things to do in bucharest

Plan a visit to the extraordinary Palace of Parliament. (Photo: Getty Images)

Tips + Trends

7 Reasons Bucharest Should Be on Your Travel Radar

While some travelers land in Bucharest and make an immediate beeline for vampire territory, more and more people are sticking around the Romanian capital these days. In the last decade, the Romanian metropolis has been making a promising ploy for your attention.

Local chefs have begun creatively elevating Romanian cuisine (to new heights), central neighborhoods have become “entertainment zones” and the general infrastructure of the city has finally come together to make exploring buzzing Bucharest much easier.

Check Out the Palace of Parliament

The second-largest administration building on the planet (after the U.S. Pentagon), this 276-foot-tall, 4 million-square-foot behemoth formerly known as the “People’s House” was constructed by Cold War–era dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

The ironically named building didn’t belong to “the people” at all but was a giant symbol of the corruption of the Ceausescu regime, as he also wiped out block upon block of family homes to construct his palace. A total of 40,000 people were displaced.

The 3,000-room palace, today called Palace of Parliament, is open to the public for guided tours, but book ahead of time.

Book It

If you woke up today with a hankering for self-affirmation via social media — and really, who doesn’t these days? — then today is your lucky day.

Head over to centrally located Carturesti Carusel, possibly one of the most stunning and beautiful bookshops on the planet. Built in 1903, the building became a general store during the Communist era and then fell into disrepair and was abandoned around the time the old regime had crumbled.

It lay dormant until the grandson of one of the original founding owners took possession of it and renovated the space, and today, the three-floor, 10,000-square-foot bookshop is a sight to behold. Get that Instagram account going!

A Day at the Museum

The most important art institution in the country, the National Museum of Art of Romania is housed in the early-19th-century royal palace. It turns out, the building makes for a perfect place to spend an afternoon gawking at art.

The collection includes works by old European masters such as Brueghel, El Greco, Cranach and Rembrandt, as well as Romania’s best artists, including Brancusi and Theodor Aman, among others.

About once a month, the museum opens up some formerly private quarters of the royal palace to visitors. Check the website for the schedule.

Get Kitsch’ed

Like it or not, many people associate Eastern Europeans’ style with a sense of kitschiness, and the Romanians are embracing this stereotype.

things to do in bucharest
Dip into some funky cultural finds at the Kitsch Museum. (Photo: Getty Images)

Check out the fun Romanian Kitsch Museum, which takes you on a tour of the kitsch subculture in Romania. You’ll not only learn something about the country you’re visiting, but also, perhaps, some of these objects will appear less tacky and more cool to you afterward. Maybe. Just maybe.

Take a Bite of Nouveau Romanian Cuisine

Romanian cuisine is underrated — especially now that some talented local chefs have stepped up and put inventive and creative twists on the cuisine.

Two such places to experience this newish phenomenon are Lacrimi Si Sfinti and Maize, where you can eat flavor-popping local fare — always seasonal, with an emphasis on farm-to-table — and drink above-average local wine.

Party Like It’s 1989 in Lipscani

what to do in bucharest
Grab food and drinks in Lipscani. (Photo: Getty Images)

Once a centrally located no-go zone, the Old Town area of Lipscani has flourished in the last decade. There are trendy pubs and restaurants flanking the streets and young, happy people enjoying them.

For panoramic views of the neighborhood, head to the top of Victoria department store, where you’ll find Linea/Closer to the Moon — Bucharest’s most popular rooftop bar. Wildly popular in the warm summer months, the spot keeps guests cozy in winter, as well, thanks to pop-up igloos set up when chilly weather arrives.

For a glimpse of India in the midst of Bucharest, head to the colorful Ganesha Caffe, where you and your friends can kick back with a shisha pipe, tea or cocktails — with or without alcohol.

Spend a Pious Afternoon Exploring a Monastery

If you need to get your Dracula fix while in Bucharest, take a short trip up to Snagov Monastery, about 27 miles north of the capital. This is supposedly the final resting place of Vlad the Impaler, the bloodthirsty aristocrat often attributed to Dracula.

But it’s not all vamps and bats here. Snagov is a lovely place to spend a few hours. Set on an island in the middle of a lake, the area boasts a 15th-century church and monastery, making it a peaceful retreat from the capital.