Bucharest is a hip and vibrant city rich in history and culture and the perfect spot for a long weekend getaway. I have created the perfect itinerary for what to do in Bucharest during a 3-day trip so that you make the most of your time in this remarkable city.
What to do in Bucharest: Day one
After a leisurely breakfast, get acquainted with the city on one of the many free walking tours. We used Walkabout Free Tour for this trip. Our guide was friendly and funny (in a well-practised, dry sense of humour way). Our tour was around the main historical areas in the old city of Bucharest, and it covered a brief rundown of Romania’s dark past. The tours are daily and completely free they work on the concept that you tip the guide at the end, depending on how much you think the tour was worth.
The tours leave daily at 10.30 & 18.00 and last for a couple of hours.
Head to Hanu’ Lui Manuc to start your culinary journey with a fest of local Romanian fare. Set in a beautiful courtyard, the alfresco dining is always busy with locals and tourists. It can be hard choosing from the extensive menu, and the wait staff aren’t particularly friendly or helpful. However, the food is definitely worth it! Don’t miss Papanasi – a Romanian dessert of fried doughnuts topped with soft cheese (like ricotta) and jam.
After lunch, take a tour of Casa Ceausescu, also known as Primaverii Palace. This highly informative tour gives you an excellent background knowledge of the cruel leader Ceausescu and a tour of his Spring Palace. The lavish mansion that is Casa Ceausescu housed his immediate family, and the opulent palace only uses the finest materials and extravagant fittings. It’s hard to digest when it was built during a time of hardship for the people of Romania.
Top tip: the only way to visit Casa Ceausescu is through a guided tour. Tours are offered in English, Romanian and on request French.
Just a short walk from Casa Ceausescu is Herăstrău Park; take a stroll around the park, watching the locals participating in their afternoon walks and exercise rituals before stopping for an early dinner. Choose from one of the many chic restaurants located around the lake. We recommend checking out Biutiful by the Lake; this stunning restaurant is a floating terrace overlooking the lake. Modern food has a variety of options with an oriental twist.
It can get jam-packed, especially on weekends, so consider booking in advance.
Head back to the old town and soak in this busy pedestrian area at The Urbanist. A hip and funky cafe and bar where not only can you get a drink but you can get a haircut or shop for a range of lifestyle goods and clothing. The Urbanist has a great selection of drinks, friendly staff and a prime location for people watching.
What to do in Bucharest: Day Two
Today head out of the city on a day trip to visit one of the beautiful castles in the gorgeous countryside. We opted for a private driver as we wanted to take our time and didn’t want the time restraints of an organised tour. Romania has many castles so if you’re wondering what to do in Bucharest for sightseeing, take notes of what is presented below.
Located just outside of the city is Snagov Monastery. Set on a small and beautiful island linked by a pedestrian bridge, you will find a lone building that claims to be the burial place of Vlad Tepes (the inspiration behind Dracula). This cute monastery doesn’t take long to get around. Still, the gorgeous orthodox interior is worth a glimpse, as are the pack of friendly stray dogs that seemingly guard it. There is a small entrance fee that you can either pay at the parking or at the entrance to the church and another small fee if you want to take photos.
Located in Sinaia, a mountainous town in the foothills of the Bucegi Mountains, is this popular castle complex. The outer buildings, the old stables, hunting lodge, and guard quarters are souvenir shops, restaurants, and a small bar. The grounds actually house two castles.
The former summer palace of the Romanian Royal family finished in 1883 after 10 years of construction; the German new-Renaissance architecture is stunning, as are the 160 decorated rooms (well, the few we saw). You must complete a guided tour; the tours are busy, and it can be hard to hear the guide. During the tour, you see a few lower-level rooms, including the cinema, smoking room, and an armoury. You can extend the tour to the upper floors for an additional fee to visit the bedrooms.
You can also find the smaller Pelisor Castle, which features a furniture and glassware collection on the grounds.
Note: The castle is closed for the whole month of November for cleaning and restoration work.
Horror fans reunite! What to do in Bucharest if not visiting Bran Castle? Bran Castle is often perceived to be the castle that belongs to Bram Stoker’s character, Dracula. While the castle in the story is entirely made up, Bran castle is the only castle in Romania to fit the description in the story.
We opted to use Private Driver Romania to book our tour; this gave us the flexibility to decide on our route and take our time in each destination. We left our accommodation at 9am and returned around 6pm the same evening. For example, to include Bran Castle, you will need to depart around 7-8am and return around 9pm. The cost for hiring a private vehicle was €160 divided between the four of us was €40 each, not including a tip for the driver.
Many day trips offer different options, including skipping Peles and visiting Brasov and Bran Castle. Peles Castle and Brasov are also accessible by train.
Take in the changing skyline with a pre-dinner drink at Linea / Closer to the Moon. This trendy bar has an excellent rooftop terrace and a contemporary indoor restaurant. Linea has a fantastic drink selection, and the pre-dinner snack we had was tasty yet reasonably priced.
Head to the simply decorated Pâine si Vin for dinner, which translates to bread and wine. This modern and light restaurant serves a variety of pizzas and antipasto dishes, with a large selection of good wine. The fabulous ingredients are of the highest standard and are all locally sourced.
What to do in Bucharest: Day Three
For your final morning, a stroll down Calea Victoriei should definitely be on your list of what to do in Bucharest; this historic street is one of the city’s oldest and prettiest streets. Walking in this area will reveal while Bucharest was formally known as the Paris of the East, showing you the city’s most exemplary architecture, cultural hot spots and museums.
Enjoy your lunch at one of the many cafes found around Calea Victoriei.
Spend the afternoon exploring The Palace of Parliament. This monstrous building is the current Parliament of Romania and the second-largest administrative building globally. Commissioned by Nicolae Ceausescu, the installation took thirteen years to build, and the tour shows off some of the most opulent rooms and explains the hardships the people were facing while money was poured into making this extravagant palace.
A meal at the remarkable Caru’ cu bere should not miss from your list of what to do in Bucharest. Caru’ cu bere is a traditional beerhouse and restaurant that serves up traditional Romanian cuisine that has been tried, tested, and refined over its 100 years of operation. It’s a bustling scene with plenty of atmosphere and even a bit of entertainment.
Spend your final evening at Nomad Skybar; the bar’s motto is ‘eat, drink, dance’, and they offer all of this in spades. Not only does this bar provide an innovative menu, but it’s also one of the few rooftop bars in the old town. The light ambience continues inside, with the glass top roof and gorgeous greenery providing an excellent backdrop for the evenings where the bar turns into a happening bar and club.
So if you are wondering what to do in Bucharest during a 3-day trip, give this guide a chance and book your tour. I hope you have a fantastic time!