Bucharest, the capital of Romania, is a city that will surprise you. You can see in a few steps why they call it the Paris of the East. In addition, you can take the route to the castles and visit Dracula’s castle.
- Recommended: Private tour with guide from Bucharest
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What to See in Bucharest + Castles Itinerary
Bucharest is a city that deserves a weekend on its own; in this post, you will see everything there is to discover in the capital of Romania.
If you only want to visit Bucharest, my recommendation is that you read the post that we have written about this city. There is so much to see and know; I am sure you will love it.
If you want to make the most of your visit to Romania, plan your trip, plan what you want to see in advance and pack good shoes to wear all day.
When we started looking for information about Romania, we were clear about what we wanted to see, Bucharest and of course, Dracula’s castle in Bran, Transylvania.
Our way of looking for information is always online, on other blogs, and knowing travelers’ opinions who came before us.
We visited Bucharest and the castle route with a private guide; we loved it. She is magnificent at her job, speaks English perfectly, and we highly recommend her.
But if you want to see other alternatives, take a look at the excursions, guided visits, and private tours in Civitatis. Here you will find a wide offer and inspiration for your trip to Romania.
Don’t forget your transfer from the airport to the hotel and from the hotel to the airport.
Why do We Hire a Private Tour?
This time we preferred to travel with a guide because of the short time we had to visit the city and surroundings.
I imagine that also because we have no idea of the language and although we speak English, we preferred to have the experience of a guide.
So we asked for information, which convinced us enough to decide to make this trip with a guide, especially Dana, who was our guide.
Then we realized how successful this was. They took care of everything, and our only concern was the next place to visit.
Accommodation in Bucharest close to the center if possible
The next decision to make was which hotel to stay in. We decided to stay at the Hotel Armonia. It is very well located, close to the center, less than 10 minutes walk from the old town of Bucharest, and relatively inexpensive, 45 € per night for a double room.
It is a clean hotel, and the staff is helpful; it looks old, but it is cared for. The area was not very good in the past, but there is nothing to worry about from what we saw.
We walked back at night from the center and did not feel unsafe at any time.
But suppose you want a hotel in the city center. In that case, our recommendation is Moxy Bucharest Old Town and Europa Royale Bucharest, both fantastic hotels, super well located, great customer service, an unforgettable experience.
Our first dinner was downtown, at the most famous restaurant in Bucharest, which is called “Caru Cu Bere,” and it means “The beer car,” as we found out later.
I highly recommend this restaurant for the first night in Romania. Of course, if you plan to go on a Friday or Saturday, you have to book a few days in advance to avoid running out of place.
Best Things to Do in Bucharest
Caru Cu Bere, the oldest and most famous brewery
Although we had searched for information and we were clear that we wanted to go to this restaurant, we spoke with Dana, who helped us make the reservation. He also made recommendations for us when ordering.
What to order at Caru Cu Bere?
- Ask for the most typical thing there, which is the Ciolan (Knuckle) that comes accompanied with Polenta and a kind of Sauerkraut
- Mititei that are like sausages but without the gut that surrounds them
- Bulete de Cascaval are fried cheese balls.
- Papanosi, which are like giant stuffed donuts, was all delicious for dessert.
We got up to our ears to eat; the truth is, the dishes are huge.
But what most catches your attention about this restaurant is the interior, the decoration, and the age of the place. It has been a restaurant operating since 1879 and is the oldest.
When you enter the restaurant, you get the feeling of having moved 100 years in the past to a kind of monastery or church.
It is very well cared for, and it is enormous. The service is excellent, it has a lot of waiters, I don’t know, but there are at least 50 or 60, so they serve you quickly and well.
Most speak English, and quite a few also spoke Spanish.
Bucharest Old Town at night
After dinner, we took a walk through the old town. It’s Bucharest’s party zone or at least one of them. You have all kinds of venues, from nightlife venues and loud music venues to some quieter venues.
We also saw quite a few stripteases and “massage” venues. We didn’t have the body for a lot of partying because the day had been a bit of a beating. So after walking around for a while, we went back to the hotel because the next day would be intense.
Wallachia and Transylvania Day Tour
The route to see the two castles in one day consists of the following:
- Leave Bucharest early, around 08:30 and head towards Sinaia.
- In Sinaia, you visit the Peles Castle and the 17th century Sinaia Monastery which has two Orthodox churches, one larger and one smaller.
- From Sinaia, we headed to Bran, entering Transylvania and crossing the Carpathians to see Dracula’s Castle.
- Crossing the mountains, we pass through the Poiana Brasov ski resort, where we stop for lunch in Sura Dacilor, and we have the opportunity to eat the braised bear, wild boar, and deer.
- We continue our way to Brasov, the second or third most important city in Romania and Transylvania, where we visit the city. But don’t you think that’s how I’m going to tell you? No, no, this is just a summary.
Check Out: Major Cities in Transylvania
Bucharest – Sinaia
We left Bucharest in the direction of Ploiesti. We come across huge oil refineries along the way because Romania is still an oil producer. Ploiesti has nothing special, and we pass by.
When you pass Ploiesti, you already see the Carpathians on the horizon. It is worth making a stop at the E-Tu gas station, which is the only one that is decent and also has spectacular cakes.
When you arrive in Sinaia, you start to see the typical Carpathian houses, mountain houses.
In Sinaia, you can see the Casino and the Palace Hotel, which was built for the tourist attraction of the Casino.
The Casino was built on the initiative of King Carol I like the Castle. We spent a bit of time on them because we were short on time, and it was not the objective of the excursion.
Peles Castle and Sinaia Monastery
I am not going to tell you with hairs and signals everything we saw in the Castle, because that is for a complete article.
But I can tell you that it is really worth the visit, especially because you can get a very clear idea of how the royals lived at that time, which is not that far from our reality, about 100 years.
And although the castle is a show of ostentation, I have to tell you that it is beautiful.
We had the opportunity to make the visit with a guide who explained to us each of the rooms of the castle that we visited.
Logically you visit a small part. But we were struck by the theater in the castle with more than 60 seats and decorated by Gustav Klint in its beginnings and the main hall or the dining room with its endless table.
We liked it a lot because it was not overcrowded at all and they also forced us to wear plastic loafers that covered our shoes so as not to damage the floor and carpets.
This castle was also full of modernities for its time. It had, for example, central air heating and an air conditioning system for hot days that in its time was almost unthinkable.
It had an air aspiration system for cleaning also centralized and elevators. Each room was decorated with a theme and with the utmost luxury.
We left the castle of Peles, and very close you have the monastery of Sinaia. In Romania, the majority are of the Orthodox Christian religion. Orthodox churches are quite different from ours, but I find it very interesting to visit them.
It strikes you that there are no sculptures of any kind, and they are entirely painted in red or reddish colors.
When you enter, you never see the altar, and it is hidden at the back of the church by a wall in which are the important figures represented on canvases and with several access doors that only open when there is mass.
There are always people praying, and it caught my attention that they make the sign of the cross backward than Catholics.
Outside the monastery, there is always a place to light candles to dedicate them to the living or the dead.
There is always an area for the living and another for the dead. Around the church are the monks’ rooms; we couldn’t see any inside at that time.
Bran and Dracula’s Castle
From Sinaia, we continue to Bran crossing the Carpathians on the way. As you can see, the time that made us totally accompanies the gloomy of the story.
In Bran is the castle from which Bram Stoker is supposed to have been inspired when he wrote his novel Dracula.
According to Bram Stoker, the Castle was located in the Carpathians, and Vlad Draculea lived in it, which is how Vlad Tepes “The Impaler” was known for his particular preference for this type of punishment towards his enemies.
Vlad Tepes never inhabited this castle but was related to it since his grandfather occupied it.
When you arrive in Bran, you can see numerous guesthouses and tourist estates on both sides of the road, with the castle in the background.
Meanwhile, to the left, we can see the Carpathians, where it had been 25 degrees below zero in previous days and were covered with snow.
Parking in Bran near the castle is more or less impossible. All the places to park are paid and very expensive by the way, about 3 euros per hour.
As we go to the castle, we see stalls and businesses of all kinds, cheeses, food, T-shirts, etc.
We did see two things that are worth commenting on, a stall with the typical Romanian folklore shirts, they are gorgeous (and expensive), and another stall with distinctive ceramics whose way of decorating is an intangible heritage of humanity.
As for the Castle, well, one more medieval castle. It has nothing to do with Dracula, nor with Vlad Tepes; it is simply the castle that Bram Stoker was inspired by, nothing more.
The truth seen from the outside is gloomy, and it is also right on the border between Wallachia and Transylvania, so everything must have happened in the past.
In its most recent past, it was inhabited by the Romanian princess Iliana who made it habitable and more to her liking since it was pretty abandoned.
Princess Iliana was one of the six children of Queen Maria and King Ferdinand. Upon the death of the princess, he was vindicated by her children, who are American citizens.
It’s still worth the excursion and visit, but don’t expect to see anything related to Vlad Tepes. In fact, Vlad Tepes dedicated himself to fighting against the Ottoman Turkish Empire; he resided in Wallachia, not Transylvania, and was also the founder of Bucharest.
Rasnov and Poiana-Brasov Station
We left Bran Castle and headed towards the city of Brasov. To get to Brasov, we decided to cross through the Poiana Brasov ski resort and stop for lunch at Sura Dacilor.
On the way, we passed the Rasnov fortress, which was purely defensive in the constant fights between Transylvania and Wallachia or with the Turks.
It was private property until the City Council took it over, restored it, and can now be visited. The curiosity is that to visit it, the only way to get there is with a tractor, so they have bought a couple of tractors that pull a trailer where people are sitting.
We could not go up due to lack of time.
And we arrived at Sura Dacilor. It is a very classic and well-known restaurant; in fact, it was packed. It is a construction that emulates an Indian Tipi-type tent. Of course, Dana helps us order the most recommended dishes. I’m going to highlight one, stewed bear.
It is the only restaurant I have ever known where you can eat the braised bear; in fact, on the plate, they give you braised bear and wild boar and deer.
We also ordered other typical dishes of the shepherds of the area. It helped us to regain strength and keep going.
What to See in Brasov
We arrived in Brasov, one of the most important cities in Transylvania.
- We were able to visit the council square,
- the black church,
- the white tower,
- the Church of San Nicolás,
- the St Catalina’s Door
- and the Schei Gate or Valacce Gate which is so-called because it was the gate that the Romanians of Wallachia had to use to access the city.
It should not be forgotten that Transylvania was not part of the Romania that we know today until 1918, with the exception of the year in which the three provinces were united by Miguel the Valiant from 1600 to 1601.
In addition, to being part of the Dacia conquered by the Romans, the emperor Trajan.
And finally the museum of the culture of Brasov.
Here I want to make a stop along the way to talk to you about Professor Vasile Olteanu, who received us and showed us how in the 19th century they had texts that told them what the countries of Europe were like.
And where we could see incunabula books printed between 1453 and 1501, and the first printing press in Brasov dating from the year 1556.
He also showed us the first school in Brasov where we could sit at desks while he read us what was said about Spain in the 1800 texts.
When we finished the visit, we stopped by the Vatra Ardealului confectionery in front of the black church where all the chocolates are made by hand, and we bought a few for the road, be careful; they are costly.
The return to Bucharest was a bit long because, until Ploiesti, the road was two-way, and there was a significant traffic jam; it took us almost 4 hours. Even so, we arrived around 9:30 p.m., and we could go to dinner downtown.
Check Out: Best Things to do in Brasov
Bucharest, Best Things to Do 1-intense-day
The next day we had time to visit Bucharest. Hence, we started in the morning, not too early, around 09:30, and our first destination was the university square where the national theater and the monument of the clowns are located.
There are some crosses in memory of those killed during the 1989 revolution right in front.
- Check Out the free walking tour across Bucharest
Then we went to the Romanian Athenaeum, which is a little further on, continuing along the same boulevard.
The athenaeum is from the year 1888, and on the outside, it is perfect, but you have to see it from the inside; it is beautiful and worth it.
We were also lucky enough to be able to enter the audience and admire it calmly.
Very close to the Roman Athenaeum is the Revolution Square, where the equestrian statue of Carol I is, and where is also the box from which Nicolae Ceaucescu gave his last speech.
At the same time, the people shouted and booed him.
From the square of the revolution, we go to the Parliament or House of the people, a gigantic construction that Ceaucescu erected between 1984 and 1989 and that he could not release.
It is the largest civil, administrative building globally with 370,000 square meters; the pentagon is the largest for military use with more than 600,000 square meters.
There are more significant buildings, but they are for private or commercial use.
The visit lasts about two hours and helps you realize how Ceaucescu lost the north and dedicated himself to raising such a colossus while subjecting the people to brutal austerity and starving to death.
We were running on time, so we went to see the Patriarchal Orthodox Cathedral and the Patriarchal Palace, which is enormous.
We entered the Cathedral but not the palace. We were lucky, and they let us take pictures inside.
We went to the national history museum, which I really liked. The Romans, led by Trajan, met the Dacian people and conquered them when they reached these lands.
To celebrate this event, Trajan ordered the construction of the column that bears his name and whose original is in Rome.
In the Bucharest History Museum, you can find a life-size replica of the column but with the advantage that the different pieces or metopes of the column are disassembled, and you can see them one by one explain the other scenes. that are represented in them.
The original is in Rome, and that is beautiful, by the way, it is so high that you cannot see the details!
We were also able to see the different treasures that have been found in Romania, among which is “La Clueca with the golden chickens,” which is the best known and which dates from the 4th century.
While we were touring the museum, Dana told us all the details of each piece.
We could see the crown that King Carol I wore and that was made with the molten steel of a Turkish cannon or the different crowns of the queen; we also saw jewels, rings, and pendants that were part of the royal treasure.
As I have mentioned before, Vlad Tepes was the founder of Bucharest, and the ruins of the palace in which he lived in Bucharest are still preserved. This was our next visit, although we walked because it is very close to the history museum.
Also very close by is the Manuc Hostel, which is a hostel that was opened by an Armenian in Bucharest in the 19th century and is still open and working. The entrance with wooden pavers instead of stone is striking.
Lastly, and very close to Caru Cu Bere, there is a tiny church, but it is the jewel of the Orthodox churches of Bucharest, it is the Stavropoleos church, and it is the most beautiful of the ones we saw this weekend.
It was time to eat, and the truth was that we were hungry. There Dana had a surprise in store for us. He took us to a restaurant that we indeed would not have been able to find on our own.
The restaurant is called Jaristea; it is run by a woman who is always sitting at a table in the living room and runs it as a restaurant used to do 40 or 50 years ago.
The decoration of the tables is entirely vintage, and we were struck by the fact that all the waiters, before taking the food to the diners, first brought it to the restaurant’s owner to give it the go-ahead.
Once he gave the go-ahead, then they took the plate to the customer.
We had the whole afternoon ahead of us, so we went to see the open-air museum of the regional houses of Romania.
It is a gigantic park where all the regional houses of the different peoples, regions, and cultures of Romania have been transported, it is really well and little overcrowded.
I think it is important to note that they are not reproductions; they are original houses that have been transported from their original location, including not only homes but also stables, horreos, haystacks, and churches, like the one I showed you below that was brought to them from the Maramures region.
We still had a while, so we went to see the Herastrau Park (Parcul Herăstrău), which has beautiful views to walk around while having cotton candy or having a coffee in H. Beraria, which is a 10,000 square meter Cafeteria.
Without a doubt I take a fantastic impression of Bucharest and what we have seen in Romania, so we have to return yes or yes!
Do not forget to take out travel insurance if you are going to travel to Romania. Hopefully, you don’t need to use it, but it is better to be prepared for any eventuality or emergency.
Choosing travel insurance will depend mainly on the duration and coverage of the insurance. It is best to inform yourself well to choose the best insurance available.
If you want you can review our guide on how to choose travel insurance, where you will find comparisons, opinions, and discounts.
If you want to contact Dana, the guide who attended us, you can do so on her mobile phone: +40 722 892 869 or her email [email protected]
Have you been to Romania? What do you recommend for me when I return?
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Last Updated on 28 April, 2022 by Veronica