Wondering what to do in Bucharest? Bucharest Romania is not really a place that is on most people’s European travel itinerary (yet), and I honestly can’t figure out why. At a glance, it might look like any other post-communist city, but it really is so much more than that. It is a place that had me in awe of the stunning buildings, the vast gardens and the friendliness of the locals every single time we stepped outside our hotel.
It is a city that was once heralded as the ‘little Paris’ of Eastern Europe due to its elegant architecture. And it is a city that struggles with the idea of ‘what could have been’ had it not been for the communist regime.
We spent 3 whole months living in Bucharest back in 2015 and in 2018 year we’ve come back to explore more, and of course, you know we have sourced out the ultimate Food & Fun experiences to be found in this beautiful and enchanting city.
Table Of Contents – What To Do In Bucharest
What To Eat in Bucharest – Quick food guide
Traditional Romanian Food: 57 Romanian Dishes & Delicacies (Opens in New Window)
What to do in Bucharest – Food
Eat Traditional Romanian Food
If you go out to a restaurant in Bucharest, or anywhere in Romania, make sure you wear your stretchy pants – because you’re gonna be full! But so full of awesome it’ll totally be worth the inevitable food coma at the end.
There are a few must try traditional dishes in Romania and we will be releasing a full article on that soon-ish (maybe even a podcast episode too!). But just as a heads up, know in advance that the locals are so proud of these dishes, there is no way you can go out to dinner with a Romanian without trying all of them, all at once, in one dinner sitting! We met up with my very good friend Boogie (Bogdan) and he took us out to learn exactly what Romanian food is all about.
Salata de Vinete
Eggplant salad which is actually more like a dip. Have this with some famous Romanian homemade bread and you will be in tasty heaven. Another great aspect of this dish is that while Romanian food can be a bit meat heavy – this is a perfect dish for vegetarians and vegans.
Grilled minced meat rolls which in Romanian means “small ones”. This is a mixed meat roll usually consisting of beef, lamb, pork and mixed spices. It is generally served with mustard and a nice cold beer or beer tower…
One of my all time favourite Romanian dishes. OH I love this dish!!! Sarmale is minced meat with rice, wrapped in either pickled cabbage leaves or vine leaves, it’s often served with a few slices of ham or bacon and a nice big helping of buttery polenta. So many noms on one plate!
You haven’t lived until you’ve tried papanasi. It’s one of those dishes that you spot being delivered to another persons’ table and you are instantly hit with food envy.
Trust us – you want to order this for yourself!
Papanași is a traditional fried or boiled donut, usually served with a sour cream and any kind of jam, generally what is currently in season. Most servings will serve at least two people – it’s that massive.
If you are wanting to be a bit more adventurous with your food there is always the famous ciorba de burta or tripe soup. We are not big fans of tripe, but we had a taste of Boogie’s, and we can confirm that we are still not big fans of tripe. But many people love this dish.
For those wanting to go completely off the chain with their food choice, there are a few places in Bucharest that still serve bear – not a dish for the faint hearted!
⇒ Our FULL what to eat in Romania article is out – Discover 57 Traditional Romanian Dishes to try
What to Do In Bucharest – Fun
We Love Escape Rooms!!!! This is something that is taking the world by storm – and it’s fantastic fun.
We met up with Vlad one of the Trolls that owns Troll Escape Rooms and he set the scene…….You have a big bike race to go to, but something goes wrong with your bike and you must get it fixed. Luckily you know a bike shop owner that can help. He is out of town but tells you, you can go to his shop to get the part for your bike, but be careful not to let the door shut behind you or else you will get locked in. In your frantic hurry to get your bike fixed you forget about the door and lock yourself in. And now you must solve all of the puzzles in order to escape!!!
I won’t tell you any more about the room as it would spoil the surprise, but seeing as I am writing this post right now, you can assume we escaped. Actually you have 60 minutes to solve all of the puzzles and escape the room, and we completed the Bike Room in 52 minutes and 22 seconds woot woot!
We also took on the Trolls Virus room where you have to solve the puzzles to unlock a vaccine that will save the world from a deadly virus. This room is completely in the dark and you use torches to find your clues – quite a bit harder which is why it took us longer than the 60 minutes to save the planet….but only a bit longer.
We are completely hooked on escape rooms and there are over 140 in Bucharest alone. It’s a great option if you are looking for what to do in Bucharest on those unexpected rainy days, and it’s also something you can do with kids or other friends. Do you think you have what it takes to escape???
Float Room Bucharest – Isolation Tank
From the very first time we tried “floating” in Bangkok, we were hooked. It may sound like a strange option for a tourist, but with pricing in Romania far lower than you would pay in London, Paris or New York etc. It’s a great place to try it out for the first time.
The experience is surreal. But you will leave more relaxed than after any massage. By being suspended in salt water, every muscle in your body gets the chance to relax, completely. It’s sensational! You’d think lying in a dark tank, with no sound or outside distractions could be boring. Somehow, it’s not. Think of it like meditation for mind and body for people (like me) who can’t actually meditate sitting in a room.
You have to choice but to unwind and you’ll feel physically and mentally rested afterwards!
Take A Free Walking Tour Of The Old Town
Walkabout Free Tours will take you to some of the most important sites in Bucharest. Learn about the long history & the architecture of the old town. The guides share stories and legends of days gone by, but also (depending on the age of the guide) some personal stories about growing up under the reign of a communist dictator.
Story of Bucharest Tour in English runs Every day at 10:30 & 18:00
The Royal Century Tour Runs Every day at 10:30
See TripAdvisor Reviews & More info – reservations are not required. Turn up 10 minutes before start time. Tours last about 3 hours.
More Great Tours Leaving From Bucharest
What to do in Bucharest – Bucharest Nightlife
Sky Bars – Bucharest Nightlife
This bar is a lot more well known in Bucharest as it’s located right in the heart of the Old City. This bar is super funky with some really great effort by the owners put into the design of the bar. It’s a place to go Eat, Drink & Dance the night away. It can get super busy here so if you are wanting a meal you might want to make a reservation just in case – but it is 100% worth it for the food. It’s delish!
Pura Vida is considered one of the hottest skybars in Bucharest and is always a popular place to hang out. The views from this bar are sensational and it’s a great place to check out around sunset if you want some really great pictures of the Bucharest cityscape. There are often many events going on at Pura Vida so make sure you check their Facebook page to see what’s going on while you are in town.
Pura Vida is also a hostel if you are looking for a nice place to stay close to the old town.
Garden Bars – Bucharest Nightlife
If you ask a local where to go on a Friday or Saturday night, you will most likely be directed straight to Bucharest’s Old Town. Here you will find bar after bar, club after club, all pounding out music to attract tourists looking for a night out.
But we are going to let you in on a little secret. The best bars are hidden, you wouldn’t even know they were there unless someone told you. And we went on a mission to find Bucharest’s best kept secrets.
This is probably our favourite garden bar in Bucharest, which is hard when there are so many great Bucharest nightlife places to choose from. Acuarela is only visible from the street by an old beaten up car that has the name on the side. Miss this sign and you could miss the bar entirely. Even when you do find the entrance you feel like you were walking into someone’s backyard, until suddenly the bar appears and it is a truly wonderful site. Umbrellas, upcycled furniture and vintage style is what makes this a great bar to sit and enjoy a drink or two with friends.
Once again a Bucharest nightlife hidden beauty. The front of this bar looks like an old building or perhaps a museum, but walk around the back of the building and a bar among the gardens appears. Dotted with chairs, bean bags, and fairy lights, this place really is everything its name suggests.
Shift offers something for everyone. Edgy, innovative, modern design mixed with a tree house! Yes in the open air courtyard there is a split level structure that looks like a tree house of sorts. This place can get pretty busy so if you want a seat in the ’tree house’ make sure you make a reservation in advance.
Note: I actually have no idea what the structure is called, but I’m calling it the tree house.
I can’t tell you how many nights we spent hanging out in this bar. The Jar Bar is a place where you can find great atmosphere, friendly staff, and great beer. This bar is snuggled up alongside our favourite hostel in Bucharest, Book-a-Rest (such a great name) and we quickly made friends with the owners and their staff. This became our regular place to hang out and watch a movie under the stars, or visit the weekend vintage market, or listen to a local band or DJ. A great Bucharest nightlife spot where there is always something happening and everyone is invited.
While it’s not exactly a ‘garden bar’ per sey it does have a fabulous open air design to it, almost like you’re sitting on a friends verandah enjoying a few drinks.
This garden bar was super chill and a great place to hang out with friends, we even saw families hanging out here. It was kinda like hanging out in a mates backyard but they had a food truck and a lot of craft beer to choose from.
We actually came across this place by accident as we were on our way to a completely different garden bar. We liked Manasia Hub so much we sat down, ate dinner, ordered a bottle of wine and forgot all about the other place. This is a cozy bar in a very residential area so it’s a great choice if you are looking for a quiet night out. Try the halloumi salad – we loved it!
This garden belongs to a home that has seen its share of stories. Built in early 1900’s it has had many owners with many tales to tell, but today it is a lovely little bar/restaurant that is serving up some great local craft beer and some seriously tasty food. It’s pretty popular so if you are going on a weekend you might want to book a table.
I have to say this was probably one of our favourite garden bars in Bucharest. The decor, the garden, the atmosphere…it was absolutely perfect for a relaxing drink. Of course, they have a great selection of wine and beer here but for the non drinkers, they also have a lovely selection of homemade juices and a large selection of different and quite unique lemonade flavours.
Another funky little bar nestled away in a quite a residential area – so it’s all locals! We had the funniest conversation with the bartender here. It went something like this:
If lounging around on a bean bag or hammock surrounded by green gardens is high on your things to do in Bucharest list – then this is the place for you! You’ll find chilled out house music playing in the background and people just lazing around enjoying the atmosphere. This place is one of the more upmarket garden bars so expect to pay a bit more for drinks, but it’s worth it for the lush summer vibes.
Don’t be confused by the name there’s no cigar smoking here – these guys are actually just really big Pink Floyd fans. And so are we so we went to check out this small but quaint garden bar. One of the main features of this place is the price – it’s super affordable. So if you are on a tighter budget this should be one of the Bucharest pubs you should check out.
A lot of these garden bars are quite hidden – you need to know where they are to know where they are. If you know what I mean. And the prize for BEST hidden bar goes to J’ai Bistrot!
Here’s the front door….not something that suggests garden bar right?
And after this you walk down a loooong corridor that twists a few times until you finally come out into the garden area….that is loaded with people!!! We couldn’t believe how busy this place was!
Certainly, a place to see for yourself!
If the last place is not your sort of Bucharest nightlife scene that’s totally cool – Bucharest has something for everyone. Journey Pub is a place that families and friends can hang out in and in the Downstairs area, they have 250 board games that you can play. This is run in conjunction with Creative Board Gaming and they do charge a small fee. Check their Facebook page for current events and tournaments
This is a beer brand that has grown in popularity across Bucharest pubs, with many stocking it both on tap and in bottles. But if you are wanting to go to their actual pub you can head on over for a cold beer and a tasty meal! Head there during the day and get yourself the meal of the day which is only 22.90 lei ($5.70 USD)
While all of the other bars are quite relaxed a casual in feel Merlock Bar is a little more fancier of the garden bars. It’s not that they charge an arm and a leg for drinks, it’s just the way that the garden is laid out you feel like you are at a garden wedding. The big historical building that the gardens belong too is something special to see as well.
Bucharest Pubs – other bars that deserve mention
A bit more of a terrace than a garden bar but we think it should still be included. E Varza is a great bar if you are a fan of chilling out and listening to some great rock tunes. We like this place as it’s super local. I don’t think we’ve ever seen another tourist there and both staff and the clientele are incredibly warm and welcoming. They do serve food as well which looks tasty – but we’ve never tried it. We just go for good tunes, nice atmosphere, and cheap wine!
While this place could sit with the garden bars above, I have to admit it’s not the most exciting garden. So that’s why I’ve put it in this section because inside is actually really cool! We are big RockNRoll fans and all of the artwork, memorabilia and general knick-knacks that this bar has can keep you entertained for hours. Plus if you’re a fan of foosball you can sharpen your skills on the table!
Where to stay Bucharest
Where to Stay Bucharest – Bucharest Boutique Hotel
Recently we checked out the fabulous boutique hotel Epoque. Located right in the heart of the city this hotel is like a retreat in the middle of the madness that can be Bucharest.
Quiet and comfort are the main two words that come to mind when I think about this hotel. They have a selection of suites from junior to executive. Our room was modern and spacious with a large king size bed, heavy light blocking curtains and it also came with a separate lounge area and workspace. The service was exceptional with a nice glass of bubbly offered upon arrival and that was just the beginning of the affordable luxury…
Epoque offers 2 things that we absolutely love in a hotel. Great food (of course) and relaxing spa facilities.
Sadly we didn’t have enough time to dine at their well rated French restaurant, L’Atillier, but if the complimentary buffet breakfast is anything to go by – the food I’m sure is exceptional. Tommo and I both agreed that Epoque offers one of the freshest and tastiest breakfasts we’ve had in a while. Plates, of fresh fruit, selections of yogurts, freshly made pastries and of course a selection of local specialties as well. I know this doesn’t sound much different to your typical breakfast spread in any European hotel – but trust us the quality was a step above your regular buffet.
We did make sure we took some time out to enjoy the hotel spa facilities which are available to all guests. The Epoque spa offers an indoor heated swimming pool with hydromassage and water jets, a steam room, and a sauna and massage rooms as well. Massages are available at an additional cost but everything else is included with your stay.
(Budget) Where to stay Bucharest – Bucharest Hostel
We mentioned Book-a-rest hostel earlier when we were talking about the Jar Bar and other Bucharest nightlife, but we are mentioning it again as we love this place! This hostel is modern, funky, neat and clean and the staff are absolutely wonderful. We instantly made friends with Andrei and his fantastic team, and honestly feel like every time we come back to Bucharest it’s like coming home.
We loved getting involved in the different events they have on offer at the hostel combined with the Jar Bar. Vintage fairs, movie nights under the stars, music nights – oh did I mention that there is a working theatre on site as well? So you can go and see a local production if you are a lover of the arts. This hostel honestly offers it all, and you are welcomed like family when you stay with them. The staff will also go out of their way to help you plan your Romania trip and make sure you get the best possible experience during your time in Romania.
Want even more accommodation options, Check out our complete Best Bucharest Accommodation Article
Transport – Getting in and out of Bucharest
During our travels in Europe, we used Eurail and Interrail rail passes – we love exploring countries by train as it’s more comfortable and you get some fantastic scenery along the way. But there are some super cheap deals with budget airlines at the moment so jump online and grab yourself a great flight deal.
We always love love LOVE our time in Bucharest Romania, and hope that we have now inspired you to add it to your travel itinerary. There is so much to see and explore, so much history and beauty, and so many amazing people to meet we just know you’ll fall in love just like we did.
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Have you been to Bucharest? What Food, Fun and Adventure did you discover – let us know in the comments.
Disclaimer: We did receive the Trolls Escape rooms, and our stay at Epoque complimentary. All opinions remain our own. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links – thank you for supporting this blog by using these links.