Do you have just a day to see Bucharest, capital of Romania? It has a rich and diverse history and has so much to offer to an inquisitive traveller. I had a great opportunity to have a walk in the city together with my welcoming hosts Andrei and Alexandra from Finding Romania travel agency. They organise tours for their guests to explore the best of beautiful Romania. Here is a selection of things to do in Bucharest for you also to enjoy. If you have more time, make it slower and deeper in two days.
1) Admire Romanian Athenaeum
Romanian Athenaeum is a concert hall built at the end of 19th century by the French architect Albert Galleron. It is of the Bucharest’s symbols, the most prestigious concert hall of the capital and one of the most beautiful buildings in the city.
This unique historical monument is the headquarters of the George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra. The Athenaeum interior is even more impressive than its exterior: four Carrera marble spiral stairs, an arch decorated with medallions depicting various sciences, organ realized at the George Enescu's proposal and the concert hall adorned with amazing frescoes. So if you have more time, take an opportunity to see it also from inside or even better to attend a concert there and enjoy its world-famous acoustics. In 2007 Romanian Athenaeum was included into the European Heritage List for its historical importance to Europe and the EU.
2) Glance at the former Royal Palace
Royal Palace was built extending a former boyar house used by rulers of Romania by adding two wings to it in the late 19th century to be representative enough for Carol I the new king of Romania. Palace was rebuilt in the late 1930s after fire by King Carol II. In December 1947, the monarchy was abolished in Romania and the last king Michael left his country and the Palace. Today, the former Royal Palace houses the valuable National Art Museum, with a particularly interesting section of Medieval Art.
3) See Savings Bank’s Palace
Yes, for me it did not look like a bank at the first glance. Still, it was built as Savings Bank (CEC) headquarters in 1900. The origins of the Bank date back to the latter half of the 19th century. At that time, the economic and political elite joined forces with ruler Alexandru Ioan Cuza in an effort to put the country’s finances in order. CEC carried on the activities performed by the first public credit institution ever to be founded in Romania. CEC Bank is still headquartered there, although the building has been sold to the municipality of Bucharest for an eventual museum.
4) Pay a visit to Stavropoleus monastery
Probably the most visited in Bucharest, the lovely Stavropoleos Monastery Church is truly a must if you’d like to explore one of the most remarkable religious monuments in the capital. The historic Stavropoleus monastery was founded by the Greek monk Ioanikie Stratonikeas in the early 18th century and reopened in 2008 after restoration works. Although small in size the church of monastery gives a sense of monumentality. It stands out for its originality and picturesque beauty, combining oriental traditions with western influences. The church preserves partially the interior and exterior frescoes. Monastery has a rich collection of rare icons, iconoclastic objects and old history and religious books. For visiting the museum of the monastery, a prior appointment is needed. You don’t want to miss the picture-perfect Stavropoleus monastery in Bucharest.
5) Enjoy Victoria passage covered by umbrellas
Behind the University of Architecture, on Academia Street, you can find the Victoria Passage. The Victoria passage somehow breaks off from the rest of the city and even the Old Centre. It makes you forget that you have a job or any kind of responsibility. Colourful umbrellas add a special touch to the place. So thanks to Instagram and other social media this little hidden passage is now probably one of the most popular streets in Bucharest. Just take a look, and have a drink or a snack at the restaurant under colourful umbrellas.
6) Visit Carturesti Carusel bookstore
Carturesti Carusel (“Carousel of Light”) is a breathtaking bookstore that opened in 2015 in the heart of Bucharest. The bookstore is located on Lipscani Street 55 inside a beautifully restored elegant 19th century building renovated by the current owner Mr Jean Chrissoveloni. The bookstore runs on six levels using about 1000 m2 area. Carturesti Carousel is a cultural experience providing space for reading, socializing and artistic exploration of the heart of the city.
7) Have an ice cream in Emilia Cremeria
I loved delicious ice cream of Emilia Cremeria made from exceptional ingredients such as high quality milk, fresh fruit and cane sugar. I learned that is Italian brand from Bologna and you can enjoy their ice cream in several places of Bucharest and also in Timisoara and Cluj Napoca. Thanks to Andrei and Alexandra introducing me to this place.
8) Take a stroll around Cismigiu Gardens
Located in the centre of Bucharest, Cismigiu Gardens are the city’s first public garden, opened in 1854. The park was designed by landscape designer Wilhelm Mayer in the style of English gardens and features playgrounds, a gazebo that hosts live concerts in summer and plenty of green meadows for picnics. In the middle of Cismigiu Gardens, an artificial lake is a perfect spot for renting a boat in summer or a pair of skates in winter. My hosts of this day Andrei and Alexandra from Finding Romania travel agency selected these beautiful surroundings for their photo.
9) Feel the size of the Palace of Parliament
The Palace of Parliament, earlier the People’s House represents one of the most extravagant and expensive building projects in the history of mankind. Being the world's second-largest building by surface area after the US Pentagon, the Palace of Parliament is one of Romania's biggest tourist attractions. To build the Palace, Ceausescu ordered to demolish most of Bucharest's historic districts including many churches and synagogues and about 30,000 homes. In total, one-fifth of central Bucharest was razed for the project. Measuring 270 metres wide by 240m long, the People's Palace is 12 stories tall with at least 8 underground levels. Its 1,100 rooms were constructed strictly from Romanian materials. Boulevard 'Victory of Socialism' (now Boulevard Unirii), the Champs Elysees of Bucharest was made to access the Palace stretching from Piata Alba Iulia to the Palace premises. To finance the project, Ceausescu had to take on enormous foreign debts and because of that the standard of living in Romania sank to an all-time low. Today the building houses Parliament of Romania and the National Museum of Contemporary Art. Many of the premises go unoccupied. Guided tours are available in several languages including English of course.
10) Visit National Village Museum “Dimitrie Gusti”
Bucharest has a metro so in short time you can reach Herăstrău Park at Herăstrău lakeside from the city centre. Extending on 14 hectares, in the capital’s most beautiful and largest park, Herăstrău, the Village Museum is one of the first open-air ethnographic museums in the world. The museum recreates the past three centuries of the Romanian village. So in the middle of Bucharest, the visitor can see a “village” with monuments and artefacts from the end of 17th century to the early 20th century. Village Museum official opening took place in 1936 in the presence of King Carol II. Currently, the permanent exhibition includes 123 distinct complexes, totalling 363 monuments and more than 50 000 objects.
11) Take a picture of the Arch of Triumph
The Triumph Arch (Arcul de Triumf) of Bucharest, located on the Kiseleff Street next to Herăstrău Park is one of the most notable landmarks of the capital and can be deemed as one of the symbols of Bucharest. The reinforced concrete structure was inaugurated in 1922, in order to celebrate the victory of Romania in World War One, and the event was attended by the most important political figures of the time.
12) Celebrate sakura blossom in the Japanese garden
The Japanese custom of hanami, referring to the viewing of the sakura (cherry blossom) flowers, can be practiced in Bucharest Japanese garden at an event held on April 14, in the capital’s Herăstrău Park. In Japan there is the traditional custom for people to gather under the blossoming cherry trees to eat, drink and feel good together. The Japanese Garden in Bucharest was established in 1998. In 2017 the place was restored with funding from Japan. The Japanese Garden can be accessed through the Herăstrău Park’s Arch of Triumph entrance. Even you visit the Japanese garden in Bucharest in any other day of April sakura blossom feels very special anyway.Looking for a plece where to stay in Bucharest? Choose between these two awesome hotels: Athenee Palace Hilton and InterContinental Bucharest! Have you been to Bucharest? What are your favourite places of the city? Share in the comments section. Like the post? Pin it!
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Author: Anita Sāne
About the author
Anita is a part-time traveler, passionate photographer and a mature career woman from Latvia, traveling mostly solo for more than 10 years. She is a skilled travel planner planning and executing her travels by herself. Anita wants to show you how to travel the world and open your mind to new experiences. Follow her also on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Bloglovin.