Bucharest, Romania’s largest city and capital, once had a reputation for the high life and even earned the nickname “Little Paris” in the 1900s. Today it’s a bustling metropolis known for its wide, tree-lined boulevards and beautiful Belle Époque buildings. As with any European capital, there are plenty of ways to discover it without spending a cent (or leu in this case). To get you started, our local editors have put together a list of the best free things to do in their beloved Bucharest.
1. See some intriguing street art at Garajul Ciclop
This place originally functioned as a garage in the 1920s when many well-to-do Romanians began buying cars. It has since fallen into disrepair and now serves as an inspiring canvas for local street artists. The walls are covered in amazing murals including works by some of the city’s best graffiti artists.
2. Visit Hanul lui Manuc – one of the few remaining caravanserais in Europe
“Manuc’s Inn” was built around two hundred years ago by an Armenian named Emanuel Mârzaian (Manuc), one of the richest and most influential merchants in the Balkans at the time, as lodgings for travelling merchants. It has only recently been renovated and is certainly worth seeing for its grand architecture.
3. Sit back and relax at Ion Voicu Park
Located in a quiet neighbourhood just 10-minutes’ walk from Piaţa Romană, this pretty little park is the perfect place to take a relaxing break when out and about sightseeing. Inspired by English and French landscape gardens, it features a pavilion, a pond, a bridge and a handful of statues, and is surrounded by beautiful old villas.
Photo credit: Joe Mabel
4. Get to know the city on a Free Walking Tour
Join this free city tour and discover the true face of Bucharest with a fun and friendly local guide. You’ll visit the most important sights in the Old City and hear lots of great stories along the way. Tipping is optional, but always appreciated.
Photo credit: Guided Bucharest
5. Admire stunning architecture at Saint Nicholas Church
Saint Nicholas Church, often referred to as the Students’ Church, was originally built for Bucharest’s Russian Orthodox community in 1905. It’s a unique blend of art nouveau and Russian Orthodox architecture. Open daily from 10 am to 7 pm.
Photo credit: Gogulescu Silviu
6. Take a stroll and enjoy some people-watching at Cișmigiu Park
As the oldest public garden in Bucharest, Cișmigiu naturally attracts lots of tourists. Nevertheless, it’s still worth a visit for its scenic surrounds and relaxing atmosphere. There’s even a lake where you can rent a boat and take a romantic paddle in the summer or go ice-skating on in the winter.
7. Marvel at the mammoth Palace of the Parliament
Government buildings are always worth checking out when abroad as they’re usually fairly majestic. This building is no exception. In fact, it’s the second largest administrative building in the world after the Pentagon. If you plan on going inside, note that there’s an entrance fee (free admission for children).
8. Appreciate the serenity of Schitul Darvari
Built in 1834, this Orthodox monastery was closed under communist rule and only reopened in 1996. The monastery grounds have a particularly peaceful atmosphere so it’s worth coming here when you need a calm sanctuary away from the city buzz. The charming church also houses various holy relics.
Photo credit: AlexRo
9. Discover the picturesque Luigi Cazzavillan Park
Although it’s located quite close to the well-known Cișmigiu Park, Luigi Cazzavillan is a hidden gem rarely chanced on by travellers. It was originally established in honour of Cazzavillan, the founder of “Universul” – the Romanian New York Times. The best time to visit is at sunset as the magical evening light brings out the park’s true glory.
10. Soak up some history at the Sighet Memorial Exhibition
Although Bucharest was under communist rule for more than 40 years, it still doesn’t have a proper museum of communism. This exhibition focuses on crimes committed by communists in Romania and tells the stories of thousands of intellectuals, peasants, soldiers and priests who were imprisoned or killed during those dark times. This is one of the only places in the city where you can find authentic and uncensored information about communism in Romania.
Photo credit: memorialsighet.ro