You know that moment when you visit a new city, you don’t have a long time, you really want to cover the essentials but you don’t know from where to start? Don’t worry we’ve all been there! I had trips when I had to squeeze cities like London or Florence in a couple of days.
Planning something like this means a great deal of googling, blog reading, trovering and insta surfing to get the right combination of what I want to see and do to get the maximum out of a short trip.
Do you know what I found most helpful? Tops and lists. I absolutely love tops and lists with best sites or top 10 things to do when you visit a new destination.
In this light I put together a list of the ultimate Bucharest must do list so you can get a good’n round experience out of your first trip to the „city of contrasts”.
Visit the Palace of the Parliament (House of People or Ceausescu’s Palace)
This is Bucharest’s most famous site. Whether you decide to go on a tour or just see it from the outside, anyone who visits us should get a glimpse of this mega building. It is, after all, the biggest in Europe, the second biggest in the world after the Pentagon and a sheer demonstration of power and madness. It is surrounded by controversy with locals not knowing if to love it or hate it.
On one hand it is the city’s no.1 attraction and there is a sense of pride to it since it was built using only Romanian materials. On the other hand its construction meant wiping out an entire neighborhood. People don’t forgive and forget that easily when you destroy their homes.
All in all, the story, the controversy, the size put the Palace of the Parliament on no.1 on our list of Bucharest must do . If you decide to tour it you should know that you need prior reservation, you must have your original ID or passport with you (copies are not allowed) and they accept only cash.
Caru’ cu bere is a legend, the king of restaurants and a must do for sure. I had tourists that asked me about Caru’ cu bere before anything else in the city. This place is popular among visitors and locals for both the good service and the good food. Add a stunning 19th century setting to the above and you kinda have the recipe for a succesful product.
A couple of facts about it: it was established in 1874, they brew their own beer, they serve traditional Romanian food and the menu caters to vegetarians too (they could do a little better in this section, though). Prices are middle range with fancier courses going somewhat higher than average.
If you are on a budget they have lunch specials from Monday to Friday between 12:00 and 18:00 which means 3 course meal at the price of roughly 25 lei. Definitely a good bargain!
Considering all of these, it’s no wonder that it’s always full of customers. If you are in a small party chances are that you will get a table if you are willing to wait for a couple of minutes. For larger groups reservations are a must. (BTW I recommend the lamb stew and the papanasi).
Visit the Romanian Athenaeum
This may be slightly surprising as the Athenaeum is not as famous as the Palace of Parliament BUT this is Bucharest’s sweetheart. Locals love the Athenaeum and it’s what we consider to be the rightful iconic building of the city.
Recently the Athenaeum opened its doors for visitor outside rehearsal time. It is actually a bit tricky to manage to visit it as they don’t have a fix schedule and you just kinda have to do a bit of sherlocking to find out when it is open.
You have three options to see it: go to a concert at the Athenaeum which is in fact the best option but tickets are sometimes hard to get if you don’t plan beforehand.
Easiest way is to go and ask at the entrance about the schedule and when it’s open for visits. The other option is to call +40213156875. This is the phone number for the ticket office but you can say that you want to visit it and they will put you through to the entrance to find out the schedule. It is a workaround but you won’t regret it. I’ve seen it several times and I’m still in awe every time I go there.
Entrance fee: 10 lei.
Experience the nightlife in the Old Center
No matter the age or how you like to party, you have to go out and experience first hand the legendary party scene of Bucharest’s Old Center.
If you want crazy partying ‘till morning, we have that. If you prefer a mellower pub like atmosphere, we have that too.
Best way to YOLO-it out is to go on a pub crawl. Make sure to start the evening with golden hour delight at the newly opened rooftop bar at Smardan no.7 just above the Pura Vida Hostel. Other places that should make it on your pub crawl are: Bicicleta Bar- included in a top of the best looking bars in the world so it’s sightseeing with a twist. Then cross off your list Bordello, Nomad Skybar and Laborator Cocktail bar.
If you want to experience the nightlife like a local then you have to go for a midnight snack after that. Trust me, it will be better in the morning! There are several places to get food in the Old Center, some pubs keep their kitchen open the entire night but locals usually go for the street food on Selari str. You can go for the Greek, the Dristor kebap or the ever popular Calif.
Go bike riding on Victoriei Boulevard
Quite recently we’ve celebrated the opening of the first proper bike lane on Victoriei Blvd. Everyone is happy about it-well, if you don’t count taxi drivers and bike haters. It has become a thing of the week ends to rent a bike and go strolling down the boulevard.
Leaving aside the locals this is one of the best ways to see all the beautiful palaces and mansions on Victoriei blvd- for there are plenty of them.
You can get a bike at the Herastrau Park just at the exit of Aviatorilor metro station. From there, follow the yellow path to find the Wizard of Oz…wrong movie! Follow the yellow path on Kisellef Blvd towards Victoriei Square and from there down Victoriei blvd.
This boulevard is one of the main blvds of Bucharest and one of the oldest dating back to 1684. It’s also home to some of the most important and spectacular buildings in the city: Cantacuzino Palace, Stirbey Palace, Romanit Mansion, Romanian Athenaeum, Royal Palace and the Palace of the Telephones.
Good spots to have a break: Eden Garden at the Stirbey Palace or Monteoru Terrace at the Monteoru Mansion.
The Bucharest Tour by Roaring Romania
Since Bucharest is just getting the hang of being a tourist destination, information is not yet very accessible to tourists. This is why I highly recommend sightseeing with a guide that can show you and tell you all the fascinating stories of this city.
The Bucharest tour run by yours truly covers the major landmarks of the city center and I believe it to be essential for understanding Bucharest: the history, the culture and how it ended it up being nicknamed Little Paris and later on, the city of contrasts.