Experience Bucharest – Top 5 Sights and Attractions

Experience Bucharest – Top 5 Sights and Attractions
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What to see in Bucharest? – A Bucharest Bucket List

 

 

Bucharest – An Introduction

Bucharest – the capital city of Romania and also the largest, usually acts as the entry point into Romania and as a gateway to the historic region of Transylvania comprising cities like Sighisoara, Brasov, Cluj – Napoca, Sibiu among others. Dating back to 1459 (as per some documents), the legend has it that the city of Bucharest on the banks of Dambovita River was founded by Bucor, a shepherd – the name literally meaning ‘joy’. His flute playing apparently dazzled the people and his hearty wine from nearby vineyards endeared him to the local traders, who gave his name to the place.

I visited Bucharest for the first time back in May 2018, as a part of the Experience Bucharest and Experience Romania initiative. After a year, I got the chance of visiting Romania again in July 2019, and this time I experienced a yet a different shade of Bucharest. While Communism changed the face of Bucharest forever, Bucharest has grown into a promising metropolitan European capital city, and the Bucharest of today – which is without a doubt, one of the best destinations in the World for Solo Travellers, has become a very interesting mix of old and new that has little to do with its former reputation.

With so much of history associated with a lot of buildings and neighbourhoods, to get a good understanding of what Bucharest is all about and what it has to offer, I highly recommend you spend a minimum of 3 days in this capital city, which is home to three big parks, a lot of churches and also the second largest administrative building in the world (after Pentagon) – the Palace of Parliament.

If you’re wondering what to do in Bucharest? Or What are the top things to do in Bucharest? I highly recommend that YOU check out these 5 Sights in Bucharest that should definitely be there on your bucket list, irrespective of the days you decide to stay.

Also if you are not aware, three of these places – Bucharest Old Town, the Romanian Athenaeum and the Palace of Parliament, Bucharest have a Bollywood connection. These are 3 of the 5 Iconic Gems in Romania where the bollywood movie Singh is Bliing was shot.

 

 

 

Palace of Parliament

The Palace of Parliament is the world’s second-largest authoritative structure (after the Pentagon) and will presumably be the first spot you visit in Bucharest, as it is without a doubt, one of the most iconic landmarks in Bucharest. However, please note that the entry is by guided visit only, so please book ahead. Entry to the palace is from B-dul Naţiunile Unite on the structure’s northern side (to discover it, face the front of the palace from B-dul Unirii and stroll around the structure to the right).

In front of the Palace of Parliament on my ride by Blinkee

 

A guided tour of the Palace of Parliament takes visitors through a small selection of dazzling rooms, huge halls and quarters used by the Senate (when not in session). 

It was commissioned under the communist dictatorship of Ceausescu, who employed 700 architects, and around 20,000 odd workers for this venture and, you too can visit this 12 storied fortress and see the grandeur for yourself. 

This 270 m by 240 m Neoclassical structure exists as much underground as it is visible over the ground, and on the off chance that the measurements don’t give you a legitimate picture, at that point simply note that the structure has more than 1,100 rooms!

While the Palace of Parliament is visible from most parts of Bucharest, its real impact needs to be experienced and grandeur to be admired, up close at Strada Izvor.

 

 

Arcul de Triumf

The next iconic attraction in Bucharest that you need to visit is the iconic Arcul de Triumf (Arch of Triumph). Raised in 1922, to commemorate the fallen soldiers in World War 1, the original Arc was made of wood. It was then replaced by the concrete version that we see today, standing at 27 m high, and inaugurated in September 1936. 

It was designed by architect Petre Antonescu and decorated by famous Romanian sculptors, including Ion Jalea and Dimitrie Paciurea.

Today, the Arcul de Triumf stands as a monument of Independence, honouring the martyrs of both the War of Independence (1878) and World War 1 (1922); and is visited by tourists around the year.  Every year on 1st December, a military parade is held under Arcul de Triumf on the occasion of Romania’s National Day.

 

There is a staircase leading all the way up, however it’s open only on special occasions. The view from the top, is indeed a panoramic one overlooking one of the busiest roundabouts in Bucharest.

It’s not everyday that you get the chance to view the city from the top of Arcul de Triumf, and I’ve been lucky to have done this twice, thanks to Experience Bucharest.

 

 

Bucharest Old Town

Any trip to Bucharest is incomplete without spending some time in the vibrant Bucharest Old Town, sometimes referred to as Little Paris, or as Centru Vechi (the old centre) by the locals. 

After decades of neglect, major infrastructure renovation works have breathed new life into Bucharest’s Old Town, and made this vibrant city centre a hub of activities. A walk through the cobbled stone streets, lined with historic buildings, is definitely one of the best things to do in Bucharest, and warrants a blog post of its own as well 😝

Some of the best experiences to have in Old Town Bucharest are, to visit the churches, go pub crawling, trying out yummy Romanian dishes, visiting one of World’s most beautiful bookstores – Carturesti Carousel among others.

The Instagrammable Carturesti Carousel in Bucharest

 

The historic architecture, the old churches, the outdoor terraces and cafés and the romantic feel make the Old Town, one of the most enticing areas of the city, and something that you don’t want to miss out on for sure.

 

 

Two of the best restaurants and bars in Bucharest Old Town that I recommend you to experience are the Pura Vida Sky Bar and NOMAD Skybar. Sundowners at Pura Vida Sky Bar is an experience in itself. 😎

 

One of the best ways to explore Bucharest Old Town is to join one of the Free Walking Tours by BTrip Bucharest. This way not only will you get to know your way around, but also learn about the history associated with multiple sights.

 

Sunset Vibes at Pura Vida Sky Bar

 

 

Romanian Athenaeum

Another one of the striking attractions of Bucharest within walking distance of Bucharest Old Town, on Victory Avenue, is the Romanian Athenaeum. Built between 1886 and 1888, Romanian Athenaeum, dubbed as the Romanian Temple of Arts, is essentially a grand concert hall. It is home to the George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra and normally only opens during concerts.

One of the finest buildings in Bucharest, The façade of the Romanian Athenaeum is guarded, so to say, by 6 monumental 12 meters high columns, and the entire structure is overtopped by a monumental dome which rises to 41 meters above the ground level. 

The Romanian Athenaeum is without a doubt one of the most Instagrammable locations in Bucharest.

 

The inside of the athenaeum has a capacity of almost 800 seats, and its highlights refer to the 12 Carrara marble hallway columns and to the four monumental Gothic stairs which make the connection between sundry sections of the venue.

The Romanian Athenaeum is one such landmark in Bucharest, that will definitely not go unnoticed, as you explore Bucharest on foot, primarily because of the majestic facade. Almost all the walking tours in Bucharest, cover this Bucharest attraction as well.

Seeing the grandeur of the Romanian Athenaeum from inside was definitely one of the highlights of my first trip to Bucharest in May 2018.

 

 

Piața Unirii / Unirii Square

Piața Unirii or Union Square / Unification Square in english, is one of the largest squares in Bucharest. Originally built during the Communist era as the Boulevard of the Victory of Socialism, it was renamed after the Romanian Revolution.

Today Piața Unirii is home to 44 synchronised musical fountains, however before the 1980’s, this area was home to houses and food markets, and was pretty small, compared to what it is today.

While the fountains have been there for quite a while, it was only in late 2018, when a major refurbishment took place, making it one of the major Bucharest attractions. It is now designed as per latest technologies, and is a spectacle to admire. Every weekend from May to October in the evening at 8:30, for a duration of 45 minutes, the Unirii square in Bucharest is filled with spectators, who come to witness the Symphony of Water – A synchronized fountain spectacle accompanied with colourful lights music, leaves everyone in awe.

Bucharest – Symphony of Water | Photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash

 

PS – It gets crowded, so make sure to reach there before time – giving you plenty of time to choose a good vantage point, to enjoy this spectacle without anyone obstructing your view. 

Also note that this is also walking distance from Bucharest Old Town (opposite direction of the Romanian Athenaeum), so you can plan your route accordingly. 

 

 

Bucharest One Day Travel Itinerary

All of these 5 Sights and Attractions in Bucharest can be covered in a day. A suggested Bucharest One Day Itinerary can be as follows : 

Start the day by strolling around the cobbled stone streets of Bucharest Old Town, understanding the history of the different structures, then head towards the Palace of Parliament for a guided tour (check the timings and tickets here). 

While exploring Bucharest, if you want to grab a quick bite, look out for Langos – which is one of the Best Street Food in Europe.

Thereafter head back towards Bucharest Old Town, covering both Arcul de Triumf and Romanian Athenaeum. If time permits, do spend some time surrounded by greenery by visiting one of the three major parks in Bucharest such as the Herăstrău Park. Come evening, make your way to Pura Vida Sky Bar for a couple of drinks, whilst enjoying the sunset. 

And finally around 8ish, start making your way on foot towards Piața Unirii, to witness the musical fountains. Post this, you can go on a Pub Crawl in Bucharest Old Town, have a hearty traditional meal, such as the sumptuous Gulas, and call it a day.

 

 

Where to Stay in Bucharest?

If you are wondering Where to stay in Bucharest? Here’s my recommendations : 

Budget Properties / Hostels in BucharestPura Vida Sky Bar and Hostel | Little Bucharest Old Town Hostel

Mid Range Properties in BucharestMercure Bucharest City Centre | ibis Styles Bucharest City Centre | Novotel Bucharest City Centre

Luxury Properties in BucharestJW Marriott Bucharest Grand Hotel | Intercontinental Hotel Bucharest

 

View from InterContinental Bucharest

 

 

Hope you guys enjoyed reading about these Top 5 Sights and Attractions in Bucharest. If you want to read more of my Romania travel articles published here on the Eat | Travel | Live | Repeat blog, check these out :

 

 

Don’t forget to Pin this Bucharest Travel Bucket List featuring 5 Unmissable Sights and Attractions in Bucharest and if you have any queries, or need any help in planning a trip to Romania, please feel free to drop in a mail to arnav@theETLRblog.com

 

 

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14 thoughts on “Experience Bucharest – Top 5 Sights and Attractions”

  • You had me convinced to visit Bucharist right from the parliament building on! The building is amazing and with 1,100 rooms, the tour would take forever. Old Town also sounds pretty amazing. I still love to browse bookstores, so this is the place I would be. I had never considered visiting Bucharist before, but it is good to know that it is a safe Country to travel to as I’m a solo traveller.

  • Bucharest is a city steeped in heritage and its rich history lives on in its magnificent buildings. The Palace of the Parliament looks so magnificent as also the other structures. But what really had my attention riveted was the Arcul de Triumf, it reminds me of the Arc de Triomphe o Paris. Bucharest indeed seems to be a delight for those interested in heritage and architecture.

  • Carturesti Carousel stole my heart. Such a pretty place. Bucharest is high on my list. Such an engaging city. One can do so much. A great city for architecture lovers. Thank you for the virtual tour. I so wish that I land there soon after the Covid era.

  • Wow! This is amazing. I had no idea that there are a lot of sights and attractions in Bucharest. I would love to watch their symphony of water and see the Romanian Athenaeum. I remember watching a water show in Singapore and it was amazing. Thank you for sharing this itinerary and tips. I would really love to visit in the future.

  • Thanks so much for this introduction to Bucharest! I really wanted to go when I went to Central Europe last year, and there just wasn’t enough time. Old Town sounds like it’s right up my alley. Saving this for when I get back to Europe and can go to Romania 🙂

  • I had started looking into visit much less popular destinations in Europe just before lockdown and Romania feathered quite high on my list. I would surely start with Bucharest and after reading this post would have nee a great lace to start my trip. Would be fun to get a ride around the Palace of Parliament on Blinkee. It does look similar to may other cities in Europe. Thanks for sharing this great city with us and the highlights.
    amar singh recently posted…Best Lavender Fields near London.My Profile

  • The one day seems to be filled with so much that I know I would have felt as if it were not enough. Sign me up for a walking tour or a bike tour and I know that I would make the most of it. The Arcul de Triumf seems quite similar to the Paris Arc de Triomphe. Of course, they both honor the dead. Loved your virtual tour that has left me longing for more.

  • Bucharest has a bollywood connection? Who knewI Union square and the symphony of water sound amazing. Old town and the architecture is really interesting. I hope to see it first hand sometime!

  • I have always wanted to visit Romania, especially Bucharest. You’ve outlined a lot of great places to visit in the city which I’ll be adding to my list of things to do there! Thanks for all the great tips and insights.

  • This is a GREAT comprehensive review of the city. It is wonderful to have a good mix of culture, food, history, and architecture all on one post. Romaina is on our ever-growing list of places we want to explre, so this post will be verry useful. Little Paris sounds charming and it looks like even walking through the streets and enjoying the cities energy would be very relaxing!

  • I actually didn’t know that the Pentagon was considered the largest authoritative structure in the world. I used to live down the street from the Pentagon! It sounds like there is quite a bit to see and do around Bucharest. I would love to see the Old Town and that beautiful foundation.

  • What a fantastic overview of Bucharest. It’s somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for a long time. The Old Town looks so charming, I’d love to stroll through the streets and get lost. Hopefully some day I’ll get to visit and now I will be sure to enjoy a free walking tour, take in the Symphony of Water and try some Langos – I love street food!
    Lynne Sarao recently posted…Chasing Waterfalls in the Finger Lakes, New YorkMy Profile

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