As I’m sure not many people might know this East European capital, Bucharest is, in fact, the capital of Romania. That fish looking country (as they taught us in school back in the days) neighboring Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, and Moldavia, close enough to Russia but still very close to the EU. If you are planning to spend one day in Bucharest, keep on reading because here is where I will spill all my valuable tips and tricks.
Like a Pheonix bird, Bucharest has risen from its own ashes, after many years under a totalitarian communist regime, during which the country and capital were close to the outside world, the city has regained its charm and it sure is worth paying it a visit.
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The not so small capital has gained a “hipster-ish” vibe and here is where you will taste one of the best coffees in Europe, the same being valid also for the wine area, as Romania is the sixth-largest wine producer in Europe. And believe me, quality is also a feature, not only quantity and you will surely want to fit it all in if you visit Bucharest for only one day.
Starting your day with a delicious brunch.
How many days in Bucharest?
I guess 24 hours in Bucharest are ok to get a feel of the city’s vibe. However, when you want to really see it and take it slow, I would plan for at least a weekend in Bucharest and taking some day trips from Bucharest on top of that.
Check out next: my ultimate list of day trips from Bucharest
When to visit Bucharest
I would say anytime it’s a good time to visit Bucharest, Romania. But I would choose to go during spring, early summer, or autumn.
I just love how the city transforms during spring and fall! And it is such a pleasure to walk around especially some of the places I have on my list here.
While summer and winter can still be ok, one can get too hot for walking around, while the other does not put the city in a good light.
Where to stay in Bucharest
As someone born and raised in Bucharest, it is true to say I haven’t really frequented the hotels in town. Apart from the conferences I have attended for work, I haven’t stepped into the hotels of Bucharest overnight.
But I have worked with many people visiting Bucharest for work, and I can safely share with you the list of the best hotels in Bucharest (as rated by my colleagues):
- Radisson Blu Hotel – may be one of the most impressive there is, perfectly located on Calea Victoriei just a stone away from the Romanian Atheneum and the Romanian Art Museum. As all Radisson hotels, the one in Bucharest is in the luxury area and will set you off a few hundreds of euros per night. But it is all worth it.
- Marshal Garden – not that conveniently located as Radisson, the Marshal Garden hotel is way cheaper, just as nice and within walking distance from the city center (mainly Romana Square and all the streets with pretty historic buildings).
- Pura Vida Sky bar and Hostel – yes, it is a hostel. But what hostel! It has the perfect location (in the Olt Town city center), an awesome rooftop bar where the coolest parties in town take place, and an incredible view. All for the price of a hostel.
Read my full list of the best hotels in Bucharest and where to stay in Bucharest with details on each area and recommendations.
Getting around in Bucharest
Whether you are wondering how to get around Bucharest, how to reach the city from the airport, or how much does it cost, here is where you’ll find the answers.
Let me start by saying that Bucharest might be one of the cheapest capitals in Europe, and not only when it comes to transportation costs.
For getting from the airport to the city center you have 3 options. Unfortunately, Romania hasn’t thought about linking its airport to the city center or train station by train.
- by bus – the bus 783 Express Line will get you from the airport to the train station or city center. Buy the rechargeable card at the ticket stand on the ground floor at the airport and validate it every time you’re on the bus. Price: one trip 3.5 lei; The magnetic card valid for two travels costs 7 lei.
- book a transfer – that’s the fastest, easiest, and less time-consuming option. However, it can also be the more expensive one. But if you’re in Romania for the first time, I would go for it!
- by taxi – order a taxi from the machines outside of the arrivals area. With the ticket, you’ll have to go outside and wait for your car to arrive. Ordering an Uber could also be an option, but sometimes it might get difficult to find the car since they are not allowed to come in front of the door.
Getting around town is easy when you choose to stay close to the city center. A ticket for the underground is 5 lei valid for 2 trips, while a ticket for the bus/tram is less than 2 lei.
The downside is that you cannot use the same magnetical card for the metro and bus. You’ll have to buy a separate one.
My favorite one day in Bucharest itinerary
It is a trend in Bucharest, thus making it difficult to choose between all the great locations that offer all sorts of delicious international dishes. This being said, if I were you, I would be heading for Frudisiac, hoping to find a place in the small minimalist “Breakfast & Brunch Restaurant” (as they call themselves) since they do not take reservations.
If you are in luck, sit down, enjoy the view, and make sure to order the incredible pancakes you’ll find here. Even though this would not seem much, I would easily fit it into my top things to do in Bucharest.
If not, take a stroll (or a bus) up to Shift Pub, one of my favorite places in town, sit outside in the small green garden, and taste the yummy Primavera Pasta dish.
If you’re feeling lucky try getting a table at M60, or go directly to Paul if you are craving some amazing French goodies.
Check out also My Bucharest – where to eat, party and discover the city
Do some sightseeing
Now that you’ve solved the eating part, you are ready and full of energy for doing a little bit of sightseeing.
Unlike many of the European Capitals, Bucharest is not packed with tourists (yet) and you won’t be bothered by tens of people stepping on your feet or getting in front of your camera when trying to take a picture.
Add this to the pro list that will tilt the scale and will make you want to spend one day in Bucharest.
Get some inspiration from Baby Boomer Guide to Bucharest: Romania’s “Little Paris”
Here are a few tours ideas to consider when you spend one day in Bucharest:
- Don’t miss out on taking a walking tour in Bucharest, the offer is wide and you will have to decide only what you are interested in and the budget you want to allocate: learn about the Communist Bucharest and how the city transformed during the communist era, or take a 2.5-Hour Hidden Private Tour, discover some old buildings filled with history in the Luxurious Calea Victoriei Discovery Game, or go all the way and take a Private Three Neighborhoods Tour by Vintage Car. The funniest thing is that my parents used to own one of those cars.
- See the Museum of Senses
- Relax at Therme Spa without thinking about getting there
- Learn more about the Jewish history of Bucharest with a Jewish Tour of Bucharest
- Explore Bucharest’s mahallas and taste some delicious local food on a tour, or go and learn something new about the Rroma heritage
- Passionate about street art? Bucharest has plenty of that and you can choose to take a tour and discover the many corners with street art and graffiti in Bucharest
A few of the places not to miss in one day in Bucharest – Bucharest tourist attractions
The Romanian Village Museum
Located in the biggest park in Bucharest – Herastrau Park – where you will step in an almost real village, hosting houses from different regions of the country, built in different centuries.
Apart from this, you will also have the possibility of visiting different heritage collections, from traditional handmade carpets to ceramics, to textiles and traditional costumes.
The Triumphal Arch
Really close to the Village Museum, you will ask yourself if you are still in Bucharest or maybe in Paris. The Arch was raised in 1922 and it is indeed a smaller version of the one you will see (or have already seen) in Paris. You can climb the staircase up to the top and admire the city from above, especially the split between the green wide park and the area of the home in the Primaverii neighborhood.
Moving towards the center of the city, you will want to visit the enormous building Ceausescu built during his ruling. While it is hard to miss, as it is the largest administrative building in the world, hosting the Parliament, the building is not a thing Romanian people should be proud of since many have died in the building process.
Stepping inside the building, inspired by another in the North Korean capital, you will get to see and feel Ceausescu’s megalomania and grandeur desire, the heavy marble walls, the thick expensive rugs, the huge chandeliers are only of the few things that will catch your eye in the many rooms.
Even though this is an important attraction of the city and one of the top things to do in Bucharest, I will leave it to you to decide whether you want to fit it into your schedule if you only have one day in Bucharest.
Book your skip-the-line ticket online and forget about waiting in lines!
National Museum of Romanian history
If you ask me, this place is better known for the statue in front, than for the actual exhibits. You will notice it for sure, passing by on Calea Victoriei, leaving the CEC building on the right side, you will be welcomed on the left by this statue of a guy holding a…well…dog, many might say. In fact, the statue is supposed to be none other than the Roman Emperor Trajan, holding in its arm the Lupa Capitolina.
The Romanian Atheneum
Maybe one of the most Instagramable buildings in Bucharest, the Romanian Atheneum is that place that you will hear music coming from. This is because the place is a concert hall, impressive both on the inside and on the outside.
Don’t miss the most beautiful book shop in Bucharest
Yes, you read that right. I am sending you to a book shop. But trust me, you won’t regret going here.
Carturesti Carusel is maybe the one more popular attraction in Bucharest, the one you will see in every guide and the one I really love myself so very much. First of all, because is a place filled with books. But also because it is a magical place.
Trust me when I say it, this is maybe the most beautiful book shop I’ve ever seen! And it is for sure one of the most Instagrammable places in Bucharest.
Check out my full list here: Bucharest Instagrammable places
Apart from the fact this house is impressive and has a lovely garden, you must take a tour to understand the huge discrepancy between Ceausescu’s way of living and the population’s one.
For many years I’ve passed it by and wondered what this place is. Located in the best residential area in Bucharest, with a peacock as a pet, seeing the impressive villa Ceausescu lived in, has been an eye-opener for me. See, I was born in ’87 and was lucky enough not to remember the days without anything, but my parents and grandparents have.
Make sure to book your visit here at least a day before, especially if you’re only for 1 day in Bucharest.
You can consider booking a City Tour & Ceausescu Mansion tour.
After all that sightseeing, you must have gotten a bit tired and are in deep need of caffeine. You are just in luck because only a few steps away from Calea Victoriei, you will find the best coffee place in town, Origo. Here is where you will taste one of the best coffees you’ve ever had, or if you come after 7 PM, a cocktail as you’ve never had elsewhere.
Another place I love going for brunch, lunch, or coffee is a little hidden house on Dianei Street. Throughout the years I’ve become a bit conservative and I love going to some of the same places, and Dianei 4 is one of them.
Once you’re ready for dinner, go back to the North part of the city and book a table at Nor Sky Casual Restaurant. I have to admit the best thing about this place is the view, is located on the 36th floor of a round office building, offering a 360 degrees view over the city.
Don’t leave Bucharest without going on a food tour or tasting some amazing Romanian wine.
Many might not know this about Romania, but it is one of the largest producers of wine in Europe. And the wine is also some of the best.
Well, you can’t leave the city without ending your one day in Bucharest with a wild night out in the old town city center and seeing Bucharest at night.
Here is where the magic happens, where people from all over the world come to a party since alcohol is not that expensive, the streets are packed with clubs and with joyful people.
You don’t have to look much for the best places, start on Lipscani street and follow your gut feeling.
I promise this place won’t disappoint and you will be partying until 6 in the morning since clubs are open until the last customer.
It might be fun to go to a Pub Crowl in the Old Town!
Other travel resources for when you visit Romania
- See whether is Romania safe to visit?
- Check out my favorite one week in Romania road trip taking you from Bucharest to Transylvania
- Taste some delicious Romanian traditional food
- Don’t miss out on Romania’s hidden gem: Oradea
- Amazingly delicious Romanian food to indulge in during your trip, and Bucharest food – what to try and where to go for the best in town