A guide to Bucharest, Romania’s underrated capital

For too long, Bucharest has been one of Europe’s best-kept secrets. However, in recent years the capital of Romania has started to emerge from the shadows to reveal its charms to the world. With a distinctive blend of historical architecture, vibrant nightlife and cultural attractions, Bucharest promises visitors a unique city break experience unlike any other.

Historical Center and Landmarks

No trip to Bucharest is complete without exploring the historical centre, where you’ll find iconic landmarks that tell the story of this city. Let’s begin our tour here to understand Bucharest’s fascinating past.

Palace of the Parliament 

Also known as the People’s House, this is the world’s largest civilian building and a prime example of communist-era architecture. At 365,000 square meters, it houses over 3,000 rooms – a must-see for its sheer scale.

Old Princely Court 

Dating back to the 15th century, this is one of the oldest buildings in Bucharest. Its eclectic architectural styles reflect Romania’s tumultuous history.

Romanian Athenaeum 

Modeled after the Paris Opera House, this magnificent concert hall dates to 1888 and remains a cultural hub today. Catch a show here if possible.

Revolution Square 

Site of the anti-communist uprising of 1989, this plaza comes alive at night with cafes and street performers.

Stavropoleos Church 

An architectural gem from 1724, its ornate exterior and interior will transport you back in time.

Royal Palace 

Home to the Romanian royal family until the monarchy’s fall, its neoclassical facade is an iconic landmark.

These are just a few of the many historical sites in this compact, walkable area. Wandering its streets gives you a true sense of Bucharest’s past and present. But there’s so much more to uncover beyond the centre as well.

Neighbourhood Exploration

To get under the skin of Bucharest, you must venture beyond the historical district into its diverse neighbourhoods. Each offers its unique character and attractions worth discovering.

  • Lipscani – Once a commercial hub, today this atmospheric area is home to buzzing bars and restaurants in restored buildings. Great for nightlife.
  • Cotroceni – Stroll leafy parks and admire the former Royal Palace in this upscale residential quarter.
  • Caru’ cu Bere – “The Beer Cart” district has charming streets lined with al fresco cafes and shops.
  • Văcărești Nature Park – Escape the city for woodlands and wetlands teeming with birdlife within city limits.
  • Herăstrău Park – Sprawling green space perfect for strolling or renting a pedalo on the lake.
  • Dorobanți – Modern high-rise house embassies and upmarket apartments in this business district.

Each neighbourhood showcases a different aspect of Bucharest. Be sure to venture beyond the historic centre to experience the true diversity of the city. With pleasant weather, exploring on foot is ideal.


night life

After dark, Bucharest truly comes alive as a destination with a vibrant nightlife scene rivalling any European capital. Whether you prefer cocktails and culture or all-night clubbing, you’ll find it here.

  • Old Town – Buzzing bars and live music venues in restored buildings, great for pre-dinner drinks.
  • Control Club – Top 40s hits keep the dance floor packed at this massive club, a local institution.
  • Fire Club – Chic cocktail bar with a rooftop terrace offering sweeping city views at sunset.
  • Artisan – Craft beers and small plates pair perfectly at this industrial-chic brewpub.
  • Grădina Verona – Al fresco drinks and occasional live jazz in this hidden garden oasis.
  • Mojo – Eclectic mix of DJ sets and live acts most nights at this underground venue.

With so many options, it’s easy to continue the party all night. Be sure to plan transportation as taxi services are readily available.

Where to Eat

Romanian cuisine deserves far more recognition than it receives. In Bucharest, you’ll find everything from traditional fare to global influences. Here are some top recommendations for dining experiences:

Caru’ cu Bere 

Historic beer hall dishing up schnitzel, goulash and the perfect pilsner in a lively atmosphere.


Fresh seafood and Greek specialities in a charming al fresco setting near the Old Town.

Lente & Cafea 

Exquisite multi-course tasting menus highlighting seasonal local ingredients.

Caru’ cu Musaca 

Authentic homemade musaka and other Balkan dishes in relaxed surroundings.

Lacrimi si Sfinti 

Innovative menu highlighting hyper-local foraged ingredients in a cosy space.

Balkan Grill 

Flavorful shish kebabs and meze served with views of the Palace of Parliament.

For budget bites on the go, try mici (spiced sausage sandwiches), piftie sandwiches and shwarma wrap from street vendors. Indulge your sweet tooth with baclava or papanasi (sweet cheese-filled doughnuts).

Day Trips

To truly experience the best of Romania, it’s worth venturing outside Bucharest on day trips. Top excursions include:

  • Snagov Monastery – See a medieval church and ornate tomb said to hold Vlad the Impaler on an island retreat.
  • Sinaia – Picturesque mountain town and a gateway to stunning Peles Castle, a former royal residence.
  • Bran Castle – Popularly associated with Dracula, tour its rooms and medieval fortress architecture.
  • Sighișoara – Medieval citadel town and UNESCO World Heritage Site with a well-preserved historic centre.
  • Târgoviște – Admire the Chindia Tower, a 15th-century landmark in this historic royal capital.

These varied destinations offer a taste of Romania’s diverse scenery, architecture and history just outside Bucharest. Public transport links make day trips very feasible.

Where to Stay

where to stay in Bucharest

Bucharest offers accommodation options to suit all budgets, from hostels to luxury hotels. Here are some top recommendations across various price points:

  • Hostel Celain – Popular and social hostel in the historic centre, with dorms and private rooms.
  • Midland Youth Hostel – Budget-friendly hostel near parks and public transport, with a relaxed communal vibe.
  • Hotel Caru’ cu Bere – Historic 3-star hotel in a restored building, combining old-world charm with modern amenities.
  • Hotel Veranda – Boutique hotel with stylish rooms and suites, an on-site spa, and a prime location near major sights.
  • Four Seasons Hotel – Luxury 5-star property in a refurbished historic building, offering impeccable service and facilities.
  • Casa Romaneasca – Unique experience staying in a restored 19th-century villa, with breakfast included.

Booking in advance is recommended, especially during peak season. Alternatively, apartment rentals on Airbnb offer good value for longer stays.

When to Visit

Spring (April-May) and fall (September-October) offer the best weather for exploring Bucharest – mild and sunny with fewer tourists. The high season is summer (June-August) which sees hot and humid conditions but a lively cultural calendar. Winter (November-March) brings lower hotel prices but colder temperatures and occasional snow or rain. Holiday periods like Christmas and New Year’s see higher rates. Consider timing your visit around festivals for extra atmosphere and events.

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Final Thoughts

By now you should have a thorough understanding of why Bucharest deserves its spot on every traveler’s Eastern European itinerary. From iconic architecture and world-class cultural offerings to vibrant nightlife and diverse neighbourhoods, this historic city continues to reveal new layers of discovery. With a mix of history, affordability and excitement, Bucharest truly offers something for every type of visitor on a European getaway.

So consider leaving this underrated gem off your Eastern Europe bucket list no longer. With open-minded exploration, Bucharest will delight and surprise you at every turn. Its re-emergence as a rising star destination has only just begun – now is the perfect time to experience Romania’s eclectic and captivating capital city for yourself. Start planning your Bucharest adventure today!

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