Top 7 things to do in Bucharest in only 24 hours
If you are traveling to Bucharest, Romania and have limited time at your disposal to discover the city, check below the most important highlights, Bucharest city tours and experiences you should not miss even for a short stay.
Walk along Victory Avenue
If you have traveled the world, you must be certainly aware by now that, no matter how spread out and architecturally refined, the metropolises feature, without fail, one “High Street”. Many of these “High streets” are no longer called thus because mayors and administrations, irrespective of political systems, of traditions and developments competed with each other in baptizing as many principal streets as possible.
After being “Mogosoaia bridge”, the avenue received the name of victory, after the War of Independence from 1877-1878, this being the road that King Carol Ist together with the Romanian army, marched along while entering Bucharest, bringing the victory from the battlefield. Before WWI and during the interwar time this was the most popular avenue along which the aristocracy was walking along or riding their fancy carriages pulled by horses. Beautiful architecture, interesting museums, small parks and quaint Orthodox churches, Orchestra halls, many extravagant shops which used to show the latest fashion from Paris, boutique and historical hotels, these are only couple of things you would find during a walk along this famous avenue.
One cannot come to Bucharest and not stroll down Victory Avenue. Just as you cannot say that you have been to Paris if you have not trotted a little down Champs Elysees, to New York if you have not stepped on Fifth Avenue or to Moscow if you have not walked along Arbatskala Street. Victory Avenue is a unique fact of self understood urban personality, a unit of measurement of the city’s quality.
Start from the Victory Square and continue until the United Nations Square where you will meet for the first time Dambovita River.
Visit the Revolution Square and discover the story of communism in Romania
This part of the city is probably the most representative for Bucharest. In a small area along Victory Avenue, you will see some of the most beautiful constructions of Bucharest: the historical Athenee Palace Hotel, nowadays Hilton Hotel (dating from 1912 and being the first construction in Bucharest built with reinforced concrete), the Romanian Atheneum, emblematic building of the city hosting the Romanian National Orchestra Hall (have a look inside and admire the main hall and the official Orchestra Hall which boasts a great acoustique and an amazing series of frescoes representing the Romanian history; entrance fee is 10 Lei per person and visits can be made in the morning until aprox 4 pm), the National Art Museum, former Royal Palace, the University Library, the statue of King Carol Ist and Kretzulescu Church.
Do not miss the Memorial of Rebirth built in the memory of the Romanian revolutionaries from December 1989. It is an architectural complex consisting in a white obelisk with a brown sphere on the top, a wooden alley and 2 white walls with the names of the revolutionaries carved on them). It is here where the 1989 Revolution took place and put an end to the communist regime from Romania after more than 40 years. Opposite the Memorial, across the road, you will see the former Headquarters of the Communist Party and the Security (political police agency).
Visit the Palace of the Parliament
It certainly represents the biggest and most famous construction that you have to see in Bucharest. Its fame is due most of all to the three records mentioned by World Records Academy – the largest, most expensive and heaviest administrative building in the world. It was erected starting with 1984 at the orders of then president of communist Romania, Nicolae Ceausescu, who wanted to centre here all the political and administrative power.
The Palace of the Parliament is by far the most controversial building in the country and despite the Romanians’ disdain, it is the reason why most of the tourists are visiting Bucharest.
The palace is open daily for visitors from 10:00 am to 04:00 pm, except some days when different conferences or fairs are taking place. Here, tourists can join groups and visit the palace with the local guides who speak English, Spanish, French and Italian. It is preferable to call with one day in advance and find out the program of the visiting tours. More info can be found on the official website here.
Do not forget to bring with you the passport or ID in original as the access to the palace is based on these documents; otherwise you won’t be allowed to visit inside.
Visit the Village Museum
It is here where you will have the chance to step back in an indefinite time when traditions and superstitions used to go hand in hand with religion and local believes. Inaugurated in 1936, the open air museum reunites original houses which belonged to Romanian peasants being brought here from all the corners of the country. Tourists can stroll along the alleys, admire the traditional and simple architecture of the houses, they can learn about the old lifestyle at the countryside and find out funny, interesting things about the families who used to live in those homesteads.
Do not miss the typical blue house from Danube Delta, the traditional 18th century wooden church from Maramures historical region or the intriguing half buried houses from Oltenia.
The Village Museum represents a synthesis of all villages across Romania. The collection is quite impressive gathering more than 300 monuments (houses, annexes, churches, technical installations) and countless interior items (furniture, ceramics, textiles, tools, etc.) considered representative for their places of origin.
The museum is worth being visited no matter the season, as each period gives a special glow and charm to this small “urban village” which always remains unchanged despite the years passing by. But we have to admit that the best time to see it is during weekends starting with 1st of March until winter as then is the time when many traditional fairs are taking place. Then is your chance to get in touch with the local handicrafts and to admire their work. The village really seems to get back to life and the most important thing is the fact that you are part of the picture.
The museum is open daily, roughly from 09:00 am to 06:00 pm, depending on the season. If on Mondays the small houses are closed and you can see them from the outside, during the rest of the week you can have a peek inside them.
Here you can find more info.
Try the Romanian traditional food and drinks. What and Where?
Folks, it’s time to be serious now. We are about to talk about food. Before coming to Romania it is important to leave your diet home as the Romanian motto for food goes like this: “The best vegetable is meat!” The traditional dishes are deeply rooted in the Balcanic traditions, this being also the place where influences from both the Orient and Occident meet. Try the traditional “sarmale” (meat rolled in cabbage leaves and served with polenta, cream and a chili pepper), the “shepherd’s bulz” (polenta with cheese, bacon and a fried egg on the top), the traditional “tochitura” (meat stew served together with polenta or homemade bread and a salad or a chili pepper). Also, let’s not forget about the most important part of the meal: the dessert. Whenever you see in the menu the so called “Papanasi”, you will know what to order. These doughnuts with cheese served with cream and sweet fruit jam are simply one of the most representative and delicious Romanian desserts.
Do not hesitate to try a shot of “Palinca” which is basically a pretty strong brandy or one of the Romanian wines from the Dealu Mare, Jidvei, Murfatlar, Purcari or Cotnari wine cellars. Some of them can very easily compete with the wines from Bordeaux or Tuscany.
Where can you find this kind of culinary wonders, you may ask. In Bucharest there are plenty of good Romanian traditional restaurant that besides the great food they are also popular for the traditional atmosphere created by live music, bands and dance performances. Here you can get some examples: The Peasant’s Club, Caru cu Bere, Hanul Berarilor, Vatra, Lacrimi si Sfinti, Casa Doina, Hanul lui Manuc or Jaristea restaurants.
Act like a local: street pastry and teahouses
If visit Bucharest, probably you will notice the large number of street stores where pastry is made and sold to passengers. You need to know that for a snack, this type of food is very popular among Romanians (so, not only in Bucharest). The most requested and by consequence, the most consumed pastry is the simple pretzel which is also very cheap, 1 Leu (0.22 Euro). You can also choose from apple strudel, cheese strudel, cheese pie, apple pie or a “covridog” (an interesting combination between hot dog and pretzel dough).
Tea is another thing that Bucharest citizens are keen about no matter the season. There are very nice teahouses in the city with beautiful gardens and special sortiments of tea and cookies. After a long walk in the city a short break at a teahouse is just perfect. Which are the best ones? Infinitea, Bohemia Tea House, Green Tea House, Ramayana Cafe, La un ceai, Joie de Vivre, Acuarela, Serendipity Coffee & Tea and many, many others.
Visit the Old City Center
We say about the old city center that it’s the part of the city which never sleeps. With many pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants, the old center is an attraction itself for tourists and locals, as well. Even though is quite a small area, those coming here will find nice places to eat, drink and have fun.
If during daytime, the streets are a little quiet with tourists walking along the cobblestone streets and admiring the beautiful houses (most of them of French inspiration) during night, everything is vivid and bright.
We know, there are many things to experience in only 24 hours in Bucharest. Do not be discouraged, though. With a proper planning, you can do it on your own or you can choose the relaxing way of joining a small group Bucharest city tour with a local tour guide who will give you the best insight of the city and will help you to enjoy your time spent here.