Bucharest: Romania’s Capital – the Top 10 Places of Interest
It’s time to pack your backpack again and explore a new city – but if you’ve already been to Paris, London, and Vienna, don’t worry! Why not travel to Bucharest, which is just as cosmopolitan and modern but way less overcrowded? The Romanian capital is one of the most multifaceted and thriving cities in Europe. Don’t miss this chance to experience its exciting combination of modern urban lifestyle and historical landmarks for yourself. To help you prepare for your trip, we have compiled a list of our 10 favorite places in Bucharest. We’ve included the most popular sights as well as some hidden gems!
Bucharest in a Nutshell
With more than 1.8 million inhabitants, Bucharest is not only Romania’s capital but also its most populous city. In addition, it’s the country’s cultural, industrial, and financial center. Bucharest lies on the banks of the Dâmbovița in the southeast of Romania, about 60 kilometers north of the Danube and the Bulgarian border. There are six sectors in the city, each of which has its own mayor and council.
Bucharest is under the influence of the continental climate, resulting in hot, humid summers and cold, snowy winters. You should also keep in mind that – despite Bucharest being a large city – it can still get very windy here in winter. The best time to go sightseeing is therefore in spring and fall, when the temperatures are generally mild.
Bucharest’s public transport system is the largest in Romania and one of the largest in Europe. It includes not only a metro but also buses, trams, trolleybuses, and light rail. Despite all of these options, we would recommend using a taxi to get around the city. They’re pretty cheap and a lot less chaotic and confusing than the other means of transport, so just let someone else take the wheel.
One thing you don’t have to worry about in Bucharest, however, is going hungry! You might find some German, Hungarian, and Turkish influences on a typically Romanian menu, but the cuisine still puts its own spin on dishes and therefore retains a unique taste. The name of Romania’s national dish is Sarmale, cabbage rolls filled with meat, rice, and herbs. It’s usually served with Mămăligă (polenta) and sour cream. Sarmale is particularly popular during the winter holidays. Other traditional dishes include Mici (grilled ground meat), Ciorbă (sour soup), and Salată de Vinete (puréed eggplant). For those of you with a sweet tooth, we also recommend trying Papanași. These doughnuts are filled with soft cheese and topped with cream and jam. Be careful though – they’re really addictive, and once you’ve tried one you won’t want to stop eating them!
Bucharest is also home to a lot of great events. In May, you can attend the “Bucharest of Old” festival, which fills the streets with parades, people wearing traditional costumes, and stalls selling local goods and products. Also, don’t miss the opportunity to ride through the old town in a horse carriage! Music lovers should definitely attend the Rock the City festival at the end of August. If you’re more interested in classical music, we recommend visiting the George Enescu Festival, which also takes place at the end of August and continues into September. As the name implies, it’s held in honor of the Romanian composer George Enescu. It’s the largest classical music festival in Romania, with many famous orchestras performing and competing against each other.
The Top 10 Places of Interest in Bucharest
Now that you know more about Bucharest and Romania in general, it’s time to show you the best sights this capital city has to offer. So without further ado, here are our top 10 places of interest in Bucharest!
The Palace of the Parliament in Bucharest
The Palace of the Parliament is the main attraction in Bucharest. No trip to the Romanian capital is complete without a visit to this spectacular sight. It’s the largest parliament building in the world and also the second-largest building of a governmental institution after the U.S. Pentagon. It’s just an incredibly impressive sight! The Palace of the Parliament is located at the end of the Union Boulevard, which is closed to traffic at night, allowing you to walk down the middle of the street in safety. This is also when the Palace looks the most spectacular, thanks to the dozens of lights illuminating it.
Arcul de Triumf
You can find evidence of many different cultural and historical influences in Bucharest. They’re especially noticeable in the city’s astonishing architecture. The French influence is particularly strong, and the Arcul de Triumf is one of its prime examples. It won’t surprise you to learn that its architect, Petre Antonescu, modelled the arch on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The landmark, which was last rebuilt in 1936, was erected to mark the end of World War I.
The Calea Victoriei, or Victory Avenue, is probably the most important and certainly the famous street in Bucharest. One of its most interesting features is the CEC Palace. It opened in 1900 and has served as the headquarters of the National Bank of Romania ever since. Although you unfortunately can’t get into the building, its exterior is still a magnificent sight and well worth the visit. Its most striking feature is its mighty glass dome, which ensures that any sound inside the palace travels vertically rather than horizontally. This design prevents strangers from overhearing conversations between customers and employees at the bank counter.
While you’re walking down Victory Avenue, we also recommend taking a break at the Artichoke Social House. This urban coffee shop is well-known for its great drinks and pretty interior. It also offers a wonderful view of Revolution Square. Another nearby place known for its beauty is Pasajul Victoriei, which might the most colorful street in Bucharest, thanks to the hundreds of umbrellas hanging above it.
Casa Artelor Dinu Lipatti
With its arched windows and doors, wonderful decoration, and red roof, this building will immediately catch your eye. The Casa Artelor Dinu Lipatti stands out from its surroundings thanks to its unique design in the French style. It is buildings like the Casa Lipatti that have earned Bucharest the nickname “Little Paris.” The Casa Lipatti is named after a composer of the same name who lived in this house for a long time. Nowadays, it’s a center for concerts and other cultural events. Don’t miss out on this building’s incredible architecture and make your way to the Boulevard Lascăr Catargiu!
Politehnica Metro Station
You are probably wondering why a metro station of all places has made it onto our list of sights. Well, there just aren’t many subway stations in the world where you can not only catch a ride but also admire 65-million-year-old fossils at the same time. The sea snails, corals, and shells on display here were originally found in the Carpathian Mountains. They date back to a time when this area was completely covered by water. Today, the fossils bestow a unique atmosphere on the Politehnica metro station.
The Pasajul Macca-Vilacrosse is a street famous for its striking yellow glass roof as well as its pretty reliefs and gigantic entrance. Behind the door, you can admire the dome made of colored glass. The Pasajul Macca-Vilacrosse opened in 1891. Its architect took inspiration from the Bohemian style that was popular at the time in what is now the Czech Republic. The yellow glass roof was supposed to create an intimate atmosphere and thus encourage shoppers to spend their time on the street. Today, the Pasajul Macca-Vilacrosse is mostly lined with restaurants and bars.
If you enjoy historical spots with a contemporary atmosphere, then you’ll absolutely love this building. The Palatul Universul is the former seat of Romania’s first major daily newspaper, “Universul.” Although it was only in print from 1894 to 1953, this historic place continues to create a unique atmosphere in its surrounding area. You can find a lot of great cafés, restaurants, and theaters nearby. Our personal favorite is the café “Beans & Dots,” because its lovely terrace is great for taking a break and hanging out with friends, especially in summer. Another great place is the “Apollo 111,” a theater that also serves as a bar and a club. It’s one of the best places in Bucharest to experience the city’s nightlife.
While you’re exploring the area around the Palatul Universul, don’t forget to visit the General Eremia Grigorescu Street and its famous street art. One of the most impressive paintings here is of a woman in a wood who’s about to write or draw on some transparent paper. It covers the whole side of a house, so you don’t have to worry about missing it.
If you are not in the mood for urban coffee houses but rather want to experience the elegance of Bucharest’s glamorous past, then the Casa Capşais the place for you. This restaurant, pastry shop, and café is located on Victory Avenue and looks back on an interesting past. Back in the 1920s and 1930s, it was a popular meeting place for actors, writers, and high-ranking politicians from all over the world.
There are quite a few people who call the Casa Capşa the best café in Europe. Make sure to try its pastry specialties while you’re here – our favorite is the baklava. Apart from its culinary delights, the Casa Capşa is also famous for its gorgeous interior design with antique furniture and beautiful candlesticks.
Dining Above the Rooftops of Bucharest
How do you feel about having a meal above the rooftops of Bucharest? There are dozens of places in the Romanian capital that offer you the chance to admire the city’s stunning panorama. We recommend visiting the “Becker Bräu.” Although it doesn’t offer the best view of the city, its delicious traditional Romanian cuisine and wide selection of drinks make more than up for this minor flaw. If you really want to see the whole city, however, try the “SkyBar” – the view from up here is incredibly impressive, especially after the sun has set.
Cișmigiu Gardens, or Cișmigiu Park, is the largest and oldest park in Bucharest. It features beautiful flowers, a small zoo, as well as two small lakes. If the weather is nice, we highly recommend renting a boat and sailing across the water. In winter, on the other hand, it’s the perfect place to go ice skating.
The two lakes were built in 1780 on the current site of Cișmigiu Gardens, and the former square was turned into a public park in 1830. Nowadays, a lot of young people hang out at the park, especially at the Rondul Roman. The Rotonda Scriitorilor, as it is also known, is a circular flower carpet decorated further with busts of famous Romanian writers.
Cișmigiu Park is also a great place to learn more about the local history. Why not visit the ruins of La Cetate? According to an urban legend, there’s a tunnel running from here to the Crețulescu Palace – a building that is another great example of the French influence on Romanian architecture.
If you’re looking for a multifaceted metropolis with a rich history and a vibrant modern lifestyle, Bucharest is the perfect place for you. You can spend your time sightseeing and learn more about the capital’s history and cultural landscape at the same time. What are you waiting for? Pack your bags and come to Bucharest to enjoy a city with friendly locals and a wonderful atmosphere!