When I think of Romania, I think of Transylvania. My trip to Romania was all about exploring this mythical region, leaving little time for my last stop in the country – Bucharest. I had just one day to discover the Romanian capital. Yet this turned out to be enough time to get a good impression of the Romanian capital. And guys: Bucharest is beautiful! In this blog post, I’ll give you an overview of the best things to do in Bucharest in just 8 hours.
One day in Bucharest: 7 wonderful things to do
Explore elegant Centru Vechi
Number 1 on the list things to do in Bucharest: Centru Vechi. It means old town, but quite honestly the city center is not that old. Centru Vechi was heavily bombed in World War II by the Allies (Romania joined the side of Nazi Germany) and therefore most of what you see is the result of restorations. But it’s done quite well to give people the feeling of what the city used to look like. In the 1920s and 30s Bucharest was called the Paris of the East, because of the elegant architecture. I even read that locals spoke a bit of French.
Sadly, there is a chance that Centru Vechi might disappear again in the future. Bucharest is located in an earthquake-prone area. When walking around in Old Town, you will see buildings with a red round placard. The text on these placards says: this building is likely to collapse in an earthquake of 7 or higher on the Richter scale. In total, there are 374 high-risk buildings in Centru Vechi, and people still live in those buildings (cheap rent).
So don’t postpone your trip to Bucharest too long, because who knows how long the center is going to stay this way. I recommend exploring these streets: Victorieu Street, Pasaj Victorieu (umbrella alley) and Lipscani Street.
Admire all the details of Stravropoleos Church
This little church was one of the first things I saw in Centru Vechi. Meet the Stavropoleos Church, constructed in 1724 by the Greek monk Ioanikie Stratonikeas. It is one of the most beautiful churches in Bucharest, because of the detailed frescoes and paintings. We are actually lucky to see it, because this church almost got demolished in the 19th century. Luckily, the city opted for restoration instead.
Want to see more churches? Visit the St. Anthony church, the oldest religious building in Bucharest.
You will find the church at 4 Stavropoleos Street.
Go book browsing at Carturesti Carusel
Ever been to Porto? Home to the Livraria Lello, a beautiful 200-year-old bookshop. During a city trip to Porto, I attempted to visit this store, but met a gigantic queue. I didn’t want to wait for hours, so I decided to go on. However, Porto is not the only city with beautiful bookstores, you can also find them in Bucharest. Go to Carturesti Carusel. It is not 200 years old, but it is beautifully designed. Three floors high, white playful balconies, spiral staircases, and many little seating areas for reading. The store is also nicknamed ‘Light Carousel’, as the place is so bright and white.
You can find this bookshop at 55 Lipscani Street.
Marvel at the Palace of Parliament
You cannot leave Bucharest without seeing the second largest building in the world (no. 1 = Pentagon). Meet the Palace of Parliament, the masterpiece of former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. It may not be the largest building, but it is the heaviest building in the entire world. It weighs more than 4 billion kilograms and has 9 floors above and below the ground. More than 9,000 houses had to make way for this project, but construction was never completed. In 1989 the communist government was overthrown and Ceausescu was executed.
- Tip: if you want to visit this gigantic building, you have to book a guided tour in advance.
Have a beer at Fabrica
Fabrica is undoubtedly the most hipster place in all of Bucharest. Located in a former socks factory, this place started as a concert venue in 2007. Now, you can find a great collection of restaurants, cafes, shops, and a vegan bakery here. Moreover, the walls are filled with colorful street art. This place reminded me of the LX Factory in Lisbon, but much smaller. Worth a visit!
You can find Fabrica at 11 Iuni Street.
Go for a tea at Carturesti Verona
A second bookstore? Yes, Bucharest has another bookstore that is worth a visit: the beautiful Carturesti Verona. It might not be as Instagram-perfect as Carturesti Carusel, but I feel that this place has more character. It is located in an old bank building with creaky floors, quirky art installations, and themed rooms. The salon rooms downstairs offer literature, music, and souvenirs, upstairs you will find children’s books and toys. And there is more: a wine cellar, a kitchenware shop and a tea room with a terrace. For sure, this is not your standard book store.
You can find this bookstore at Strada Pictor Arthur Verona 13.
Spot the best hidden street art
Thanks to the ‘Un-hidden Bucharest’ project, the Romanian capital has quite a collection of street art. This cultural project started in 2017 and resulted in a map with more than 50 works. A good place to start a street art hunt is at Strada Pictor Arthur Verona. Check out the street art first, and then relax at Carturesti Verona. Got a bit more time left? Go explore more street art with the maps mentioned in the blog post below.
And there you have it: a list of wonderful things to do in Bucharest. What are your thoughts on Bucharest? Did this blog post surprise you?