Home City Breaks 10 things to do in Bucharest, Romania’s cultural capital

10 things to do in Bucharest, Romania’s cultural capital

by Kat

I’ve been wanting to go to Romania ever since I was unable to fit it in on my travels around the Balkans five years ago. Happily, last year I finally got the chance to go on a city break to Bucharest and discovered a vibrant capital heavily influenced by a number of different cultures. Here are some of the best things I did on that trip.

Visit Stavropoleos Monastery

Dating back to the 18th century, this charming Orthodox monastery boasts intricate architecture, adorned with ornate carvings and frescoes. The peaceful courtyard and the quaint church offers a glimpse into Romania’s rich religious heritage.

Walk through Macca-Villacrosse Passage

One of Bucharest’s hidden gems, the enchanting Macca-Villacrosse Passage is a charming arcade that wouldn’t be out of place in Paris. Full of cozy cafes, shisha bars and artisan shops, we found this area of the city is the place to have an amazing buzzy atmosphere in the late afternoon/evening.

Take a tour of the Parliament Building

The Palace of the Parliament is one of Bucharest’s most iconic landmarks. As the second-largest administrative building in the world, this colossal structure is a testament to Romania’s tumultuous history. I highly recommend joining a guided tour to explore its opulent interiors, adorned with marble, crystal chandeliers, and intricate tapestries. One of the highlights was getting to stand on the balcony!

Eat at Hanu’ lui Manuc

There are lots of places for traditional Romanian food in Bucharest, but one of our favourites was Hanu’ lui Manuc. Although somewhat touristy, being located in the heart of Bucharest’s Old Town, the historic inn setting is fantastic and the food is surprisingly good. A great place to sample traditional dishes such as sarmale (cabbage rolls), mămăligă (polenta), and mititei (grilled sausages). Don’t forget to try the tuică (plum brandy) as an disgestif.

Visit the National Village Museum

Step into Romania’s rural past at the National Village Museum, an open-air ethnographic museum located in Herastrau Park. Wander through picturesque landscapes dotted with authentic peasant houses, windmills, and wooden churches from various regions of Romania and gain insight into traditional Romanian architecture, craftsmanship, and way of life.

Hire a row boat in King Michael I Park

Bucharest is full of beautiful parks, and several allow you to enjoy the scenery from the water. Our favourite was King Michael I Park where you can rent a rowboat and paddle along the serene lake, taking in panoramic views of the surrounding greenery and elegant bridges. You’ll almost forget you’re in a city.

Relax at Therme Bucharest

It’s a little way out of the city, but it would be remiss not to mention Therme Bucharest, Romania’s largest and most luxurious thermal spa. With a myriad of indoor and outdoor pools, saunas, and wellness facilities for a ridiculously reasonable price tag, Therme is well worth dedicating half a day of your holiday to.

Watch a concert in the Romanian Athenaeum

Renowned for its exceptional acoustics and elegant architecture, Bucharest’s Romanian Athenaeum is a stunning neoclassical concert hall. Catch a classical music concert or a performance by the renowned George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra, and experience the magic of live music in this iconic venue. Or, if you don’t have time for a show, you can pay a small entrance fee just to have a look around.

Explore the Old Town

Take a leisurely stroll through Bucharest’s charming Old Town, where history and modernity blend seamlessly. Admire elegant 19th-century buildings, lively cafes, and quaint cobblestone streets lined with art galleries and boutiques. Don’t miss iconic landmarks such as the Old Princely Court and the University Square, and soak in the vibrant ambiance of this historic quarter.

Take a day trip to Transylvania – Peles Castle, Bran Castle and Brasov

While Bucharest is a great city, no trip to Romania is complete without a visit to Transylvania to explore its legendary castles and medieval towns. Most organized day trips visit three major locations: The fairytale-like Peles Castle, a masterpiece of German-Renaissance architecture in the Carpathian Mountains; Bran Castle, often associated with the Dracula legend; and the picturesque town of Brasov, with its medieval walls, Gothic churches, and vibrant atmosphere.

From architectural marvels to cultural treasures, Bucharest offers a wealth of cultural experiences.  The city was a pleasant surprise to me, and, having had a taste of the Romanian countryside on this trip too, I’m keen to explore more of the country one day.

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