One day in any location is seldom long enough to even scratch the surface, but if planned correctly, a lot can still be achieved within the short 24-hour time frame. Romania is fast becoming a more mainstream destination, both for more adventurous travellers and the more ubiquitous ‘tourist’. And, with flights being readily available from most other European cities, especially with budget carriers like Ryanair, flying into Bucharest and being able to experience Romania is easier now than ever! So, if you’re planning to visit this wildly-diverse European capital, whether to sample the local cuisine or to explore the side streets of the Old Town, one thing is certain: the unique combination of the old and new world will be sure to leave you wanting more.
What’s the Best Time to Visit Bucharest?
With unlimited accessibility and reasonably strong infrastructure, visiting Bucharest is something that can be done all year round. As Romania often experiences very distinct seasons (snowy and cold winters and sweltering summers), the best time to visit can often be between the two.
The seasons of spring (March, April and May) and autumn (September, October and November) are often prime time for visitors both looking to avoid the crowds and to avoid the more extreme weather.
With that said, Bucharest can be a magical place during Christmas time, with markets dominating the city’s streets during the weeks leading up to the 25th December. This can be a marvellous time to visit, either with a family or as adult travellers, experiencing the atmosphere of the city.
Although most attractions are open every day each week, for those that do close their doors, it is often on a Monday, so avoiding this day would be suggested. Additionally, as with other cities, the weekends are busiest, so avoiding these could be a great way to see the city in a more authentic (and less crowded) fashion.
One Day in Bucharest Itinerary
For travellers short on time, this jam-packed guide to your one day in Bucharest is sure to give you a flavour of the city.
The Most Important Meal of the Day
Start your day in Bucharest the right way with breakfast from Cereal Crunch Café. Located in the centre of the city close to other attractions, this quirky location offers you the breakfast of champions with the opportunity to choose from over 100 different cereals.
Those in the range include domestic favourites, European classics and US imports. On top of this, you have the chance to add a topping to your bowl, such as M&M’s, Kit Kat or chocolate sauce. To finish, choose from a selection of 17 different kinds of milk, including their range of non-dairy milk.
Prices start at around 11 lei for a small bowl, increasing up to 19 lei for a large bowl of more expensive imported cereal. Coffee is also on the menu here, with prices between 6 and 12 lei.
Stretch Your Legs With A Walking Tour
After filling up on your favourite cereal, take the short ten-minute stroll to Piața Unirii, the meeting point for the free walking tour of Bucharest. The morning start time is 10:30 am, so make sure you leave breakfast by quarter past to allow enough time to reach the park.
These tours are a perfect (and free) way to see and learn about the city, lasting roughly two and a half hours. During the tour, you’ll learn about Bucharest’s turbulent past while taking in all the historical sights, such as:
The Palace of The Parliament
This monstrous structure was created at the demand of Romania’s former Communist leader, Nicolae Ceaușescu. The colossal size of the Palace of the Parliament dwarfs the buildings surrounding it, as it is one of the largest in the world in terms of floor area.
The building is spread across 12 floors and houses over 1,000 rooms, most of which have not been completed since its initial construction. Those that are complete have been designed in a beautiful style, which can be seen in detail if you choose to enter the building (more on that later).
Without a doubt, Calea Victoriei is one of the central veins which feeds the heart of Bucharest. This culturally significant road leads through the centre of the city and can serve as a semi-suitable stopgap if you miss the walking tour.
The main section of the road is roughly two miles long and would take half an hour to walk the length, providing plenty of time to see the sights along the way. Alternatively, during the walking tour, you’ll learn about the history of Calea Victoriei along with the important origin of its name.
With an English-speaking passionate local guide, you’ll undoubtedly end the tour with a newfound appreciation for the city and its people. There are also daily tours in Spanish by the same provider (Walkabout Free Tours) along with a range of other tours run by different providers.
Pit Stop For a Bite To Eat
In Bucharest, it’s positively overwhelming the number of places available to eat and drink. One that you should definitely have on your list is Energiea, a stylish and intimate gastropub setting with a modest menu of food and a vast array of drinks choices.
The food menu offers snacks, soups, appetisers, salads, mains and desserts, with just a handful of options in each category. However, for what they lack in variety, they make up for in quality, with all dishes looking and tasting supreme!
First and foremost, Energiea is a location perfect for afternoon drinks, but with limited time, we’d suggest only having one or two before making a move onto your next activity. You’ll have to choose between exquisitely fresh fruit juices and smoothies or something a little stronger such as their ‘potions, remedies and cures’ which are tasty spice-infused cocktails.
Feeling Refreshed? Let’s Go!
For the afternoon, you have the option to retrace your steps and head back to the Palace of the Parliament for a more in-depth tour inside the building. A typical tour of the building starts at around 40 lei, although you can add an underground tour to your package for an extra 5 lei, which is good value for money!
For this tour, you’ll need a passport to be admitted; otherwise, you’ll be turned away at the entrance. The building closes at 5pm every day from March to October, or 4pm during winter, so we’d suggest giving yourself at least two hours to make the most of the tour.
Alternatively, you could choose to escape the busy streets of the city by exploring one of the many green areas in Bucharest. Izvor Park is close to the Palace and easily reachable from the centre. Additionally, there is Carol Park just 20 minutes south, which is a little larger and features a pond at its centre.
If parks just aren’t enough for you, why not while away an hour or two in Bucharest’s most celebrated book store? Cărturești Carusel is a real-life Mecca for bookworms and is open well into the evening. The sprawling store is spread across six floors and houses over 10,000 titles along with art, clothing and souvenirs.
Dinner Fit For a King
After a busy afternoon, there really is only one place that should be on your agenda, and that is the fabulous and much-loved Caru’ cu Bere, which translates into English as The Beer Wagon. As you can imagine, this location is as lively as they get, with staff buzzing between tables serving up delicious Romanian-inspired dishes, along with a few Western favourites.
Service can be a little slow here, so we’d suggest grabbing an extra drink when you order and sitting back to soak in the atmosphere as you await your food. Post dinner, you could choose to stay seated and enjoy the live entertainment, comprised of singing, dancing and music in a traditional Romanian style. Or you could make a beeline for one of the clubs to dance the night away. Control Club is a popular choice for both locals and visitors.
Where to Stay in Bucharest?
Grand Hotel Continental
56 Calea Victoriei, Sector 1, 010083 Bucharest
Located on the central Calea Victoriei, this hotel certainly lives up to its ‘grand’ name. This five-star location features beautifully decorated rooms and concierge service along with 24-hour room service. There is also an onsite spa complete with a maxi jacuzzi, a fully-kitted gym and qualified staff offering massages and treatments.
Calea Victoriei No 29, Sector 1, 030028 Bucharest
Capitol Hotel is another magnificent hotel in the city centre. The building dates all the way to 1901 and the interior reflects that, although with some modern twists, of course. Elegance with a splash of luxury is the best way to describe it, and the rooms are nice and comfortable, with everything you could need for a wonderful stay. Great location, good food, and they even allow pets!
Str. Ion Campineanu, Nr. 14, Sector 1, 010036 Bucharest
Bucur Accommodation is one of the best hotels in Bucharest city center when it comes to getting your money’s worth. Lovely, bright, and comfortable rooms guarantee you’ll be well rested, there are terraces from them for a wonderful view, and the staff is very helpful with whatever you need. Also, the breakfast is pretty good.
Mil Pasos Penthouse Hostel
Bulevardul Corneliu Coposu Nr 7, Bloc 104, Scara 1, Et 7, Ap 29., Sector 3, 030602 Bucharest
What’s not to love about this location? Mil Pasos Penthouse hostel is kitted out with a huge living area for you to hang out with fellow guests and make new friends, while there is also a dining room and well-equipped kitchen. The rooms are well equipped too, with air conditioning for the warmer months and heating for the colder ones. For those staying in the dorms, there are lockers to keep your valuables.
Day Trips from Bucharest
Staying more than one day in this beautiful city? Set up a day trip from Bucharest and get to know Romania a bit better. Here are some great places to visit.
Transylvania is known across the world as the home of count Dracula, and you can visit his castle here – Bran Castle. However, the region is full of other fascinating examples of architecture, so a day trip from one to another is very much worth it. You will get an unshakeable sense of wonder as you tour Peles Castle and marvel at an incredible medieval village in Brasov.
Go bear watching
Transylvania hides another great reason to visit it, though. Romania is home to the beautiful brown bear, with an estimated 4,500 in the wild. If you’re planning on heading on a more extended adventure to Romania, bear watching should definitely be on your list of things to do!
Head to the Black Sea
A great choice for a relaxing day trip from Bucharest is to head to Romania’s Black Sea coast. Mamaia is an absolutely beautiful resort, excellent if you’re here in summer because of its lovely sandy beaches. You can also visit Constanta, a wonderful city whose roots go all the way back to Greek and Roman times.
Extra Tips for Visiting Bucharest
Romania, although located in Europe, does not use the Euro, instead it has its unique currency called the Leu. We’d suggest getting currency before entering into the country as often you’ll receive a better exchange rate this way.
At the time of writing (Feb 2020), Romania is not part of the Schengen Area, which means that it will not count towards the 90-day total of your tourist visa.
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Make sure you have everything you need
What to pack for your next trip?
Make your next trip as simple and as enjoyable as possible by packing smart. It’s amazing how much stress top travel items can save you, so choose carefully.
Things like lightweight travel backpacks, for example, are ideal for short trips and allow you to move around with ease, and a passport holder will make sure you keep your documents safe at all times.
Check our travel checklist guide for 2021 to make sure you haven’t missed anything, and travel to your next destination in style and with maximum comfort.
James is a travel writer who specializes in the lesser-travelled locations of Europe. From the best Romanian street food to getting around Ljubljana, James loves nothing more than seeking out the best food, experiences and adventures that these countries have to offer.