36 Hours in Bucharest, Romania

Today we’re off to Romania. We were due to fly to Costa Rica originally on a Saturday in mid November – but our planned flights weren’t having any of it and in the end we couldn’t get out until the Tuesday leaving us with a few days and no plans. As luck would have it, my husband was in Romania anyway with work until the Friday, so he stayed on and I just booked a flight out to go and see him for 36 hours at the weekend, before both heading back and doing a quick turnaround to Costa Rica. Win win in the end.

I had a nightmare flight. I only arrived at the airport 45 minutes before I was due to leave (blinking M25) and only *just* made it. Then whilst on the flight a bit of the plane’s wing was damaged and we landed with said wing on fire, to be met by the fire brigade. I eventually arrived, later than planned, in Bucharest.

I opened the guidebook and it declared ‘this city doesn’t offer much to the traveller’. I burst out laughing. Thankfully my guide book was misinformed, as the city well exceeded my expectations. I arrived in to Bucharest late on the Friday night and flew out again Sunday late afternoon – so I had a full 1.5 days to make the most of. So to a November weekend in Romania’s capital city we go.


Day 1 – The Old Town & Palace of the Parliament

A. Romanian Athenaeum

One of Europe’s most beautiful concert halls, the Athenaeum was built between 1886 and 1888. This was the period where modern Romania was emerging and its economy growing, giving it the nickname ‘the Paris of the East’. You can see the architectural influence here, and it’s absolutely STUNNING inside the rotunda and the concert hall itself.

Approaching the Athenaeum
The incredible interior

B. Stavropoleos Monastery Church

Heading in to the heart of the Old Town, the next stop is Stavropoleos Monastery Church dating back to the 1700s. The site used to house a much bigger monastery, but today it’s just the church and courtyard remaining. It makes for a peaceful oasis in the middle of the city.

C. Cărturești Carusel

Probably one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world, this is one of the biggest treats in the old town. Not only is it super wow to look at, it also stocks such an amazing variety of books, games, toys and other lovely gifts – we managed to spend 1.5hrs in here and come out with lots of lovely Christmas gifts for family.

The amazing bookshop

D. Lunch at Caru’ cu bere

Traditional Romanian food aplenty is on offer at this characterful old town restaurant with communal tables and tasty food. It makes for a great place to stop for lunch – I had the traditional sausages and they were delicious.

E. National Museum of Romanian History (or alternative)

You know me, I can’t visit a city without learning about its history – so I headed to the Romanian History Museum. It was very interesting and covered the ancient time before Romania was formed, the region’s amalgamation in to the Eastern Roman Empire, and later the spread of Christianity. It was well worth an hour or so, but if history isn’t your thing you could also head to the Romanian National Museum of Art or Romanian Jewish Museum which are both nearby.

F. Palace of the Parliament tour

Well. Probably the most famous building in Romania, and one of the most famous in Europe – it has to be seen to be believed. The Romanian Palace of the Parliament is famous for being the heaviest building in the world – it’s depth under the ground being more than its height above the ground. It’s just absolutely HUGE and photos can’t possibly capture how massive it is. A recent valuation put it at £1trillion, and it is bursting at the seems with marble, gold and chandeliers. To visit, you need to have pre-booked and show your passport, so be sure to plan in advance.

Approaching the building

The building is controversial as it was built on order of President Ceauşescu (more on him later) during the Communist era. Thousands of families were displaced from the site to make room for it and the building is a reminder of this. It seems to divide opinion in Bucharest, but actually when talking to people today it seems that for many it’s the environmental impact which is most uncomfortable. The Palace of Parliament consumes more energy than a town with 250 000 inhabitants, mostly on heating and electricity (about £1.6m a month – can you even imagine). The cost of living crisis must be hitting it hard.

One of Parliament’s (many) meeting rooms


Day 2 – North Bucharest (Herăstrău Park area)

A. Casa Ceauşescu

Let’s talk about Ceauşescu. He was the Romanian communist leader of the state from 1965-1989, when he was overthrown and executed in the Romanian Revolution on Christmas Day 1989.  It was one of a series of anti-communist revolutions that year across Eastern Europe and ended Communist rule in the country and ultimately led to the fall of the Soviet Union.

I don’t know enough to be able to form an opinion, having never lived under the regime, but what is clear is that this time period is complicated today. In a 2018 poll, 64% of Romanian people had a good opinion of Ceaușescu and if he was running today it’s likely he’d get in to power. He’s quite divisive and critics of the regime are strong so as with many things, it’s complicated.

Today you can visit what was his house and has been well preserved (again you need to have an advanced booking), though it is pure luxury at a time when most of the population were living in poverty.

The famous gold bathroom

B. Herăstrău Park

This picturesque park is a short walk away from the mansion and on a 20 degree autumn day is was beautiful to take a walk in. We easily spent an hour walking round, enjoying the colours and having a drink.

Strolling in the park

C. National Village Museum

Inside the park was my highlight of the visit – the National Village Museum. The Museum is an open air park full of authentic historical Romanian buildings and houses from across the country preserved and rebuilt here. It was absolutely brilliant and we loved it, spending 2 hours strolling about and peaking in all the buildings.

Traditional Romanian House

We then had a late lunch and it was time to head home again. With just a few hours back in the UK, we had to get the washing done and turn around for our time in Costa Rica. More on that adventure to come!


What do you think of Bucharest? Would you like to visit and see this wonderful city for yourself? I hope you enjoyed the quick tour – stay safe and happy travelling!

35 Comments

  1. Such beautiful historical architecture in Bucharest, Romania – especially the Athenaeum concert hall…stunning, indeed! And, the intricate details at Stavropoleos Monastery Church are wonderful, too. So much to see! Thanks for sharing, my friend Hannah 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It’s hard to believe you visited all of these lovely places in just 36 hours, Hannah! How I would love to see these places in person. As much as I love learning the history of a place, I think I would spend a lot of time in that amazing bookstore. Thank you for sharing Bucharest through your lens and words.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know, I was exhausted afterwards, but so glad I managed to fit so much in to a short space of time. The bookstore was incredible, we spent 1.5hrs in there and could have bought half the shop! Have a great weekend 🙂

      Like

  3. Your guide book certainly was wrong, Bucharest looks amazing. I really love the concert hall, the tiled ceiling and floor and muralled walls. The historic buildings are completely opposite, but are really cute too. Maggie

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I love the park with authentic replicas of village life. I’m amazed that you had the fortitude to do anything after landing in a plane with the wing on fire (horrified emoji if I could find one). Did you have to use the emergency evacuation slides?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The park was my favourite bit too 🙂 Oh I know, I didn’t notice the wing was on fire, thankfully – it was only very minor and on landing so we didn’t get to use the slides, though that would have been fun!!

      Like

  5. I’m glad you got to visit Bucharest, let alone Romania! You saw a lot more than I did during my two nights there in 2019: Cărturești Carusel and Caru’ cu bere were the highlights for me (especially the latter, where I actually ordered ciorba de burta, aka tripe soup). I didn’t get the chance to visit inside the Palace of the Parliament, although just looking at it from the outside is VERY impressive (although I agree, as you wrote, the history behind it is grim). Romania is one of my favorite countries I’ve ever visited anywhere, and I’d go back in a heartbeat!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh I loved the bookshop, it was just so beautiful. How was the tripe soup? I wasn’t as brave as you as I stuck to sausages!! The Palace of the Parliament was crazy huge, and really interesting to see a few rooms inside. I’d love to go back to explore more of Romania too, next on my list is to visit the mountains there for some hiking 🙂

      Like

  6. Wow, I had no idea that Bucharest is such a beautiful city! I could travel to it just to see C. Cărturești Carusel and some stunning architecture – its historical buildings are as if you stepped into a time machine. As the location of one of the most gruesome communist regimes that only ended 3 decades ago, it is not uncommon for travellers to think that Bucharest is still not suited for tourism. As a result, many have the preconception that Bucharest is unsafe, and such an issue is only paired with bleak communism-era architecture. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It really surprised me too, Aiva 🙂 I absolutely loved the bookshop and the historical buildings. I definitely found Bucharest to be safe and interesting to explore. Thanks so much for reading and have a wonderful rest of your weekend xx

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow that is a rough start to the trip, but glad everything was smooth when you got there! Your guidebook was way wrong, hope it wasn’t Rick Steves, he’s my fav haha. I hadn’t heard about the Parliament building and all the controversy. It would be so cool to tour though and also see that gold bathroom.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hehe no it wasn’t Rick Steves, it was a cheapo off Amazon. The Parliament building is crazy, it’s sooo big I can’t even describe it. I loved the city and definitely think Romania is worth a visit if you ever have the chance. Have a great weekend Lyssy 🙂

      Like

  8. Glad to hear that the timing worked out and you were able to plan a last minute trip to Bucharest, even if you had a stressful flight. It certainly looks like Bucharest has a lot to offer. The Athenaeum looks beautiful, especially on the inside. And wow, that is one gorgeous bookshop!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh I would love to visit Bucharest! You certainly proved that guide book wrong about it not having much for travelers (which side note, but is not the entire purpose of a guide book to find things to interest those visiting and not discourage them at the get go?). This looks like such a beautiful city and I loved seeing it with you today! So glad you made it, glad your plane survived the fire (how scary!), and amazed that you then turned around for Costa Rica 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a beautiful city. I think I got a bad guide book because it was from one on Eastern Europe and it said ‘there isn’t much for the traveller here in comparison to its neighbouring cities of x,y,z’. But I really found there was loads of interest so it was clearly a rubbish book. Thanks so much for reading Meg, and have a great weekend 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh my goodness, what a whirlwind. The flight sounds really frightening, but Bucharest itself looks beautiful and historic and complicated. How fun that this quick trip worked out for you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was really lucky as I didn’t notice the wing if I’m honest…it only set alight on landing and it was only minor, so I was blissfully unaware until after the event, thank goodness. Glad you enjoyed the quick tour of Bucharest, thanks for reading Diana 🙂

      Like

  11. A wing on fire! I would have been beside myself as I am something of a nervy air passenger. I enjoyed this whirlwind tour of Bucharest, I city I haven’t been to yet. Stunning architecture both inside and out, I particularly like the look of Stavropoleos Monastery Church and always love a classic bookstore.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It wasn’t ideal, although I have to say I didn’t notice. It was only alight on landing and it was only minor so I just thank the pilot for managing it all without the passengers panicking. Thanks for following along on this quick little trip, I really liked the church and bookshop too – the city really exceeded my expectations. Have a great weekend Leighton 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  12. What a scary thing to happen on a flight, I’m glad you arrived safely! I’ve been thinking about going to Romania in late spring/early summer, but wasn’t sure if there’d be much to see in Bucharest and if it was worth spending an extra day there – your post has definitely answered my questions. It looks a fascinating city and the buildings are beautiful, especially the monastery church. I love a good bookstore, too. I also can’t get over how opulent the Ceauşescu mansion is, especially that gold bathroom. Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw I’m so pleased I’ve been able to help you with some of your questions. I think it’s really worthwhile visiting and exploring, there’s lots to discover in the city 🙂 Have a wonderful time on your visit, I look forward to reading about it.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s