Today we share travel tips for the Romanian City of Bucharest. Our Bucharest travel guide will help you find things to do in Bucharest, along with accommodation, transport, food, weather and cost of living information.
- 1 Things To Do in Bucharest
- 2 The History of Bucharest
- 3 Things you should know about Bucharest Romania
- 4 Where is Bucharest?
- 5 Bucharest Weather
- 6 How to get to Bucharest
- 7 The Cost of Living in Bucharest
- 8 Getting around in Bucharest
- 9 Hotels in Bucharest
- 10 Popular food in Bucharest
- 11 Things to do in Bucharest with Kids
- 12 Summary
Things To Do in Bucharest
Our guide to Travel in Bucharest
Bucharest, the capital and largest city of Romania. It is the cultural, industrial and financial centre of Romania, and by all accounts seems to get a pretty bad wrap from tourists passing through Bucharest for just a couple of days on their way to more popular destinations like the Transylvania Region. But with so many things to do in Bucharest, why not stay longer?
Is a Bucharest visit worthwhile or is it a city to pass through on your way to another destination?
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Bucharest. Beautiful may not be the right word to describe Bucharest, however in the heart of winter (during our visit), with a blanket of snow across the country, and with remnants of Christmas decorations, the city felt absolutely magical.
Streets are lined with beautiful avant-garde buildings and architecture from the 1920’s-30’s, and it isn’t difficult to feel the history of this city.
Locals are friendly, English is common and the cost of living is low, making Bucharest travel a wonderful option for budget travellers.
And with lots of places to visit in Bucharest, it is a great place to stop for a decent amount of time. There are plenty of Bucharest sites to see and loads of Bucharest day trips either within the city, or further afield. Either way Bucharest Romania is a great city to visit.
Enjoy our Bucharest Guide and let us help you prepare to visit Bucharest.
The History of Bucharest
By European standards Bucharest it is a relatively new city, first mentioned in only 1459 as the home to leader Vlad the Impaler (who inspired the legend of Dracula).
With a long line of influences claiming rule over Bucharest (which, if you are interested you can read about here) by the end of WWII, Bucharest and Romania fell under the Communists Rule. In 1965 Dictator Nicolae Ceausescu lead the country until the revolution in 1989 when he and his communist party were overthrown by a large population of angry young people, making way for the development of Bucharest as it is today.
This history has resulted in a city with a distinctive look and feel, with past influences clearly evident throughout the city, from Stalin statues and the impressive communist Palace of the Parliament to various architectural elements and styles of food.
Things you should know about Bucharest Romania
I have to be completely honest and say I didn’t know much about Romania before we decided to visit Bucharest. This decision was purely based on the cheap cost of airfares from London. In true Worldschooling form, we have learned an incredible amount about this city and country.
Where is Bucharest?
Wondering where Bucharest is located? The city of Bucharest is located in southern Romania. It is surrounded by Bulgaria to the south, Serbia to the south west, Hungary to the north west, Ukraine to the north and Moldova to the north east.
The warmest time of year to visit Bucharest is during the month of July, when the city has a lovely Summer average of 22 degrees. In winter, January is the coldest month with the average temperature getting down to a chilly -2. During our visit it got down to -16 degrees, however with the right gear we found it surprisingly comfortable (and we are not lovers of cold weather!)
For further details on Bucharest weather, have a look at this link.
How to get to Bucharest
There are many low cost airlines travelling in and out of Bucharest. We flew in via Ryan Air, direct from London’s Stansted Airport. Flight time was around 3 hours and cost only about $100USD for the whole family.
For details on getting to and from the airport, please read our Getting around in Bucharest section.
The Cost of Living in Bucharest
We found the cost of living to be fantastic in Bucharest and our travel budget enjoyed the break from the usual high cost of travel through Europe.
The Lei is the currency in Romania. We mistakenly believed the Euro would be accepted, however, although part of the European Union, the Euro is not accepted. Click here for current currency conversion.
For full details about the cost of living in Bucharest we highly recommend this link.
Getting around in Bucharest
We were initially a little weary of getting around in Bucharest as the city has a bad reputation for taxi drivers ripping off unsuspecting visitors.
Ultimately we found it pretty easy to navigate and found taxis to be a quick and relatively cheap way for the four of us to get around, providing you follow a couple of tips
Within Bucharest there are the official taxis, and the taxi conmen. We were warned by locals that some taxi drivers would rip us off if we choose the wrong one, but of course there didn’t seem to be much indication on how to choose the right one!
After some research and then practice we discovered that you should be pretty right if you follow these tips
- Look for the official taxis – these are the branded taxis (although some conmen have just copied the stickers and put them on their own taxi)
- Look for the taxi price, shown on the front side section of the taxis – usually around 1.39 lie per kilometre. Some showed prices as expensive as 1.99lie/km however, the majority were 1.39, so there really isn’t much need to pay more.
- Confirm that the price shown on the door is the price displayed on the meter, and the meter is used!
- Some drivers will give you a flat rate – from our experience this was up to 4 times the metered cost, so just say no and walk away – taxis are everywhere!
- Most taxi drivers do not speak English, so if you cannot pronounce your destination, have it written down. We took a screen shot of our AirBnB details and saved it in favourites for easy access. Show this to the driver before you get in the car.
- The most popular Taxi App in Bucharest is Star Taxi – great for ordering taxis from home when going out – however, when coming home we found it hard to use to get a taxi. However with taxis everywhere, finding one wasn’t a problem.
- Many taxi drivers do not like to drive long distances. To drive 4.5kms for example, we had to ask about 6 taxi drivers, before we found one happy to take us, using the meter.
The metro is popular in Bucharest and easy to navigate. The network is extensive and cheap to use, however services can be poor and heavily overcrowded in peak times.
Buses, Trolleybuses and Trams
Bucharest has hundreds of bus (and trolleybus) routes and many trams, serving all parts of the city, and stretching out to a number of suburban villages. Services can be very crowded, and you should keep an eye on your belongings as pickpockets are rife.
Buses and trams run from around 04:30 to around 23:00 after which the night buses takeover. These serve all areas of the capital throughout the night, with routes departing from Piata Unirii. Most night bus services run at hourly intervals.
A Bucharest Airport Transfer isn’t difficult and using public transport to get to and from the airport is super easy and surprisingly cheap, compared with other European cities we’ve visited.
Two express routes serve the Bucharest airport to city route: 780 (from Gara de Nord) and 783 (from Piata Unirii). From the Bucharest Airport to city centre late at night took us approximately 45 minutes and cost around $5 for all of us.
You can purchase tickets for the metro at any Bucharest train station. Tickets valid for two journeys cost as little as 5lei, while multiple journey tickets (ten journeys) cost just 20lei. A daily bus ticket is 8lei, while a weekly season ticket costs 25 lei.
In order to ride the buses, trolleybuses or trams in Bucharest, you need to buy an Activ or Multiplu card. These are available at the little RATB kiosks found next to any major Bucharest bus station and tram stop.
The Multiplu card (blue and white) costs 1.60 lei and needs to be loaded at the time of purchase, with two to ten journeys (1.30lei each). Alternatively it can be loaded with a pass valid for one day’s unlimited travel on all buses, trolleybuses and trams for 8lei. After the initial purchase, the Multiplu card cannot be topped-up. The Activ card (green and white) costs 3.70lei but can be topped-up with anything from 2.60 to 50 lei per go.
When boarding buses, trolleybuses and trams you simply wave your Multiplu or Activ card at one of the orange machines dotted around the vehicle, until you here the beep. After you touch on, the screen will update you with how many journeys or credit you have left. Be sure to use one of these cards as if you are caught without a validiated Multiplu or Activ card you will be fined 50 lei.
On all public transport in Bucharest children under seven ride for free. After that they have to pay full adult price.
Uber is popular in Bucharest, and an easy way to avoid language issues. Click here to get your first Uber trip for FREE!
Hotels in Bucharest
Looking for where to stay in Bucharest? Finding the hotel or accommodation option that is best for your family in Bucharest is very easy and Bucharest has a range of accommodation offerings, depending on your budget. Accommodation needn’t be expensive with our 2 bedroom apartment through AirBnB costing only $USD30/night.
Our favourite booking sites are Hotels.com and AirBnB, both of which we use in every city we travel to. Click on the link below to check out some fantastic deals at Hotels.com or Click Here to get $USD35 off (that’s equivalent of one free night in Bucharest!) your first night’s accommodation with AirBnB
Popular food in Bucharest
One of the highlights of travel for us is the opportunity to try different food and taste test some of the most popular local dishes in every city we visit. Romania has a range of local dishes and wonderful restaurants worth trying and the following is a list we were determined to taste test whilst in town.
Sarmale cu Mamaliguta
A true authentic Romanian dish is Sarmale, and no traditional meal is complete without it. Usually prepared during winter time and Christmas holidays, Sarmale is a dish made of rolled minced meat (pork usually) mixed with rice and herbs and covered in cabbage leaves (looking like cabbage rolls). It is usually accompanied by Mamaliga (or Mamaliguta) – polenta made of boiled corn flour, as well as by hot peppers and sour cream.
Beef salad (Salata boeuf)
This is a salad made of diced boiled vegetables (potatoes, carrots, parsnips, peas), as well some pickled cucumbers and red peppers and diced beef. The vegetables and beef mixes together with mayonnaise and mustard.
Grilled Eggplant salad (Salata de vinete)
This is a very tasty salad, easy to make and very appreciated by those who love eggplants. It is tastier if the eggplants are grilled on a smoky outdoor barbecue. The grilled eggplant is peeled and chopped, then mixed with onion and mayonnaise (sometimes smashed garlic and herbs are also added)
Fish eggs salad (Salata de icre)
The salted fish eggs are mixed with oil and lemon until they are like a mayonnaise, then boiled wheat semolina and chopped onion are added.
Grilled Meat Rolls (Mici, Mititei)
This is a specialty Romanians like to eat and in fact was the first fast-food concept in Romania. Spicy minced meat, rolled (the legend says the first Mici were in fact sausage fillings without skin), grilled on the barbecue – the smoke is a must for the final taste! You have to eat them with mustard and fresh bread roll.
Things to do in Bucharest with Kids
Wondering what to do in Bucharest with kids? There is lots of things to do in Bucharest – our kids loved visiting this city. From Bucharest sightseeing, Bucharest tours, day trips from Bucharest and visiting Bucharest tourist attractions, you will not be short of things to do.
In Winter it is a magical winter wonderland and perfect for making snowmen and snowball fights. When trying to decide what to visit in Bucharest, the weather will impact you to some degree. While some activities are best visited during the warmer months, Bucharest has many activities that are perfect year round.
We have put together a list of activities that might help you figure out what to see in Bucharest – there is a variety of Bucharest attractions included, all of which are designed with kids in mind.
The Village Museum Bucharest is an open-air ethnographic museum located in the Herăstrău Park, showcasing traditional Romanian village life. This museum extends to over 100,000 m², and contains 272 authentic peasant farms and houses from all over Romania.
An excellent way to discover historical Romania and the way locals have lived through the ages. Spend a day or even an afternoon exploring this quaint village and let your kids experience life as it would have been, there is no better way to learn about history than wandering through a place like the Village Museum where kids see it all in person!
For full details, check out our Dimitrie Gustie National Village Museum Guide.
Constructed from 1888-93, Cotroceni Palace has, since 1991, been the official home of the Romanian President. Built on the site of a former monastery, part of which can still be seen, part of the palace is open to the public, and can be visited on a tour. You will see a number of function rooms and an astonishing art collection in the gallery.
During the construction of the new wing in the 1980s, ruins of the original monastery church were discovered, including part of the original interior frescoes. The church has been partially rebuilt and can be visited without joining the full palace tour.
For further details click here. http://www.muzeulcotroceni.ro/index_eng.html
Palace of Parliament
Built by the Communists Party leader, Nicolae Ceausescu, the incredible Parliament Palace (formerly the People’s Palace) is the second largest building for administration in the world following the Pentagon. Vast portions of the historic and central parts of Bucharest had to be demolished in order to make room for the Palace of the Parliament.
The Presidential palace boasts 12 stories, 1,100 rooms, a 328-ft-long lobby and four underground levels, including an enormous nuclear bunker. The interior is incredibly luxurious and displays crystal chandeliers, mosaics, oak panelling, gold leaf, marble, stained-glass windows and floors covered in rich carpets.
If you would like a guide to show you through the Palace of Parliament, Private or Group guided tours can be arranged.
Cost of visit: Prices vary between 25-45lie per person depending on the type of tour you choose. Kids under 7, or with Student ID visit for free.
For full details click here
Phoenix Extreme Park Cernica
If your kids are active and love getting out and getting physical, the Phoenix Cerica Extreme Park may be the highlight of their time in Bucharest
Extreme Park Cernica claims to be the number one advertures park nearby Bucharest. Here, your kids will enjoy 9 types of tree tracks with different difficulty levels, the longest zip line in Romania, across the Cernica lake, fishing activities, archery and a very clean and well organized barbecue area.
Bring your family and friends; no matter their age, everyone will be in on the fun! The site guarantees safe conditions and proper equipment (carabiners, harnesses, helmets) that will protect you and your little ones.
For full details click here
Touted as the largest recreation, wellness and entertainment centre in Europe, and located just north of Bucharest, Therme Bucuresti is a climate controlled wonderland that is perfect for kids of all ages and one of the top things to do in Bucharest.
Consisting of a variety of “themed” areas including Galaxy, Elysium and The Palm, each offers families a range of activities, suitable for the whole family. The Galaxy, in particular is a large indoor water park and wave pool, and fun for all of the family.
For full details click here
The Romanian Athenaeum is a concert hall in the center of Bucharest, Romania and a landmark of the Romanian capital city. With stunning architecture and design and featuring elements from a bygone era, this century old building is quite the site.
It is home to the Bucharest Philharmonic and has many events scheduled throughout the year. While not strictly an activity for kids, it is a stunning building and worth a quick visit during a stay in Bucharest.
Full details about The Athenaeum can be found here
The Geology Museum
If your child loves rocks and fossils then they will love The Geology Museum of Bucharest. While it is rather old-fashioned, the museum’s extremely large permanent collections of over 80,000 specimens are impressive in size, with a decent number of English captions. The museum is also one of the most active museums in the city, with many permanent exhibitions, whilst also playing host to various and fascinating temporary exhibitions. It also runs creative workshops for children some Saturday mornings.
National Military Museum
A popular attraction for kids, the National Military Museum was founded in 1923 provides a comprehensive insight into the history of the Romanian people and the importance of its military.
The national museum has an impressive collection which amounts to some 1,300,000 exhibits, including a wide range of military uniforms, weapons (including firearms), flags, medals and the like.
Free Walking Tours
We love taking part in Walking Tours whenever we visit a new city, and upon arriving in Bucharest we immediately started looking for the best Bucharest Walking Tour.
Walking tours are the perfect way to meet the locals, hear about life in their city and find out about destinations that are off the beaten path.
It is a quick and easy way to learn about the city, it’s history and life as a local in the city you are visiting. Our city tour of Bucharest visited the Bucharest center known as the Old Town of Bucharest along with many other interesting sites.
A simple Google search of “Bucharest free walking tour” was all that was needed to help us find lots of options. Most tours are free, however they do appreciate a donation at the end of the tour if you think it was worthwhile!
Our tour was with Walkabout Free Walking Tours. Click Here for further details.
Parks and Gardens
Bucharest is a city full of parks and gardens, a great, free, activity for active kids! Time in the local garden and grounds of these beautiful places is a wonderful opportunity to explore Bucharest and let kids burn off some energy!
Here is a list of parks and gardens in Bucharest.
Despite what you might read online from sources saying Bucharest isn’t a great place for travel with kids, we found the city to be a great, budget friendly option while travelling through Europe. We’ve highlighted many of the best things to do in Bucharest Romania, and we hope this helps you with your travel plans if visiting this country.
With plenty of English to help us get by, we enjoyed learning about the country and its history and loved experiencing life in a culture that we initially knew very little about. There are so many things to see in Bucharest – our time went by so quickly and it is definitely a city we’d come back to in the future.