Bucharest is a lively city with a complicated past and a rich history. Our first peek into Romania’s capital city came as we approached via bus at the end of a Viking River Cruise.


As the cruise wound down here, we decided to extend our trip with five days in the heart of the city. Here’s our list (in no particular order) of the things we discovered in Bucharest.


The Palace of Parliament

It’s impossible to talk about the history of Romania – and Bucharest – without referring to its communist history. The massive parliament was constructed during Ceaușescu’s rule and is the second largest building in the world (next to the Pentagon).


Constructed from nearly all-Romanian materials, it happens to be the world’s heaviest (and most expensive) building, breaking ground in 1978. Work was carried out 24/7 in three shifts, making it the biggest construction effort in Romania’s history.


Although the four million-square-foot building houses administrative offices and government departments (Council, Senate), only one third of the building is used.

Pro tip: save your feet from walking around the building by entering on the right-hand side (tourist entrance) as you’re facing it straight on. There are six different tours available. Photo/video tickets are extra.

National Museum of Romanian History

National Museum of Romanian History

Located inside the former Postal Services Palace, this museum contains a selection of tablets from Dacian times and an immense plaster replica of Trajan’s Column taking up both stories of the 8,000 square meter space.

National Museum of Romanian History

National Museum of Romanian History

National Museum of Romanian History

National Museum of Romanian History

Downstairs is a beautiful collection of historic gold and silver treasures from Romanian royalty not to be missed. There’s a temporary exhibition on the main floor covering war and battle (the exhibit appears to be on for the rest of 2018 as this is the 100th year celebration of the country’s union).

National Museum of Romanian History

Entry is 10 LEI for adults.


Le Petit Paris

Influenced by French culture since the end of the 14th century, Bucharest is commonly referred to as Little Paris and you’ll find beautiful French architecture throughout the city, right down to the small blue and green Parisian style signs in the parks.


A New Berlin

Bucharest has recently gotten a secondary nickname, ‘New Berlin‘, due to the amazing collection of street art around nearly every corner, coupled with a lively Berlinesque nightlife. Bucharest contains dozens of clubs, especially in the old town that stay open until the early hours of the morning.

Basilica Saint Anthony

This pretty orthodox church is located on the edge of the old town, next to the ruins of one of Vlad the Impaler’s former residences. Although the church is built on the site of a much older place of worship, its current building dates to the early 20th century. Inside, you’ll discover the tomb of Mircea the Shepherd, founder of the original 16th century church.


Discover ‘Churches That Moved’

Bucharest is filled with churches, particularly along the Grand Promenade leading to the Palace of Parliament.

Nicolae Ceaușescu didn’t find that Orthodox churches fit with Communist architecture or ideals, so when Bucharest faced a radical redesign in the 1980’s under his dictatorship, engineers moved many of the city’s buildings (including its churches) hundreds of metres on metal tracks to preserve the Romanian capital’s architectural heritage!

The oldest of the churches – 16th century Mihai Voda Church – was relocated from where Parliament now sits to a high block of flats.


Wander through Cișmigiu Park

Cișmigiu Gardens (or Cișmigiu Park) is a pretty green space and is the oldest park in the capital city, centered around a beautiful artificial lake. Throughout the area, you’ll find little follies, monuments and statues dotted around.

Particular points of interest in the 16-hectare park include the Writer’s Rotunda/Rondul Român (a circular walk lined with busts of famous Romanian authors) and The Monument of French Heroes/Monumentul Eroilor Francezi which commemorates French soldiers who fought for Romania in WWI.


Visit the Prettiest Bookshop in Romania

Located in a repurposed 19th-Century building in the heart of Bucharest’s Old Town, you’ll find Cărturești Carusel, what may well be the prettiest bookshop in all of Romania. Head here to find books on a whole variety of subjects, as well as a light-filled café on the mezzanine.

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Arcul de Triumf

Not to be outdone by Paris, Bucharest has an Arc de Triomphe of its own, along Victoriei Avenue. It was constructed in 1935 and offers gorgeous city views.


Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum

This open air museum contains a collection of churches, homes and exhibits showcasing traditional life in Romania through the ages, spread around a lakeside park. Vendors sell local handicrafts around the various houses and there’s a souvenir shop near the entrance as well.

Herăstrău Park

Bucharest has over 20 square meters of green space per person. Herăstrău Park is located north of the city and offers lots of green space for taking a leisurely stroll. There are plenty of monuments to be found here including one of Michael Jackson who performed here on his 1992 Dangerous Tour.


Stavropoleos Monastery

Within the limits of Bucharest’s old town is the gorgeous Stavropoleos Monastery. Its interior walls are ornately painted and a relaxing garden awaits you after a visit here.

Hanul Lui Manuc

Hanul Lui Manuc (Manuc’s Hotel and Restaurant)

Dating to 1808, Manuc’s Inn (62–64 Strada Franceză) is the oldest operating hotel in Bucharest. Today, it houses a large beer garden where you can enjoy Romanian specialities and Romanian beer. Since it’s close to many of the city’s main tourist attractions, plan on spending a bit more money here.

View the Remains of Vlad the Impaler’s Palace (Curtea Veche)

Although many people believe that Vlad the Impaler (the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula) was from Transylvania, he actually came from Wallachia, where Bucharest is based. The remains of his great palace can be found next to the Basilica of Saint Nicholas.


Bucharest’s Vibrant Coffee Scene

We were surprised to discover that Bucharest is a city that knows good coffee, with some amazing cafes around the capital. Touring with cafe breaks is one of our favourite ways of discovering a new city, and Bucharest delivers in spades.

Cappuccino in Bucharest

We discovered a few new faves: French Revolution (Strada Esarcu Constantin Nr. 1, Bucharest 010291), Chocolat (Strada Episcopalians 6, Bucharest 030167) and Origo (Strada Lipscani 9, Bucharest 050971).


Try a Covrigi

We were advised to try a covrigi while in Bucharest, the country’s favourite snack, similar to a pretzel. Shops and bakeries around the city sell this tasty, twisted treat. If you’re a meat-eater, there’s also a sausage-filled version available.

Take in a live performance at the National Theatre

The National Theatre of Bucharest is a cultural institution offering a variety of programming. A theatre has stood at this spot for over 150 years (the original was badly bombed during WWII).


Old Town/Centru Vechi

Less than a decade old, Bucharest’s Old Town is actually the newest Old Town in the world, constructed in an effort to attract more tourists to the capital. Today, the old town is a draw for visitors from around the globe. Here’s where you’ll find the city’s best bars, nightclubs and massage (read sex) parlours reminiscent of Amsterdam.

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