Are you considering a Bucharest city break but you’re possibly on the fence? Are you wondering if there are fun things to do in Bucharest? Is the food good? Where is best to stay? We can confirm, after reading this guide you will no longer be on the fence and will be snapping up flights fast.
Simply because, how often have you set foot in a city and had your socks blown off? It doesn’t happen often. Possibly our wee trainer socks aren’t pulled up too high and are quite easy to blow off, or possibly it’s because our Bucharest city break was nothing like we expected. From the insane (we’re talking 1,100 rooms – 3,930,000 sq. ft insane) sized Palace of Parliament which left us speechless, to some of the coolest bars we’ve ever set foot in and Europe’s largest thermal spa – it’s safe to say we had a memorable trip.
Best of all, as we were backpacking Europe on a budget, Bucharest ticked all the boxes – funky accommodation, cheap but delicious food and pints for less than £2! After reading this city guide and noting down all the fun things to do in Bucharest, hopefully you’ll be inspired to visit the Romanian capital too.
HOW MUCH DOES A BUCHAREST CITY BREAK COST?
As mentioned, one of the best things about a Bucharest city break is that it is one of the most affordable cities in Europe. We travelled to Bucharest in November, after one day in Cologne we flew to Bucharest for £45 (each.)
As a sneaky money saving tip, you can take the airport bus (line 783, more info here) into Bucharest for only £2! However note, traffic is crazy busy, particularly during rush hour. We heard of other travellers missing their flight as the journey took over 2 hours by bus due to traffic. Instead, we used Uber as it was only £5 and took just 25 minutes giving us a head start on squeezing in the many Bucharest attractions. Feel free to use our Uber code, for an even cheaper trip.
Our budget for our Bucharest city break was £93 per day for both of us, which is 100% doable. However, yet again, we heard the word spa and said “shut up and take our money” so actual spend on average was £122 per day for both of us. This included transport, accommodation, food, alcohol and activities, which overall is very affordable.
If like us, you enjoy a nose at the numbers, we recommend reading our budget guide to Europe. It covers exactly what we spent during our 3 months in Europe as we explored over 15 cities in 12 countries. It is perfect for other travellers who wonder how much backpacking Europe costs and even includes a free budget tracker which you can download to keep an eye on costs.
Food, Drinks & Activities
Avg. Cost / Day: £122.26
WHERE TO STAY IN BUCHAREST
If planning a Bucharest city break on a budget, we cannot recommend the Bucharest Apartments enough. Amazingly, they were only £22.33 per night (for both of us) and we cannot fault them.
The apartment was one of our favourites – a super cosy studio with a bedroom come dining/kitchen and bathroom. Also, a very lovely host checked us in and was super quick at replying to any questions we had. Maybe worth mentioning for all ya’ll millennial sorts, just how amazing WiFi is, as Bucharest boasts the best in Europe.
Not that we recommend spending your entire Bucharest city break in your apartment but with accommodation this funky (and wifi this good) it was a tad difficult to leave our cosy room and go out to explore.
WHERE TO EAT IN BUCHAREST
On your Bucharest city break, a funky little cafe definitely worth the mention is Hug Cafe. Initially pulled in by the decor, we enjoyed the cosy atmosphere, friendly staff and delicious food. Laughably we had croque monsieur which obviously isn’t a traditional Romanian dish but I even photographed it, it was that good.
Whether you’re after a funky brunch spot or an evening burger and beer, Hug Cafe ticks all the boxes and will guarantee to please with their friendly, fast service and unforgettable food.
It’s no secret our coffee & cake addiction fuels our travels, so when we find a good cake spot, we shout about it from the rooftops.
Now although I’ve fancied seeing my name in lights, seeing the word CAKE in lights is even better. Making Palmiye in Old Town unmissable as the sign will definitely grab your attention and prove to be one of the best places to visit in Bucharest for an afternoon pick me up. The very friendly and ridiculously patient waitress laughed at our kid-in-candy-shop reactions as we oohed and aaahed at the amazing cake selection.
I settled for a predictable pink cupcake that looked shat out by a unicorn, whilst Daz opted for a very classy chocolate pud like the elegant gentleman he is (LOL). The pastel interior is every Insta addicts dream and the coffee was perfect. To be honest, we were a tad gutted we discovered it our last afternoon of our Bucharest city break as we would’ve returned again and again.
Oh and did we mention 2 cakes, 2 coffees were 46 Lei so £8 – incase you needed any more reason to visit?!
BEST BARS FOR YOUR BUCHAREST CITY BREAK
One of the best things to do in Bucharest is…party! The nightlife here is renowned throughout Europe, with the Old Town’s bars buzzing with stag parties, backpackers, dates and live music. If you’re the hipster sort or just enjoy a pint not in a pub then Bucharest offers some of the most unique bars we’ve came across so far. The Old Town, (Lipscani) is one of the best places to visit in Bucharest for an epic night out and these are the bars we recommend.
The Drunken Lords
We found The Drunken Lords by accident wandering down the passageway that connects Strada Lipscani with Strada Blanari and instantly fell in love with the quirky decor (if like us, you’re a sucker for velvet teal chairs & antique covered walls, you will too). The staff were friendly and prices very reasonable. Although during our visit (a Tuesday in November) there were just a handful of other visitors, we can imagine this place being one of the most popular places to visit in Bucharest for a beer and a boogie.
Joben Bistro was a bar we’ll never forget. The decor & staff were steam punk on steroids – walls an eclectic mix of metal & machine with bearded staff in top hats. Although we were mesmerised by the décor, the staff did seem a little disinterested, which could possibly go with the “too cool for school” theme, or they could just be fed up of insta addicts like us snapping every inch of the place. We had a bottle of wine which came with an ice bucket but no service with a smile.
A similar steam punk bar, that we’d been recommended was DISTRIKT 42 although we didn’t have the time (or wine budget left) to squeeze it in during our Bucharest city break, but let us know in the comments if you do!
BEST THINGS TO DO IN BUCHAREST
We mentioned earlier how surprised we were by this city and this list of Bucharest attractions definitely plays a part in that. However, although we have recommended these as the best things to do in Bucharest, our biggest recommendation is simply getting lost in the cobbled streets and discovering your own wee surprises – whether its art, food, music or friendly locals, there is endless fun to be had that you won’t find from the guidebooks.
You may or may not be aware of our flashpacker ways by now, but as much as we budget and are savvy with our spending we have the odd (daily) YOLO moment. Particularly if alcohol is involved. Our YOLO moment was Therme Bucuresti.
It was like no other “spa” we had been to before, and we have attended quite a few spas in Europe. Hands down it is one of if not THE best things to do in Bucharest and we’d book flights to return for this alone.
Firstly, it was enormous – at 30,000 sq. m, it hosts 8 pools and is divided into 3 areas:
- The Palm earns its name from the 500 palm trees that fill it, which is for relaxation including heated beds and therapeutic pools each with different minerals to benefit your skin and wellbeing.
- The Elysium area hosts 6 themed saunas, from Nordic style where you enter sub-zero temperatures naked to an amazing cinema sauna that played David Attenborough wildlife documentaries on a cinema screen as you sat and baked in the heat.
- The Galaxy area is the entertainment area aimed at children, with flumes and a wave pool.
The best part? (apart from David Attenborough obviously) was the pools were both inside & out. Allowing you to sip on a prosecco cocktail in a 33 degree thermal pool under the night stars. Our Bucharest city break suddenly turned into honeymoon worthy.
Instead of cash payment, all visitors were given electronic bracelets which you simply “beeped” the same way you’d use contactless. Dangerous when pints are only £2 each (give or take exchange rate.)
Note: Children (under 16) are only allowed in the Galaxy area, full day child’s ticket is 50 Lei. Over 16s have access to all areas and a full day ticket (which we purchased and managed to stay from 1pm until 8pm before eventually shrivelling up) was 96 Lei, so £18.
There is the option for 3 hour tickets and tickets for only certain areas. We advise timing it later in the afternoon to watch the sunset then enjoy the spa all lit up in the evening. Hands down, this was one of, if not the highlight of our Bucharest city break – and possibly our entire Europe trip.
Bucharest Street Art
If searching for unusual things to do in Bucharest, the street art scene needs to be top of your list. Bucharest boasted some amazing street art, which we discovered through a very helpful map (here) that is definitely worth downloading or bookmarking.
Even if you are not the street arty type, we found the architecture along this route so interesting juxtaposed with the murals that there is something worth seeing for all ages and tastes. Failing that, they’re just seriously funky backdrops for your next profile pic.
As we were a little short on time (we blame the entire day spent in a spa) we regret not booking an alternative walking tour. Not only does it include an exclusive look inside buildings decorated by local artists but a guided tour of the city’s most colourful streets and the chance to learn about the cool social projects influencing the future of Bucharest’s street art scene. We’ve heard over and over a street art tour is one of the best things to do in Bucharest so if you have the time its definitely worth booking with a local guide.
The Palace of Parliament
It will take you all of five minutes to spot The Palace of the Parliament (not only because it is it is also the second-biggest administrative building in the world, after the Pentagon but it’s even visible from space) so yeah, hard to miss.
It is also the heaviest building in the world, weighing in at 4,098,500,000 kilograms – don’t as us how to weigh a building, we’re just here to tell you why its one of the best places to visit in Bucharest:
1. Firstly, it took 400 architects to construct, led by A 28 YEAR OLD WOMAN #girlpower.
2. There are secret tunnels underneath designed by Nicolae Ceausescu so he could travel to the airport during a revolution. Although he never used them, Top Gear did and filmed an episode here.
3. Finally, if you’re looking for unusual things to do in Bucharest, did you know you can have a drink on top of The Palace of the Parliament? The National Museum of Modern Art (MNAC) owns a wing of the building, where on top they have a huge terrace. So, if you fancy yourself some dictator vibes, then what better way than admiring your kingdom, drink in hand from on top of one of the most controversial buildings on the planet.
No Bucharest city break would be complete without a pic or two here. It’s probably the most snapped street in the entire city and one of the most popular places to visit in Bucharest yet it still took us approx. 3 attempts and 2 toilet stops to find.
Known as the street of umbrellas, you will find it between Calea Victoriei and Academiei street under the name “Pasajul Victoria”. Even though Darren was dragged along due to my dedication to the gram he still found it pretty impressive, and we fully understand why it’s one of the top rated Bucharest attractions.
It’s likely you have already seen this beautiful book shop all over Instagram as it’s unique interiors make it a millennial favourite and a stop we highly recommend during your Bucharest city break.
It translates to “Carousel of Light” and after exploring the six floors and over 10,000 books you will definitely leave enlightened from this epic Bucharest attraction.
As a tip, Carturesti Carusel is one of the most popular places to visit in Bucharest (the joys of the ‘gram) so ideally visit early in the day and on a weekday if possible to avoid crowds and enjoy a peaceful reading nook.
Caruta Cu Paiate
If you’re a fan of the arty farty stuff then a Bucharest city break will offer many photo opportunities and surprising finds round every corner. A favourite of those surprises was the Caruta cu paiate sculpture. Just head for Bucharest InterContinental Hotel and you can’t miss it.
Unveiled in 2010, it was created by sculptor Ioan Bolborea in honour of the country’s favourite playwright, Ion Luca Caragiale, featuring characters from Caragiale’s plays. To be honest, we were clueless of who and what it represented, it reminded us of Quentin Blake illustrations (who illustrated the works of Roald Dahl) so we took a photo or two and thought it was worth a wee mention as an unusual things to do in Bucharest.
DAY TRIPS FROM BUCHAREST
There are so many amazing day trips from Bucharest, we really wished we had longer to explore. If you fancy extending your Bucharest city break, or you have some time on your hands we have summarised the best and most affordable day trips below.
Transylvania and Dracula’s Castle Day Trip
Probably the most famous day trip from Bucharest, exploring the most important castles in Romania on a 12-hour tour of Peles Castle and Bran Castle. Tour the historical heart of Transylvania at Brasov and learn all about the Romanian legend, Vlad the Impaler. Includes transport to and from Bucharest, tour guide and entry fees. This day trip from Bucharest sells out quick so book here for a bargain price!
Day Trip from Bucharest to Bulgaria
Fancy lunch in an entirely different country? Visit the stunning Veliko Tarnovo, the medieval capital of Bulgaria on this day trip from Bucharest. The tour also includes visits to the St. Dimitrie Basarabov Monastery, the only monastery in Bulgaria carved into a cliff that’s still inhabited today and Arbanasi village. Book here.
Slanic Salt Mines and Wine Tasting Tour
We were blown away during our 3 days in Krakow by the Wieliczka salt mine but later discovered the largest in Europe are actually in Romania! After wandering the insanely huge salt mine chambers (an astonishing 208 metres underground) this day trip from Bucharest ends with a tour of a local vineyard and wine tasting from the cellars. It even includes a traditional 3 course Romanian lunch and a stunning drive through Carpathian Mountains. Book this unforgettable day trip from Bucharest here.
Hopefully after reading this post you are now feeling inspired to get planning your own Bucharest city break. There are so many places to visit in Bucharest that we sadly couldn’t squeeze in everything to our short visit, so let us know in the comments if we’ve missed any hidden gems from this guide.