10 free things you can do in Bucharest

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The Central University Library, Bucharest, Romania

10 free things you can do in Bucharest

Make the most of your time spent in Romania's capital city

Welcome to Bucharest, Romania’s capital city and the Little Paris of the East. It is the place where the East meets the West, and, by consequence, the word “contrast” seems to describe this place best.

Any visit to Romania should start with a stay in its buzzing capital city as here you’ll get a proper introduction into the story of our country that will help you understand everything you’ll visit afterward.

Being such a complex city, there are plenty of things to experience in Bucharest: starting with museums and traditional food to concerts and nightlife. You can read more about the highlights of the city in our First Timer’s Guide to Bucharest.

This time, we decided to write a short article about 10 free things you can do in Bucharest. We hope you will like it and find it useful.

So, let’s get started.

  1. Stroll along Calea Victoriei
  2. Have a walk in the Revolution Square
  3. Relax in Bucharest old town
  4. Visit Bucharest’s best-preserved inn
  5. Visit Stavropoleos Church
  6. See the Palace of the Parliament
  7. Learn about the darks years of the communist regime
  8. Visit the city’s most beautiful parks
  9. Admire the Arch of Triumph
  10. Visit museums for free
Bucharest old town

1.Stroll along Calea Victoriei

It is believed that you cannot say you’ve visited Paris without having a walk along Champs Elysee or that you’ve visited New York without seeing Fifth Avenue. Well, you definitely cannot claim that you’ve been to Bucharest without having a walk along Calea Victoriei. This boulevard is where 150 years ago, the honorable members of the Romanian aristocracy used to walk or enjoy a ride in their fancy horse-drawn carriages.

It also has major national importance. Here, the Romanian army, lead by the young King Carol I, entered Bucharest, bringing joy and victory at the end of the War of Independence. Their victory from the battlefield also gave the name to this avenue: “The Victory Way (Calea Victoriei).” Before this, the boulevard was known as the “Mogosoaia Bridge” as it was paved with wood. It was used to connect the Bucharest Old Princely Court of the Romanian voivode to his beautiful summer residence from Mogosoaia.

Today, Calea Victoriei starts from Piata Victoriei (“Victory Square”), and after around 2 km, it ends at Piata Natiunilor Unite (“United Nations Square”), where you will see Dambovita river, “Bucharest’s Seine.”

Having a stroll along Calea Victoriei is an enjoyable experience as you will get to see many beautiful eclectic buildings dating from the 19th and 20th centuries, you can relax at one of the small street cafes, you can also choose to visit some of Bucharest’s best museums: George Enescu Museum, The National Museum of Art Collections, the National Art Museum, the National History Museum and many more (entrance fee will apply for the museums).

But probably the most interesting stop along the boulevard will be in Revolution Square.

The Central University Library, Bucharest, Romania

2.Have a walk in the Revolution Square

And this is how we get to the second-best free thing you can experience in Bucharest. The Revolution Square is where the most dramatic events that marked our country in the past 200 years happened.

It is here where you can see the famous Athenee Palace Hilton Hotel (former Athenee Palace Hotel), where during WWII, the American journalist Rosie Waldeck claimed to be the only place in the world where the Nazis, French, Americans, Jews, and Brits stayed at the same table. Rosie actually stayed at this hotel for around 6 months in 1940 and wrote the intriguing novel “Athene Palace.” You can read more about Rosie Waldeck and her book here.

Next, you will be stunned by the Romanian Atheneum, the emblematic building of Bucharest and symbol of culture. It was inaugurated 130 years ago and became the Romanian National Orchestra Hall. The Large Hall boasts a great acoustic and an imposing series of frescoes representing Romanian history from Ancient times until Romania became a kingdom. The Athenaeum can be visited every day in the first part of the day, as rehearsals and concerts take place in the evenings.

On the opposite side, you will discover a large palace that now houses the National Art Museum. Before this, the building used to be the residence of the Romanian Royal family. That is why even today, people are referring to it as the Royal Palace, and not necessarily as the Art Museum. The palace saw even more dramatic events during WWII and also the funerals of the last Romanian kings and queens.

Opposite, you will see the University Library and the statue of King Carol I, who ruled Romania for 48 years long, recorded as the longest reign in our history.

And last, the Memorial of Rebirth was raised in the memory of the revolutionaries who died during the bloody events in December 1989. It is here where Nicolae Ceausescu held his last speech at the balcony of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and from where he escaped by a helicopter. The memorial seems like a white obelisk surrounded by short trunks on the ground that symbolize the short life and sacrifice of hundreds of Romanians who died during those days.

3.Relax in Bucharest Old Town

It is hard to miss Bucharest’s Old Town, the part of the city that seems never to sleep.

Its cobblestone streets carry you to the past when Bucharest represented the most important trade city at the crossroads between the Orient and Occident. It is here where the merchants had their houses and workshops. People came to pray in the small Orthodox Churches or gathered at the traditional restaurants to eat and drink a cold beer.

You will get to admire the old and eclectic architecture; you can buy Romanian souvenirs, see different street artists, try the Romanian beer in one of the pubs and the traditional food in the local restaurants.

4. Visit Bucharest’s best-preserved inn

In the Old Town, you can visit Bucharest's best-preserved inn. Built-in 1806, Manuc’s Inn is by far, one of the places where you feel you step back time. It belonged to an Armenian businessman, and despite the numerous changes, the inn passed the test of time. Today, the inn is a restaurant where you can stop and taste the traditional dishes and enjoy the local live folk program.

Traditional restaurant in Bucharest old town

5. Visit Stavropoleos Church

In the same Old Town, you will probably pass by a small but lovely church. Right behind the National History Museum lays the quaint Stavropoleos Church with its remote and silent courtyard. Being almost 300 years old, the church is Orthodox and built-in genuine Brancovenesc architectural style (a combination between Venetian and Ottoman-style).

Have a look inside and admire the old frescoes, the small altar, and enjoy the silence of the courtyard. On Sunday mornings, you can also assist a religious mass and notice how people are praying and how important religion is for them.

6. See the Palace of the Parliament

Well, if getting inside the Palace involves paying the entrance fees, seeing it from outside is free of charge.  The second-largest building in the world, after the Pentagon, is for sure impressive. Built in eclectic style under the orders of Romania’s last communist dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, the palace was known as “The People’s Palace.

Now it represents the headquarters of the Romanian Parliament. Its construction caused many demolitions in the 1980s (worship places, historical monuments, houses) and was meant to house all the main political and administrative departments of Romania.  Here you can find out more about how to visit it.

7. Learn about the dark years of the communist regime

Romania was a communist country from 1947 until 1989. It was a brutal change for the Romanians, and resistance became for many a lifestyle. Daring to think and believe in democratic values was forbidden, and prisons became soon full of people politically incarcerated. The story of their resistance and how the communist regime tried to stop them can be discovered in “The Memorial of the Victims of Communism and the Resistance” on 66 Jean Louis Calderon Street..”

8. Visit the city’s most beautiful parks

Even though Bucharest is known for its bad traffic and cars parked all over the places, there are some green and silent oasis where you can relax. Some of the best and largest parks of Bucharest are:

  • Herastrau Park (the largest one in Bucharest since its inauguration in 1936)- It can be reached by Metro until “Aviatorilor” station or by public buses with stations in Charles de Gaulle Square, The Village Museum, the House of the Free Press, or the Arch of Triumph.
  • Cismigiu Gardens – is one of the oldest parks in Bucharest, dating from the 19th. It surrounds a beautiful lake that, during wintertime, is turned into an ice rink. Here you can rent a rowing boat or a hydro bike; you can relax on the grass, eat ice cream, and admire the unique specimens of trees brought all the way from Vienna.
  • Carol Park – was build more than 100 years ago on the occasion of the 40 year-anniversary since Carol I became the ruler of Romania. The Park underwent many changes during the communist times, but now it is one of the most beautiful cities.
  • Tineretului Park is probably the second largest park in Bucharest, located pretty close to the old town.
Autumn in Herastrau Park

9. Admire the Arch of Triumph

The nickname of “Little Paris” or “Paris of the East” was given to Bucharest also thanks to its imposing Arch of Triumph, located along Kiseleff Boulevard.

Several arches were built before this one marking several victories. The present one was built in the late 1930s to replace the old one dedicated to the victims of WWI.

Today, it is a symbol of Bucharest and that is why, according to the tradition, on the National Day of Romania (December 1), there are military parades marching underneath it and people can visit the arch inside for free.

10. Visit Museums for free

In Bucharest there are museums that welcome visitors for free on certain days only. You can find them all below:

  • The National Museum of Art of Romania– the first Wednesday of every month;
  • Zambaccian Museum– the first Wednesday of every month;
  • ‘George Enescu’ National Museum – the 26th of every month.
  • Museum of the Romanian Peasant– the 26th of every month;
  • Bucharest Municipality Museum – the first Sunday of every month;

In big lines, these should be the best 10 free things to experience in Bucharest. We hope you liked our article and feel free to leave us your comments or tell us if you know other great free things that are worth doing in Bucharest.

Arch of Triumph, Bucharest

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Valentina Marinescu

Travel is my first name. If my passion for traveling involves a bike, it's even better. And if the day ends with a good book and a dry red glass of wine, then I live in a paradise.

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