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What to Do in Bucharest: The Perks of Visiting Romania’s Capital

Many people don’t know much about Romania’s capital and almost every first-time visitor is surprised with Bucharest’s energy. Even if it’s not going to win beauty awards anytime soon, Romania’s capital is a city for young, restless people that enjoy a little bit of adventure in their lives. Would you like to find out all the interesting facts and places to visit in Bucharest? We’ll fill all the blank spaces!

driving a rental car in bucharest

Calea Victoriei and Dâmbovița Canal in Bucharest

General Facts about Bucharest

Country: the capital of Romania, 6th largest city in Europe

Population: 2.351 million inhabitants

Currency: LEU/RON Tip: You cannot pay with EURO/USD in Romania, but you can change money at one of the many local cash exchanges.

Weather: continental climate, with very hot summers and quite cold winters. It usually snows from late December until mid-March.

Transport: public transportation (RATB), subway, taxi and rental cars.

Where Is Bucharest?

Bucharest Location in Europe

Bucharest Location in Europe

Bucharest is the Capital of Romania, an East-European country that managed to seduce many foreigners and emperors throughout history. Located in the southern part of the country, near every major highway in Romania, Bucharest is a large city divided into 6 sectors. The legend says that the name București (Bucharest) comes from a shepherd who founded the town on the Dâmbovița river. His name was Bucur.

How is Bucharest Airport?

Bucharest is served by two airports: Henri Coandă International Airport (Otopeni) and Aurel Vlaicu Airport (Băneasa) and you can find cheap air connections on both of them. The airport transfer services are just as reliable on Otopeni, as on Băneasa, since they are administered by the same company, CNAB (The Bucharest National Airport Company) and they are also pretty close to each other.

bucharest airport

Henri Coanda Bucharest Airport

Transport and Transfer from The International Otopeni Airport

At Otopeni Airport, there are two express bus services that will take you to the city center: 783 to Piata Unirii/Union Square (1) and 780 to the main railway station, Gara de Nord (2). Keep in mind that you can’t buy tickets on board. As you exit, go to the bus ticket booth located on your right, buy an Activ Card for 3.70 lei and preload it with 7 lei. That will be enough for a return ticket.

At the airport, passengers can benefit from a wide range of services: banking services, money exchange, postal services, car rental, etc. Anyhow, we recommend you to not exchange money at the airport, the rates are quite high. The same goes for rental cars. Check out our car rental guide if you want to find out how to rent a car in Romania at the best rates.

Henri Coandă International Airport provides hotel shuttle services for passengers with accommodation at Golden Tulip, JW Marriot Bucharest Grand Hotel, Phoenicia Grand Hotel, Angelo Airport Hotel and Howard Johnson Grand Plaza.

Taxis in Bucharest

cost taxi bucharest

Yellow taxis in Bucharest

If you prefer to take a cab, use the licensed ordering machines at the airport, which practice fair and real prices. These are reassuring for people worried about sham taxi drivers. A fare into town should be around 50 lei. The same goes when you walk around Bucharest and you want to take a taxi – don’t get a taxi from the front of hotels. We advise you to go into a hotel or restaurant and ask them to call a “regular” taxi for you or use a dedicated taxi app that you can find on the AppStore, like Clever Taxi or Star Taxi. Make sure you have small change like 1, 5 and 10 lei. If you try to pay with 50 or 100 lei, you can encounter the famous ‘no change’ reply. Keep in mind that you can’t pay with a credit card.

Why is Bucharest Called “Little Paris”?

Between the wars, Bucharest was known as the “Paris of the East” and that title was pretty much accurate. After it became Romania’s capital, the economy boomed and good art, Art Nouveau architecture and French-designed buildings started appearing. It had an elegant architecture with cosmopolitan vibes that deservedly gave it this title. Even today, Bucharest is the go-to location for diplomatic gatherings and the sophisticated host city of the George Enescu International Music Festival and Competition.

What is Bucharest Famous for?

The Architecture

The city doesn’t have thousands of years of history, but it has a rich culture that makes Bucharest worth visiting. Even if Nicolae Ceauşescu’s reign (1965-1989) destroyed most of the historic and some of the outstanding parts of the city, replacing them with typical Communist building blocks during the 1980s, the city managed to rise after the ‘89 Revolution. You may be surprised to find out that Romania mixes a lot of cultures and took the best from them all. The country has been part of the Austrian, Russian and Ottoman empires throughout its history.

Those well-preserved extravagant buildings

what to visit in bucharest

Palace of Parliament Bucharest

The most famous Bucharest building and one of the tourist attractions you really shouldn’t skip is the Palace of the Parliament. A concrete embodiment of the communist era, it is the second largest governmental building in the world, after the Pentagon. It has over 1000 rooms, it is the heaviest civilian building and the most expensive administrative one. Its great balcony was designed so that Nicolae Ceaușescu, the former Romanian dictator, could stand there and give speeches to the public who would listen from the Constitution Square.

An edgy and cool nightlife

what rental cars are best for the city

Bucharest at night

We’ve prepared an entire section on the places you should visit down below. Remember that aside from the Old Town, where you will find a lot of bars and restaurants concentrated in a single place, there are a lot of gems to be discovered around the city center, particularly in the Universitate and Piața Romană areas.

Is Bucharest Worth Visiting?

Yes. Bucharest is a dynamic city that attracts a lot of young people and you must visit it at least once in a lifetime. It has its own Arc de Triomphe, cool mismatching architecture, beautifully designed Orthodox churches, many hipster coffee shops, and fabulous parks. Actually, with 23 sqm of parks and green areas per inhabitant, Bucharest ranks higher than Paris, which only has 2 sqm of green areas per capita.

Moreover, the Văcărești Delta is one of the biggest urban nature parks in Europe, with unique green space isolated from the hectic city. It was simply an unfinished piece of urban water infrastructure abandoned in 1989 and has become, without any human intervention, one Romania’s most diverse ecosystems, reconquered by nature and wildlife. If you want to find more about this surprising phenomenon, check out this article by The Guardian. In Romania, huge projects are taking place and Bucharest has the potential to become a top tourist destination for people who are looking to go on an adventure without emptying their pockets.

Is Bucharest Safe?

Thanks to the Communist era and the poverty that surrounded Romania in that period, many foreigners still have a skewed perception of Romania, as a lawless and dangerous place. There’s no need to believe these misconceptions. Truth be told, Romania is safer than most West-European countries like Germany or France. Bucharest is extremely safe for a capital this big and the chances of any violent incident are very low.

Use your common sense and you’ll be safe and sound. Stay away from dark alleys, don’t expose your valuables, zip your bag and don’t forget your mobile in the taxi. That will be enough and you’ll be just fine. More than that, as a visitor in Bucharest, everything you want to visit is well within the safe zone of the city, both day and night. Note that the city center is perfect even for a midnight walk, especially during the summer. If you’re looking for a place to stay, there are some areas of the city you’d want to avoid. These include Rahova, Ferentari and most of Sector 5. The safest areas are Sector 1 and 2 and places located within walking distance of the Old Town. Likewise, Calea Victoriei is a wealthy street that runs across the city and has many options for safe short-term or even long-term stays.

Is Bucharest Cheap?

The truth is, the further East you’re going to travel, the less money you’re gonna spend. Bucharest is an ideal budget travel destination for a European city – it’s not just affordable, but really cheap if you compare it to Norway or France. You’ll be able to travel to Bucharest with about €50 per day, including accommodation, transport and maybe even food. If you’re more the adventurer type and choose to go for the backpacking option, you’ll reduce your costs even more.

bucharest guide

Bucharest City View

What to Visit in Bucharest 

We’ve prepared for you a list that sheds light on the main Bucharest attractions. Remember to bring good comfortable shoes, you’ll have some walking to do!

Palace of the Parliament

what to visit in bucharest

Palace of the Parliament Interior

Formerly known as the House of the Republic, this great palace tops your list and you can find it on Izvor 2-4 Street. The Palace of the Parliament houses the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, an international conference center, and three museums: the National Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Communist Totalitarianism and the Museum of the Palace. Guided tours take in a dozen or so of the largest and most extravagant rooms and offer fabulous views down Unirii boulevard. Fun fact – the cost of heating and electric lighting alone exceeds $6 million per year, as much as a medium-sized city.  

Old Town

bucharest old town party

Crowded Bucharest Old Town

You can name it Lipscani or Historic Centre, it’s the same concentrated strip of restaurants and bars, where you might end up having the best time of your life. You should check it out since it’s full of gems like the statue of Dracula, The National Bank of Romania, The National Museum of Romanian History and many impressive churches. Indulge at one of the many cafes, bars, clubs or restaurants along the Old Town and you’ll be sure to discover some drinks you’ve never heard of before. We’ll give you some more precise recommendations down below.

Victory Lane, known as Calea Victoriei

what to visit in bucharest

Calea Victoriei at night

A place to relax and remember how Bucharest used to be more than 30 years ago in terms of architecture. The street extends for about 4 km, from United Nations Square to Piața Victoriei (Victory Square), crossing over Dâmbovița River. It is a busy main street with multiple lanes, historic buildings, art galleries and big chain hotels. The architectural style varies from classic to modern to baroque. On this street, you will also find the Romanian Athenaeum concert hall, the National Museum and the Revolution Square and Memorial.

Grigore Antipa National Museum of Natural History

what to visit in bucharest

Grigore Antipa Natural History Museum

Located on Șoseaua Pavel Dimitrievici Kiseleff 1, the museum is one of the oldest research institutions in the field of biodiversity and here you will be able to find out about a range of animals unique to Romania and Europe. The information is displayed in both English and Romanian, and the interactive elements are sure to engage the kids!

Revolution Square

what to visit in bucharest

Bucharest Revolution Square

If you’re into history and would like to see more sites related to Communism in Romania, go visit Revolution Square and check out the pockmarked buildings. This place screams history! This is where was the most fights during the 1989 Revolution took place, which ended the Communist Regime.

Herăstrău Park

what park in bucharest

Herăstrău Park aerial view

This park has a lot to offer and it’s fun for the whole family. Our suggestion is to take advantage of the bike hire and discover the whole area, as it’s a very large park. You can also enjoy a meal at one of the lakeside restaurants or check out the Hard Rock Café nearby.

Day Trips from Bucharest

If you feel like the big city life is bogging you down or you simply want to get a variety of sights during your stay in Romania, here are some day trips you can take, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Explore the natural parks nearby or relax at one of the largest wellness centre in Europe, complete with spa and royal treatment.

Bucharest to Comana National Park

day-trip-from-bucharest

Comana National Park

Distance: 67 km (about 1h 20 min)

If you choose to drive to Comana National Park, there are some options for how you can spend your time here. You can walk around in nature and admire the beautiful Neajlov river delta, enjoying a late afternoon picnic on the lakeside. If you’re feeling particularly brave, take on one of the more difficult tracks in the Comana Adventure Park or cross the lake on the zip line. There’s something for every age, so you can bring along the kids and not worry that they’ll get bored.

Bucharest to Therme

Relax in the indoor pools at Therme Bucharest

Relax in the indoor pools at Therme Bucharest

Distance: 24 km (about 40 min)

Therme is a recreational indoor swimming center, featuring an indoor botanical garden with over 500 palm trees and many other unique species, totaling a whopping 800,000 plants. There are three different areas where you can relax, and you can also access the themed saunas, sky bar, and massage parlors. What better way to spend the weekend than gazing into the green leaves overhead while your body benefits from a well-deserved hydro-massage?

Bucharest to Mogoșoaia Palace

Mogoșoaia Palace and Gardens

Mogoșoaia Palace and Gardens

Distance: 18 km (about 36 min)

If you’re an architecture buff, you’ll be happy to hear that this seventeenth-century palace is built in the distinctive Brâncovenesc or Romanian Renaissance style, a combination of Venetian and Ottoman elements. It belonged to Constantin Brâncoveanu, Prince of Wallachia, and it now houses a museum and art gallery. You can explore the superb gardens nearby and enjoy the blissful solitude of the land or, if you’re here during summer, you can even go wakeboarding on the Mogoșoaia Lake nearby.

Where to Go Out in Bucharest

There are a lot of places around the city where you can take a bite or have a full course meal while listening to some pleasant music. There are gardens where you can enjoy the view while eating a dessert, medieval buildings that take you way back in time and minimalist cafes where you will really feel the metropolitan vibes. Here is a list of options that will satisfy even the fussiest taste buds!

Best Places to Eat

  1. Vivo Fusion Street Food, Calea Floreasca 60. Are you wondering where to eat the best burgers in Bucharest? Here is your answer. The place is cool, the interior design is modern and minimalist and the food is even better. If you’re a burger lover or you’re just in the mood for them, you cannot miss Vivo!where to eat in bucharest
  2. Cremeria Emilia, Strada Franceză 42. This place is ice-cream’s heaven! Here you will find an authentic gelato that will take you straight to Italy’s bright and buzzy culture. You will find an all-white interior that looks amazing, especially on a sunny day. The menu lists an impressive selection of ice-creams, Panna Cottas, Tiramisus and much more, all of which are freshly made.where to eat sweets in bucharest
  3. Origo Coffee Shop, Strada Lipscani 9. If you’re a coffee aficionado, you definitely have to pass by and try their coffee. Their baristas are truly passionate and they also serve amazing cocktails, made with the same level of care. They are changing the menu from time to time so the offer is never boring!where to drink good coffee in bucharest
  4. Caru’ cu Bere, Strada Stavropoleos 5.  The name means beer cart and is many tourists’ first choice, but it’s also the go-to place for many locals. It’s authentic, with quality Romanian food at decent prices and Romanian folk tunes are there to add authenticity to the atmosphere.where to eat and drink in bucharest
  5. Bazaar, Strada Covaci 10. A great place to visit both early in the morning or late in the evening. They have great tea and music, but the food is the thing that really draws us to a certain place, right? You should try their soups and pasta – heavenly!where to eat in bucharest
  6. Excalibur, Strada Academiei 41. Are you fascinated by the kings and queens that sit at long tables and drink from silver goblets? Then make sure to check Excalibur off your list! It’s a medieval restaurant where the waiters are dressed in medieval clothes, the plates are made from wood and ceramics and there’s always some medieval Irish music in the background. The dishes have medieval names and the atmosphere is amazing. It’s pretty hard to find a table without a reservation, so you’d better call them up beforehand!where to eat in bucharest

Where to Party in Bucharest

Who can forget the parties that take place every day in the Historical Old Town of the city? Also known as Lipscani, a name it takes from the main street that crosses the area, Bucharest’s Old Town is bordered by the Dâmbovița river to the south, Calea Victoriei to the west, Bulevardul Brătianu to the east and Regina Elisabeta to the north. Especially in summer, on any given night, you’ll find the bars full to bursting. Bucharest has many wonderful things to offer, but nightlife is the best of them. There is something for everyone, you just have to look around. Wanna know where to go for some nightlife adventure and fun in the Old Town? Bucharest has plenty of options for you!

  1. Shoteria, Șelari 17. This place shouts fun and party! The first shot bar in Romania, they have various shots you have to try. We recommend you B52, it’s a rather sweet chocolate-like shot to die for!where to drink and have fun in bucharest
  2. Eden Garden, Calea Victoriei 107. A lovely terrace in the middle of Bucharest, located in the back of Stirbey Palace, where you can find an oasis of vegetation. They have a large assortment of beers and also green juices and organic healthy drinks!where to drink in bucharest
  3. Bordello, Şelari 9. This is a club that really stands out, offering a variety of events, from live music to cabaret nights. It’s usually packed and tourists who come here enjoy the good old-fashioned pint as much the vibrant atmosphere.where do you drink in bucharest
  4. Fire Club, Gabroveni 23. If you’re into rock, Fire Club is ideal for you – here they play mainly rock music and it’s a great option if you want to ‘go local. You can also watch sports competitions around the world and enjoy good prices for both classic dishes and a variety of drinks on offer. There’s also a huge lovely terrace at the back, where you can enjoy those late summer evenings.rock music in bucharest
  5. Control Club, Constantin Mille 4. The place where you can find all the hipster beards in town! Known as the go-to place for people working in advertising, this is the place where you will have a really good time if you’re into alternative and electronic music. Hang out on the quirky terrace or stay until late to catch a local or international DJ.where to go clubbing bucharest

What are Prices Like in Bucharest?

Bucharest is quite cheap compared to other European capitals. The cost of entertainment depends entirely on where you go and what your needs are. The Old City Center serves many tourists as well as locals, meaning that the prices are high end.

But if you just want to eat or have a drink, prices at a neighborhood bar or restaurant could be half the Old Town’s prices. If you’re a beer lover, you’ll be happy to know that it isn’t taxed as liquor in Romania, so it is inexpensive both in stores and in bars.

Let’s look at some examples:

  • Transport cost: a one-way ticket for public transport is 1.3 lei (€0.3), a two-way card for the subway is 2.5 lei (€0.6), while a day pass is 8 lei (€2) and taxis cost under 2 lei (€0.5) per km.
  • Food: A meal in an average restaurant is around €8, buying foods in supermarkets should cost you about €10-15/day, but it really depends on what and how many times you like to eat. A Big Mac is 18 lei (€4), a cappuccino costs around 7-9 lei (€1,5 – €2) and a three-course meal at mid-range restaurant costs around 60 lei (€11-15)
  • Liquor: A beer bottle starts at about €0.6 in supermarkets, while a half liter bottle of stronger alcohol (vodka, for instance) starts at around €4. Cigarettes start at about €3.5 per pack.

Payment in Bucharest

Don’t be surprised to know that you can pay with cash as well as with your debit card (Visa/Mastercard) in Romania. Keep in mind though that there aren’t always methods to pay with your card (small neighborhood supermarkets, neighborhood pharmacies etc), so it’s better to always have cash at hand.

Before going to Romania, change a little money into Romanian Lei (RON), since it’s not possible to pay with Euro. You will need some 10 and 50 lei notes on arrival – think about the small change you’ll need for the taxi, buying tickets, water etc. In Bucharest, there are many places where you can exchange Euros to Lei, just be careful and check that they don’t charge a commission.  

In Romania, we normally tip the waiters 10% of the bill. Always check the restaurant bill, especially in the tourist areas, and ask if there is something on the bill that you don’t understand. Always ask for the price of the house wine and, if there are no prices on the menu, ask for them, so that you avoid any nasty surprises when the bill arrives.

Where to Stay in Bucharest

If you’re here just for leisure and you’d like to wander around, the best accommodation to get is in the pedestrian area of the Old Town or close to it, so that it’s easy to explore Bucharest. Here’s a list of recommendations for all types of budgets.

  1. Umbrella Hostel, a great low-budget place for backpackers and students traveling around Europe. Here you can find dorm beds from €10 in a beautiful 20th-century house. You can stay in rooms with four or eight beds, with individual lockers and reading lights. You’ll have to share the shower and the breakfast is not provided, but the good news is that there’s a large kitchen to use and also a courtyard where you can lay back with a drink.
    where to stay in bucharest

    Umbrella Hostel entrance

  2. Hotel Christina has a solar-panelled roof that makes you think about the eco-driven ethos that’s extended to its rooms. The cost of a room begins at €79 and they come in four different color schemes: pink, yellow, lilac, and grape-green. The beds are designed ergonomically, the rooms are fitted with LED strip lighting and they also provide a free bike hire service. The location is quite central and you can have freshly made breakfast to top it all.
    where to stay in bucharest

    Hotel Christina double room

  3. Athenee Palace Hilton is the go-to place if you’re looking for both adventure and luxury. Double rooms start at €250 and you will be greeted in a glamorous marble lobby every time you return to your room. They also provide great facilities that include a gym, a spa,  a pool and an English Bar.
    where to spend the night in bucharest

    Hilton Hotel lobby

  4. Radisson Blu Hotel is a chain hotel located in the city center, a 4-minute walk from the National Museum of Art of Romania and a 6-minute walk from Piața Romană. Rooms start from €80 and guests can choose from 8 restaurants and bars located in the building. The buffet breakfast is included in the price of your room and other amenities include a spa, indoor pool, whirlpool tub, and fitness center, as well as a garden with an outdoor pool and hot tub.
    where to stay in bucharest

    Radisson Blu Hotel

What Car should You Drive in Bucharest?

If you want to have a car at hand while visiting Bucharest, you can rent a car from Magrenta’s headquarters in Bucharest or near the Otopeni International Airport The traffic can get pretty hectic in a dynamic city like Bucharest, but it gives you extra comfort and flexibility.

Consider driving a reliable, small dimensions car from the economy section or the mini section: Dacia Logan, Fiat Panda, Toyota Aygo or Chevrolet Spark.
You will be able to sneak around and find the best places to park, which is crucial in the city center. You will keep the fuel consumption low and win extra time on your trips.

Where Can You Travel from Bucharest?

If you have enough time to spend around Bucharest, you’ll probably start to wonder what else you can do and where can you go from there. Bucharest North railway station is the largest railway station in Romania, the place where you’ll find plenty of connections and trains that could take you almost anywhere in the country. There are many cheap trains to Brasov, where you can start a Transylvanian journey, visiting Sighișoara and Cluj-Napoca.

How Far is Bucharest from the Black Sea?

Constanța is about a three-hour journey away in the summertime, when the highway is more crowded, but you can reach the coast in 2 hours off-season. You can also take the express train for a two-hour ride.re

How Far is Bucharest from The Bran Castle?

Bran is less than 200 km from Bucharest and less than 30 km from Brasov. We recommend that you rent a car to get there because the location is beautiful and you’ll surely want to explore more.

Bucharest or Budapest? Which is Better?

Many people often mix up the capitals of these two neighboring countries: Bucharest is the capital of Romania, while Budapest is the capital of Hungary. Truth be told, they do sound alike and you can easily mistake them for one another.

which is better budapest or bucharest?

Budapest City

Both cities have their charm, it’s up to you to decide which one interests you more. Budapest is often described as the “Little Paris of Middle Europe”, while Bucharest was also known as “Little Paris” between the two wars. If you want to make a choice and find out which is better, you’ll be delighted to know that there are direct trains to Budapest from Bucharest and you can get there in less than a day.

bucharest or budapest?

Bucharest City

Bucharest is a vibrant city that has both good and bad sides, but it also has the charisma that makes you love even its shadier sides. Follow our recommendations to explore as much as you can and tell us down below where have you had the most fun!

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