Bucharest is an extremely attractive city for tourists. First of all, it is a very beautiful city, with its mix of modern and period architecture, with influences ranging from oriental and neo-Byzantine styles to elements of a very specific Romanian style. In this sense, Romania’s capital is a very pleasant walking experience, where you encounter different areas, each with its own history and charm. If you prefer to recreate in a museum, you won’t be disappointed here either – on the contrary, you’ll be able to choose from some extremely interesting options.
Maybe you prefer to take a walk in a park or dine somewhere elegant? Or maybe you prefer one of the restaurants with a history of almost 200 years? Or are you thinking of discovering some of the most impressive churches in the Christian world?
Well, Bucharest has something for everyone. And in this article we want to help you with just that: with some tips and information about what’s worth seeing here.
Is Bucharest worth visiting?
First of all, a few words about Bucharest, the capital of Romania.
Founded probably in the middle of the 14th century, in a region rich in traces of prehistoric settlements, the settlement that was later to be called Bucharest is mentioned in the oldest documents under the name of Dambovita Fortress. The name of the city of Bucharest appears for the first time in a paper by Mircea the Elder in 1401, and the city did not become the capital until the end of the 15th century. In other words, we are talking about several hundred years of history, during which time it was at the crossroads for many of the nations of Europe, which also justifies the cosmopolitan character of the city, reflected – as I said at the beginning – in its architecture.
It is difficult to select just a few highlights from all that this city has to offer, but we will try.
We could talk, for example, about Casa Capșa. It’s one of the most story-laden places in the capital. Casa Capsa represented the best confectionery in Europe. Before, sweets were from the Orient: saraili, kataifi, baklava, etc. In the second half of the 19th century, lemonade, fine cakes, candies and chocolate appeared, often imported from Paris. The “Casa Capsa” became famous throughout Europe for its fine chocolate. Today, all cakes are made from natural ingredients, with a special taste, according to the original recipes.
On Calea Victoriei at number 13 is the CEC Palace. The foundation stone of the CEC Palace was laid on 8 June 1897, in the presence of King Carol I and Queen Elisabeta. Until 1875, the monastery and the inn “St. John the Great” were located there. Dating from the 16th century, the monasteries were restored by Constantin Brancoveanu in 1702-1703. The palace, built in the eclectic style, ends with a glass and metal dome. The palace was built according to the plans of architect Paul Gottereau and executed under the guidance of Roman architect Ion Socolescu, the CEC Palace was finished in 1900.
The largest mural in Bucharest is 18 meters high and covers around 360 square meters of drawing. The project was created on a building in Regie by a team of graphic artists with over 15 years of experience.
On Nicolae Minovici Street no. 3 there is one of the most beautiful houses in Bucharest. The Museum of Old Art “Ing. Dumitru-Furnica Minovici”- Minovici House. It is one of the most spectacular buildings in Bucharest. Opened in April 1947, the “Ing. Dumitru Furnica-Minovici” is a harmoniously built building-institution, the house and the collection being in a perfect balance, the fruit of many sketches made by the founder and the hired architect, Enzo Canella. The house is built in the Tudor style (so-called tertiary or Perpendicular-English Gothic) with insertions specific to the Norman style.
On Stirbei Voda Street, near Cismigiu Park, there is one of the most beautiful buildings in Bucharest. The palace was built at the beginning of the 20th century – 1902 – under the supervision of Petre Antonescu, appointed by Elena Cretulescu to rebuild the historic family residence. The Cretzulescu Palace is a notable architectural presence in the landscape of the capital through its eclectic style enriched with prominent touches of the French Renaissance. In the interwar period, the house housed the Museum of Religious Art. Since 1972 it has been the headquarters of UNESCO-CEPES (European Centre for Higher Education). The palace was renovated in 2003.
The Macca-Villacrosse Passage connects Calea Victoriei and Lipscani Street and is a beautiful place that will try to offer an oasis of privacy in the middle of the city. The history of the passage begins in 1843, when the Catalan-born Roman Xavier Villacrosse, chief architect of Bucharest between 1840 and 1850, married Polixenia, one of the daughters of the dragoman Petrache Serafim. The passage is covered with yellow glass, to create an atmosphere of intimacy, and is richly ornamented with stuccowork, and architectural ornaments in relief. At the entrance from Eugen Carada Street, there is a monumental portal. The dome after the entrance has a glass roof.
Located at the intersection of Giurgiului, Olteniței, Viilor and Calea Șerban Vod roads, Bellu Cemetery is the best-known place of its kind in Bucharest. This is both because there is an Artists’ Alley – where some of the most important cultural figures of the Romanian nation rest – and because of the monuments that accompany many tombs, real works of art made by sculptors and architects famous all over Europe.
The Melik House or Theodor Pallady Museum is located at 22 Spătarului Street and is the oldest house in the capital. It was built in 1750 by the Armenian Hagi Kevork Nazaretoglu and now houses paintings by Theodor Pallady, and more than 800 drawings dating from the period when the Romanian painter apprenticed in Paris.
What would you say if we told you that a visit to Bucharest can also mean a short trip back in time more than… 100 million years? The Politehnica metro station was opened in 1983 and is paved with large slabs of marble and granite containing fossils from 180 million years ago. Specifically, people walking down the Politehnica have the chance to step on the remains of life that lived on Earth when all you could see on the horizon was water. Although it may seem that everything was planned in advance by the builders, the truth is that they rushed to finish everything on time and extracted the material from the Apuseni Mountains, only caring about… color! Subsequent discoveries have revealed that the people of Bucharest have been treading on a petrified ocean since 1983. Who would have thought?
Do we have any mystery seekers in the audience? If so, Chiajna Monastery is the place to go. What could be more mysterious than a church sandwiched between two cemeteries, which has never been consecrated and around which few locals venture? Add to that the fact that no priest has ever served here and that its existence as a place of worship is almost non-existent because the plague has turned it into a cursed place.
On the walls of this abandoned building are all sorts of strange messages. Also, a pair of lovers have had their names inscribed on the wall of the building, which is strange, to say the least. There are lots of videos online about the disappearance of two students around this place and even a few murder investigations, and locals swear that they’ve seen ghosts here and that it’s not good to visit the area if you’re weak of spirit.
The Triumphal Arch is on the list of places to visit in Bucharest, as it is the symbol of Romania’s victory in the First World War, when all the Romanian-occupied territories were united. The Triumphal Arch can be seen very well from the outside, but the really interesting part is the top. You can climb up there, and at sunset you can see a warm reddish view over the northern part of the capital.
No list of sights in Bucharest would be complete without the Palace of Parliament, the second-largest administrative building in the world and the heaviest and most expensive administrative building in the world. It is located at 2-4 Izvor Street.
Is Bucharest expensive?
No. An honest and short answer would be no. On the contrary, in terms of prices for food, transport, accommodation and nightlife, Bucharest is well below the average for other European capitals, and not because it has nothing to offer. Simply because of the economic environment in Romania, the fact that the ratio between the national currency (RON) and the euro is still favourable to tourists who come to them with euros.
If you like figures, a 2-3 day city break in Bucharest can be on average 25% (or more) cheaper than a similar getaway in a Western city.
When to visit Bucharest?
Thinking objectively, probably the best months of the year to visit this city are May to October inclusive. This would be the time when weather conditions usually offer the fewest surprises. Generally, the average annual temperature in Bucharest is somewhere around 18 degrees Celsius. The hottest months of the year are July and August, but even then it is bearable.
That’s not to say you’re risking anything if you decide to visit the city at a time other than this. On the contrary, you’ll always find beautiful places to visit and activities waiting for you, whatever the weather.
We hope these tips will help you, and don’t forget! If Bucharest or Romania in general interests you more than just a short visit, then maybe consider some Romanian language courses to help you get on well with the locals.