If you don’t have an itinerary yet, this 3 days in Bucharest itinerary can give you pretty much of the highlights on your visit to this Romanian capital.
Romania has a pretty varied landscape — from lush countryside towns to medieval cities. Bucharest as a capital often seems like just a place to fly into then leave to go to your next Romanian destination. This former ‘Paris of the East’ turned ‘Little Berlin’ (due to the recent construction boom) definitely has a lot to offer though, more than enough to spend a few days in.
With a quirky mix of grandiose and gritty architecture, a new ‘old town’, a thriving art scene and vibrant nightlife, Bucharest has an ‘alternative’ vibe to it. Getting around to explore the sights is quite easy also as it has a walkable city center and a decent transport system.
Here’s how to spend a pretty jam-packed yet memorable 3 days in Bucharest that’s bound to give you a different perspective of this Romanian capital.
3 Days In Bucharest Itinerary
Day 1 of 3 Days in Bucharest Itinerary
Palace of the Parliament
Also called the People’s House or Palace of the People, this massive structure is the most famous building in the whole of Romania. With a surface of more than 330.000 square meters and more than 1,000 rooms, the Palace of the Parliament is also the second-largest administrative building in the world.
How you look at it mostly depends on how much you know about Romanian history: if you’re unfamiliar, it is impressive but if you know what the country went through for the past several decades, then this enormous building is creepy at best.
This Totalitarian and modernist Neoclassical building may be quite controversial, but a visit is an opportunity to know more about the history of Romania. At present, the Palace of the Parliament is known as the world’s biggest civilian building with an administrative function, the world’s most expensive to build and the world’s heaviest.
This structure is where you’ll find the two houses if the Parliament of Romania, an international conference center and three museums: the National Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of the Palace and the Museum of Communist Totalitarianism which was established in 2015.
There are guided tours on offer and it takes about two hours to see the highlights of this Socialist era building located within the Old Town.
National Museum of Contemporary Art
Aside from the administrative offices and a number of unused chambers, the Palace of the Parliament houses an excellent museum of contemporary art. Officially the Muzeul Național de Artă Contemporană al României (NMAC), this is located at the southwestern part of the building, at the opposite end of the Palace of Parliament tour entrance.
This museum features regularly changing temporary exhibitions mostly of eclectic installations and video art. The museum comprises four floors of both permanent and guest exhibitions, as well as a visitor access to its rooftop which is a great lookout point over the city of Bucharest.
To browse all exhibits and hang out at the top of the building, it is recommended to allow about one to two hours.
The Old Town
Locals jokingly refer to this part as ‘the youngest old town in the world’ which is true as there are buildings in the area that are hundreds of years old. However, the cobblestone pedestrian walks were laid down only in 2011, when the city council of Bucharest decided there should be a place for its people to hang out.
That was a fantastic move as this young ‘old town’ is never without people any time of the day, because of its proximity to a good number of the city’s top attractions. Streets are also now lined with cafes, pubs, restaurants, and shops making it a go-to place for locals and tourists alike.
This is the ideal place to people watch, soak in local culture and sample what Bucharest has to offer in the food and drinks department.
While here, it’s already within walking distance to other attractions you must visit such as the National Museum of Romanian History and the Romanian Atheneum. A stroll through the old town, late lunch or snack in one of the cafes and restaurants plus a visit to the museum and atheneum should take three hours.
‘Paris of the East’
In the decades before the second world war, Bucharest was known as the ‘Paris of the East’ because of the art nouveau influences in the city’s architecture, which are reminiscent of Paris.
However, the war and decades of communist struggle, then the earthquake in 1977 brought much of the city’s Parisian splendor to ruins. There are certain parts of Bucharest though where one can still see traces of its Parisian side.
Just several minutes walk from the Old Town is the Cișmigiu Gardens, with its old trees and wrought iron signposts and benches. This garden is also built around a lake, with fountains, flowers and a restaurant in the center.
From here, get on a hop-on, hop-off bus that passes through the Şoseaua Kiseleffwhere you’ll see old villas and more gardens to the Arcul de Triumf. It is the Romanian version and considered as an homage to the Paris’ Arc de Triomphe.
Day 2 of 3 Days in Bucharest Itinerary
Day Trip to Brasov
Set out early and get on a train or bus, for a trip to a charming medieval city that’s less than three hours away from Bucharest. Welcome to Brasov, located right in the heart of Transylvania.
This is a different face of Romania, a small city that’s an ideal base for exploring other parts of this intriguing country.
Brasov in itself is a popular destination, attracting visitors from all over the world. Its main draw is its historic center, with structures that date back to the medieval era. The ancient buildings in the old part of the city were even placed in the shape of a crown, earning Brazov the name ‘Kronstadt’ which means ‘city of the crown’.
A day in Brasov promises to be fun and fascinating and the best way to start is by hanging out at the Piata Sfatului or the old town square once you arrive. It’s a great place to people watch and admires the colorful and ornate buildings while having coffee and a Kurtos Kalacs, a sweet cylindrical cake roasted on a spit and sold on the streets.
Visit the Black Church or Biserica Neagra, then walk through the Strada Sforii, the narrowest street in Eastern Europe. Emerge from that ‘rope street’ and check out Brazov’s medieval fortifications.
These are gates, walls and towers that are part of the city’s defense system hundreds of years ago, such as the Lower Walls, Upper Walls, Red Tanners’ Bastion and the 16th century Ecaterina’s Gate.
For best views over the city and its neighboring parts and depending on how much time you still have, there are two options. You can either ride the cable car to Tampa Mountain or hike up the Brazov Fortress which is perched on a hill, where you can have dinner as well.
Day 3 of 3 Days in Bucharest Itinerary
If you’re going to visit only one church in Bucharest, make it the Stavropoleos Monastery. Founded by the Greek monk Ioanikie Stratonikeas in 1724, it is a prime example of the Brancovan architectural style.
This is among the oldest and most beautiful churches in Romania, and its hidden gem of a courtyard is the perfect place for some quiet time in the morning before you go about seeing more of Bucharest again. The Stavropoleos Monastery is also located in the old town so it’s pretty accessible.
Join a Walking Tour
This is a must if you want to see more of Bucharest, where you’ll get to explore places not usually frequented by hordes of tourists but just as interesting. These tours are usually scheduled on mid-mornings and late afternoons each day and last for a couple of hours.
An example of these walking tours is the ‘Wild About’ which is a walking tour of the Vacaresti Natural Park, and the ‘2 Slices of Bucharest’ which visits the old slums and the new civic center.
These neighborhoods are where visitors could see the abrupt changes that happened during the 1980s revolution. There’s also the ‘Alternative Tour’ which takes guests around the city to explore street art and learn their meanings in the context of the current political situation.
These walking tours which all takes place within the central parts of Bucharest are a great way to see the city in a different light.
The free walking tours meet and end in the old town, which is pretty convenient as you only have to spend a few minutes walking to where you’d have your lunch, then to the now world-famous bookstore, Carturesti Carusel.
More than being an Instagrammable place with its bright and airy elegant interiors, this is a booklover’s dream. Comprising six floors and 1,000 square meters, Carturesti Carusel has around 10,000 books and 5,000 albums and DVDs.
It also has a multimedia area, an art gallery, and a cafe bistro filled with plants on the skylit top floor that serves coffees, teas and tasty food. They also have local arts and crafts on sale, as well as souvenirs.
Spend at least an hour here checking out books and all that they have on sale, have dessert and of course, take lots of photos.
A trip to any city isn’t complete without visiting its beloved markets, sampling their goods and even buying more to bring home. Piaţa Obor in Bucharest has pretty much everything you’ll ever need.
It’s a bit out of the way as it isn’t in the city center but definitely worth the visit. This market mostly has fresh produce, meat, and local wine, but also has delicacies such as rose petal jam, walnut jam, honey, and white cheese.
There’s a section in the market for uniquely Romanian souvenirs such as blouses, veils, beaded jewelry and ceramics with traditional designs. Make sure you enjoy a meal here as well, such as meatballs or sausages paired with bread.
As all markets are, this is where you can enjoy an authentic Romanian experience as you take in the fun and lively atmosphere. This is a massive place and there’s a lot to see so make sure you have a couple of hours to really explore Piaţa Obor.
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