Things to do in Bucharest
To get a feel for the fluctuating circumstances of Bucharest and a sense of the city’s heritage, head to the Old Town or Lipscani section of Bucharest. The only pre-World War II city area left after the massive Palace of the Parliament was built, Lipscani, or Centru Vechi (the Old Centre) as the locals know it, has transformed from a dilapidated, no-go district to a vibrant entertainment precinct and the city’s nightlife strip. The narrow, cobblestoned streets have a mix of the old and new with mid-19th century buildings, antiques, handmade crafts and the Wallachian princes’ medieval ruins amid reclaimed warehouses that now housing chic boutiques, upmarket restaurants and underground clubs.
Wandering around the central area of Bucharest will also reveal its history through architecture from medieval churches to fawning French Baroque palaces during the city’s ‘Little Paris phase’, and from Communist-era grey blocks to modern edifices. For a more in-depth look at Romanian history, there’s a plethora of museums ranging from folkloric and traditional artifacts to contemporary and religious artworks and natural history. Bellu Cemetery is also worth a look to see the resting place of most of Romanian’s eminent citizens grouped by profession as is the stunning 18th-century Stavropoleos Church with decorative sculptures and frescoes.
Heading out of town, 20 kilometres north of Bucharest is the small Snagov Monastery situated on an island. It’s here that the grave of a certain Vlad Tepes, a.k.a. Vlad the Impaler, the ruler of Wallachia during the 15th century, as well as the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’, lies. No visit to Romania is complete without tracing the Count Dracula legend. Tales of vampires in Romania’s Transylvania area have proliferated for centuries and visitors can check out real and fictional spots like Old Princely Court in Bucharest, Bran Castle and the ruins of Poenari Fortress.
Want more? Here’s our top 5 Bucharest sights.
An architectural ode to Communist-era excess built during the darkest days of the Ceauşescu dictatorship, the massive Palace of the Parliament is also dubbed the People’s House. Located in central Bucharest, the massive building is the second-largest in the world after the Pentagon.
One of Bucharest’s most beautiful buildings, the 19th-century Athenaeum, was mostly bankrolled by the people when the initial patrons pulled out. The stunning Baroque concert hall with an elegant Roman temple facade is the home of the Romanian George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra.
A Bucharest must-see, the charming Peasant Museum is a lovingly edited collection depicting the everyday lives of Romanian peasants over the past 400 years. Personal details like handwritten display cards and a whole room dedicated to grandmas just adds to the feel-good factor.
Bucharest’s most central park is also its oldest and most lovely. The landscaped gardens, rolling lawns and lake of Cişmigiu Gardens are a local fave and a welcome respite from the city bustle and summer heat offering beautiful season scenery and attractions all year round.
Head to Bucharest’s National Village Museum to see the rural architectural history of Romania transplanted into a central location. This must-visit open-air museum boasts over 60 original examples of thatched roof barns, carved wooden churches and clay homes from around the country.