Though often overlooked in favour of its more famous neighbours, Sofia and Budapest, Bucharest is well worth a visit on any European adventure. After all, there are plenty of quirky attractions and hidden places worth a visit when it comes to the Romanian capital. So whether you love searching for offbeat bookstores or want to see a different side to the city, here’s a complete guide to 10 secret spots in Bucharest which you won’t want to miss as well as the hidden gems of the Romanian capital you’ve never heard of before…
You may not know it, but Bucharest is a must-see for any literary lover and is one of the best places in Europe for bibliophiles. After all, there you’ll find the National Museum of the Romanian Literature, a cultural hub dedicated to all things related to the written word. Elsewhere in the city, several beautiful bookshops are well worth a visit, including that of the Carturesti Verona (Strada Pictor Arthur Verona 13-15).
Bucharest City Hall
Once closed to the public, Bucharest’s town hall is a beautiful example of neo-Romanian architecture and is close to the oldest public green space in the city, Cismigiu park. A trip to the City Hall can easily be combined with a trip to the nearby park and perhaps even a venture to the city’s very own triumphal arch, the Arcul de Triumf of Bucharest.
Mihai Voda Monastery
When Bucharest was under communist rule, Nicolae Ceaușescu demolished much of the city to make way for what is now the heaviest building in the world, the Palace of Parliament. Surrounding it, high rise apartment blocks were constructed to house high ranking officials.
And amidst all the destruction of the previous housing, several churches were saved by engineers quite literally rolling them to safety. One such church is the Mihai Voda Monastery (Strada Sapienței 4) and it’s one of the few remaining moving churches of Bucharest which you can visit to this day.
Pasajul Victoria (Umbrella Passage)
If you’ve spent any length of time checking out the best places to Instagram in Bucharest, then no doubt you’ll have come across the umbrella passageway. Located right by a pizzeria, by the name of Pizza Colosseum, just off Calea Victoriei, head here for plenty of colourful umbrella snaps. Nearby, you’ll find the St. Nicholas-in-One-Day church, a place of worship which was started and completed on the same day (date wise, not year!).
Thanks to its abundance of French-inspired architecture, Bucharest is often referred to as ‘little Paris’. And if you’re looking to see some Haussmannian style buildings for yourself, then you need to look no further than the beautiful horseshoe-shaped passage in the heart of the old town known as Pasajul Macca-Vilacrosse. Originally home to Bucharest’s very first Stock Exchange House, today it’s home to all manner of bars and eateries. (Pictured below is Bucharest’s very own former French-inspired department store).
Antiquities market at Bazar
If you’re a fan of all things vintage, then you simply must visit the antiquities market at Bazar (Strada Doamnei 11). Held inside a once-abandoned building in the heart of town, it’s a must-see for anyone who wishes to shop for antiquities and old wares while in Bucharest.
Remains of Vlad the Impaler’s Palace (Curtea Veche)
Because it’s Romania and the country is best known for the region of Transylvania (Bucharest is actually located in the Wallachia region of Romania) and Count Dracula, no mention of secret spots in Bucharest would be complete without a quick nod to the man who inspired the legend, Vlad the Impaler.
So-called because the prince famously impaled his many enemies on long poles outside Bucharest’s city enclosure, the remains of one of Vlad’s palaces can be found in the heart of Bucharest, not far from the Church of Saint Anthony.
Though this bookshop is by no means as secret as it once was, it still deserves a mention on this list of secret spots in Bucharest on the offchance you’ve never heard of it! Literally translated as ‘carousel of Light’, Cărturești Carusel is situated in a restored 19th-century building in the very heart of Bucharest’s Old town. Comprising of six floors, home to well over ten thousand books and with a chic bistro on the top floor (which offers great views onto the old town), you could easily get lost for hours among its many shelves…
On the fringes of the old town, the 18th-century Eastern Orthodox Church of Stavropoleos Monastery is easily one of the most beautiful places in Bucharest. With its stunning architecture and secret courtyard housing cloisters behind, it’s the perfect secret spot to get away from the rest of the city and relax in silence for a little while.
Within the church’s courtyard, there are also countless architectural pieces and sculptures, remnants of Bucharest’s long and complicated history. Of all the hidden gems within this article, the Stavropoleos monastery is easily my favourite recommendation!
If you’re a fan of all things spa and bathing related (and who isn’t?) then one of the more unusual things to do in Bucharest is to venture out of the city to the Therme Bucharest. Situated near the city’s airport, it’s the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of busy modern city life.
The pools are surrounded by palm trees and even have their own in-pool bars and water slides. So, if you’re looking for one of the best secret spots in Bucharest, then you simply must head to Therme Bucharest! Plus, entry costs less than $20 USD- bonus!
Tips for visiting Bucharest
If you’re planning a trip to the capital of Romania, then there are a few things you should know before you go. First things first: book your accommodation in advance. Check here for the best rates in Bucharest. If you have more time to explore Romania beyond its capital city, then I recommend visiting Transylvania.
The beautiful city of Brasov has plenty by way of attractions and makes for the perfect base from which to explore the wider region. Bran Castle (AKA Dracula’s Castle) and Peles Castle (where ‘A Christmas Prince’ was filmed) are both easy day trips to be taken from Brasov.