Some capital cities just don’t get their dues, and the Romanian capital of Bucharest is surely one of them. Many only look at this city as a stag weekend destination or a jumping-off point for exploring Romania’s popular Transylvania region, but Bucharest has so much more than that to offer. Beautiful, complex, and loaded with culture, it’s a city that deserves more attention than it gets.
Many visit Bucharest for about two or three days, which is the perfect amount of time to see the city and get a sense of why it’s often called “the Paris of the East.” But to get the most out of your time there, you’ll want a Bucharest itinerary like this one to guide you. With this itinerary, you can spend your three days in Bucharest confident that your plans include the very best things to do in Bucharest.
Best Time to Visit Bucharest
One thing you should keep in mind when planning your trip to Bucharest is what time of year is best to go. While Bucharest isn’t one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, the weather and tourist numbers can still affect your enjoyment of the city.
For a balance between good weather and smaller crowds, the shoulder season is typically the best time to visit Bucharest. In the spring months of April to June or the autumn months of September and October, the city isn’t as busy or hot as it gets in the summer. It’s pleasant to be outdoors during these shoulder months, and rates for hotels are lower than in high season.
That being said, summer is a good time to visit Bucharest if you like music festivals, and things do quiet down on the weekends when locals flock to the seaside. You’ll probably want to avoid visiting in winter, when Bucharest gets downright freezing. To be fair, Bucharest does look quite romantic dusted in snow, but expect subzero temperatures, short days, and more snow than you might want.
How to Get Around Bucharest
While visiting Bucharest, you’ll be covering a lot of ground, so you need to know the best ways to get around. Walking everywhere might work when you’re just in the Old Town or neighboring Cișmigiu, but some spots on this itinerary are simply too far to reach on foot.
Luckily, you have various public transport options, including the metro, trams, and buses. The four metro lines under the city are likely the quickest way to get to the biggest attractions, while trams and buses cover the rest of the city.
However, not all tickets work across the three networks. Buses and trams use a smart prepaid card that costs 1.6 RON (about 35 cents in U.S. dollars); with the card, each trip costs 1.3 RON. The basic ticket for the metro costs 5 RON and covers two trips. A ticket that covers all public transport, including transfers, costs 5 RON and lasts an hour.
To travel from Bucharest Henri Coandă International Airport to the city center, you have the choice of bus or taxi. You can take the 780 bus to the North Railway Station (Gara de Nord) or the 783 bus to the more central Unirii Square. Before boarding the bus, you need to buy your ticket in the form of a smart card, with a one-way trip costing 3.5 RON.
Where to Stay in Bucharest
Though the city may look quite spread out and expansive, working out where to stay in Bucharest shouldn’t be too hard. Most of the places you’ll want to see are in and around the city center, so that’s where you should be looking to stay. The best places to stay in Bucharest are in the areas of the Old Town and Piața Romană to the north.
To really treat yourself during your time in Bucharest, stay at the Grand Hotel Continental. This palatial five-star hotel puts you squarely in the city center and offers classically elegant decor, two restaurants, a bar, and a spa.
On some trips, it’s nice to have your own space and facilities, which is why the Metropole Apartments in the Old City are so great. These modern and stylish apartments provide plenty of room and a kitchenette where you can prepare your own food.
Budget travelers have a few choices in Bucharest, but a great one is Podstel Umbrella. With dorms and private rooms, this hostel in a quieter part of the city has excellent staff, and it even hosts family dinners and events. For other budget suggestions, see our guide to Bucharest’s hostels.
For more accommodation options in Bucharest, check out Booking.com. This site consistently offers the best rates, and its customer service is on point.
The Perfect 3-Day Bucharest Itinerary
As Romania’s capital and a city loaded with culture, Bucharest is an easy place to spend two or three days. The trick is making the most of your time there, which is where this guide comes into play. We’ll highlight the best of Bucharest to allay any fears of missing out. That means you’ll see the best places to visit in Bucharest, including the Old Town, Centrul Civic, Cișmigiu, and Calea Victoriei. You should even have time for a day trip to one of the many wonderful places near the capital.
However, before we get to our Bucharest itinerary, we just wanted to remind you to purchase travel insurance. You never know what will happen and, trust us, you do not want to get stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills. As a wise man once said, “If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.” So don’t leave home without it.
SafetyWing offers travel insurance for only about $10 a week, making it a no-brainer to get. You can get a quick, non-binding quote below:
With that useful subject covered, it’s time for the fun stuff – our Bucharest travel itinerary. Here you’ll find everything you need to know to experience Bucharest in three days.
Day 1 in Bucharest
Start your visit to Bucharest by focusing on some highlights around the Centrul Civic neighborhood and Lipscani, the Old Town.
Recommendation: If you’re at all interested in what life was like in Bucharest under Communist rule, consider booking a Communist-themed walking tour. On this three-hour tour, you’ll discover the major landmarks and events of Bucharest’s Communist past, including the brutal beginnings of the regime, the nationalization, and the forced demolition of thousands of houses. You can book a spot on this guided tour of Communist Bucharest here.
Palace of Parliament
Start big at the heaviest building in the world, the Palace of Parliament. The Communist president Nicolae Ceaușescu ordered its construction, which started in 1984 and took 13 years, with chief architect Anca Petrescu taking inspiration from buildings in Pyongyang, North Korea. Following the Romanian Revolution in 1989, it was repurposed to house the Parliament of Romania, three museums, and an international conference center – and it still has plenty of empty space inside.
On a tour of this huge building, you can see many of its elegant and completely empty halls, galleries, and some of its underground levels. While inside, you can also visit the Museum of the Palace, the Museum of Communist Totalitarianism, and the National Museum of Contemporary Art.
Bucharest Old Town
Next, head over to the neighborhood of Lipscani, where you’ll find the Old Town of Bucharest. While certain streets are packed with bars and clubs, others provide a sense of what the Bucharest of the past looked like.
You’ll find many of the city’s attractions along these dense streets, as well as classic street scenes, like the one looking along Strada Stavropoleos toward the distinguished Palace of the Deposits and Consignments. You’ll also come across quite a few interesting churches, such as St. Nicholas Russian Church, as well as the gorgeous little Pasajul Macca-Vilacrosse arcade with its yellow glass ceiling.
One of the most popular free attractions to see in Lipscani is the restaurant Manuc’s Inn, which also happens to be a traditional inn – the oldest operating hotel in the city, in fact. Standing in its huge courtyard, you’ll be surrounded by rows of refurbished balconies that retain their old-fashioned look. This courtyard is where you’ll find tables for the restaurant, as well as a bar, a coffeehouse, and other businesses. The inn is certainly a nice place to try traditional Romanian food in authentic surroundings.
Just down the street, you’ll find Curtea Veche (or the Old Princely Court). This was once the palace of Vlad III Dracula – better known as Vlad the Impaler, the infamous voivode of Wallachia who inspired the character of Count Dracula – whose bust marks the entrance. Built in 1459, this site is now home to the Bucharest Municipality Museum, which sits on top of archaeological excavations from the 1950s.
Mixing things up, find your way to the Cărturești Carusel bookstore. Even if you aren’t much of a reader, the palatial interior of the bookstore is stunning to behold. As it’s now one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world, you might not believe that this was simply an abandoned building as recently as 2007. With its ornate, curved balconies watching over the wide-open central foyer, it’s yet another grand sight that supports Bucharest’s title as the Paris of the East.
Of the many churches in Bucharest, the most captivating has to be the Stavropoleos Monastery (or Strada Stavropoleos). Only the church and a small adjacent building are still standing, but an entire Eastern Orthodox monastery for nuns was here until the late 19th century.
The striking church that remains was built in 1724, with a special regional design known as the Brâncovenesc style. The church’s facade really is something, featuring ornate arches topped with small medallions of saints, while you’ll find frescoes and an iconostasis inside.
National History Museum of Romania
Having spent much of the day in the city’s historic quarter, you’ll now learn about the whole country’s history in the National History Museum of Romania. This large museum in a grand former palace has roughly 50 exhibition rooms, which take you through Romanian history from the prehistoric period to modern day. On display are all manner of artifacts, including coin collections and Romania’s crown jewels.
Day 2 in Bucharest
With plenty more of Bucharest to uncover, your second day is about moving beyond the main tourist center. To do that, head toward Calea Victoriei and keep going north.
Start the day in one of Bucharest’s main squares, Revolution Square on the avenue of Calea Victoriei. Once the location of the Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party, the square is surrounded by impressive buildings, many of which house government departments. Two monuments here celebrate the revolution: the marble Memorial of Rebirth and the statue of King Carol I of Romania, which represents a similar statue torn down by the Communists in 1948.
Royal Palace of Bucharest
Also found on Revolution Square is the Royal Palace of Bucharest, which was home to the kings of Romania before the Communist regime took over. It was built in the early 19th century, then rebuilt in 1937 after a fire. It was damaged by fire again during the 1989 revolution but has since been restored. Today, the palace hosts the National Museum of Art of Romania, letting you see great artwork along with its beautiful interior.
Arch of Triumph
Another connection to Paris is Bucharest’s very own Arch of Triumph, way up at the city’s northern end. The arch was originally built of wood and celebrated Romania’s independence in 1878; the current version was finished in 1935. With a neoclassical vibe, it definitely resembles the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, but a closer look reveals the Romanian royal crown and scenes from World War I carved in its stonework.
National Village Museum
Continue just a little farther north from the Arch of Triumph to reach the Dimitrie Gusti National Museum of the Village. Taking over part of King Michael I Park, this open-air ethnographic museum introduces you to life in a traditional Romanian village. Created in 1936 by Dimitrie Gusti, the museum exhibits 272 genuine farms and houses that were relocated here from across the country. You’ll notice that each region has its own style, reflected in how different the peasant farms look from one section to the next.
King Mihai I Park
Although the Village Museum is a highlight of King Michael I Park, there’s plenty more of the park to explore. You’ll pass from open lawns to forest before reaching Lake Herăstrău. Following the lakeshore, you’ll have loads of pretty scenery to enjoy and countless restaurants to stop at for lunch or a drink.
Romanian Peasant Museum
There’s time for one last museum today, so pay a visit to the National Museum of the Romanian Peasant. The excellent exhibits here examine centuries of history and culture in the Romanian countryside, highlighting aspects of peasant life such as clothing, faith, and home life.
Much like the Village Museum, this museum has relocated an entire wooden house to display here. One section that may seem out of place focuses on communal farming, a holdover from the days of the Communist regime when this was a museum of communism.
Last but not least, make time to see the gorgeous Romanian Athenaeum. Considered a major cultural landmark of Bucharest, this concert hall opened in 1888 and has been the city’s main music venue ever since. One way to see its stunning interior is to book tickets for a performance, but you can also simply take a tour to see the gilded dome ceiling and ring of fresco artwork around its sides.
Day 3 in Bucharest
Spending 72 hours in Bucharest gives you just enough time to move beyond the city and see what else Romania has to offer visitors. While you’d probably have no trouble finding more things to do in the city, don’t pass up the chance to take one of these day trips from Bucharest.
Recommendation: If you want to take full advantage of your final day in Bucharest, we highly recommend booking a tour that visits Bran Castle, Peleș Castle, and the Old Town of Brașov. This is by far the best way to see all of these amazing attractions on the same day. You can book a Dracula’s Castle, Peleș, and Brașov small-group tour here.
1. Bran Castle
When most people visit Romania, Bran Castle is one of the first places they rush to see. Many come because of the castle’s connection to the fictional character of Dracula, but what they find is a beautifully moody castle that’s a delight to visit.
What’s interesting about Bran Castle’s vampire connection is just how tenuous it really is. People associate the castle with Dracula because it’s the best real-life match to the Transylvanian castle Bram Stoker described in his novel. However, many historians believe that Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for Dracula, never actually set foot inside Bran Castle.
Regardless, you can appreciate Bran Castle for the gem that it is. The towering castle sits on a rock surrounded by forest and mountains, making a great first impression. You’ll make your way up from the main courtyard into old royal rooms and back out to wooden balconies that offer beautiful scenery. The castle even has a hidden passage that lets you sneak your way up from the first floor to the third.
2. Peleș Castle
Romania actually has quite a few superb castles, but one of the best is the lovely Peleș Castle. Hidden away between the village of Sinaia and the Bucegi Mountains, this royal castle almost doesn’t seem real. You’ll feel lucky that it’s possible to visit here from Bucharest for the day.
The castle is now a museum, but when it was built in 1883, it was the summer residence for King Carol I of Romania. Part of the castle’s charm is its neo-Renaissance design that borrows from various Alpine styles of Germany and Italy. Approaching the castle on foot, you can admire its gorgeous facade and the well-maintained terrace gardens that surround it.
The castle’s beauty isn’t restricted to the outside; the interior is just as monumental. Whether you just visit the first floor or take the full tour, you’ll be treated to one exquisite room after another. Most rooms have their own theme, whether it be the Turkish Salon, the Indian Music Room, or the dedicated movie theater.
If you want to see another city in this part of Romania, you can’t pass up a day trip to Brașov. This city below the Carpathian Mountains is one of the most beautiful places in Transylvania and offers plenty of fun activities to fill your day.
Start your visit by walking through the historic center in search of Piața Sfatului, the main square of Brașov. In addition to its interesting tile patterns and fountains, it features quite a few old-fashioned baroque buildings and the Old Town Hall. A short distance away, you’ll reach the Gothic and statuesque Black Church, a moody landmark that fits right in with how many people picture Transylvania. Near the church, you’ll find narrow medieval alleyways, including the long Strada Sforii, which is barely one person wide.
You’ll discover sections of wall around the historic center, as well as towers from the old city fortifications. These include Catherine’s Gate, which is now a museum, and the White Tower and Black Tower, which both offer views across Brașov’s rooftops. But the best views of Brașov are at the end of the line for the Tâmpa Cable Car, which brings you to the forest-covered summit of Mount Tâmpa, directly above the city center.
You now know what to do in Bucharest in three days. Exploring the city should be a breeze with this guide.