Calea Victoriei Boulevard corner in Bucharest — Getty Images

The best things to see and do in Bucharest, Romania

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Whether you’re there for 24 hours, a long weekend, a week or more, Bucharest and the surrounding region is full of amazing sights, top attractions, history, culture, and nightlife

The capital of Romania is undergoing a cultural renaissance right now, with its Old Town turned into a nightlife hotspot, its many green spaces looking both wild and accessible, and a thriving tourist industry based on acknowledging the past while looking confidently to the future. Here’s how to get the most out of Bucharest and the local region at any time of year.

This travel guide is sponsored by TAROM, Romania’s flag carrier and a member of SkyTeam. TAROM operates flights to over 20 destinations across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, so by booking with TAROM on Kiwi.com, you’re bound to get a fantastic deal on a top route! Book your flight to Bucharest now, with departures every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday for the rest of 2023 and going into 2024.

The best things to see and do in Bucharest

Palatul Parlamentului

Bucharest Palace of Parliament — ShutterstockFun fact: Bucharest is home to the heaviest building in the world — Shutterstock

When you come to Bucharest, there’s no way you can avoid the Palace of the Parliament. It’s simply impossible. 1,100 rooms covering 365,000 square meters and weighing 4.1 million tonnes, it’s apparently the heaviest building in the world. Everything about it is faintly ridiculous, but in the most colossal way possible.

The brainchild of former dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu (who wanted “systemization” across the country), the project began in 1984. Despite the fall of the regime and Ceaușescu’s death, building continued until 1997 when it was finally completed. It now houses not only the Parliament of Romania, but three museums, namely: the National Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Communist Totalitarianism (opened in 2015), and the Museum of the Palace.

Even if you don’t go inside, just the sheer heft of the building is impressive. Despite its neoclassical pretensions, there’s nothing delicate about it, really; it’s simply an immense thump of a building that harks back to a truly different time.

Lipscani

Lipscani Street in Bucharest — Getty ImagesThis is perhaps the most characterful street in the city, one whose stories go back hundreds of years — Getty Images

From the Middle Ages to the 19th century, Lipscani Street and the surrounding area was the hub of Bucharest. Traders, craftspeople, artists and others brought vibrancy and money to this part of the city until, in the mid-20th century, it was scheduled for demolition under the communist regime. Thankfully, that never happened, but the area became more run-down before a drive to renovate the area in an effort to restore it to its former glory.

Today, its status as a focal point of Bucharest is very much restored, with restaurants and bars now occupying the places previously taken by blacksmiths and butchers. The whole area still feels nicely jumbled, though, with different architectural styles shoulder to shoulder and the cobbled avenues meandering gently around. In summer, it’s alive with people spilling out onto the street ‘til late at night; while in winter, it transforms into a series of warm, cozy places to sit for hours, watching the snow fall gently.

It’s also home to the ruins of the Curtea Veche (the Old Princely Court), built in 1459 for the notorious Vlad III, also known as Vlad the Impaler. It contains the old court buildings, a church dating from 1559 (the oldest religious building in the city), and the entire site operates as a museum to the history of the Court and medieval Bucharest.

Herăstrău Park

Herăstrău Lake — Getty ImagesHerăstrău Lake — Getty Images

The largest city park in Europe covering 187 hectares, the area known officially as King Michael I Park of Romania is built around the vast and comely Herăstrău Lake. Rent a bike and cycle around the lake, or a boat to get out on the water. Wander across Insula Trandafirilor (Rose Island), along the avenues of lime trees and through the beautiful Japanese garden. Grab a drink or a bite to eat from a lakefront cafe, or take a picnic and find a secluded spot in the woods to relax. You could very easily and happily spend a whole day just exploring this park.

If you’d like to add a spot of local history to your day, check out the Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum. Taking up a great swathe of the western side of the park, it’s a huge outdoor museum consisting of 270 traditional buildings brought together from every corner of Romania. The oldest buildings date back to the 18th century, and each building has a well-written description in English of its history and use.

Go on a walking tour

Bucharest has had a turbulent time of it no matter which period you examine, and there are a number of walking tours that’ll help you delve into the many, many stories that make up the city.

Examples include the Bucharest: Communism and History tour that deals with the plight of everyday people under the regime, examining disparate elements such as religion, nationalization, the redesign of the city, goods and shopping, and the role of the secret police.

There are also scores of other tours that take history as far back as the medieval monarchies, as well as foodie tours, the inevitable pub tours, and a couple of oddities like the “Path Less Traveled” tour that specifically steers clear of the busiest parts of the city. Whichever you choose, you’ll get your bearings and learn more about the fascinating stories hiding in plain sight.

Therme București

 

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Just 10 minutes north of the city proper and open 365 days of the year, Therme București is the largest spa and relaxation center in Europe. With impeccable green credentials, the 10 pools (both indoor and outdoor) are complemented by a huge botanical garden containing over 800,000 plants including palm trees and orchids.

Pools, spa treatment, saunas, family-friendly pools, and easy access for the less mobile mean that you can either spend your time playing and/or being pampered. Add to that the gym, the sports facilities, and the excellent food at its restaurants and bars, and it’s an entire day out in a facility like no other.

Most popular day trips around Bucharest

No matter how long you’re in Bucharest, there are trips you can take and activities you can do in a day or less, whatever the weather. Here are some of the best the city has to offer.

Castles galore!

There are castles dotted all across the country, up in the beautiful mountains, and perched overlooking ancient villages. There are plenty of day trips from Bucharest that can provide you with your fill of fortresses, but the most popular are as follows:

Bran Castle

Bran Castle illuminated in evening — Getty ImagesBran Castle is better known as “Dracula’s Castle” — Getty Images

Somewhat cynically marketed as Dracula’s Castle (spoiler: it’s nothing of the sort), that doesn’t detract from what is one of the finest examples of 14th-century castlery in the region. It’s got everything you’d want: towers, precipitous drops, a noble-looking courtyard, secret passages — the lot.

Peleș Castle

Peleș Castle — Getty ImagesPeleș Castle has a dreamier, more fairytale vibe going for it — Getty Images

More decorative and dreamy than Bran, Peleș is really almost a palace, with gothic revival and baroque elements apparent. A vast armory, a collection of fine clothes and rugs, sculptures, stained glass, and a mural by Gustav Klimt vie for space throughout its 170 sumptuous rooms.

Snagov Monastery

The grounds of Snagov Monastery — Getty ImagesThe grounds of Snagov Monastery — Getty Images

Not a castle, but a small church on a wooded island that’s said to be the burial place of Vlad the Impaler. The quaint 14th-century church has an ornate interior and is extremely picturesque, but, as with Dracula above, the lack of actual evidence is rather a drawback. That said, it’s still a very pretty little place.

Get on your bike

Woman with mountain bike in green valley — Getty ImagesIf you’re into long-distance cycling, Romania’s the place for you — Getty Images

Romania is a top destination for mountain bikers, with thousands of miles of trails through dense forests, across beautiful meadows, up mountains and through villages.

You can either opt for a guided trip (generally lasting from two days to a week), or simply head out on your own. Trails are generally well-marked, and even if you only want to spend a day in the saddle, there are self-guided tours available as well.

If you’re not feeling quite that adventurous, there are also bike tours of Bucharest itself, meaning you can see more than you’d think not just of the center, but of the suburbs too. It’s a great way to get to know the wider city, and a cheap, fun and environmentally-friendly way of simply getting around.

Head underground

Around 100 kilometers from Bucharest is the Salina Slănic Prahova — the Slănic salt mine. It’s still a working mine, but sections are open to visitors. These two parts of the mine are called Unirea and Mihai, and both are subject to the mine’s microclimate which is supposedly good for people with respiratory problems.

The mine contains a number of vast chambers — some containing sculptures, statues and relief carvings, all made of salt; and some that were big enough to be made into sports complexes. When I said vast, I meant it. There are cathedral-sized areas also used as exhibition spaces, and some of the old mining equipment is on display. Weird, almost alien stalactites of salt ooze, glistening from the walls in parts. It’s an amazing, eerie place.

Visit Bucharest with ease with TAROM and Kiwi.com

There are great flight deals for this fall and winter from TAROM and Kiwi.com. You’ll fly directly from Prague to Bucharest’s Henri Coandă International Airport in less than two hours, and from the airport, there are train connections to Gara de Nord (Bucharest North), the main railway station. The train journey only takes 15 minutes — and there are also buses running 24 hours — so from departure to arrival in the center of Bucharest, the entire trip is under three hours.

Book your flight to Bucharest now

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