What to do in Bucharest:
If you go to Bucharest just for a weekend, it is important to plan ahead what you want to see. Unless, you are like me and prefer being spontaneous 😉
In any case, I got you covered!
I have prepared for you a list of highlights so that you know what to do in Bucharest. Sit back, read and relax. And if you only have a moment on the plane, you can download this list right here and read it off-line later. I have even underlined for you the opening hours and the attractions that you should book in advance. You can thank me later 🙂
//1// Pamper yourself in Therme Bucuresti
Oh, I can’t express enough how much I enjoyed the Therme. I think I enjoyed it to the point that next time I am in Bucharest, I will book the whole day just to stay there! Although, if you go only for the weekend, I suggest you visit this paradise on Earth on a Saturday night as it is open until late (1 am) and hosts a live DJ session.
Therme Bucuresti opened at the beginning of 2016, setting itself as the largest wellness center in Europe based on thermal water and the largest botanical garden in Romania. It features 800,000 plants including 500 palm trees, 2 big swimming pools (indoor and outdoor), multiple mineral water pools, jacuzzis, poolside bars and 6 thematic saunas.
It is also the most modern spa I have ever visited and I am quite a spa lover! Starting from little details like a locker that lightens up when opened to a sauna with a cinema!
Therme Bucuresti offers 3 relaxation areas: Elysium with 6 saunas, each with individual design and perfume, Galaxy with indoor slides and a wave pool and The Palm with central aromatherapy pool and Jacuzzis hidden among palms!
In my opinion, it is the best place to spend the afternoon in Bucharest.
//2// Visit Palace of Parlament
The Romanian communist dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu, and his wife Elena had a bit of megalomaniac’s problem. You can see it easily by looking at the extravagant building of the People’s Parlament that was build under their orders. Seems huge? Take a look inside, and you will truly be able to appreciate the enormity of this building. During one hour visit, you will see 3% of the Parlament, but trust me, it is enough!
The People’s House (as it is also known) is the second largest administrative building in the World (after Pentagon) and was designed by 27 years old architect, Anca Petrescu, who happened to present the biggest project of them all.
I expected from this trip to hear more anecdotes about the dictator and the construction, unfortunately, the tour was more concentrated on the types of marble used inside. Nevertheless, if you decide to visit the Parliament, book in advance and bring your passport with you.
//3// Join the free walking tour
I like to attend free walking tours wherever I go, as they offer a great opportunity to hear about city’s architecture, history, and culture. Bucharest free walking tour is the way to kickstart your weekend!
Our guide, Anca, took us on a 2-hour walk around the old town and the city center and gave us a lot of helpful and interesting information about the city’s past. The tour was moving at a good pace and gave us a better understanding of Romanian culture. Plus we laughed a lot!
//4// Go to a market and buy handicrafts
Right in front of the Palace of Parlament, is where local life takes place. Constitution Square is one of the largest squares in the center of Bucharest, which makes it a great location for concerts, local dances, food, and handicrafts market. I bought delicious freshly pressed grape juice, called Must (Must is a must! Ha!), as well as a handmade wooden top toy. It was so pretty I couldn’t resist!
//5// Hunt for vampires in Transilvania
Isn’t it what Romania is most famous for? Vampires, Dracula, spooky castles! Bram Stocker, the author of “Dracula”, did a great job with boosting Romania’s tourism.
There are many tour operators that will take you on a one day trip to visit Dracula castle (Bram Castle), Peles castle – a unique piece of architecture in Europe, and the medieval city of Brasov. I was lucky enough to have a good Erasmus friend from Bucharest – Steliana, who took me on a ride across this mysterious area. As I am a bit crazy about Halloween, thrilling anecdotes, and spooky castles, I wrote the whole post about Hunting vampires in Bram Castle here so I will use this moment to tell you about Peles castle.
Peles castle is truly an architectural masterpiece, considered one of the most stunning castles in Europe. It is a former summer residence of the Royal Family, situated in the picturesque city of Sinaia.
When buying a ticket, I opted for a guided tour around the ground floor. The castle was beautiful, and I was wondering that maybe I should have taken the longer tour? The only thing I find a bit sneaky is that many tourist attractions in Romania require you to buy an additional photo pass which cost almost the same as the ticket (around 8 euros)…
//6// Eat local food
As I mentioned previously, Must is a must! This grape juice is delicious! I was concerned that I am not eligible to take any of it with me on board as I traveled only with a hand luggage. What a pity and what a loss! Seriously, though, when you go to Romania please promise me to try some.
As for the main dish, Sarmale and Mamaliga are the foods you should go for. Sarmale is basically a minced meat rolled in pickled cabbage leaves and left in a pot to boil. Mamaliga, also known as Polenta in English, is a porridge made out of corn flour, usually eaten with some cottage cheese and sour cream, or as a side-dish.
For a Romanian dinner, I suggest you Manuc’s Inn (the oldest hotel in town, dating back to 1808) or Caru’cu Bere (135-years old restaurant in the old town with traditional folk dance). If you want to start your morning in a fancy way, go to Van Gogh Cafe for a breakfast.
//7// Party in the Old Town
Prepare to party till sunrise with good music and cheap alcohol, right in the middle of Bucharest. The old town in Bucharest is filled with bars, clubs, and restaurants and is considered the center of the nightlife. Just walk around and you will be able to choose from plenty of bars, all crammed up on the narrow streets.
The best part? You don’t need to choose just one as they are all so close together, you can easily organize your own pub crawl.
That’s it! I hope you will enjoy your stay in Romania, just like I did 🙂
It is hard to get a taxi on the street as some drivers just deny taking foreigners. It is better to always ask at the hotel or restaurant. Also, look for taxi ticket machine (you can find it in the shopping malls, and at the airport).
Start your trip to Transilvania very early (7am or so) to avoid traffic.
At the airport duty-free shop the only accepted currency is Euro. So, be prepared to spend your Lei before.
Try to avoid the word “nightclub” so commonly used in the UK. Club or disco is where people dance, night club is a strip club.
Spend at least 4hours at Therme. You will not regret it!