Before I visited Romania, I romanticised the hell out of it.
Images of Gothic Castles enveloped in mist and bloodthirsty vampires are all part of the lore surrounding Romania, and I couldn’t wait to visit this historical land and unveil its mysteries for myself.
However, as I travelled through Eastern Europe and discussed my plans to visit Bucharest with the people I met, they reacted negatively, telling me that Bucharest wasn’t worth visiting, and had nothing to offer.
I wasn’t about to change my travel plans – I love rooting for the underdog – but I certainly went in with low expectations, not expecting much from the Romanian capital.
When I arrived in Bucharest, I was greeted with old buildings, tree-lined boulevards, a great food scene, and all the cheap beer I could drink, as well as hundreds of coffee shops, a lively nightlife, and a complete absence of the suffocating crowds you usually find in capital cities.
It wasn’t quite love at first sight, but it was certainly a good start!
As time went on (I spent about a week in Bucharest), I failed to see why it attracts so much hate.
Sure, there are some dilapidated buildings here and there, and there aren’t a tonne of things to see and do, but that doesn’t make Bucharest a bad city.
Bucharest has a really cool vibe, and while it may not be as picturesque as some other European capital cities, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have a lot to offer.
Is Bucharest worth visiting?
I think it is, and in this post, I’m going to share some reasons why.
Is Bucharest Worth Visiting? My Honest Opinion
In the past, Bucharest was actually known as ‘Little Paris,’ due to its majestic architecture and the lavish lifestyle enjoyed by its residents.
However, in 1965, Nicolae Ceausescu took power and embarked on a radical urban transformation, demolishing much of the old town to create his vision of a modern city. The result was a neoclassical, Soviet-style city centre with boulevards meant to rival the Champs-Elysees.
The most striking feature of this transformation is the Palace of the Parliament, which is still the largest civilian building globally.
Ceausescu’s oppressive rule met a grim end in 1989, as he and his wife Elena were executed. Before their fall, a bloody revolution engulfed the city, leading to widespread destruction. The chaos in the country continued, and Bucharest slowly decayed.
Thankfully, recent investments have revitalised Bucharest, and while it may no longer rival Paris, it certainly isn’t the dilapidated place it once was.
Why visit Bucharest?
Bucharest’s Old Town, also known as Lipscani, is small but charming, with a really vibrant atmosphere.
It is a place where you can wander through narrow alleys, discover hidden courtyards, and marvel at some of the grandest architecture in the city.
Something that I really liked about Bucharest’s Old Town is the abundance of restaurants, bars, and cafes, full of people talking, laughing, drinking coffee and eating al fresco.
There are also some absolutely gorgeous buildings here.
One example is the 1724 Stavropoleos Monastery with a mix of Romanian, Oriental, Byzantine, and late Italian Renaissance influences and 18th-century frescoes.
There’s also Cărturești, one of the world’s most beautiful bookshops (you can find it at 55 Strada Lipscani), as well as Caru’ cu Bere, which is hands down the most stunning restaurant in Bucharest.
Another great thing about Bucharest Old Town?
It’s small size means that it’s incredibly walkable, and all of the main landmarks are very close together. You may also consider booking a Bucharest walking tour in order to learn more about the city.
Another thing I loved about Bucharest was its architecture, or should I say, its architectural juxtapositions.
You see, while Bucharest is certainly home to many grand buildings in the neoclassical, Art Nouveau, and native Brâncovenesc style, it also bears the scars of the brutal Soviet regime, with socialist realism and later modernist styles making their presence known in the city.
Bucharest is a city where you’ll find centuries old churches tucked between Soviet apartment blocks and 19th century neoclassical town houses, where the ornate and the brutalist coexist, and where the only consistency is the inconsistent.
Overall, Bucharest’s architectural diversity is a testament to its resilience and adaptability throughout the years, making it a fascinating destination if you’re interested in history, architecture, or both!
I was fully expecting Bucharest to be a concrete jungle, but when I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of green spaces in the city centre!
Cișmigiu Gardens, Bucharest’s oldest and largest park, provides a welcome respite from chaotic city life, and I spent a wonderful afternoon here with a few cans of fruity cider and some people I met in my hostel!
Established in 1860, Cișmigiu Gardens is a popular place for a leisurely stroll, a relaxing dog walk, or a fun hangout with friends.
In the centre of the park is a large lake where you can rent a boat during the summer or do some ice skating in winter!
Great café scene
Most of Eastern Europe and the Balkans have a great coffee culture (it was one of the things I loved most about Belgrade in Serbia), and Bucharest is no different.
Bucharest boasts a vibrant café culture where locals and visitors alike can enjoy a coffee and pastry as they watch the world go by.
Cafes here range from the cosy and vintage-inspired to minimalist and modern.
Many cafes in Bucharest offer outdoor seating, making the streets come alive, and whether you’re a remote worker or simply someone who loves drinking coffee, you can’t fail to be won over by the coffee shops in Bucharest.
Lack of crowds
If you’re someone who is used to visiting popular cities like Rome or Krakow, you’ll be amazed by how local Bucharest feels, and how thin the crowds are.
Naturally, you’re sure to see other tourists (especially as Bucharest is garnering a bit of a reputation as a cheap party destination), but they aren’t in such vast numbers, and you won’t have to queue for hours to get into a museum or church like you would elsewhere.
For me, Bucharest still feels pretty undiscovered, which is a great reason to add it to your list!
Bucharest is affordable
One of the biggest draws of Bucharest for most people is that it is a very affordable destination, especially when compared to many Western European cities.
You can easily find affordable accommodation and places to eat in Bucharest, and getting around the city isn’t an issue either, with public transport being very budget-friendly (Uber is also very cheap here).
Most importantly? A pint of beer will only set you back about 2 EUR.
Bucharest’s nightlife is quickly becoming known as some of the best in Europe, with some even likening it to a ‘Little Berlin.’
The Old Town in particular comes alive at night, with a seemingly infinite number of pubs, bars, and nightclubs blasting music until the early hours.
Perhaps the best thing about Bucharest’s nightlife is its diversity, so whether you want to buy 10 Jägerbombs and party like you’re in a German beer hall, watch live music in a cosy pub, or dance the night away in a club with crystal chandeliers and scantily-clad dancers, you’ll find it in Bucharest.
If you’re brave enough, why not join a pub crawl for a real taste of Bucharest’s best nightlife spots?
Day trips from Bucharest
Another great thing about Bucharest is that you can take some really cool day trips from here.
From the Romanian seaside town of Constanța to the medieval town of Brasov, and not forgetting the magnificent Peleș Castle and Bran Castle, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
This day trip to Dracula’s Castle and a bear sanctuary is a great choice!
Bucharest is safe
Anecdotally, people say that they feel as though Bucharest is ‘sketchy’ or unsafe, although the people that say this never report anything bad actually happening to them – it’s always just a feeling that Bucharest is unsafe.
I’m here to tell you that Bucharest is one of the safest capital cities in Europe, and you’re far more likely to fall victim to a crime in cities like Barcelona or Paris than you are in Bucharest.
In my opinion, when people talk about feeling unsafe in Bucharest, what they mean is that they saw a few homeless people begging for money. It is true that there is a major wealth disparity in Bucharest, but that does not make Bucharest a dangerous place to be, and violent crime here is incredibly rare.
Who should visit Bucharest?
A big part of the reason why people don’t like Bucharest is that they go there expecting it to be something other than what it is.
If you’re a culture vulture who loves historical landmarks and museums, you may feel underwhelmed by the somewhat limited offerings in Bucharest.
If you’re a couple looking for a romantic European getaway, the grittiness of Bucharest may not be what you’re looking for.
However, there are definitely certain types of traveller who will love Bucharest:
– Foodies. Bucharest is a real foodie city, with tonnes of world class cuisine at rock bottom prices. The culinary scene in Bucharest is thriving, and if you love discovering new restaurants, you’ll love it here.
– Architecture nerds. As I mentioned before, the architectural styles in Bucharest really tell a story, and if you’re interested in Soviet history, architecture, and all things related, you’ll find Bucharest a really interesting place to be.
– Fans of hidden gems. Bucharest certainly attracts its fair share of tourists, but in far fewer numbers than most other European capitals. As a result, Bucharest feels very authentic, and you’re sure to get a genuine Romanian experience here.
– Party animals. Bucharest’s nightlife reminds me of Belgrade, and not only does the party never end, but it’s also a super affordable place to drink. If you want a boozy weekend, Bucharest won’t let you down.
– Budget travellers. If you want a cultural European city break without the hefty price tag, Bucharest is a great option. Flights from the UK are always very affordable, as is accommodation and the general cost of living once you’re there.
How many days in Bucharest is enough?
Bucharest is a large city, but there aren’t tonnes of things to do here.
You can see most of Bucharest’s major attractions in a day, but I always recommend staying for a bit longer to get a better feel for the place.
In my opinion, 3 days in Bucharest is enough see the major landmarks, take a day trip to a castle or other city, and have a more relaxed day exploring the city parks and coffee shops.
Is Bucharest Worth Visiting? | Final Thoughts
Travel is what you make it, and I think that if you manage your expectations, Bucharest is a solid choice for a city break in Europe.
It isn’t Paris, or Rome, or Krakow, and you shouldn’t expect it to be, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t an interesting place to visit.
Is Bucharest my favourite place in Romania?
That title would go to Brasov or Sighisoara, but if you find cheap return flights to Bucharest and are wondering if it’s worth your time, I’d still say that the answer is yes.
That’s all I’ve got for you today, but as always, if you have any questions then don’t hesitate to ask in the comments section below and I will get back to you!
Until next time,
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