equipment I never felt unsafe in Bucharest. I have to say that it’s probably just as safe as any other European capital, and if you stay in the city centre it’s probably even safer than most other major European towns. Of course, there are some areas where you better not walk alone at night, but that counts for any other city I know.
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