Make the most of your three days in Bucharest, Romania with our list of the city’s top can’t-miss sites, including palaces, parks, museums, cafes and more.
Bucharest has come a long way since its days as a Communist dictatorship. Friendly and open, it boasts a wonderful old town, parks and gardens, palaces and squares, alongside a clutch of world-class attractions. Delve into the country’s past – both glorious and troubled – to learn about Romanian folk culture, then sample the rich, traditional cuisine in a city that really comes to life in the evening.
Our perfect three-day guide to Bucharest will ensure you cover all the must-see places to visit and leave having seen the very best of this Eastern European destination.
Day One – Exploring the Recent Past
One person’s Communist folly is another’s masterpiece of Brutalist architecture. Usually, the residents of a city are proud of their main tourist attractions, but there’s much more ambivalence about the Palace of Parliament in Bucharest. Before you even venture inside, the sheer size of the place will take your breath away. The building was built at the behest of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, and delayed and tweaked according to his whims, meaning it was never truly finished. However, it still sprawls across 1,100 rooms – of which a decent number are open to the public.
Devote a chunk of day one to a guided tour, which is the only way to access the palace. Sadly, you won’t get to see the mysterious, hidden tunnels that were added at the urging of the country’s paranoid leader before his death.
Pause for lunch in another landmark, the city’s legendary Caru’ cu Bere. A former beer house, its restaurant has been around for more than a century. With a warm, ornate interior, it’s been serving hungry locals for generations. Seized by the Communist regime, it was returned to the descendants of the original owners in 1999.
Alongside the stellar atmosphere, it’s perhaps the best place in the city to sample traditional Romanian dishes. Slowly roasted pork ribs with rosemary potatoes and classic Romanian skinless sausages are among the staples of this authentic city restaurant, where you’ll also find live Romanian folk music every day of the week.
End the day by finishing your tour of Ceausescu’s Bucharest. The Primaverii Palace is the late dictator’s former home, a place where the dictator’s questionable taste makes for a fascinating experience. Even the children’s apartments were more lavish than anything built for the people of Bucharest, while the swimming pool, cinema and more add to the sense of unbridled excess.
Day Two – Visit Bucharest’s Gorgeous Gardens
Two gorgeous parks go head-to-head as the finest places to relax and enjoy the great outdoors in Bucharest. The near 500 acres of Herastrau Park are as pretty as a picture, with a lake that’s perfect for summertime boating, a Village Museum that captures Romanian folk life in an outdoor setting, plus an enjoyable and eccentric mix of statues.
Cismigiu Park offers another oasis of calm in the heart of the city. Open since 1847, you can take to the park’s pond in a boat, or just explore the flower gardens and countless places to relax. There are several cafes in the park offering refreshments, or just a spot to sit and watch the world go by.
Next, make a beeline for Bucharest’s old town. Part original, Soviet and rebuilt, it’s a place shaped by war and dictatorship but nevertheless retains beautiful Art Nouveau and Art Deco buildings, as well as other stand-outs like the beautiful Stavropoleos Monastery. The original church was built by Ioanichie Stratonikeas in the early 18th century and has since undergone extensive restoration. It was reconsecrated in 2012 and retains much of its old charm, replete with a handsome courtyard, tombs, and frescoes.
After exploring the winding streets of the old town, take root in the Grand Café van Gogh. A place that’s perfect for a quick meal from breakfast to late at night, it’s a popular, lively hangout. On a warm evening, patrons spill out on to the outside seating, ordering from a menu that spans Romanian classics, brunch options, quesadillas, and wonderful desserts.
Day Three – Peasants, Palaces, and Taking the Plunge
After covering the key spots on days one and two, day three is all about a whirlwind morning followed by some much-needed relaxation.
Get a glimpse of Romanian life beyond the city at the Museum of the Romanian Peasant. You’ll find it inside a gorgeous 1912 building. If you are initially underwhelmed when you step inside, stick with it. Its charms are easily coaxed out as you learn about rural Romanian traditions – ways of living, folk art, religious iconography and more. A recent renovation has kicked it up another notch.
Drop in on the president of Romania next. Once home to the Romanian royal family, Cotroceni Palace has been the president’s official residence since 1991. It’s a great place to explore, with ornate function rooms and recently discovered ruins of a much older monastery that used to occupy the site.
After all that sightseeing, it’s time to kick back. It’s understandable that after the sustained horrors of Ceausescu’s rule, the people of Bucharest felt they deserved some playtime. Hence, Therme: Europe’s biggest indoor relaxation and wellness destination. Those needing serenity can laze poolside, swing in hammocks or get spa treatments. Those looking for family fun can plunge down the numerous waterslides and splash around in the giant wave pool.
With restaurants, cafes, saunas, terraces, indoor and outdoor areas, and a constant tropical temperature, it’s the perfect place to join the locals at play.
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