Romania’s capital may not be the first place to consider as a city break destination, but this stylish, diverse and vibrant city offers a lot for first-time visitors. Bucharest is in the southeast of Romania and has a long communist history, once nicknamed Little Paris of the East in 1920s and 30s.
Today, Bucharest is brimming with arts and culture, art deco architecture, impressive nightlife, a growing food and drink scene and plentiful green space. Whether you want to spend your days delving into its astonishing past, or soak up the embellishments of the present, Bucharest won’t disappoint. Let’s see what you can do in 48 hours…
Day One: Old Town, Walking Tours and Parliament Building
After much renovation over the last two decades, Bucharest’s Old Town has been transformed. Earthquakes and fires have affected the area, but recent redevelopments have helped to drive business back to this once commercial part of town. Now, the streets are lined with cosy bars, specialty coffee shops (try Origo on Strada Lipscani), fast food joints, clubs and restaurants. There are beautiful imposing old churches, banks and public squares to discover, and the grand Carturesti Carusel bookshop is a must-see too.
While you can explore the heart of Bucharest on your own, you may also want to take part in a free walking tour from various points in the city. Get to know the best foodie spots and markets by sampling local cheese, bread, beer and meat. Gain an insight into historical Bucharest with stories of Vlad the Imapler and the 1989 Revolution. Or simply stop off at the main highlights such as University Square and Palace of the Parliament.
Did you know that the Palace is the heaviest building in the world? Or that it’s the second largest administrative building after The Pentagon? Leading up to the Palace, you will be astounded at the size and structure of the building, designed by lead female architect Anca Petrescu and a team of 700 between 1984 – 1997.
Day Two: Museums, Bike Rides and Street Food
Spend your last day in Bucharest roaming around the museums and galleries. There’s the National Museum of Art of Romania in the former Royal Palace which holds Romanian, European and Oriental art. The National Museum of Geology has been around since the 20th century and has been restored to maintain much of its original character. If you’re a fan of modern art, then the National Museum of Contemporary Art in the glass-fronted wing of Palace of Parliament displays ever-changing collections, videos and publications. There’s plenty more including the Ceausescu Mansion, Jewish Museum and Cotroceni Palace so depending on time you may want to explore a few more.
A good way to see Bucharest’s abundant green space and residential areas is on two wheels! It’s a big place, so save the aching legs and hire a bike for a few hours in the afternoon. Whether you join a group on a guided tour, or go it alone, you can see places like Charles de Gaulle Square, Herăstrău Park and the old English-style Cismigiu Gardens. Tip: bikes are free for two hours from La Pedale at the entrance to Herăstrău Park.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, you evening can be spent chatting, eating and drinking in some of the city’s best social spots. Wahaka Street Food Park near Piata Unirii metro stop is a Bucharest’s first permanent street food destination. Open till late, there’s everything from seafood to burgers here with indoor and outdoor seating. Back in the Old Town on Strada Selari, Food Hood is the biggest street food market in central and eastern Europe with a great selection of food trucks and vendors. They also have live music and DJs sometimes at weekends.