As with some of the more sprawling urban capitals found around Eastern Europe, the problem when you come to visit Bucharest lies not in finding a place to stay in Bucharest. Rather the difficulty is in finding the right place for your own personal interests and individual budget to stay in Bucharest.
By considering the different districts and neighborhoods carefully, you can select one or two that are best suited for your personality and then start working backwards towards the hotel that suits your needs and budget most optimally.
Bucharest is both the commercial center and the capital of Romania found in Eastern Europe. While not internationally renowned for beautiful, historic, classical architecture, the city is famed for its standout landmark, the communist period built, enormous Palatul Parlamentului government center. The palatial parliamentary structure contains 1,100 individual rooms.
At the same time, the city is home to high energy nightlife. The close by and historic Lipscani district hosts the city’s best nightlife scenes, along with a small Eastern Orthodox Church the Stavropoleos Church. The 1400’s era Curtea Veche Palace, also found in the district, is the home of Prince Vlad The Impaler where he once based his dreaded reign of terror.
The city is also a melting pot of culture and different ethnic groups. Hundreds of thousands of gypsies call the city home and a large population of Chinese also dwell here in Bucharest. It makes the city’s food an exciting and diverse product of many different influences, dating back to the Ottoman era of rule in the 15th century and also incorporating the different influences of the various people who have passed through or stayed on to live in the capital city.
Where to stay in Bucharest: Best Neighborhoods in Bucharest
Bucharest today is a large city of over a million and a half people that is comprised of six separate administrative districts and many dozens of neighborhoods. This means that there is a great variety of choices for places to stay in Bucharest in all ranges of budgets, from hostels and budget friendly to higher end luxurious accommodations. Here we look at some of the most popular neighborhoods and best known parts of the city.
1. Old Town
The Old Town is actually many different mostly charming neighborhoods at the heart of the Romanian capital. One of the oldest neighborhoods in the city is Armeneasca. Here you are able to soak up the local Balkans atmosphere and identity and feel the old city’s still evident local spirit. The oldest residence in Bucharest is found here at 22 Spătarului Street. Today it hosts the Theodor Pallady Museum inside.
Visitors love that this Armeneasca area is a great place to stay in Bucharest. Originally populated by rich Armenian merchants, it still has such a quaint charm to it. It is comprised of low rise homes that are surrounded by vineyards and little gardens, making it perfect for strolling around and snapping pictures.
In the fall, the cobblestoned streets come alive with color as the tree leaves change shade from verdant green to glorious golden and brown.
Another charming area in the Old Town is the Cismigiu. This proves to be among the most gorgeous and oldest of parks in all Bucharest. The scenery is the perfect backdrop for an early morning jog or a late afternoon walk. Visitors can also relax on a bench or go out on a boat in the large park to escape several hours from the noise of the crowded, bustling city.
Of course not to be missed in the Old Town of Bucharest is the Lipscani Neighborhood. Lying in the beating heart of the Old Town, it is an exciting collection of non-stop restaurants, bars, and pubs. For the hard partying and young at heart crowd, this is the place to stay in Bucharest and to spend the night partying until the sun rises.
During the day, this is the part of the Old Town for drinking a cool mint lemonade or savouring a good cup of coffee sitting in a corner bistro or for dropping into tiny but interesting souvenir shops.
Lipscani is the original center of the Old Town. Originally it was a bustling commercial street that was bounded by shops of merchants from around the other Balkan nations. Many streets here preserve the original names such as Cavafi, Bacani, Covaci, Selari, and Blanari.
This is also among the only places in Southeastern Europe where a traveler can still visit a surviving caravanserais. The establishment is called Manuc’s Inn.
2. Piata Unirii
The plaza Piata Unirii is based between two primary geographical points. The center of the piata is Unirii Square. This lovely, bustling green park is quite busy in summer months. On the one side the piata is bordered by the Unirii Shopping Center.
On the other its bounds are marked by the Unirii Boulevard, previously referred to as the Victory of Socialism. This important thoroughfare connects the Palace of Parliament with the eastern side of the capital city. The boulevard was laid out to be longer than Paris’ famed Champs Elysee.
This among the best areas in Bucharest lies in the exact center of the city. The neighborhood only arose during the Communist era atop another older neighborhood. The area has evolved considerably since the Communists remade it. Today it suffers from quite a lot of noise, courtesy of all the traffic. Yet it boasts considerable charms in the beauty of the fountains that flow in the center of the boulevard.
For political protests and life, this is among the best of the neighborhoods in Bucharest to be based. Universitate retains its time honored role as the center of all public demonstrations in Bucharest, whatever the cause protesters champion.
Also based here are many of the main facilities and buildings from the University of Bucharest, as well as monuments like Kilometer Zero of Democracy, the National Theatre, Coltea Hospital, the evocative Intercontinental Hotel, the 1600’s era Coltea Church, the University Square, and the University of Architecture edifices.
Another interesting architectural and religious site is the St. Nicholas Russian Church found immediately off of the University Square. This is open to the public for visits.
4. Piata Romana
The Piata Romana area turns out to be a trendy and cool neighborhood. It lies near the city center, giving it excellent proximity to many of the city’s best attractions. Visitors can experience many fashionable boutiques, high-end shops, and trendy cafes where the young and young at heart hold court.
Besides this, the area boasts a number of good restaurants and pubs. These fill up quickly at lunch time with guests ranging from business men and women to hip university students.
If you like old world architecture and charm, the Piata Romana has even more to offer you. Lascar Catargiu Boulevard is the perfect place for a leisurely stroll. Here visitors can take in the best preserved classical villas and old Bucharest pre-war era mansions, remnants of a forever bygone gilded era.
5. Gradina Icoanei
For those visitors looking for an authentic and unspoiled section of Old Bucharest, we recommend the Gradina Icoanei. This iconic part of the city proves to be among the most postcard perfect in all of Bucharest. Beautifully arrayed villas offer tourists and visitors alike little tea gardens hailing from their charming backyards. The architectural variety here is among the most diverse in the capital city too.
Perhaps what makes this such an area not to be missed while visiting Bucharest is a little known secret about the Gradina Icoanei. This lovely section of the city is among the precious few places from the old city that did not suffer damage or ill effects from the post-Communist demolition period in the 1980’s.
This means that it appears exactly as stunningly as it was a century ago, something that can not be often said about the overwhelming majority of Bucharest today. Another treat of the Gradina Icoanei is its enviable and unusual safety.
Because the neighborhood is so very safe and secure, dotted by its many international embassies, visitors can even enjoy a late night walk around the charming neighborhood, something not to be missed in Bucharest for its rarity alone.
6. Calea Victorei (Av Victorei)
The oldest and wealthiest thoroughfare in Bucharest is the Calea Victorei. It connects Piața Victoriei with Piața Palatului and the old city center heart. A few important historical events have occurred here.
The avenue is renowned for its high-end hotels, shops, and cafes, along with a number of the most evocative buildings in the capital city. Accommodation here is understandably expensive as the attractions are leading ones in all of Bucharest.
Visitors can take in the Royal Palace, the Romanian Athenaem, the National Art Museum, Romania’s National History Museum, the Revolution Square, and a few 1600’s to 1700’s era beautiful churches. Without a doubt, this is the central point for sight seeing in the capital city. It is not to be missed by any person spending a day or more in Bucharest.
7. Bucharest North (Sector 1)
The city of Bucharest is administratively divided into six sectors. Sector 1 is also referred to as Bucharest North. Within its boundaries are the northwestern subdivisions of Pipera and Baneasa. Many consider this Sector 1 to be the richest part of the capital city.
It is comprised of many different neighborhoods with hotels ranging from budget to high end to suit the wide range of different travelers’ needs for accommodation. Though this part of the city is far from the central area sights and attractions, it is well connected to the Old Town and surrounding environs by effective public transport such as buses and trams.
Probably the most expensive neighborhood in Bucharest, the Dorobanti Neighborhood was purpose designed, laid out, and constructed to be an exclusive residential area. It remains among the most appealing for the capital city’s elite and wealthy.
This part of Bucharest, located in Sector 1 between Floreasca Park and the Dinamo Stadium, is justifiably renowned for being possibly the most splendid part of the capital city.
There are countless Neo-Romanian types of villas, stunningly decorated homes, and even some eccentric modernist designed blocks constructed nearly a century ago back in the 1920’s to 1930’s between the two world wars.
Understandably, hotels will tend to the upper scale and prices will sway to the most expensive for accommodation in this lovely section of town. Yet those who can stay Bucharest here or close by will not want to miss spending as many hours as possible wandering happily around the area streets, admiring the gorgeous buildings and splendid architecture on nearly every street corner.
9. Boulevard Dacia (Sector 2)
Sector 2 is generally referred to by locals as the Boulevard Dacia. Bucharest’s Dacia area focuses on the route of the stately boulevard of the identical name. This route famously links the Piata Romana up to the Calea Mosilor. Along this elegant boulevard are among the finest 1800’s to 1900’s era villas, the most attractive in the city limits.
The Strada Mihai Eminescu borders it to the north side, while the Stradas C.A. and Maria Rosetti mark its boundaries to the south side. Each of these streets contain their own impressive architectural treasures.
Remarkably, except for a few awful Communist blocks that still stand occasionally in the area, the overwhelming majority of this district emerged from the ruin of the Communist period and its resulting demolition mostly or entirely intact.
As a result, District 2 remains a favorite residential choice for the wealthy local Romanians. Besides this, the district plays host to some of the finer restaurants and most charming and expensive hotels in the capital city. This is also the seat of a great number of international consulates and foreign government embassies here.
Fortunately for visitors interested in staying in this characterful and wealthy section of town, it is well connected to the central districts via public transportation. The entire route of the Boulevard Dacia is served by Piata Romana’s Bus number 133. Even on foot, most of the district is easy to reach from most parts of the city center, which is a pleasant surprise to many travelers here.
Sector 2 boasts still more appealing charms as the capital’s by far and away most multicultural part. The biggest foreign claim to fame is the large community of Chinese residents living here. They primarily occupy the two sub-districts of Obor and Colentina.
For those looking to stay somewhere greener, the Cotroceni area is ideal. This is not only the most natural looking area, but it is also among the poshest and most exclusive parts of the capital city as well. Cotroceni holds some of the most amazingly beautiful villas the country constructed in between the First and Second World Wars.
The national Presidential Palace is also found here. This official home residence for the president of Romania is also a museum today. Cotroceni has been ranked among the top 20 cultural locations in European capitals for its other outstanding attractions as well.
Besides the Presidential Palace, visitors can look forward to seeing the capital city’s beautiful Botanical Garden and the elegant and stately looking Bucharest National Opera.
The neighborhood location is somewhat unique. It spreads from the Cotroceni Hill and lies within Bucharest District number 5. Besides its first class, must-see, renowned attractions, Cotroceni also has the Bucharest Medical School located within a Neo-Baroque palace, as well as the Romanian Academy.
The academy’s edifices represent a range of differing styles. These run the gamut from Neo-Romanian, on to Art Deco, and finally even include Modernist. An interesting feature of the area is the neighborhood streets. A great number of them are named for the best known doctors who once called the area streets their home.
There are many reasons why this Cotroceni district is the part of the capital city that is not to be missed even if you are only here for a whistle stop day trip through Bucharest.
Besides the Presidential Palace, Botanical Gardens, Bucharest National Opera, Medicine University, Modernist Military Academy edifice, and elegant villas, there are nearly perfectly preserved wealthy family houses from the last century. These offer interesting and competing styles from the Neo-Romanian on up to the Modernist eras and styles.
11. Baneasa / Airport
A rather new section of Bucharest that visitors will certainly enjoy experiencing is called the Baneasa area. Located closest to the airport, it has been developed most aggressively (of all Bucharest areas) in recent years. The Baneasa has grown into a favorite neighborhood among the locals of the capital city.
This stems from the fact that the region is both close to the lakes and forests outside of the congested capital and still located near enough to the downtown centrum to be a mere ten minute drive from the city center of Bucharest by car.
As the area is the closest of residential neighborhoods to the international airport, it is not difficult to find for those who arrive in Romania by international flights. Getting here from the Henri Coanda International Airport is simple. DN1 also provides easy access to the capital’s city center.
There are a number of shopping malls and big store outlets located here now thanks to its more recent development from over the last few years.
Apart from being most picturesquely located close to the famed Romanian nature and lovely countryside, the Baneasa also hosts several good green spaces. Visitors will not want to miss the opportunity to take a leisurely walk through the Herastrau Park as well as to take the time to visit the Baneasa Village museum.
This Griviței Neighborhood in Bucharest may be unique in the entire capital city. It connects the city center with the Gara de Nord (North Railway Station) and remains among the only surviving parts of the city where the local children actually play ball, sharing sidewalks with Brompton riders.
Yet another unique characteristic is the outdoor market here. The Piata Matache remains the last market anywhere near the city center that still sells daily fresh and local produce. When here, you will not want to miss the chance to try out the garden grown tomatoes, coriander honey, or fresh goat cheese.
People watchers and observers of inevitable change will love the Griviței Neighborhood in Bucharest because this is easily the most ideal place to watch the still occurring transition of Bucharest from decrepit and sleepy city to vibrant, pulsing, and modern European capital city.
Accommodation here will tend to the more modest hotels and hostels as well as budget friendly pricing as this is not yet an up and coming trendy part of the capital city.