The Best of Bucharest
by Katie McCabe | @awelltraveledpair | September 20, 2021
Once nicknamed the "Paris of the East," Bucharest was known for its elegant architecture and art nouveau palaces. Today, it's home to the world's largest parliamentary building, exquisite museums, and a picture-perfect bookstore. After exploring Romania's capital city for a week, I was in awe of everything this great place has to offer. If you're heading to Bucharest, don't miss these sights below.
The Old Town
The busiest place in all of Bucharest is definitely the Old Town. During the day, pedestrians stroll along the cobblestone streets, dine in one of the many restaurants, and indulge in some shopping, while the nighttime brings out all the energetic bar patrons and club goers. Whether you're looking for a casual afternoon, a nice dinner, or an exciting night out, Old Town has everything you need.
Located in Old Town is the stunning Stavropoleos Church. Built in 1724, this beautifully-preserved structure houses more than 8,000 religious and music books. Its intricate stone and wood carvings and lovely courtyard make it one of the most beautiful buildings in all of Bucharest.
Translating to "Carousel of Light," the Cărturești Carusel bookstore is definitely a sight you don't want to miss. It took over five years, seventy-five people, and more than 20,000 hours of work to build this gorgeous shop. Consisting of three floors, elegantly curved balconies, and towers upon towers of books, Cărturești Carusel also houses a teahouse on the top floor that offers views of the entire bookstore. Open from 10:00 to 20:00 daily, be sure to stop by this store, have some tea, and buy a new book.
Palace of Parliament
Boasting more than 3,000 rooms, the Palace of Parliament is the largest parliamentary building in the world. All local materials were used in the construction and decoration - marble, silk curtains, giant chandeliers, etc - and the idea was 'bigger is better.' The chandeliers are actually so big that it takes four men to change a lightbulb. The interior is truly exquisite, and the only way inside is by guided tour. Several types of tours are available throughout the week, and don't forget to bring your passport. You won't be allowed inside without one.
National Museum of Romanian History
Located inside the former Postal Services Palace, the National Museum of Romanian History contains historical Romanian artifacts from prehistoric times up to modern times. This is the most representative museum of Romania, and it's definitely worth a look. Closed on Monday and Tuesday, the museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10:00 to 18:00.
National Museum of Art of Romania
Featuring numerous exhibitions of medieval and modern Romanian art, as well as the Romanian royal family's personal collection of art, the National Museum of Art is one of the best sights in Bucharest. Hosted in the former Royal Palace, the museum has three large galleries to explore. Closed on Monday and Tuesday, the museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10:00 to 18:00.
Arcul de Triumf
When Romania gained its independence in 1878, the Arcul de Triumf was quickly built so that the troops could march under it on their way back into the city. Knocked down and rebuilt twice in the past century, the arch represents the continued strength of Romania. Every year on December 1, military parades are held underneath the arch, as locals celebrate Romania's National Day.
What's the first thing you think of when someone mentions Romania? I'm going to guess it's Dracula or something vampire related. If exploring mysterious castles and chasing vampires while listening to blood-sucking folktales intrigues you, then a trip to this next sight is in order. Home to the fictitious character, Dracula, Bran Castle is one of the most iconic sights in all of Romania. It's not located in Bucharest, but it's not too far away. After an easy, and scenic, two hour drive to Transylvania, visitors encounter one of the most unforgettable and unique settings around. Open Monday from 12:00 to 18:00 and Tuesday through Sunday from 9:00 to 18:00, Bran Castle is definitely a must-see.
When to Go: The summers are warm and usually dry, with daytime highs reaching around 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Winters are cold and grey, with occasional snow during December through March. The spring and fall are nice times to visit, as the days are cool and comfortable, and the crowds are low. My favorite months in Bucharest are May, September, and October.
Where to Stay: I stayed in an Airbnb during my visit, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. If you'd rather stay in a hotel, check out TripAdvisor for recommended hotels.
The main language in Bucharest is Romanian, but English is widely-spoken.
The local currency is the Romanian Leu, and $1.00 USD is equal to 4.22 RON.