Things to Do in Bucharest, Romania
Ah, points runs. Last year, I hit Athens and Helsinki in order to secure my BA Silver Status. This year, I decided on Bucharest to push me over the points barrier. I’d never been to Romania before and besides for my points run, I was also aiming to hit a new country so I could bring my total number of countries visited thus far in my life to 49. 49! (Thank you, TripAdvisor, for helping me keep track of this milestone.)
I knew very little about Romania and Bucharest going in. I mean, I knew about gypsies but if there’s anything I learned during my time in Bucharest it’s…DON’T MENTION THE GYPSIES. Depending on who you ask, the Roma make up just 2 to 10% of the Romanian population. (Since returning from Bucharest, I’ve done some online research and 3% seems to be about the right number.) Your average Romanian is not gypsy, and there’s a bit of a perception issue here s so best to just steer clear of the topic altogether.
I had the misfortune of visiting during a few very hot days — 90+ degrees Fahrenheit in the city — and I had packed for weather forecasts that predicted more like 70. Please someone find me a weather app with correct 10 day forecasts? The heat meant I took lots of breaks and generally just sat around rehydrating in cafes, watching Bucharest go by. I’m okay with sloth.
Here are my tips for fun things to do in Bucharest, Romania…
Stay at The Intercontinental
If you want to be in central Bucharest, the Intercontinental is where it’s at. I got a great flight/hotel deal on British Airways, which basically meant that my hotel cost £40 quid a night, which was pretty amazing. The hotel has great views over the city, and the indoor pool at the top of the hotel is perfect for HOT DAYS when you need to cool off. I was very glad to have this pool because it was very very hot during my visit. Sure, the hotel is a little bit like 1986 called and wants its hotel back, but it’s still nice. Book the Intercontinental.
Take a Food Tour with Step by Step
I LOVED my food tour with Step by Step. My guide, Alex, was super enthusiastic about her city and showed me some great eats, intertwining the food with culture as the day went on. We tried cheese pastry, zacusca (delicious eggplant spread), local cheese and meats, and the best eclairs in Bucharest. Later in the day, as I was still walking around town with my eclair box from French Revolution, people actually stopped me and said how jealous they were of my eclair. (Romanians are very chatty, hospitable people and don’t seem to mind talking to strangers.) If I had any regrets, it’s that I didn’t do this tour sooner because it was so enjoyable. To me, this is one of the the coolest things to do in Bucharest. Visit the Step by Step website.
Hire a Private Guide
I hired a guide off of Viator who gave me a very thorough introduction to Bucharest on my first morning. I saw parts of the city that I didn’t see with other guides. We walked down beautiful Victoriei Avenue, saw the Royal Palace, Revolution Square where communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu spoke in public for the last time, and the beautiful yet sad and neglected in parts Old Town. We covered a lot of ground and it was a bit exhausting given the heat, but I would still recommend the private guide angle for this very unique and interesting city. It’s pretty affordable, actually. Visit this tour on Viator.
Take a Street Art Tour
I enjoyed my introduction to Bucharest street art with Open Doors. Street art in Bucharest is a bit more political than London street art, but I kinda like that. The first two hours of this tour were really great, but it was so hot that once I saw my hotel with its rooftop (indoor) pool beckoning off in the distance, I bailed. A super interesting tour but it was probably a bad idea to do this on the same day as my private tour guide because I was just so tired and hot after six hours of walking. Visit this tour on Open Doors.
Visit Peles Castle and Brasov
Originally, when I was looking for things to do in Bucharest, I was not really keen on doing this because it meant a two hour drive each way, but it turned out to be a really cool and unique experience. We visited Peles Castle in Sinaia and had lunch in town. The castle is absolutely stunningly gorgeous, if a bit over-the-top. It’s elaborately decorated and fairytale-
Do a Wine Tasting at Casa Vlasia
This was a total surprise. I asked my hotel to organize a wine tasting for me — I’m a big fan of taking advantage of the concierge — and they sent me to Casa Vlasia, about 45 minutes outside of Bucharest. My tasting was led by the charming Resvan, who talked me through the estate’s wines and history. Note that this is a VERY small operation — Two barrels!! Four acres! — but as someone who has done so many large-scale winery tours, this was refreshingly small and intimate. I only wish I had been hungrier as the cheese and meats that Resvan offered — all made on site — were fab. Honestly, this was great You should do this. Visit Casa Vlasia.
Stuff Your Face at Caru Cu Bere
OK, this is one of the most touristy things to do in Bucharest but seriously, Caru cu Bere is lovely inside — the woodwork and tilework is gorgeous. Also, the staff is very friendly and wants to make sure you are having a nice time. The set lunch for 20 lei is a TREMENDOUSLY good value — that’s about £3.50 or $5 bucks. Enough food for two very hungry people — a huge plate of polenta with cheese, a salad, Romanian sausages, roasted potatoes, and apple cake. I enjoyed my meal here, even if there were a lot of people taking photographs of the interior while I was eating. (Maybe ask for a table in a corner or something.) The food is good, not great, but the menu is huge and there will be something for everyone. Plus, they seemed genuinely happy to have me and that says something about a place. Visit Caru Cu Bere.
Visit Carturesti Carusel
Words cannot describe how gorgeous this bookstore is. It’s a lovely surprise in the touristy old city. I felt instantly calm walking in here. Bucharest is big on bookstores, which I love. Although I also love reading books on my iPad. Let’s hope real books survive though. Visit Carturesti Carusel.
Drink all the Romanian wine at Dionysos
I found this wine bar my first night in Bucharest — I had planned to check out a few — but I liked it so much here, I scrapped my plans to find others and instead came back again a few nights later. The staff are friendly and informative once you get to chatting with them. They will offer a plate of cheese and meat if you ask. Free wifi and great tunes! Visit Dionysos.
I had a great time in Bucharest. Even though it felt like I was there for a long time, I really only scratched the surface. I hardly got to any museums, barely went out to eat (what’s wrong with me?) and didn’t do any shopping. This means, of course, I am plotting my return. Any other tips for things to do in Bucharest?