A complete itinerary for one day in Bucharest, Romania (including how to visit the 2 most popular castles – Bran and Peleș).
Bucharest is the capital of Romania and it’s the largest city in the country. It’s dynamic and energetic, full of Belle Époque buildings and hipster coffee shops.
The city is a great choice for a leisurely weekend getaway filled with beautiful architecture and delicious food. It’s a cheap destination with bursting nightlife and an excellent restaurant scene.
Bucharest is a unique mismatch of Art Nouveau architecture and neglected buildings left from the communist rule. The Old Town is packed with trendy bars, traditional restaurants, and hipster gelato and coffee shops. When it comes to food, Bucharest is a real treasure. You won’t leave disappointed or with an empty stomach.
One day in Bucharest itinerary
If you’re visiting the city for the first time, this one day in Bucharest itinerary is perfect for you. It will walk you through the most popular sights, a few hidden gems and the best places to try traditional Romanian food.
Another option to explore the city is by taking this half-day bike tour. This tour is a perfect start to discover the city centre. Plus, the guide is very knowledgeable about the history of Romania and Bucharest.
One day in Bucharest (the perfect Bucharest itinerary)
- Start your day with avocado toast at M60
- Visit the residence of Nicolae Ceauşescu
- Explore the Village Museum
- See the colourful umbrellas in Pasajul Victoria
- Admire the Stavropoleos Church
- Visit Cărturești Carusel
- Try the gelato at Cremeria Emilia Romania
- Romanian Patriarchal Cathedral
- Marvel at the Palace of the Parliament
At the end of the blog post, you’ll find a map with all the mentioned places.
Already have a hotel booked? Then check your hotel’s location and make sure it’s in a good area (see my guide to where to stay in Bucharest).
Start your day with avocado toast
08:15 AM – 09:15 AM
Start your day early with breakfast at M60 or Paul.
M60 is a nice hipster coffee shop that offers awesome breakfasts. I loved their avocado toast with sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese.
Paul is the typical French bakery with mouthwatering croissants and pastries. It’s a great start of the day if you look for something sweet along with your cup of coffee.
Visit the residence of Nicolae Ceauşescu
09:45 AM – 11:00 AM
Ceausescu Mansion (Palatul Primăverii) was one of the highlights of my trip. This was the private residence of Nicolae Ceauşescu, the last Communist leader of Romania. He lived there with his wife Elena and their 3 children for 25 years (1965-1989). The palace is decorated with luxurious furniture, handmade tapestries and many artworks. It’s in complete contrast to how the ordinary people used to live during the communism.
To visit the mansion you have to book a guided tour for a certain time slot, at least 24 hours in advance. Then you have to wait for a confirmation email.
I booked a week before the date and I had to wait 4 days for them to confirm my reservation. So, don’t wait for the last minute. Also, you must be there a minimum 10 minutes before the booked hour to collect your tickets.
My reservation was for 10:00 AM. They opened the gates at 09:45 AM and I immediately bought the tickets. However, at 09:50 I received an email that my booking was cancelled, although in fact, it wasn’t. This could be quite confusing especially if you arrive exactly on time for the booked tour.
The easiest way to get here is by using the metro. Take metro line M2 (direction Pipera) to station Aviatorilor. From there it’s about 500m to the palace.
Explore the Village Museum
11:15 AM – 12:30 PM
While you’re in this area of the city, don’t miss the Village Museum. It’s an open-air ethnographic museum in Herăstrău Park. Muzeul Satului features more than 100 authentic peasant houses from all over Romania. The atmosphere is truly peaceful even during the weekends and it’s full of cats.
12:30 PM – 02:30 PM
On your way to the Old Town stop at French Revolution. It’s one of the best shops for éclairs I’ve been to. They offer a huge variety of flavours and the éclairs are to die for.
For lunch go to Alt Shift. It’s an excellent restaurant with a modern vibe. I found it by accident when I was looking for something different than the traditional Romanian cuisine.
See the colourful umbrellas in Pasajul Victoria
02:30 PM – 02:45 PM
Pasajul Victoria is one of the most picturesque places in the city. It’s a popular street passage covered with colourful umbrellas.
Admire the Stavropoleos Church
03:00 PM – 03:20 PM
Stavropoleos Church (Biserica Stavropoleos) is an 18th-century masterpiece of Brâncovenesc style. This style combines local, Oriental and Italian Renaissance elements.
Visit Cărturești Carusel
03:20 PM – 03:40 PM
Cărturești Carusel is a popular bookstore and it’s totally charming. The white columns and spiral staircases create the perfect fairytale atmosphere.
And they even have a cat! The cat is not super friendly, but I guess it’s just too tired of the constant crowds.
Try the gelato at Cremeria Emilia Romania
If you love gelato, there is one place to go – Cremeria Emilia Romania. Also, their cakes are something to die for!
Romanian Patriarchal Cathedral
04:00 PM – 04:30 PM
Romanian Patriarchal Cathedral is a splendid cathedral from the 17th century, built in Brâncovenesc style. Catedrala Patriarhală din București is the seat of the Romanian Orthodox Church.
Marvel at the Palace of the Parliament
04:45 PM – 05:15 PM
Palace of the Parliament (Palatul Parlamentului) is the most famous building in Romania. It’s the second-largest administrative building in the world. Constructed during the rule of the communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu, the building has more than 1,100 rooms. However, only 400 of them were finished and used.
I wouldn’t recommend you to visit the Ceausescu Mansion and the Palace of the Parliament in one and the same day. Both sights required a reservation in advance for a certain time slot. And if you have only one day in Bucharest, your time will be limited.
If you have to choose between the Palace of the Parliament and the Ceausescu Mansion, go with the latter. It’s quite interesting to see the private residence of Nicolae Ceauşescu.
For dinner choose between Caru’ cu Bere and Hanu’ Berarilor Casa Oprea Soare. They both serve traditional Romanian food.
Caru’ cu Bere is the most famous beer hall in Bucharest. I liked very much the authentic atmosphere of the place and the view of the Old Town (if you sit outside).
However, the food at Hanu’ Berarilor Casa Oprea Soare was better. Try the mititei and for dessert – papanași.
If you look for a unique and fun experience, visit Excalibur. It’s a medieval-themed restaurant that serves big portions and you have to eat with your own hands! No forks or spoons are provided.
For some drinks in a relaxed atmosphere, go to Club Control. The club features a nice garden with a bar.
See some street art
Take an alternative walking tour to see the most famous graffiti and learn more about the artists.
Explore the city’s dark history
Take a dark history tour and learn more about the city’s secrets including the infamous Vampire of Bucharest. The tour also includes a visit to one of the most beautiful cemeteries in Romania and to a former brothel!
The Triumphal Arch (Arcul de Triumf) was built after Romania gained its independence in 1878. Initially made of wood, it was replaced by a concrete one after World War I in 1922.
George Enescu Museum
George Enescu Museum is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. Gheorghe Grigore Cantacuzino, the city’s mayor at that time, commissioned the construction in 1901. Today it houses a museum of the composer George Enescu.
Central University Library
The Central University Library is another gorgeous building from the 19th century.
The CEC Palace (Palatul CEC) is the headquarter of CEC Bank. And this is probably one of the most beautiful bank buildings in Europe.
Saint George New Church
One of the most important rulers of Wallachia, Constantin Brâncoveanu, built this church in the 18th century. Biserica Sfântul Gheorghe Nou is also his final resting place. Although it looks a bit ordinary outside, the interior of the church is pretty impressive.
The Choral Temple is the only existing replica of the Synagogue Tempelgasse in Vienna, that was destroyed in 1938 by the Nazis. You can visit Templul Coral only with a guided tour and you’ll need your passport for the security check. The tours take place often, so you won’t wait long.
Old Court Church
During the 15th century, the royal residence of Vlad the Impaler stood here. Later the palace was expanded by Mircea Ciobanul, Prince of Wallachia. He also founded the Old Court Church (Biserica Curtea Veche). It’s the oldest church in the city, dating from 1545.
Ceausescu Mansion – to visit the private residence of Nicolae Ceauşescu, you must book a guided tour for a certain time slot at least 24 hours before your visit.
Palace of the Parliament – the same as Ceausescu Mansion applies here. You have to book a guided tour for a certain time slot in advance.
How many days in Bucharest
Is one day in Bucharest enough?
For one day in Bucharest, you can discover the Old Town and its beautiful architecture, see the Palace of the Parliament and visit the Ceausescu Mansion.
However, 1 day is not enough if you want to visit both the Palace of the Parliament and the Ceausescu Mansion. Both attractions can be visited only with a guided tour, reserved in advance for a certain time slot. So, as a minimum, I’d recommend you to stay at least a day and a half.
1 or 2 days in Bucharest?
If possible, spend 2 days in the city. In this way, you’ll be able to visit also the royal palace in Sinaia or the famous Dracula Castle. See further in the article how to get to both castles (plus the best day tours from Bucharest).
Best time to visit Bucharest
The best time to visit Bucharest is the months of April, May, June, September, and October. The weather is pleasantly warm and great for sightseeing and rooftop bars.
The summer could be excessively hot, so if possible avoid July and August.
Getting around in Bucharest
Find a detailed map of the itinerary here.
Bucharest is a walkable city, so you probably won’t use public transport more than a few times. Yet, if you need to use it, take the metro. It’s faster and more regular than buses.
To use the metro you need to buy a magnetic card from the offices at any station. You can choose between 2 or 10 rides or a daily pass.
How to get to Bucharest
Gara de Nord (Gara București Nord) is the main railway station in Bucharest. To get to the city centre you need to take metro line M1. To get to the airport from the train station, take the 780 Express line.
Bucharest Henri Coandă International Airport (OTP) is located about 16km north of the city centre. There are two ways to get there (besides a taxi):
- the easiest one is to book a private transfer directly to your hotel. I love Welcome Pickups because they are always on time and very helpful.
- take a bus (783 Express line) from the airport to the city centre. In this case, you’ll need to buy a magnetic card. It’s available for 2 or 10 trips.
Day trips from Bucharest
A trip to Romania is not complete without a visit to the iconic Transylvania. This is the most picturesque region in the country. It’s a land of rural landscapes, charming villages, medieval castles and bloodthirsty vampires.
So even if you’re short on time, don’t miss to explore the beautiful countryside on a day trip from Bucharest. You can plan your journey using the Romanian Railways website.
Eastern Europe is the home of vampires and this especially applies to Transylvania, a central region in Romania. And it’s not only because of Bram Stoker’s novel. Vampires have existed in the European folklore for centuries.
Bran Castle, also known as Dracula’s Castle, is the most famous site in Romania. However, it doesn’t have much to do with Dracula. The fortress was simply an inspiration to Bram Stoker to write his world-known novel. And this is where the connection ends.
The castle was built in the 14th century. It served as a fortress to guard the Eastern border of Transylvania from the Ottoman Empire.
One of the most famous rulers of Transylvania at that time was Vlad the Impaler (known also as Vlad Dracula). And the only connection that he has to Bram Stoker’s character, Count Dracula, is the name.
Although Vlad the Impaler was a tyrant notorious for his extreme ruthlessness, he wasn’t a vampire. His nickname Dracula means in fact “Son of the Devil”, as his father was called Dracul (Devil).
How to get to Dracula’s Castle
The best way to visit Dracula’s Castle is by an organized tour or renting a car. If you decide to use public transport, it’s almost a 3 hours train ride to Brasov from Bucharest. From there you need to take a local bus to Bran (a 40min journey).
This is the most popular excursion from Bucharest. You’ll explore the most important castle in Romania and learn about the legends that shroud Vlad the Impaler. The tour also includes a visit to the medieval city of Brasov, a professional guide and entrance tickets.
Peleș and Pelișor Castles
Peleș Castle is one of the most breathtaking castles in Europe. Surrounded by a forest, it’s like taken out of a fairytale. The interior is truly impressive thanks to the architectural style and stunning decorations. There are more than 160 lavishly furnished rooms and 30 bathrooms.
King Carol I commissioned the construction of the palace in the late 19th century. The mansion served as a summer residence of the first royal couple of Romania.
Access is only by guided tour and be prepared for long queues. There is a fee for photography inside the palace.
I took the 8 AM train from Bucharest to Sinaia and when I arrived there were already crowds (mostly organized groups). And this was only 50min after the opening time (not in the high season). What was worse is that the organized tour groups were let in with priority. I had to wait for 2 groups to pass, although I was there before them. If I visit Peleș again, it will definitely be with an organized tour.
Pelișor Castle is located only 300m away from Peleș. It served as a residence of the nephew of King Carol I, the future King Ferdinand and his wife Queen Marie. With its 99 rooms, it’s a lot smaller than Peleș. The most remarkable is the Golden Room, that was designed by Queen Marie herself.
You can tour the site on your own. There is no audio guide, but English leaflets are provided.
How to get to Peleș Castle from Bucharest
- organized tour – this is the easiest option (plus, you’ll skip all the lines). This Peles & Bran Castles Tour is the most popular one. You’ll also have the chance to see the beautiful town of Brasov. The tour includes the entrance fees for both sites.
- by train – take a train from Bucuresti Nord to Sinaia train station. From there it’s a 1.5km uphill walk to the palace. The length of the journey depends on whether you take the InterRegional or Regional train (from 1:30h to 2:30h). There is no seat reservation for the regional trains and it’s even possible not to find an empty seat. So plan your journey ahead and take the InterRegional train. It’s twice more expensive, but it’s worth it. I tried both types of trains and the Regional one was a real nightmare.