Bucharest is a city full of contrasts. It’s not the most immediately beautiful city in the world, the way that London or Rome are for some. But Bucharest has a lot of hidden charms that are waiting for the curious, intrepid explorer.
Formerly called “Paris of the East,” Ceausescu’s reign of terror in Romania left Bucharest much worse for wear. Yet Bucharest is a city in the middle of a revival, slowly coming back into its former grandeur, with building façades being renovated and new businesses opening up beautiful creative coffee shops and bars.
So, look behind the crumbling exterior of some of Bucharest’s main buildings and you’ll find plenty of Instagrammable places in Bucharest just waiting for a creative eye to capture it.
1) Umbrella Alley (aka Pasajul Victoria)
Perhaps Bucharest’s most Insta-famous street, Pasajul Victoria is actually nothing more than a small alleyway off of Bucharest’s “Champs-d’Elysees,” Calea Victoriei. You can easily see the rainbow-colored umbrellas from the road, so it’s not hard to spot. In fact, you’ll probably stumble across this alley without even trying during your trip to Bucharest.
Apparently, the umbrellas were put up by the pizzeria in an attempt to lure customers – and it definitely has lured Bucharest Instagrammers! I’ve heard that the pizza is pretty sub-par, so I’d just recommend grabbing your shots and heading out to one of the much better places to eat in Bucharest.
Location: Pasajul Victoria, off of Calea Victoriei near Grand Hotel Continental.
2) Carturesti Carusel
One of the most beautiful bookstores in Bucharest, if not the world, you simply can’t miss a trip to Carturesti Carusel while you are in Bucharest. It’s hard to miss, as this massive six-story bookstore is located right on Lipscani, one of the main streets of Bucharest’s Old Town.
There are so many fantastic places to take photos in Carturesti, but the classic shot is on the spiral staircase. There’s something about the white staircases and railings against the colorful backdrop of thousands of books that just screams Instagrammable.
Location: Strada Lipscani 55
3) Palatul CEC
It’s pretty much impossible to miss the Palatul CEC building, as it’s at the intersection of two of the most important streets in Bucharest: Calea Victoriei and Strada Lipscani.
Formerly a palace, now this gorgeous building in downtown Bucharest is actually a bank. It looks extremely Parisian in style as it was actually designed by a French architect who studied in Paris, like much of Bucharest at the turn of the century.
You’ll have to wake up early if you want a view without a ton of people in it, as this is quite a popular Instagram spot in Bucharest and a very busy pedestrian zone. Note: birds not included.
Location: Calea Victoriei 13
4) Palace of the Parliament
The Guinness Book of World Records has verified that the Palace of the Parliament is the heaviest building in the world. Made of 700,000 tons of steel and bronze, over a million square feet of marble, and 3,500 tons of crystals, you can see how it adds up! It took 700 architectures 13 years to build it, fusing Totalitarian and Neoclassical styles to make a monstrous monument.
Some people find the Palace of the Parliament an eyesore; some find it beautiful. But you should be aware of its history before just posing for Instagram in front of it.
Most Romanians have a complicated relationship with this building, as it represents a lot of the trauma that Ceausescu inflicted on the nation. For one, much of the city’s old streets were razed just to develop this massive complex – seven square kilometers, forcing out 40,000 residents. Work on the “People’s Palace” was mostly completed by forced labor of soldiers and ‘volunteers’ and the work was backbreaking and exhausting. Some estimate that 3,000 people died during the construction of the Palace.
So, be mindful of what the Palace of the Parliament represents for Romanians when you take photos of it.
Location: Calea 13 Septembrie 1
5) Pasajul Macca-Vilacrosse
In keeping with the “Paris of the East’ theme, Bucharest has a lot of Parisian-style arcades full of cafés and lovely outdoor seating. They’re insanely beautiful to photograph and you can find a few located around the Old Town. The largest and most beautiful is Pasajul Macca-Vilacrosse, located off Calea Victoriei.
It’s a great place to wander around with your camera or stop for a cheap coffee in one of Bucharest’s most beautiful alleys.
Location: Pasajul Macca
6) Palatul Cantacuzino
One of my favorite buildings in Bucharest is Palatul Cantacuzino, also on Calea Victoriei (notice a theme here?).
Built in the early 20th century for the former mayor of Bucharest, the palace changed hands several times in its first 50 years of existence. In 1956, the palace became a museum dedicated to the musical composer George Enescu. It is possible to visit from 10 AM to 5 PM every day but Mondays and the interior is beautiful as well.
Location: Calea Victoriei 141
7) Romanian Athenaeum (exterior)
Yet another building just off of Calea Victoriei, the Romanian Athenaeum is a still-functioning concert hall and philharmonic in the center of Budapest and is one of its most recognizable buildings.
It opened in 1888 to much fanfare and has become a beloved part of the city’s cultural life since. And of course, it’s one of the most Instagrammable places in Bucharest thanks to its pillared Neoclassical style with Romantic touches.
Location: Strada Benjamin Franklin 1-3
8) Romanian Athenaeum (interior)
But of course, for how beautiful the building is on the exterior, it’s just as lovely on the inside. You can see it during concert performances, which occur between September and May (taking a break for the summer season). You can also take a small tour for 10 lei (about $2.50) – enter through a side door on the south side of the building.
If you’re lucky, you may even catch the musicians practicing!
Location: Strada Benjamin Franklin 1-3
9) Mogoşoaia Palace
Just 10 kilometers outside the city, I’m including this on the list of Instagrammable places in Bucharest because I mean – it’s so beautiful, plus it’s so easy to get here using Uber, which is very affordable and reliable in Romania.
It was built in 1702, making it one of the older palaces in the Bucharest area. It was nationalized during the Communist era but luckily has been preserved pretty well considering. This beautiful palace is open from 10 AM to 6 PM every day but Monday and is well worth a visit. The palace interior is being renovated but there is a museum and art gallery there that are also worth seeing.
Location: Strada Valea Parcului 1, Mogoșoaia
10) Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Around many cities in Europe, you’ll find monuments dedicated to the deaths of soldiers who were unable to be found or identified. Bucharest’s monument is dedicated to the 10 unidentified soldiers who died fighting for Romania during the World War I, and was built in 1923.
You can find this monument in Carol Park, overlooking a beautiful and peaceful lake, well worth visiting.
Location: Carol Park
11) Cismigiu Gardens
The “Central Park” of Bucharest, the Cismigiu Gardens are a wonderful oasis from the chaotic traffic of Bucharest. Done in the English garden style, this park is truly unique and easily one of the most Instagrammable spots in Bucharest.
There is a beautiful artificial lake with fountains, monuments, a beautiful bridge, plus tons of benches and trees which look even more beautiful in autumn! The streets around Cismigiu Gardens are also well-worth a wander, as they are beautiful and ornate and the streets are very peaceful.
Location: Bulevardul Regina Elisabeta
12) Arcul di Triumf
While I once thought that only Paris had an Arc de Triomphe, I’ve since realized that triumphal arcs are far more common than I once thought. You can find them in Barcelona, Skopje, Chisinau, and Bucharest, among others.
Romania’s version is called the Arcul di Triumf and looks quite similar to Paris’s version. It’s had three iterations over the years – one for its independence in 1878, one for the victory in World War I, and a final iteration in 1936.
It’s beautiful at day or night, but I think it’s really cool at night when you can capture ‘light streaks’ from passing cars. Be careful as it’s quite a busy intersection! It’s located a bit outside the center so I recommend going with an Uber or taking the metro to the nearby Aviatorilor station.
Location: Piața Arcul de Triumf
13) The Urbanist
Bucharest is full of quirky, Instagrammable cafés and The Urbanist is no exception.
With an eclectic mix of furniture in a bunch of colors and leafy elements, it’s quite a beautiful place for lifestyle and travel Instagrammers to get their café shots.
Location: Strada Căldărari 3
14) Freakshakes at Coffeöl Romania
If you’re a fan of ridiculously over-the-top milkshakes or just Instagrammable food, make your way over to Coffeöl for your sugar fix (and then some).
This place has ‘freakshakes’ with all the fixings — cupcakes, waffle cones, cookies, candy, pretzels, you name it — stuck to the rim in a dramatic fashion. If you love to photograph your food, don’t miss it!
Location: Strada Franceză 44
15) French Revolution
Continuing on with the theme of Instagrammable foods, you definitely should hit up French Revolution for some of the most delicious and photogenic desserts in all of Bucharest.
French Revolution makes some of the most delicious éclairs with tons of delicious, fun flavors. At 14 lei ($3 USD) per éclair, they are not cheap though, especially in a city like Bucharest where 14 lei will get you a nice hearty meal in a lot of restaurants. Still, if you really want that shot for Instagram – I’m sure you’ll make the splurge.
There are two locations but the more convenient one is near Piata Romana, which I’ve listed below.
Location: Strada Constantin Esarcu 1
16) Bucharest Delta
Did you know that Bucharest has a delta in the city? I didn’t know either until I arrived and heard about it from friends who visited.
I didn’t get a chance to visit when I was in Bucharest the last two times, but on my third trip, it’s on the list!
Location: Lake Văcărești
17) Stavropoleos Church
This beautiful 18th-century former monastery (now church) is done in the Eastern Orthodox style and used to be a monastery for nuns. The majority of the monastery is now gone but the church remains as well as a gorgeous courtyard.
While most of the time, you have to head outside of the city to find a monastery, this one is actually in the heart of the Old Town, making it an extremely convenient Instagram spot in Bucharest.
Location: Strada Stavropoleos 4
19) Gradina Eden
Bucharest has a ton of interesting outdoor gardens that are lovely to enjoy in the nice weather. One of my favorite outdoor café-gardens is Gradina Edin, located near Piata Romana, one of the hippest neighborhoods in Bucharest.
Gradina Eden has hammocks you can lounge in, tons of green to make you feel like you’re in an oasis in the middle of the city, and plenty of drinks and coffee to keep you caffeinated or buzzed throughout the day and night.
Location: Calea Victoriei 107
20) Serendipity Tea House
Yet another fun café-garden, Serendipity is a tea house and café that is book-themed – great for Instagrammers who are also big bookworms.
You can cozy up with one of the 50+ varieties of teas in one of the cute, colorful rooms of Serendipity, or hang out in the ivy-covered courtyard if the weather is cooperating. Either way, it’s a chill place and a great Instagram spot in Bucharest.
Location: Strada Dumbrava Roșie 12
21) National Bank of Romania
In the Old Town of Bucharest, you won’t be able to miss the National Bank of Romania. It’s beautiful from the outside, but I urge you to go inside to peep the beautiful marble interior!
It is open from 8 AM to 6 PM on weekdays and closed on weekends. It’s not only a bank but also a functioning museum, but you have to book a visit in advance – check it out here.
Location: Strada Lipscani 25
22) Hilton Bucharest
If you’re looking for an ornate place to stay in Bucharest, then the Hilton Bucharest is one of the top choices. The lobby is grand and beautiful and definitely worth of an Instagram shoot.
Located between Old Town and Piata Romana, right next to the Romanian Athenaeum, I think it’s also one of the best locations in the city.
Location: Strada Episcopiei 1-3
23) Grand Hotel Continental
This is where I stayed in Bucharest and I can’t recommend it any higher… I felt like a princess in my room! The rooms are a bit old-fashioned but that was exactly what I loved – I felt like I was a part of the history of the place.
Just be aware that the staff can be kind of rude about taking photos of the lobby, which I found really strange. But it is beautiful from the outside and in the rooms, and you could try to snap some shots of the beautiful lobby if you’re brave.
Location: Calea Victoriei 56 (near Umbrella Alley)
24) National Museum of Romanian History
Across the street from Palatul CEC, it’s hard to miss the National Museum of Romanian History.
While it’s not quite as immediately impressive as the CEC building, I think it is still a great Instagram spot in Bucharest, and since you’re sure to pass it at some point during your time in Bucharest, it’s worth taking a few photos of this grand museum.
Location: Calea Victoriei 12
The largest spa complex in all of Eastern Europe, Therme is a true oasis away from the center of Bucharest – near the airport in Otopeni, in fact.
It can be quite crowded, especially on weekends, but it is so big that you can easily find a quiet corner of your own to enjoy the thermal waters and get a break from the Bucharest streets. Plus, it’s ultra-photogenic.
Location: Calea Bucureşti 1K, Balotești
26) Village Museum
Throughout the Balkans it is rather common to find open air ethnographic museums which preserve a slice of the past.
This one is located in Herăstrău Park and is massive, taking up over 100,000 square meters. The village museum shows what life is like in a Romanian village, with over 200 peasant farms and houses spanning Romania that have been reconstructed and brought to Bucharest.
Location: 28-30, Șoseaua Pavel Dimitrievici Kiseleff
27) Lacul Morii
If you want to get away from the city vibes, head to Lacul Morii, a large lake on the outskirts of Bucharest that is extremely beautiful, especially at golden hour and sunset.
It’s gone a bit to disuse, but that adds to the charm a bit, I think.
Location: Insula Lacul Morii
Where to Stay in Bucharest
Looking for the most beautiful place to stay in Bucharest? Here are my best recommendations for ultra-Instagrammable interiors and a comfortable night’s sleep!
Luxury: I stayed at the Grand Hotel Continental during my first Bucharest trip and I can’t recommend it enough if you can afford it! It’s ultra-Instagrammable from outside and within. The room is elegantly furnished and the bed was ridiculously comfortable – the comforters and sheets were just so lush. The bathroom and room itself were crazy large and spacious (though the bathroom was oddly modern, to the point where the sink was really confusing and barely usable). I loved being a 10-minute walk away from the Old Town. I actually don’t recommend at all staying in the Old Town itself, because it’s super loud with drunks at all hours of the night. It comes highly recommended by me and others agree, considering it has a 9.0 rating on Booking.com from others (check reviews and availability here).
Planning a Trip to Romania? Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!
Make sure you always travel to Romania with a valid travel insurance policy. While the country is safe, accidents can happen anywhere. If you experience an accident or theft, travel insurance will help you recover your costs and enjoy the rest of your trip.
For travel insurance, I use World Nomads. I’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.