Bucharest is a city unlike any other. Known as the party capital of the world, there is certainly no shortage of clubs, casinos, and other more questionable establishments. If that is what you are looking for, there is certainly plenty of it around. However, the city also offers many other fun things to do that fall along the more calm lines.
Bucharest – A Little Bit of History
Bucharest is the capital city of Romania and has a rich and complex history. The earliest known settlement in the area dates back to the 6th century BC, but Bucharest as we know it today was founded in the 14th century by Vlad the Impaler’s (Dracula) grandfather, Mircea the Elder.
Over the centuries, Bucharest grew in size and importance, becoming the capital of the Wallachian principality in the 16th century. It continued to develop under Ottoman and Habsburg rule in the 18th and 19th centuries, with impressive architecture and cultural landmarks like the Palace of the Parliament and the National Museum of Romanian History.
During the 20th century, Bucharest saw significant changes and challenges, including the devastation of World War II, the rise and fall of communism, and the revolution of 1989. Today, Bucharest is a vibrant city with a diverse population, a thriving cultural scene, and a rapidly growing economy.
Things You Should Know Before Visiting Bucharest
Currency – The currency used in Romania is the Romanian New Leu or lei in plural.
Safety – Although Bucharest is known as a party city and party cities don’t always have the best reputation for safety, Bucharest is actually a very safe city. There is always the risk of crimes like pickpocketing or the like, however, violent crime is rare.
Airport – Keep in mind that there are two airports in Bucharest. Henri Coandă International Airport (OTP) is the main airport and Baneasa International Airport (BBU) is the smaller, more budget airport.
Top 10 Things to Do in Bucharest (Besides Partying)
If you are looking to go to Bucharest and enjoy the party scene, this is not the list for you! But there are plenty of other fun things to do in Bucharest even on the breaks from all the partying, drinking, and gambling.
1. Go to Therme Spa -Thermal Spa Complex
No trip to Romania is complete without visiting Therme Bucuresti, the thermal luxury spas located just 20 minutes outside of Bucharest (fairly close to the airport). This spa complex is unlike anything you will find in other countries around the world. This spa center costs only about $30 per person for an entire day in the multi-level spas. They have thermal pools, both indoors and outdoors, countless different types of saunas (including Himalayan salt saunas), red light therapy, swim-up bars, massages, and even an indoor water park area with countless different water slides.
We spent the whole day here and it was a wonderful way to start our trip. It was fun, eventful, and relaxing at the same time. If you do want to get a massage during your visit (not just with one of the massage chairs) you should consider booking it in advance or early in the day. We forgot to and missed getting an actual massage. There were plenty of other things to do while visiting, but if a massage is top priority for you, don’t forget to book it in advance!
2. Visit the Palace of the Parliament
Perhaps the most famous structure in Bucharest, the Palace of the Parliament should definitely be on your list of things to see on your trip to Bucharest. As the name suggests, it is the home to the Romanian Parliament, however, it also is an incredibly impressive building with a rich history. Enjoy the impressive building just from the outside or venture indoors and see the incredible architecture, the massive spaces, and the palace’s museums.
3. Enjoy the Cafes and Restaurants
The city is speckled with cafes and restaurants, with countless lining the streets of the Old Town. Whether you are looking for cute cafes to work from on your visit or yummy places to eat, you are sure to find a plethora of options. Be sure to check out Grand Café Van Gogh if you are looking for a delicious and beautifully decorated café, in the theme of none other than…Van Gogh.
4. Relax at the Rooftop Bars
Rooftop bars (and bars in general) seem to be a common theme in Bucharest and it would be a shame to miss out on the experience during your trip. Check out the famous Nomad Skybar in Bucharest city center that becomes a lively nightclub as soon as the clock strikes midnight. There are COUNTLESS other options scattered throughout the city, however this is perfect if you want something a bit more relaxed for dinner, with the possibility of dancing and partying later into the night. Keep in mind that this is considered a bit fancier than other places and they may be a bit more strict with dress code and the prices match the atmosphere.
5. Explore the History
Bucharest is a city with an incredible and very long history. Just walking through the Old Town you can almost feel what it was like to be in the city in the 1940s. It almost seems like nothing has changed. Whether you want to just appreciate the historic buildings on every corner, or visit the monuments, you can easily do both. You can visit the Jewish Quarter of the city, enjoy the Romanian Athenaeum, see Stavropoleos Church, and check out the Macca – Vilacrosse Passage. You have so many options in this rich historical city.
6. Explore the Old Town
The Old Town of Bucharest is a very cute and quaint area during the day. You will find coffee shops, ice cream parlors, restaurants, bookstores, and so much more. Just wandering around and enjoying the vibes is a fun experience. At night, everything changes and it becomes the party central. You will start hearing loud music and seeing rowdy tourists and locals. However, don’t be surprised by the prevalence of sex workers, strip clubs, and “men only” clubs in the area.
7. Go Shopping
Romania is a famously inexpensive destination and what is one of the best things to do when traveling somewhere affordable? Shopping! The city boasts many second hand and vintage shops as well. You can find some amazing pieces for just a fraction of what you would have to pay in other countries. So consider saving some room in your suitcase for some goodies to bring home! Op Shop and Consignatia 7 are some of the most famous vintage shops in Bucharest and are definitely worth a visit (they’re pretty centrally located as well!)
8. The Most Beautiful Bookshop in Bucharest – Cărturești Carusel
If you are looking for a beautiful place to get a few trinkets or even just to appreciate and enjoy the beauty, you have to stop at Cărturești Carusel in Bucharest. This bookstore is actually a chain of stores located across the country, but the central Bucharest branch is arguably the most beautiful. Who can resist those beautiful white scrolly stairwells that lead to an endless expanse of books? There is also a café on the top floor if you get hungry during your browsing.
9. Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum
Although we did not visit this museum ourselves, we have heard so many amazing reviews of this place, that we have it on the top of our list for the next time we are in Bucharest. This massive outdoor museum gives you a better understanding of the history of Romania and how villages would live in different areas of the country throughout history. There are almost 300 historic building, built from many different materials and from many different eras. It is located about a 20 minute drive from central Bucharest, however, so keep that in mind!
10. Visit Bucharest’s Museums
No city recommendation list is complete without at least touching on the city’s museums. Bucharest is no exception and boasts a fine list of museums that range across many different genres. The National Art Museum, the National Museum of Roman History, and the Romanian Peasant Museum are among the most famous.
Where to Stay in Bucharest
Bucharest is a pretty large city and it can be quite daunting to look at the options of places to stay. We stayed in a few different areas throughout the city including the Jewish Quarter and the Old Town, and would mostly recommend the Old Town due to the convenience and location of it. It allows you to visit the most popular tourist attractions within walkable distance and is the perfect place if you want to party. However, it can be on the noisier side due to the guarantee of parties that are taking place on every corner. Piata Romana is a trendy and hip area of the city that offers a slightly more upscale vibe without breaking the bank.
Getting Around in Bucharest
Bucharest, at least the touristic parts of it, is a very walkable city. If you are staying in the city center or the Old Town, you will find that you can walk to just about any of the locations that you are hoping to visit. However, the city also offers a great public transportation system if you are hoping to visit something that is a bit further away. Busses, the metro, and trams are easily found and navigable.
We rented a car for our entire visit to Romania and so this included the potion of the trip that we spend in Bucharest. There were plenty of parking garages with relatively inexpensive parking fees throughout the city. Street parking was apparently also available, but we did not want to try to navigate the street signs and just stuck with a parking garage instead. Just as a warning, the road systems were a bit confusing in Bucharest and it was not a fun city to drive in (most cities aren’t). So only consider this if you are a confident driver.
Taxis are also readily available and you can use trusted apps like Uber throughout the city.
How Many Days to Spend in Bucharest
If you are looking only to party, you can spend as many days as you like in Bucharest. However, 2-3 days is usually more than enough time to enjoy everything that the city has to offer. You can dapple in the party scene, visit thermal spas, and explore the city’s history easily in that amount of time.
Although Bucharest has its charms, we did not particularly love the city itself. I think that Romania has a lot of other quaint, idyllic, and beautiful cities to be proud of and you can check out the list here: 10 Spectacular Cities to Visit in Romania | From Big Cities to Quaint Villages10 Spectacular Cities to Visit in Romania | From Big Cities to Quaint Villages
If you are looking for more fun things to do in Romania, check out this list: Visiting Romania? 15 Memorable, Unique, and Adventure Activities
Lots of Love and Safe Travels,
Danielle and Brooke, Colorful Sisters