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. And while it is both those things, Bucharest is so much more than that. 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 just 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 it you’ll be able to spend your 3 days in Bucharest confident that your plans include the very best things to do in Bucharest.
Best Time to Visit Bucharest
One thing you’ll want to keep in mind when planning your trip to Bucharest is what time of year is best to go. Even though Bucharest isn’t one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, the weather and tourist numbers can affect your enjoyment of the city.
To find 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 as it gets in summer, nor is it as swelteringly hot. During these shoulder months it’s pleasant to be outdoors and rates for hotels are lower than in high season.
That being said, summer isn’t a bad time if you like music festivals, and things do quiet down on the weekends when locals flock to the seaside. Then there’s winter, when Bucharest gets downright freezing. Expect subzero temperatures, short days, and plenty of snow. To be fair though, Bucharest does look quite romantic dusted in snow.
How to Get Around Bucharest
During your time visiting Bucharest you’re going to be covering a lot of ground, so knowing the best ways to get around is crucial. Walking everywhere may work when you’re just in the Old Town or neighboring Cișmigiu, but there are spots on this itinerary that are simply too far to walk.
Luckily, you have a whole suite of public transport methods to choose from, including the metro, trams, and buses. The four metro lines under the city are likely the quickest way to get around, while trams and buses cover the rest of the city. What you need to know though is that not all tickets work across the three networks. Buses and trams use a smart prepaid card which costs 1.60 RON, then with the card each trip costs 1.30 RON. For the metro, the basic ticket is a two-trip ticket which costs 5 RON. However, a new ticket type has been introduced that covers all public transport, with a 5 RON ticket that lasts 60 minutes and covers transfers.
To travel from Bucharest airport to the city center you have the choice of either bus, taxi, or private transfer. From Henri Coandă International Airport you can take the 780 bus to Gara de Nord train station or the 783 bus to Unirii Square which is more central. Tickets need to be bought before boarding the bus in the form of a prepaid smart card, with a one-way trip costing 3.50 RON.
Where to Stay in Bucharest
Even though the city of Bucharest may look quite spread out and expansive, working out where to stay in Bucharest shouldn’t be all that hard. Most of the places that visitors will want to see are found in and around the city center, so that is where you should be looking to stay. You’ll find that the best places to stay in Bucharest are either around the Old Town area or in the area of Piata Romana 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, with rooms that feature classically elegant decor, not to mention two restaurants, a bar, and spa.
Sometimes on trips it’s nice to have your own space and facilities, which is why the apartments at Metropole Apartments – Old City are so great. These modern and stylish apartments provide plenty of room and a kitchenette so you can prepare your own food.
We also suggest considering Airbnb as an option for your stay if you’re looking for apartments or reasonably priced accommodation. To make things even better, you can get up to $55 off your next Airbnb booking if you use our link.
For budget travelers in Bucharest you have a few choices, but a great one is Podstel Umbrella. With dorms and private rooms, this hostel in a quieter part of the city has great staff as well as 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. They continuously offer the best rates and their custom service is on point.
The Perfect 3-Day Bucharest Itinerary
As Romania’s capital and a city loaded with culture, filling two or more days in Bucharest is pretty easy. What’s more important is making the most of the time you have there, which is where this guide comes into play. It will highlight the best of Bucharest, so there’s no fear of missing out. That means seeing the best places to visit in Bucharest, from the city’s Old Town to Centrul Civic, Cișmigiu, and Calea Victoriei. There should even be 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.
We personally use and recommend SafetyWing. For only around $40 a month, it’s really a no-brainer. You can get a quick quote below:
With that useful subject covered, it’s time for the fun stuff – our Bucharest travel itinerary. Inside you’ll find everything you need to know to fully experience Bucharest in 3 days.
Day 1 in Bucharest
Start your visit to Bucharest by focusing in on some highlights around the Centrul Civic neighborhood and Lipscani, Bucharest’s Old Quarter.
Recommendation: If you are at all interested in what life was like in Bucharest under Communist rule, consider booking a Communist themed walking tour. During this 3-hour walking tour you’ll discover the major landmarks and events of Bucharest’s communist past, including the brutal beginnings of the regime, plus the nationalization and 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 building of this immense structure was begun by the Communist president Nicolae Ceaușescu and believe it or not was inspired by 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 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, 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 a Bucharest of the past looked like.
You’ll find many of the city’s attractions along these dense streets, as well classic street scenes like the one looking along Strada Stavropoleos towards the distinguished Palace of the Deposits and Consignments. Throughout Lipscani you’ll come across quite a few interesting churches such as the 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. It is the oldest operating hotel in the city, and possibly the oldest operating inn across all of Europe. Standing within its huge courtyard you’ll find yourself surrounded by storey after storey of balconies that still retain their old-fashioned look, despite being refurbished. The courtyard is where you’ll find tables for the restaurant, as well space for a bar, coffee-house, 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 the Curtea Veche which is marked by a bust of Vlad III Dracula. This was once the palace of Vlad the Impaler, the infamous Voivode of Wallachia, who’s name was borrowed for the vampire – Count Dracula. Built in 1459, this site is now home to the Muzeul Municipiului Bucuresti which sits on top of archaeological excavations from the 1950s. Unfortunately, the site has been closed for several years as work is performed to better showcase the ruins.
Mixing things up, walk through Lipscani and find your way to the Cărturești Carusel bookstore. Even if you aren’t much of a reader, the palatial interior of the bookstore is a stunning sight to behold. As now one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world, it’s hard to 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”.
Stavropoleos Monastery Church
Of the many churches in Bucharest, the most captivating has to be the Stavropoleos Monastery Church. Today only the church and a small building are left standing, but there used to be an entire Eastern Orthodox monastery for nuns here until the late 19th century. Still, what’s left is a striking church which was built in a special regional design known as the Brâncovenesc style in 1724. The facade of the church really is something, with ornate arches and small medallions of saints above them, while there are frescoes and an iconostasis inside.
National Museum of Romanian History
Having spent much of the day in the historic quarter of the city, it’s time to properly learn about the history of Bucharest and Romania in the National Museum of Romanian History. This large museum in a grand former palace has roughly 50 exhibition rooms which take visitors through Romanian history from the prehistoric period to modern day. On display are all manner of artefacts, from coin collections to the Romanian Crown Jewels.
Day 2 in Bucharest
There’s plenty more of Bucharest to uncover and day two is all about moving beyond the main tourist center. To do that head towards Calea Victoriei and just keep going north.
Start the day in one of the main squares in Bucharest, Revolution Square on Calea Victoriei. This square was once the location of the Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party, and is surrounded by impressive buildings, many of which house government departments. Two monuments here celebrate the revolution, the marble Memorial of Rebirth and a 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, once the residence of the King of Romania before the Communist regime took over. Although it dates back to the early 19th century, the palace was rebuilt for the king in 1937 after it was damaged by a fire. During the 1989 Revolution it was damaged again by fire but has since been restored. Today the palace hosts the National Museum of Art of Romania, so with a visit to the museum you get to see both the artwork on display and its beautiful interior.
Arch of Triumph
Another connection between Bucharest and Paris is the city’s very own Arc de Triomphe which is way up in its northern end. The arch was originally built of wood and celebrated Romania’s independence in 1878, but the current version was finished in 1935. With a Neoclassical look it definitely resembles the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, though look closer and you’ll see the Romanian Royal Crown and scenes from WWI inscribed in its stonework.
Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum
Continue just a little further north from the Arch of Triumph and you’ll reach Bucharest’s National Village Museum. Taking over part of King Mihai I Park, this open-air ethnographic museum introduces visitors to life in a traditional Romanian village. Created in 1936 by Dimitrie Gusti, after whom it’s named, the museum includes 272 genuine farms and houses which were relocated here from across the country. Moving through the museum you’ll notice that each region has its own style which is reflected in how different the peasant farms look from one section to the next.
King Mihai I Park
Although the National Village Museum is a highlight of King Mihai I Park, there’s plenty more of the park to explore. Walking about 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 for the day, so pay a visit to the Romanian Peasant Museum. The excellent exhibitions here examine hundreds of years of history and culture in the Romanian countryside, highlighting aspects of peasant life such as clothing, faith, and home life. Much like the National Village Museum, this museum also has an entire wooden house that’s been relocated there. One section that may seem out of place focuses on the concept of communal farming, which is a holdover from the days of the Communist regime when this was a museum to communism.
Last but not least, make time to see the gorgeous Romanian Athenaeum concert hall. Considered a major cultural landmark of Bucharest, this concert hall opened in 1888 and has been the main music venue of the city 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 probably wouldn’t have any trouble finding more things to do in the city, you shouldn’t pass up the chance to do one of these day trips from Bucharest.
Recommendation: To really take advantage of your final day in Bucharest, we highly recommend booking a tour that visits Bran Castle, Peles Castle, and the old town of Brasov. If you are short on time, 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 & Brașov Small-Group Tour here.
1. Bran Castle
When people visit Romania, Bran Castle is one of the first places they rush to see. Most 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.
The interesting thing 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 a castle in Transylvania which looks how Dracula’s castle is described in the 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, all of which creates a great first impression. Entering the castle, you’ll make your way up from the main courtyard into old royal rooms and back out to wooden balconies that offer plenty of scenery. There’s even a hidden passage in the castle that lets you sneak your way up from the first to the third floor.
2. Peles Castle
Romania actually has quite a few superb castles, one of the best is the lovely Peles Castle. Hidden away between the small village of Sinaia and the Bucegi mountains, it’s hard to believe this royal castle is real. You’ll feel extremely lucky that it’s possible to visit here from Bucharest for the day.
Today this castle is a museum, but when it was built in 1883 it was the royal summer residence for King Carol I of Romania. Part of the castle’s charm is that its Neo-Renaissance design borrows from various alpine styles of countries like Germany and Italy. Approaching the castle on foot, you can admire its gorgeous facade and the well-maintained terrace gardens that surround it.
The beauty of the castle isn’t restricted just to the outside, the interior is just as monumental. Whether you choose to visit the first floor of the castle or do 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.
To see another city in this part of Romania, you really can’t pass up on a day trip to Brasov. This city below the Carpathian Mountains is one of the most beautiful places in Transylvania and is full of fun things for you to fill your day with.
Start your visit by walking through the historic center in search of Piaţa Sfatului, the main square of Brasov. Not only does this square have interesting tile patterns and fountains, but it features quite a few old-fashioned baroque buildings as well as the Old Town Hall. A short distance away you’ll reach the statuesque Gothic Black Church, a moody landmark that fits right in with how many people picture Transylvania. Over near the Black Church you’ll find several very small alleyways, including the long and narrow Strada Sforii which is barely one-person wide.
Around the historic center you’ll discover plenty of sections of wall as well as towers from the old city fortifications. These include the Poarta Ecaterinei which is now a museum, and the Turnul Alb and Turnul Negru which both offer views across Brasov’s rooftops. But the best views of Brasov are found at the end of the Tampa Cable Car, which brings you to the forest covered summit of Mt. Tâmpa, directly above the city center.
You now have everything you need to know what to do in Bucharest in 3 days. Exploring the city should be a breeze with the help of this guide.