Have you been to Bucharest yet? No? You should start planning a trip there now! The capital of Romania is an exciting and beautiful destination, with a rich history, a vibrant nightlife and lots of things to do. While no amount of time ever seems enough to properly experience a location, if you’re planning to spend a weekend in Bucharest this 2-day itinerary will cover all the main points of interest, alternative tours and best things to do in Bucharest.
In October I was invited to spend a weekend in Bucharest with 100 other bloggers at event called #ExperienceBucharest. The event was created to showcase the beauty of the city to the world and we had the opportunity to go on multiple tours and really experience the city. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity we had, I discovered so much about a city I knew very little about and met lots of other incredible bloggers.
Some key facts about Bucharest:
Bucharest is the capital city of Romania. You can get relatively cheap flights there from most European destinations, for example I flew there from Milan for 30 EUR return flights with Ryanair. Bucharest is a pretty big city but it’s also very walkable; you will find it very easy and enjoyable to explore the main landmarks of the city on foot or by public transport. If you want to get a taxi I recommend using Uber or as it is considerably cheaper than a normal taxi. I got from the Old Town to the airport with Uber and for a half hour journey it only cost us the equivalent of 5 GBP. Just remember that although Romania is part of the European Union it does not use the Euro. The local currency is the Romanian Leu (RON).
Visit the main attractions in Bucharest:
Before we get on to the alternative tours and off the beaten track locations to discover I want to cover the main points of interest and most famous places to see in Bucharest. As creative and alternative as you want to be on your trip, these are the most important attractions of the city, not seeing them would be like going to Rome and not seeing the Colosseum.
The Palace of Parliament
This is the single most famous building in Bucharest. It has a surface of more than 330,000 square metres and more than 1,000 rooms. It is also one of the most controversial buildings in Romania, since it acts as a constant reminder of the communist era and the sacrifices made to build it. I personally didn’t have time to go inside, however I would highly recommend it as it will give you an opportunity to learn more about Romanian history. You can find out more about the guided tours inside the palace here.
The Old Town
So the Old Town of Bucharest is actually pretty new, locals joke saying it’s the “newest Old Town in the world”. Some of the buildings in the area are a couple hundred years old, however the pedestrian cobblestone-paved roads that define the Old Town were laid down in 2011, when the City Council decided that Bucharest needed a central area for people to hang out. They were very successful at this, and the Old Town of Bucharest is now a vibrant and lively area full of bars, restaurants, shops and people at all times of day.
National Museum of Romanian History
The National Museum of Romanian History on Calea Victoriei, right next to the Old Town. It contains Romanian historical artifacts from prehistoric times up to modern times. It’s a great place to visit if you want to learn more about Romania’s history.
This is a famous concert hall close to the Old Town of Bucharest. In the early days before becoming a concert hall it was a building dedicated to art and science, as part of the Romanian Atheneum Cultural Society. It is just off the Calea Victoriei street, from where you can see it and is easy to find. It is normally only open concert hours, as it is the home of the George Enescu Philarharmonic Orchestra. Even if you are unable to take a peak inside (like me) it is still a beautiful building to admire from the outside.
Beautiful Bucharest! 🏛⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ These past couple of days I've had the chance to experience this wonderful city with the crew from @Experience_Bucharest. ⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ We've been out exploring, eating, and relaxing in this completely underrated city. #ExperienceBucharest 🙌🏽⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ Thanks @Weawayagain for snapping this 😘
Carol Park and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
This park was designed by a French landscape artist and is a popular hang out location for locals on weekends. With the vast amount of wedding shootings taking place it was the first time I felt undressed in a park. It is easily reachable by walking from the Old Town and there are beautiful panoramic views over the city. Here there is also the Carol Park Mausoleum, which has acquired different meanings over time and has changed locations. It was originally a Communist building and is now dedicated to the Unknown Soldier (the memories of all soldiers killed in any wars).
This is a prime example of how certain places become famous thanks to social media. Carturesti Carusel, also known as the “Carousel of Light” is just an ordinary bookstore, which has the peculiarity of having a beautiful and elegant interior. The white columns and spiral staircases make for a stunning photo backdrop, which have made this bookstore so famous. Great place to buy a book or souvenir too once you’re done taking photos!
Another example of an ordinary side street that has become a main attraction thanks to social media is Pizza Colosseum. It’s hidden in a passageway just off one of the main roads of Bucharest, and with its colourful umbrella rooftop it attracts loads of people everyday that photograph it. Pizza Colosseum did a very clever marketing move there if you ask me!
Do a Walkabout Free Tour:
Now on to the more unknown parts of Bucharest! If you want to discover Bucharest beyond the main tourist attractions you have to do a free walking tour with Walk About (they do also the standard “Best of Bucharest” tours that will take you to see the main points of interest).
The first tour I did with them was a tour called “Wild About” and it was a walking tour of the Vacaresti Natural Park. Vacaresti was originally a neighbourhood built on land reclaimed from swamps to make room for several grand architectural projects, the main one being an ambitious hydrological infrastructure to connect Bucharest to the river Danube. In 1989 when the Romanian revolution removed Nicolae Ceausescu from power these projects were abandoned, and nature took its rightful place in what looks like a huge empty lake. The park is pretty wild, with narrow paths that you can walk along to explore it. While walking around the park you could almost forget that you were actually close to the city centre of one of Europe’s largest cities.
The second tour I did was called “Walk & Shoot – 2 Slices of Bucharest”. They took us to visit two neighbourhoods where the abrupt changes that happened during the 1980s revolution are most visible, the old slums and the new Civic Centre. Unfortunately we were unable to access the two rooftops we were promised as part of the tour. This was a bit disappointing as it was the selling point of the tour in my opinion, but it was still interesting to see a different part of Bucharest and learning about it from people that were born and raised there.
My absolute favourite tour was the Alternative Tour with Open Doors Travel. They took us walking around the city to explore the street art, explaining what it meant. This was fascinating since the vast majority of graffiti had political implications, and it was interesting to hear from a guide local to Bucharest what each of them meant in the context of the current political situation. When I signed up for a street art tour I was expecting big Instagrammable murals, however I was surprised to find a lot of the more politically or socially meaningful pieces of urban art were actually small messages. This was a great tour that allowed us to see some of the main and central parts of Bucharest under a completely different light.
Where to eat in Bucharest:
One of the things that pleasantly surprised me about Bucharest was the vibrant nightlife and vast amount of bars and restaurants in the city centre. The whole section around the Old Town is pedestrian and all the restaurants there have tables and chairs outside, bustling with people at any time of day. Whether you’re looking to just have a casual drink on a rooftop, grab a pizza with your mates or go on a wild night out, there is something for everyone!
As part of #ExperienceBucharest we visited a variety of restaurants, bars and venues. One of my personal favourites was the street food market Food Hood. This was a big area right in the centre of the Old Town with food trucks parked around it and coloured chairs and tables in the middle. We were there for lunch where we had some incredible burgers and typical Romanian sausages. If you visit in the evening there is also a bar and the atmosphere if even more lively and fun.
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Another personal favourite was French Revolution. I enjoyed this tour even more as we didn’t get told where they were taking us, just that it was a place with one of the best cakes in the world. With a premise like that how could I not go! French Revolution specializes in éclairs, that’s the only dessert they make and they have a huge variety of flavours. Having never had an éclair I wasn’t sure what to expect, but can easily say it was one of the best I’ve ever had.
As far as bars go Pura Vida Sky Bar was my favourite. This is a bar on the rooftop of a hostel in the Old Town of Bucharest. There is no elevator to get to the top and the stairs are dotted with motivational stickers to improve your mood as you walk up the stairs. In true Romanian and hostel vibe the drinks are very cheap, with cocktails costing as little as a couple RON.
Where to stay in Bucharest:
As part of #ExperienceBucharest myself and other bloggers were put in accommodation all around the city. The best area to stay is around Calea Victoriei street, between boulevard Regina Elisabeta and the Revolution Square. While obviously in a weekend I could only stay at one of these hotels, the others are places my friends and fellow bloggers stayed at and of which they all had positive things to say about:
- Novotel Bucharest City Centre
- Radisson Blu Hotel Bucharest
- Pura Vida Sky Bar & Hostel
- Grand Hotel Continental
- Park Inn by Radisson
- Capitol Hotel
Have you been to Bucharest? Did you enjoy it? Let me know in the comments below! Bucharest is an exciting and vibrant city in Europe, a perfect destination if you’re looking for a short weekend getaway. With this article I hope I have inspired you to visit this beautiful city and given you some ideas of the best things to do and how to spend your weekend in Bucharest.
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