Top Tourist Attractions In Bucharest
Bucharest’s attractions might not be immediately apparent, as is the case perhaps with other European capitals. But for the curious eye, the city holds many treasures. Start your treasure hunt with our top tourist attractions in Bucharest.
Top Tourist Attractions In Bucharest
1. The Old Town
The Old Town is one of Bucharest’s earliest settlements, where structures date back to the 15th and 16th centuries. Over the centuries, it has been the seat of Romanian princes, a center for trade, a place to worship, and a crossroads for travelers. It also managed to survive Ceausescu’s 1980s razing of one fifth of the city to build his vision of a new Socialist capital. After spending decades as a slum, much of the Old Town has been gentrified and renovated since the fall of communism.
Yet while many historic buildings have been gallantly restored, still other properties await their facelift. This contrast gives that much more charm to the Old Town’s pedestrian lanes and cobbled streets lined with bookshops, theaters, restaurants, and cafés.
Popular things to do here include visiting Curtea Veche, an open-air museum built on the site of the Old Princely Court, once home to Vlad the Impaler, and the National Museum of Romanian History with its fine collections of religious and royal treasures.
2. Palace of the Parliament
The Palace of the Parliament (Palatul Parlamentului) is one of the top tourist attractions in Bucharest. It is the world’s second largest administrative building (after the Pentagon), an architectural colossus that also claims title as the heaviest building in the world.
Boasting more than 3,000 rooms over 330,000 square meters and constructed with marble and steel, it was originally called the People’s House by its visionary, the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who used it as his family’s residence and as the seat of his government.
To complete it, Ceausescu razed places of worship, workshops, factories, parks, part of the Old Town, and entire neighborhoods. More than 20,000 workers and 700 architects worked on the opulent Neoclassical-style palace over a span of 13 years, from 1985 to 1997, during which time the majority of Romanians faced poverty.
3. George Enescu Museum
A picturesque Art Nouveau building, the George Enescu Museum immediately catches the eye of the passers-by with its richly adorned façade and oyster-shaped glass entrance. It features beautiful ceiling frescoes depicting cherubs holding musical instruments and elegant antique furniture, as well as personal objects pertaining to composer George Enescu.
4. Palace of the Parliament
Bucharest is undoubtedly a city of contrasts. Nearby the quaint Old Centre and over the Dâmbovița river rises the Palace of the Parliament, the world’s heaviest and its second largest administrative building, after the Pentagon.
The colossal 1,100-room edifice, today’s headquarters of the Romanian Parliament, was built by former dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu. Designed by 28-year-old architect Anca Petrescuw—who worked with a team of 700 architects and 20,000 workers who did three shifts per day—it is still unfinished.
5. Bellu Cemetery
If Paris has Père Lachaise, Bucharest has Bellu Cemetery. This historic graveyard is the final resting place of many famous Romanian artists, actors, scientists, sportsmen, and women. But the most interesting graves are often those of the members of aristocratic families. Often hinting to dramatic events, they are accompanied by beautiful marble statues of madonnas and angels, or large scale monuments and memorials.
6. Primăverii Palace
As dictators’ stories go, while elsewhere in Bucharest people were suffering from electricity and heat shortages, in one particular villa in the north of Bucharest there was always plenty of water to fill a mosaic-decorated swimming pool and heat for the exotic plant greenhouse. Additionally, Primăverii Palace, the home of former dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu and his family, even had gold plated faucets in its master bathroom as well as a private spa. Today a museum, the residence can be visited as part of group and private tours.
7. Stavropoleos Church
Tiny, peaceful, and beautiful, the Stavropoleos Church (Manastirea Stavropoleos) was built in 1724 by a Greek monk, Ioanikie Stratonikeas. With its intricately carved entrance lined with columns, this Brâncovenesc-style church is one of the top tourist attractions in Bucharest which stands apart as a unique landmark. The Orthodox church features fine stone and wood carvings and a combination of Romanian and Byzantine elements. It is surrounded by a garden courtyard filled with 18th-century tombstones.
Inside, several frescoes and wood icons can be admired. The church complex once included an inn and a monastery but both were destroyed. The church itself was restored several times after damage from earthquakes and is noted for its unique library that houses a large collection of books related to Byzantine music. Be sure to check the church’s websites for news of concerts and other events, which are available to the public.