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How to spend 24 hours in Bucharest, Romania’s cool and creative capital

Even 24 hours in Bucharest is enough to capture a little Romanian magic. Want to know what to do in Bucharest? Here are a few tips on what to see and things to do, to help you make the most of your time in this cool and creative capital city.  

Romania’s capital is a city of contrasts. It’s been called both the ‘little Paris of the East’ and ‘the new Berlin’, while at the same time struggling to shake off the mantle of its communist past. Hundred-year old churches jostle with concrete, communist-era housing blocks, while medieval streets buzz with life and laughter.

Despite its history, Europe’s 6th biggest city (after London, Berlin, Madrid, Rome and Paris) is neither drab nor depressing. Bucharest is a vibrant city with plenty to offer.

We’ve designed a perfect day in Bucharest, should you find yourself with 24 hours to spare. 

Waking up in Bucharest

We can think of no better way to kick-off 24 hours in Bucharest than with coffee and breakfast in Bucharest’s Old Town. Although Centrul Vechi really comes alive at night, with an almost infinite number of restaurants, clubs and rooftop bars, it offers a completely different experience, and perspective, at the start of the day.

Old Town is quieter in the mornings. It’s the perfect opportunity to explore Bucharest’s cobblestone streets, shops and cafés, watching as the city wakes up. In fact, Bucharest is fast establishing itself as a ‘coffee hub’ in Europe, which means you won’t be disappointed. One of the most popular coffee spots in Bucharest is Origo on Lipscani Street. Order a coffee and pastry to go, or grab a table on the sidewalk and fuel up for the day ahead.

A morning in Bucharest

As well as Old Town, there is much to explore in Bucharest, including centuries-old churches, Parliament Palace and Bucharest’s historic squares. Bucharest is easy to explore on foot, with many culturally and historically-significant sites clustered together:

  • Muzeul Holocaustului – Bucharest’s Holocaust memorial

  • Foisorul de Foc – the old, 42-metre high, fire watch tower offering views over the city

  • The Diocesan Museum/Armenian Church – completed in 1915, this beautiful church is dedicated to the Archangels Michael and Gabriel

Consider a walking tour of the city, which will give you a good overview of Romania’s history – and life in the Eastern bloc.

Your 24 hours in Bucharest should definitely include a walk down Victory Avenue and a visit to Parliament Palace (also known as the People’s Palace). It’s one of the largest administrative buildings in the world (after the Pentagon) and is representative of the Stalinist architecture of the communist period. The imposing building is visible from many places in the capital, and it features over 6000 rooms.

An afternoon in Bucharest

After spending the morning soaking up local knowledge about life in Bucharest, it’s time for a spot of lunch. Grab your camera and head for the picturesque Pasajul Victoria, or umbrella alley. Thanks to Instagram, it is one of Bucharest’s most popular streets. You’ll find plenty of cafés lining the alley, and can enjoy a snack or drink under its colourful shade.

Our perfect afternoon in Bucharest includes a couple of hours of art and culture. Three art galleries to consider are the National Museum of Art, the contemporary H’Art Gallery and the intriguingly beautiful Atelier 030202. Of course, art lovers have to make their way to the third floor of the National Art Museum to gaze at Nicolae Grigorescu’s Gypsy Girl from Ghergani.

If art galleries aren’t your thing, visit the Village Museum, one of our favourite things to do in Bucharest. Launched in 1936, this open-air museum showcases original peasant houses, brought here from all corners of the country. Visitors can stroll along the streets and pathways, admiring the traditional and simple architecture of the houses. Don’t miss the typical blue house from Danube Delta, the traditional 18th-century wooden church from Maramures, or the half-buried houses from Oltenia.

End the afternoon with a stroll through one of Bucharest’s beautiful parks. Share a kiss in Bucharest’s famous Cișmigiu Gardens or take a boat out on its glassy lake (there’s ice-skating in winter). Alternatively, head to Herastrau Park and moonwalk down Michael Jackson Alley, one of the world’s more unusual memorials to the pop superstar.

An evening in Bucharest

Bucharest is world-renowned for its trendy nightlife. Make sure to visit one of the city’s many rooftop lounges and cafés, all offering unforgettable views over the city at sunset.

Once you’ve enjoyed a sundowner (shot of palinca, anyone?) it’s time to wrap up your 24 hours in Bucharest with dinner at Caru’ cu bere.

You’ll have to make reservations in advance, but with a 130-year history, Caru’ cu bere is the epitome of Romanian cuisine – and its Neo-Gothic architecture lends a touch of theatre, romance and Romanian magic to your evening in Bucharest. 

Another 24 hours in Bucharest

If you are lucky enough to enjoy another 24 hours in Bucharest, be sure to:

  • Enjoy a local tour of Bucharest’s street art

  • Wander around the Antiquities Market at Bazar

  • Visit the world’s most Instagrammed bookstore – Carturesti Carusel – a bibliophile, coffee-lover and photographer’s dream

  • Pet a cat at Miau Café, Bucharest’s first cat café  

  • Soak away your cares in Therme Bucharesti’s warm mineral pools  

If you only had 24 hours in Bucharest, where would you go? What would you see? Let us know in the comments below…

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