Before the Romanian Revolution of 1989 that destroyed a large part of the city, Bucharest was one of the most avant-garde cities in Europe. Once called the “Paris of the East,” this charming Eastern European city is filled with art deco buildings and a rich history that’s enchanting to explore by foot.
As Eastern European destinations such as Budapest, Prague and Bucharest begin to gain popularity on the tourist circuit, travellers are beginning to discover the magic that these historic cities hold. One might argue that Bucharest, however, is home to the most charming mix of intriguing history, impressive architecture, and friendly locals.
Ideal for those with less-expensive tastes or even backpackers on a budget, Bucharest is a dream for those with a penchant for history, architecture, cuisine, and a thumping nightlife. Ready to explore the Romanian capital? Here’s how to spend 48 hours in Bucharest.
How To Spend 48 Hours In Bucharest
Day One: Getting To The City Centre
How do you get from the Bucharest Otopeni airport to the city centre? You can hire a taxi if you’ve got the budget for it but the buses are so convenient that we’d suggest saving the cash and taking a bus.
You’ll be looking for the No. 783 bus or the No. 780. The former takes you to Piata Unirii, which is one of the city’s main plazas. The latter will take you to Gara de Nord, which is a bit further north. Make sure you purchase the Activ card before hopping on the bus as you can’t pay once you’re on board.
Depending on which Bucharest hotel you’re staying at, you might at least get close enough to take a leisurely walk to your hotel. Or, if you want to save some time, check out the other Bucharest bus routes you can connect to that will get you closer to where you’re staying.
Tour The Opulent Ceauşescu Mansion
To optimise your time in Bucharest, we suggest starting in the far north and making your way down south to other hot tourist attractions. This means that you can start your first day off by touring the opulent Ceausescu Mansion. It’s the perfect starting point as in introduction to Romanian history and culture.
The mansion once served as the palace of Nicolae and Elena Ceauşescu, infamous for their role in the city’s horrid history until their gruesome downfall and death during the Romanian Revolution of 1989. Book a tour in English in advance to ensure you get a chance to truly take the time to learn about all of the intricacies that make Bucharest such a historically fascinating city to visit.
Indulge At One Of Bucharest’s Trendy Cafes
Bucharest is absolutely teeming with cute, trendy cafes typical of Eastern Europe. While you’ll find lots of great coffee shops to enjoy, the two closest to the Ceausescu Mansion will be Two Minutes and Dose Cafe.
With two locations in the city, Two Minutes is an ideal place for coffee lovers to check in and refuel. They get all their beans from Barcelona roasters Right Side Coffee, who work closely with farmers for sustainable coffee sourcing.
At Dose Cafe they use the famous Caffeination coffee from Antwerp for all their brews and even won the 2018 Romanian Aeropress Champion award.
Stroll Around The Cișmigiu Gardens
Now that you’re all fueled up you’re ready to explore the lush side of Bucharest (well, depending on what time of year you’re visiting). The Cișmigiu Gardens are a delightful place to wander around on foot. Or, you can opt to rent a bike and pedal through the hidden, picturesque corners of the park.
Make sure to stop and admire the exotic peacocks on display before indulging in a little paddle around the lake or treating yourself to an early afternoon ice cream cone. In the colder months, this is an especially enchanting place to wander with a warm coffee in hand. Bundle up and head to the ice skating rink for a fun afternoon on blades.
Marvel At The World’s Second-Largest Administrative Building
Bucharest is home to the world’s second-largest administrative building. That’s right, after the Pentagon, the Palace of Parliament in Bucharest is the second-largest house of government. And, it’s only about three kilometres south of the Cișmigiu Gardens.
Boasting 12 floors and over 3,000 rooms this marvellous parliament building stands as one of the most striking memories of former dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu’s reign of power. The building, which is still unfinished, makes for a delightful photo, that is if you can get far enough away to fit the whole thing into one photograph.
If you’re not that interested in diving further into Romanian history, you can’t opt out of a guided tour. If you’re dying to learn more, they offer two types of tours. The shorter one is about 45 minutes long and will take you through the rooms and hallways.
End The Evening On The Moon
By now you’re probably ready for a refreshing drink, and you’re just about ten to fifteen minutes away on foot from one of the best bars in Bucharest.
While you’ve got a lot of choice when it comes to great bars in Bucharest, Linea/Closer to the Moon is by far one of the coolest, most unique spots to enjoy creative cocktails and tasty bites. The space-themed bar is a rooftop lover’s paradise, and also a quality spot to watch the sunset over your first day of exploring Romania’s capital city.
Head up to the rooftop and you’ll be greeted by a “space captain” who’ll take you to your space hub, at least during the colder months. Transparent bubble pods await you, filled with troves of trendy locals and tourists indulging in such creative concoctions as Paparazzi Mule or No Dramas in Bahamas.
Day Two: Wake Up Amongst Books & Coffee
How to spend 48 hours in Bucharest? Make sure you explore as many coffee shops as you can. However, on your second full day in the city, we suggest killing two birds with one stone and heading to one of the coolest spots in Bucharest.
Carturesti Carusel is a super Instagrammable bookstore with a cute, quaint cafe on the top floor. The incredible bookstore spans across six floors and offers travellers a beautiful winding staircases and lots of gorgeous natural light for the perfect Bucharest Instagram shot.
It houses over 10,000 books that you can browse as you make your way to the bistro and cafe on the top floor. In the morning, the sunlight that floods in is absolutely enchanting.
Discover Bucharest’s Contemporary Art Scene
With just 48 hours in Bucharest, you’ll have to pick and choose which galleries you’re going to visit. But, we definitely suggest visiting at least one or two.
Interested in really taking your sense for a wild ride? Check out the city’s famous Museum of Senses. At this fascinating museum you can journey through a Vortex tunnel, an infinity mirror room and endless exhibits that will make you question everything. After all, isn’t that what discovering a new city is all about?
Dine At The Idyllic Caru’ cu Bere
Few restaurants in Romania are more opulent than the famous Cau’ cu Bere. The name translates to “beer wagon” and the building has been around since at least 1879. Their six set menus are all delectable, delicious, and incredibly tantalising.
There’s really no better way to dive into Romanian cuisine for the first time than at this beautiful restaurant. You’ll be surrounded by elegant Belle Epoque decor, dark wood finishes, and incredible stained glass windows.
Make sure you save room for dessert as you’re going to want to delight in and devour the incredibly tasty Romanian dessert called Papanasi. The doughnut-shaped treat is filled with cream cheese and drizzled in sour cherry jam. In other words, it tastes like rich, creamy heaven.
Relish In A Romanian Rhapsody
Not only is the Romanian Athenaeum a treasured sight to see, but it’s also home to the George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra. If you’ve got the time, stop by for a Romanian rhapsody of classical music.
If you’re short on time, definitely still make it a point to visit in order to marvel at the neoclassical architecture and ornate marble lobby. The interior of the auditorium is embellishes with a breathtaking fresco that recounts the entire country’s rich history.
Treat Yourself To Romanian Wine
After spending nearly 48 hours in Bucharest, you deserve to relax. You’ve just crammed centuries of Romaian history into two days! For the ultimate way to end your trip, check out one of the best wine bars in Bucharest.
We suggest Dianei 4. While it’s not technically a full-on wine bar, they serve some of the finest wine you’ll find roaming around Bucharest. Head here to enjoy specialty wine by the bottle. Or, stick with glasses from places like Spain, France, and of course, Romania. They frequently hold wine tasting events, which is a great way to explore the local culture in a quiet setting.