how to spend 24-hours in Bucharest, Romania: a detailed 1-day itinerary with a map

I had long been wanting to sink my teeth into Romania. There is a lot of appeal to the lesser-visited countries in Europe for me. The villages and landscapes, stories of vampires, and the continued use of horses and carriages all seemed a bit mythical in my mind. So, I had high hopes for by first taste in Bucharest, the country’s capital city. After being completely smitten with Sofia, Bulgaria, I hoped Bucharest would be an equally happy surprise.

BUT I WAS NOT WON OVER BY BUCHAREST.

In fact, it may go on a very short list of cities I was completely disappointed in. It may actually go on the top of that list as the city I like the least of any I’ve ever been to. Yeah, I know, harsh. So here’s the story.

I like to see every destination as thoroughly as possible. I want to drink at all the cafés, mingle with locals, eat the local foods, and get away from the touristy old towns each European capital seems to have. I like to take tours that are lead by locals or residents. I want to envelope myself in a place as much as I can. This usually takes time as much as effort. In Bucharest, I had 1.5 days. 2 days if we feel like generously tacking on the evening I arrived where I went to the supermarket and bought myself dinner, cooked it in my AirBnB, and watched an episode of Sons of Anarchy {yes, this makes the 20th time I’ve rewatched the series}.

Despite an obvious lack of time, I did give Bucharest my best effort. I got up extra early {even for early bird me} and headed out into the city to try and cover as much ground as possible. For whatever it’s worth to you, here are my top recommendations for a day in the Romanian capital.


read on for my guide to 1 day in Bucharest


how to spend 24-hours in Bucharest, Romania: a detailed 1-day itinerary for Bucharest with a map

FIRST THING’S FIRST…

how to get AROUND BUCHAREST

Knowing ho to get from place to place makes a single day in any destination run smoother. For Bucharest, it’s easiest and cheapest to walk around the Old Town and central part of the city. However, to get to the Arc de Triomphe, and for those staying on the outskirts of Bucharest, the metro is and affordable and easy to navigate alternative. You can buy tickets for the public transportation of the city at ticket booths like the one pictured above. You can also buy metro tickets inside the metro station. Cash is typically the only form of payment accepted at the ticket booths on the street {though there are exceptions}, while the metro ticket machines accept card.

Psst…there is also a map at the end of this blog to help you find your way.

how to spend 24-hours in Bucharest, Romania: a detailed 1-day itinerary for Bucharest with a map

8:30am - Visit the Basilica Saint Anthony

Saint Anthony is the patron saint of lost things. Locals often come here to pray to Saint Anthony for help in finding items they might have lost, including everything from lovers to their car keys. Start your morning by praying to Saint Anthony to find anything you might have lost on your travels at the basilica. From here, you’re only a 2-minute walk to your next stop of the day.

how to spend 24-hours in Bucharest, Romania
how to spend 24-hours in Bucharest, Romania
how to spend 24-hours in Bucharest, Romania

9AM - coffee at The Urbanist

The Urbanist is located in the Old Town of Bucharest, making it an ideal place to start your day in the city. Despite the hours listed on Google, the café doesn’t really open until closer to 9AM. The chai latte I had was the perfect kickstart to a day on my feet exploring. The Urbanist not only has a gorgeous aesthetic, it doubles as a menswear store. If you feel like picking up something for a man in your life, this is the coolest place in town to grab a t-shirt or a hoodies.

 
how to spend 24-hours in Bucharest, Romania: a detailed 1-day itinerary for Bucharest with a map

10AM - pop into Cărturești Carusel

Cărturești Carusel is a modern bookstore set in the heart of Old Town Bucharest. The building which currently houses it was originally built by a family of wealthy bankers. After the Communist era of the 1990s, the bank, which was used as a general store for a time, began to fall into a dilapidated state. It wasn’t until 2015 that the building was restored to its original glory and transformed into a bookstore.

The Instagram-famous bookstore, which is named one of the most beautiful in the world time and again, opens at 10AM. If you want to snap a photo without crowds of people or enjoy a new read without being in the background of other peoples’ photos, get there at opening. I arrived at 10AM on the dot and my travel companion and I were the only ones there.

There are a large selection of English books, and most are at a very reasonable price, so support the local store by grabbing something to read if you can spare the cash and the space in your suitcase.

 
how to spend 24-hours in Bucharest, Romania: a detailed 1-day itinerary for Bucharest with a map

10:30AM - see Bucharest with free Walkabout tour

One thing that I’ve slowly gotten into during my latest jaunt around Europe is the free walking tour. Most cities offer some kind of free tour, where a local guide gives you information and, at the end of the tour, you can thank them with a tip.

The Bucharest tour starts at 10:30AM and lasts around 2.5 hours. You’ll meet the guide by the fountains in Unirii Square Park. Among other things, you’ll get to learn all about Bucharest’s communist era, hear true stories that inspired the tale of Dracula, and giggle at a major Michael Jackson mix-up. It’s definitely worth spending a few hours gathering some context for the city.

how to spend 24-hours in Bucharest, Romania: a detailed 1-day itinerary for Bucharest with a map
how to spend 24-hours in Bucharest, Romania: a detailed 1-day itinerary for Bucharest with a map

1PM - try local cuisine + the national desert at La Mama

After a long tour on your feet, you’re going to want to grab a bite to eat. Most restaurants in Bucharest have lunch specials! They look a little different everywhere, but they are definitely the best bang for your buck and the most cost effective way to try the local cuisine. At La Mama, you can have a starter and a main course for 25 RON {approx. USD $5.81} or a main and a dessert for 35 RON (approx. USD$8). I had the vegetarian halloumi burger for my main and the national dessert, papanasi, to finish my meal. It was definitely one of my more expensive meals in Eastern Europe, but it was a steal to eat in that setting.

how to spend 24-hours in Bucharest, Romania: a detailed 1-day itinerary for Bucharest with a map

2PM - visit the Instagram-famous umbrella lane

Truth be told, the umbrella lane in Bucharest is not the most impressive I’ve seen, especially after Istanbul and Sofia each had their own takes on the photo-worthy alley decor. However, the umbrella lane in Bucharest is on your way {if you’re walking} to…

how to spend 24-hours in Bucharest, Romania: a detailed 1-day itinerary for Bucharest with a map
how to spend 24-hours in Bucharest, Romania: a detailed 1-day itinerary for Bucharest with a map

2:15PM - …peep the city’s street art

Strada Arthur Verona is an area of the city that is easy to access and covered with beautiful murals in an attempt to liven up Bucharest. The vibrant walls in this part of the city, away from Old Town, are part of a community art project.

how to spend 24-hours in Bucharest, Romania: a detailed 1-day itinerary for Bucharest with a map

4PM - gaze upon the heaviest, largest, + most expensive parliament building in Europe

Wandering around Bucharest, you’ll slowly make your way to the Parliament building, often referred to as the Palace of Parliament. Why the fancy name? Romania looked to France as an example of sophisticated society and architecture {more on this below}. The parliament building in Bucharest sets quite a few records thanks to the last “president” from the communist era who had Napoleon syndrome.

You can actually take a tour inside parliament, but you have to book in advance so that the Romanian government can give you a background check, etc. I didn’t know about this until too late, so I can’t in good conscious recommend this. However, I be very keen to check out the inside to see where the €8 billion that went into its construction went.

6:30PM - sunset picnic at the arc de triomphe

You read that correctly. In between the two World Wars, Bucharest became the “Little Paris of the East”. Basically, the people in charge at the time were a bit obsessed with all things French and so they decided to imitate Paris, to the point that not only is the general architecture but also exact landmarks, like the Arc de Triomphe. The Bucharest version sits near an open park with plenty of benches that makes for a lovely {and a bit of a romantic} spot for sunset.


MAP

Need help navigating? I’ve made a map and pinned all the points of interest mentioned in this post to make it easy for you!


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how to spend 24-hours in Bucharest, Romania: a detailed 1-day itinerary for Bucharest with a map #bucharest #bucharestthingstodo #bucharesttravel
how to spend 24-hours in Bucharest, Romania: a detailed 1-day itinerary for Bucharest with a map #bucharest #bucharesttravel #bucharestthingstodo
how to spend 24-hours in Bucharest, Romania: a detailed 1-day itinerary for Bucharest with a map