What to do in Bucharest in 48 hours

Bucharest has often been referred to as the Paris of the East in the past and if you're visiting Romania, you're likely to start your trip at the capital city (Bucureşti in Romanian), which will give you 24 - 48 hours to explore. Although I loved Transylvania a lot more because of all the history, landscapes, charming little villages and old towns, if you're a big city person, you'll love Bucharest too. Read on for information on What to do in Bucharest in 48 hours.

We often choose vacation destinations which are very different from the city where we live. I live in a big city with skyscrapers, lots of glitz and glamour, hardly any greenery or nature, almost no wildlife (barring a few Arabian Oryx, falcons and camels) and a great nightlife. I'm not complaining but when I travel, I prefer going to a place that has mountains, lakes, greenery, small villages and towns and a lot of history. For me, Bucharest was only the starting point of my Romanian journey and so I chose to spend some time exploring the city, before getting out to literally greener pastures, the bucolic scenes and historical treasures.

What to do in Bucharest

I was lucky to know a few locals in Bucharest (an old friend who showed me around while I was there and a new friend I made on my flight to Bucharest) who apprised me of the turbulent history of the country and the impact of communism. An insight into the city's historical past helped me better understand their culture, the architecture and people's lifestyle. Bucharest is dotted with several examples of the traditional, simple life of the people vs the crass changes that came about after communism, the account of the locals and their experiences and the aftermath of repressive government, which was finally overthrown in the late 1980s.

Today, Bucharest is a burgeoning city, with remnants of its past which can be seen in majestic buildings, old churches and monasteries. Great nightlife, a vibrant cafe culture, museums, cobbled stone streets and extensively spread green parks in the middle of the city are some things you can expect to see in Bucharest in 48 hours.

What to do in Bucharest

#1 Old Town (Centru Vechi)

Perhaps the most buzzing part of the city, Bucharest's Old Town is not really that old. It is, however, as lively as any other Old Town you would've been to in Europe, with several patio cafes, bars, lounges, boutiques and souvenir shops along the way. The pedestrian street is surrounded by impressive buildings with admirable architecture.

What to do in Bucharest
Bucharest Old Town

What to do in Bucharest
Bucharest Old Town

While here, do visit Caru Cu Bere, a popular restaurant with authentic Romanian cuisine, offering a massive seating space, both indoors & outdoors. The building itself is a gothic revival building with some of the most impressive interiors that will take you back in time. Do not forget to try the local dessert - Papanasi. 

What to do in Bucharest
Caru cu Bere

Recommended Budget Stay in Old Town Bucharest: 

Antique Hostel: Located bang in the middle of the Old Town, with easy access to the best bars, restaurants, cafes and the iconic monuments, museums and parks. You can also choose to stay in a private room.

#2 Walk along Calea Victoriei, from Dambovita river to Romanian Atheneum

This 1.5 km walk starts at the City Courthouse (near Piata Unirii), passing through some of the most iconic treasures of the city such as the National Museum of Romanian History, National Museum of Art, CEC Palace, Stavropoleos Monastery Church and Romanian Athenaeum. All these places are worth visiting, especially if you're into history, museums, art and architecture. CEC Palace is a landmark of architecture and history, a neoclassical masterpiece from the 19th century. The building is a bank so there really isn't much to see inside it but the majestic architecture, especially during the evening, stands tall and makes for a fantastic background for your pictures.

What to do in Bucharest
CEC Palace

What to do in Bucharest
City Courthouse on River Dambovita

Stavropoleos Monastery Church, located in the middle of the Old Town, a little off from Calea Victoriei, is one of the few monuments in the city which survived all calamities and stands in the middle of the reconstructed new old town. Made in the Brancovan architectural style, you will almost stumble upon this little piece while walking in the pedestrian streets, and even if you don't step inside the church or its courtyard, you will love the rich stone carved roof and painted walls of the church's exteriors.

What to din Bucharest
Stavropoleos Monastery

As you walk along Calea Victoriei, you'll cross two of Bucharest's most famous museums - National Museum of Art and National Museum of Romanian History. Due to the shortage of time (and my lack of interest in museums), I skipped them but you may choose to spend a couple of hours learning in detail about Romania's intriguing and tumultuous history or the growth of art in the region.

At the end of the road, you will reach the Romanian Atheneum. Built in the late 19th century, it is now used only for concerts and I couldn't get a chance to peek inside but even a photo of the building from the outside was totally worth it. There was wedding shooting taking place at the same time in the grounds and several other people sunbathing in the vicinity. From what I've heard, the interiors are equally majestic and display art pieces portraying Romania's history.

What to do in Bucharest
Romanian Atheneum

#3 Palace of the Parliament

An extremely controversial yet magnificent building in the city is of the Palace of the Parliament (or Casa Poporului). If you wish to see the building from the inside, a guided tour must be pre-booked. The building is so massive in its size that it is still half unused and inaccessible to anyone. An extravagant project that was taken on by the last Communist Leader and Dictator, Nicolae Ceauşescu’s, it received a lot of flack from the locals who felt their funds could have been better utilised. His dream, however, was to create the largest palace in the world and to achieve this, several historical and religious structures were demolished, including churches, monasteries and temples. After Nicolae Ceausescu was forced to flee in 1989, the incomplete palace was taken over to house the Parliament, which is what it is now used for.

What to do in Bucharest
Palace of the Parliament

Although I did not take a tour inside the building, it seems the palace has some really classy interiors with chandeliers, marble staircases, wooden balconies and masterpieces that were representative of the crassness of Nicolae's narcissistic dream. The building also houses the Museum of Modern Art, in case that might interest you!

#4 Cotroceni Palace

A bit far off from the buzzing part of the city, Cotroceni Palace is the Presidential Administration's Head office and the President's residence. Unlike most other monuments in the city, this Baroque-style masterpiece can only be viewed if you're taking a pre-booked guided tour. Hidden by high walls that surround the palace, it is nearly impossible to access any part of the building unless you've bought a ticket at least 24 hours in advance and are carrying your passport/identity on you. A beautifully manicured garden and spacious, artistically designed interiors, an art collection of the royal family and a massive courtyard will greet you once you're inside the palace. Only a few rooms are open to the public.

Click here to fill the form online to apply for a visit to the Cotroceni Palace.

What to do in Bucharest
Cotroceni Palace

#5 Arcul De Triumf

A commanding replica of the Arc de Triomphe, this is perhaps one of the biggest similarities between Bucharest and Paris. Although you can only admire it from the outside (you're not allowed to enter it or climb to the top), the resemblance is striking and surely makes for a great picture. It is located a bit further ahead of the Romanian Atheneum, so I wouldn't recommend you to walk unless you're in the mood to enjoy some warm sun and a long walk.

What to do in Bucharest
Arcul de Triumf

#6 Herăstrău Park or Cismigiu Park

You will find it hard to believe that such wide spaces with several walking paths, lakes, and flora and fauna are present right in the middle of a bustling city. While Herăstrău Park is right next to Arcul de Triumf, Cismigiu is closer to the Old Town. If you're looking to spend some time in immense tranquillity, or enjoy a romantic evening walk along a lake, both these parks are your best bets.

Herăstrău Park, spread across 187 hectares around Herastrau lake, also houses the unique open-air Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum. Showcasing the traditional life of the peasants through the kind of houses they lived in, their day-to-day activities, their work-life and social life through artefacts, an artificial village has been created to take one through the rural lifestyle.

Another lush green park with its own lake and even a bridge, paddle boats, meandering paths, benches to relax on, several cafes and a historical restaurant, is the Cismigiu Park.

What to do in Bucharest
Herăstrău Park

Bars & Nightlife

One of my Romanian friends (a really nice guy I met on the flight) lives in Bucharest and he told me about the best bars and clubs to visit in the city. I couldn't make it to all (I hardly had 2 nights) but here's a list of places he suggested, which might be of use to you if you have longer:

  • Linea / Closer to the Moon: a rooftop, open-air bar with a good vibe, great music and lovely crowd. The best place to go in summer!

What to do in Bucharest
Linea / Closer to the Moon

  • 18 Lounge: A dining place located on the 18th floor of one of the tallest buildings in Bucharest, the lounge offers spectacular views of the city. There aren't too many bars or restaurants in Bucharest which can boast of that!
  • Eden Garden: With the setting of an urban beach bar, this is a great place to relax and chit chat during the day or even the night. You'll see a lot of local crowds here, enjoying a lazy day, cooling down over cocktails or beer, some even with families.
  • Dianei 4: Slightly similar concept the Budapest's 'ruin bar's, the atmosphere is almost like that of an old, mysterious yet cosy house. The open-air terrace is perhaps the most interesting part of this restaurant.
  • Control Club: If you're looking for a club with alternative music, this is your place. It stays open until wee hours of the morning and is LOUD! A favourite amongst the locals and tourists alike, it is located right in the city centre and one of the best ways to experience Bucharest's buzzing nightlife.
  • Expirat Club: A typical nightclub with either live music or DJ playing, the club also has a terrace which has some good street food for foodies like me! Yet another local favourite!
  • Pure Vida Sky Bar: Another popular rooftop bar right in the middle of the Old Town, with a relaxed vibe and a fantastic view.

65 thoughts on “What to do in Bucharest in 48 hours”

  1. Bucharest has never been on our list earlier. But now your post and pictures say, it should be there. That umbrella street is so damn beautiful. The place is an architecture marvel and full of history. Thanks for compiling this wonderful guide.

  2. I have not seen too many detailed posts on Bucharest. Really glad to see this one! It is definitely an underrated place in the tourist circuit with great history and beautiful sights.

  3. I really liked Bucharest, the blending of the old, new and remnants of communism intrigued me. I did the Palace of the Parliament tour and learned SO MUCH. It is an incredible place

  4. I’m sure I would absolutely love Bucharest. I’m a big fan of Eastern Europe, plus the architecture is totally stunning! I think I’ve found a new European destination to put on my bucket list. Old Town would be my first stop.

  5. Romania is definitely on our travel wish list. How can you miss Bucharest when it is known as Paris of the East! It is so great to see a city from the perspective of locals who live there. I am sure you found some gems walking the old town. The architecture certainly looks grand. So funny to see an Arcul de Triumf – although maybe that is partly how it gets the Paris reference. Thanks for the teaser!

  6. Great guide in Bucharest. Good to know that you can still visit interesting places even in such a short period of time.. 🙂 I honestly didn’t know there was a replica structure of the Arc de Triomphe in Bucharest. Looks pretty impressive too!

  7. I was only in Bucharest for about a day, so I didn’t get to do everything you did, but I love your photos and take on what to do there! I saw the umbrella street while on my free walking tour, but I really wish I would’ve had time to go back and have a drink there and just enjoy it more. I also went to Caru Cu Bere, which had delicious food and in such a historic and regal looking building! Kind of near there is a bookstore – probably the most beautiful one I’ve seen! There were spiral staircases inside and it was all white. Wish I could remember the name.

  8. Bucharest looks like a great choice for a weekend getaway, with your suggestions for 48 hours. The Old Town appeals, with all the pretty cafes and restaurants and shops, although as you say, it’s not as old as some European old town areas. I do love the look of Caru Cu Bere. Your walking itinerary looks great, not so far that it’s too much of a slog, and takes in plenty of great landmarks like the palace, courthouse and monastery. Adding in a park is a great idea for a different side of Bucharest, especially if the weather is good.

  9. What a detailed and comprehensive itinerary and travel guide for 2 days in Bucharest – you’ve included so much information that will be useful to anyone travelling there 🙂 I haven’t been there yet, but have heard so many great things, I’d love to travel there one day – maybe next year 😉 x

  10. I have wanted to explore Romania for a long time and Bucharest has a great appeal as a bigger city.

    Having local friends always makes a big difference to your experience in a new city. How lucky were you!

    So many wonderful sights, and you couldn’t not make the comparison to Paris with a replica of the Arc de Triomphe there.

    I loved to see that your friend connection gave you some local bar insights too. Gotta love local knowledge.

    1. Absolutely. That’s why, I love chatting up with the locals, be it on the flight or while I am in the country 🙂

  11. I love Romania, especially its countryside. But Bucharest is such a different place than what the rest of the country is. It’s Old Town is my favourite with mad cafe and bar culture. Pura Vida used to be my go-to place there.

  12. I would have to say that if I had to choose an area of Bucharest to call my favorite, it would have to be Old Town as well. Had so many nice nights there last year with all the new friends made. Seems to me you lucked out the whole time you were there, looks like perfect weather!

  13. Oh I’d love to spend some time at the museums along Cape Victoriei ? And I’d definitely have to check out the nightlife – Eden Garden sounds like a cool vibe! ???

  14. Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum looks interesting. It’s always nice to get a peak on what life is like for locals and of a different way of living!

  15. What a great overview of what to do in Bucharest. Lovely pictures and descriptions. How was the local food at Caru Cu Bere? And the dessert? Having a local friend makes the experience much deeper. Sounds like you had an awesome. I look forward to visiting Romania soon.

    1. Pretty good! The papanasi was so filling, it could’ve been a meal itself rather than just the dessert.

    1. As do I. But most flights usually take you to the capital and that’s usually a good place to begin 😉

  16. Bucharest looks like such a lovely place to visit. As an artist and a museum geek, I’m guessing I would make a beeline to the National Museum of Art and National Museum of Romanian History. You have really managed to squeeze in the best bits in 48 hours. The walk along calea victoriei looks so gorgeous.

  17. It’s always great to have a friend or local show you around. It looks like you got to see a side of Bucharest that most tourists don’t. Bucharest is full of character and has such a fascinating history.

  18. I will definitely add another day up to visit all the places you did in Bucharest. I really want a picture of mine with those inverted umbrella roof. I wonder how I have not come across any as of yet. By the way, I loved the pictures, especially that palace, oh Medha, that looks so interesting. I love this one.

  19. Bucharest certainly deserves more than 48 hours, but you’ve seen quite a lot during this short time. I was born and raised in this city and lived there for 30 years, before moving to California. Caru cu Bere is one of my favorite restaurants in the Old Town.

  20. What a beautiful city. I’ve not been to Romania, but we have friends there, so hopefully we will get to go sometime. I’m so glad Nicolae Ceauşescu’s didn’t tear down the Stavropoleos Monastery. It’s really stunning. It’s really horrible when people take their power and ruin the place they are trying to take over.

  21. This is such a useful guide. Those cobbled roads, the umbrella street, medieval architecture and the nightlife you have mentioned is a perfect crowd puller. I love walking amidst these heritage structures and cobbled pathways and your pictures tempt me to visit this place more than ever.Never heard about Papanasi until in your post!

  22. Romania has been high on my list for such a long time. And your post and photos made me want to go even more! It’s just so secluded from the rest of Europe that I still haven’t been able to visit, since I try to fly as little as possible.
    However, I’m trying to plan an Eastern Europe trip, maybe next summer and there will definitely be a stop in Bucharest (and Transylvania, since like you I’m a big fan of small towns and beautiful landscapes!)

  23. Without even doing too much research I can see how much history there is in Bucharest. It’s awesome that you met someone who knew so much along the way!

  24. Bucharest is so beautiful, all those architectures, it’s easy to lose 24 hours just exploring the city. Didn’t know that the nightlife was quite amazing, and I see you had a really good time, also love your tips on what to see and where to go 😀

  25. I haven’t been in Bucharest, and I didn’t know much about this city, but after reading your article I think I should include it in my plans. It really looks charming and rich with things to see and try. I come from the neighboring Bulgaria, which has been a communist country too, passing the same transition from communism to democracy like Romania, so I can understand Bucharest, its life, history and culture in a special way. Thank you for sharing!

  26. That sounds like a lot of stuff to cram into two days, but I suppose if they’re all mostly centrally located it wouldn’t be too hard. Fairly surprised that quite a bit of these places require advance bookings to go inside, but I liken it to visiting the White House or something, especially the Cotroceni Palace. It’s in my favorite style of Baroque though and that just makes me want to go inside even more! I can see why people would compare Bucharest and Paris now thanks to this post, thank you!

    1. It actually wasn’t tough to cover it all in 48 hours. You’re right, most of it is centrally located 🙂

  27. Wow Bucharest looks so beautiful. I can see why it is called Paris of the east. It is also less crowded than Paris wile having so many significant architectural structures. The Arc De Triumph replica is a masterpiece. I am more attracted to the beautiful park though

  28. I can not believe you were able to get all that done within your 48 hours! To be honest, Bucharest has never been on my list of places to visit. However, you have made this city an option on my bucket list. I love to visit places that have historic value, architecture beauties, plus FUN. I found that Bucharest has all of these options. I think my favorite place would be to visit Old Town. The outdoor eating options look wonderful within the cobblestone streets. Looks wonderful!!!

  29. I must say, within 48 hours you have well planned your tip and visited lot many attractions and top of it, you even took out some time for nightlife too. I loved the Old Town area of Bucharesti as it is very colorful and it would nice to walk around at this place. Palace of the Parliament is also looking majestic and huge and if I get time more in this city, then I would try to take inside tour also. Thanks for sharing all the tips about how to spend 48 hours wisely in Bucharesti.

  30. Bucharest is a new destination we discovered here and would love to visit it one day. Our choice of travels matches your and its such a blessing to have friends in a place who could help explore it like locals would. Nothing matches that experience. Seems like Bucharest has all the ingredients from amazing sites to night life to cafe culture. 48 hours here would just fly by and would love to spend more time and take tips from here. Walking is perfect way for us to get a sense of any place and walk along Calea Victoriei stands out for me. Amazing guide.

    1. Thanks Navita. If you like cobbled stone streets, medieval architecture, cafe culture and nightlife, Bucharest will be right up your alley 🙂

  31. Bucharest is definitely on my future travel list for next couple years. We almost booked a trip last summer but then decided to do something else. You were lucky to have a friend to show you places, and you definitely saw a lot. So much history and beautiful buildings in this city.

  32. Arcul de Triumf looks very interesting to go. I have been to Arc de Triomphe in Paris so I want to see the difference between the two. Some of my favorite tennis players are from Romania (Halep and Cirstea) so I hope I can swing by soon.

  33. Bucharest is absolutely amazing! I visited Romania and Bucharest several times and loved it every single time. I’m happy that the city is living its communist past behind and is turning into a progressive, European city. thanks for sharing

  34. TBH this brought back all the happy memories I had during #ExperienceBucharest back in May this year. Did you manage to admire the view from the top of Arcul De Triumf?
    I loved the Old town of Bucharest – kinda gave me the vibes of the lively streets of Khao San

    1. We weren’t allowed to go to the top of Arcul de Triumf unfortunately. Not sure if it was permanent but they had closed the entrance to go to the top.

  35. I couldn’t help admiring the beauty of Bucharest based on your story. The architectures are so grand that stood for many years. Do you think river cruising is also a nice activity in the city?

      1. Well hope they make it an option because river cruising is another travel trend nowadays. The City Courthouse on River Dambovita looks gorgeous and I think looks more impressive during night time (does they light it on?).
        Thanks for virtually tagging us to Bucharest!

        1. I agree, river cruising is the in thing these days, you never know, maybe they’ll start it in Bucharest too 😉 And yes, the monuments do light up beautifully at night.

  36. I’d love to visit Romania someday. It looks like a really great city to explore. The street with all the colorful umbrellas is so beautiful and I’d love to visit the Palace of the Parliment.

  37. You’re so lucky to have visited Bucharest with the inside scoop of an old friend and a new airplane friend! Did you stay at the hostel? What a great list of bars to visit. Is the street with the fabulous umbrellas in the old city? So Instagramworthy!

    1. Yes, I stayed at the hostel and it is bang in the middle of the Old Town, you can pretty much walk to everything from there! It was a great find. The street with the umbrellas is Pasajul Victoria, in the Old Town. Also something I stumbled upon while walking and it was beautiful! I sat here to enjoy a drink.

  38. Looks like you had an awesome time in Bucharest Medha! I’ve actually not been, crazy really given its closeness to London and Italy! I appreciate the tip about seeing the ‘hidden’ palace. I love seeing these kind of places while traveling, so would book a tour before visiting. I’m not a nightclub person, but I really enjoy a drink with a good view! Maybe ‘ll make it there next year.

  39. It looks like I could spend a week in Bucharest! I definitely see why people make a comparrison between here and Paris. As soon as I saw your picture of Arcul de Triumf I had to do a double take to make sure it was in fact not Paris. What is Papanasi like?

    1. It’s rich and sinful! It is basically a fried doughnut filled with soft cheese and covered with sour cream and jam. They are like Plum Dumplings.

  40. I have always been curious about visiting Romania, in particular Bucharest. From the photos and the description, it sounds like notwithstanding its communist past, it has retained some beautiful and old buildings. The park sounds really nice. It reminds me of Central Park in New York. I love walking cities and Bucharest sounds like a really great one.

    1. It’s not one of my fav cities in Europe but it does have its own charm. The parks are amazing, the architecture is good and the nightlife is quite buzzing!

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