You don’t even have to step inside a museum to get a sense of the artistic talent alive in Bucharest. It bleeds through the city’s street art; runs down the cobblestone streets of the Old Town; and cascades in underground art galleries, punk shows, and pop-up dinners in the dimly lit corners of Romania’s culture-rich capital. But the city is also eager to share its rich history with visitors in various well-established galleries, ranging from the medieval to the post-Communist contemporary. If you’re headed to Eastern Europe, don’t miss out on the range of experiences to be had here in a city that’s equal parts Parisian chic and budget friendly.
Go gallery hopping.
For an immersive cultural experience in Bucharest during the daytime, visit a few of the city’s many art galleries, from medieval art in a former palace to the emerging contemporary art scene at hip galleries that many tourists miss. Here are three of our favorites:
1. National Museum of Art of Romania
Start with perhaps the most obvious stop at The National Museum of Art of Romania. The stunning former Royal Palace of Bucharest plays host to not one but two large exhibits showcasing Romanian medieval and modern art, European art, and Oriental art. You can spend hours here learning about the works using the museum’s ARTmobile app, which gives oral, written, and visual descriptions in conjunction with tactile presentations for many of the displays. Tours of the palace halls are also available, and a trip to the temporary Conservation Lab exhibit gives you a behind-the-scenes look at the painstaking efforts of the museum’s expert restorers, who bring damaged medieval pieces back to life.
Location: Calea Victoriei 49-53, București 010063, Romania
2. H’Art Gallery
One of the OG contemporary art galleries in Bucharest, H’Art Gallery has hosted 150+ exhibitions of Romanian artists and focuses on showcasing those educated in styles following the fall of the Communist regime in 1989. The gallery boasts one of the largest private collections of contemporary art, including work by Ovidiu Fenes, Gili Mocanu, Alexandru Paul, and more. It’s well established and worth the visit for art buffs in Bucharest.
Location: H’Art Gallery, C.A. Rosetti 25, București, Romania
3. Atelier 030202
On the newer end of the contemporary art spectrum is Atelier 030202. Contemporary Romanian artists continue pushing the limits of what’s possible in their craft, driving for well-deserved validation and acceptance on a global scale. Art gallery Atelier 030202 gives these young talents space to thrive. It highlights contemporary art from powerful visual and musical performances to installations and film screenings from artists around the world, all hosted on the same property as the Comedy Theatre.
Its approach is unconventional in nature, resulting in a gallery run in large part by the artists themselves. Prepare to be moved — with each month comes a new wave of experimental art, each as capable as the last in evoking strong emotional responses in visitors. Atelier 030202 also partners with the Bucharest Biennale, which takes place every other spring. If you want a finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the contemporary art world in Romania and abroad, you can’t miss this gallery.
Location: Atelier 030202, Sfanta Vineri 11, București, Romania
Explore the local cafe scene.
Wandering the streets of a new city on your own is part of the allure of independent travel. But if you value learning the stories and social movements driving the street art and music filling Bucharest’s hip local hangouts, it helps to go right where the locals go — and in Bucharest, that means cafes. Cafes throughout Bucharest host loads of contemporary artists and musicians, plus they have spectacular coffee and plenty of tasty Romanian snacks. Chill out with the locals, take in live music, and admire the intriguing art on the walls at these three awesome cafes.
1. Café Verona
Tucked away on the underground level of the Carturesti bookstore — one of the best in Romania — sits Cafe Verona. Pick out your next novel, then head outside to the large terrace during warm weather and let the peaceful Bohemian air wash over you as you catch up with friends. The lush greenery that surrounds patrons complements the fresh salads and sandwiches, and meals include vegan and vegetarian options. Drink options range from wine, beer, and cocktails to teas and fresh Verona lemonade. You’ll leave feeling refreshed and ready for a stroll at Gradina Icoanei Park located a five-minute walk away.
Location: Café Verona, Strada Pictor Arthur Verona 13-15, București 010312, Romania
Get your caffeine fix where art and coffee collide at Coftale. Enjoy beautifully presented dishes and drinks in an old villa that gives off the air of a Parisian cafe with Eastern European prices. When the smell of ground coffee beans hits you, give in to the addiction and stick around. The friendly staff is happy to drop serious coffee knowledge for those interested to make your time in Coftale informative and entertaining. Don’t forget to pet the Coftale kitty — the real boss of the place — on your way in, and make yourself at home in this intimate cafe located just outside the din of downtown Bucharest.
Location: Strada Mihaileanu Stefan 42, București 024024, Romania
3. Ceai La Metoc
The concealed sign at the gate to this isolated cafe doesn’t look like much, nor does the old house overgrown with vines that sits on the property. But amongst fig trees and bushes sits an oasis of calm and Bohemian solitude at the Ceai La Metoc tea garden. Here you’ll find teas from around the world served hot or cold and paired with delicious homemade desserts to enjoy alone or with friends in the shaded terrace. In the evening, the soft glow of candles light the wooden tables and chairs like an Elven enclave straight from The Lord of the Rings. For those looking to trade the concrete jungle for a lush and literal one, seek out Ceai La Metoc.
Location: Strada Popa Rusu 21, București 030167, Romania
Keep the party going long into the night.
Your exploration of Bucharest’s art and culture doesn’t stop at sundown. Instead of just hitting a run of the mill bar, locals head to the many cafes and art galleries in Bucharest that turn into clubs at night with DJ sets, beer, and coffee to keep you dancing until the morning. Here are three of the best ways to spend a night in Bucharest.
1. Dance at The Urbanist.
The Urbanist is a bar up front, business in the back. Where else can you get a haircut and a tattoo, drink delicious craft beer or coffee, snag a pair of major label jeans or clothing by Romanian designer Ioana Ciolacu, and dance at night both indoors and out on a streetside terrace? The Urbanist is a one-stop shop (literally) for those looking to experience the nightly pulse of Bucharest’s youthful heartbeat within its romantic Old Centre ribcage.
Location: The Urbanist, București 030167, Romania
2. Catch a performance at the Artist Cafe.
Get caffeinated and show off your singing skills with karaoke night at the Artist Cafe, part coffee shop, part theater. You can also relax and let the local pros handle it as the cafe runs vibrant performances each week. The small stage is nearly level with the dining room floor, making for an intimate exchange between the actors and the patrons seated before them. Floor-to-ceiling shelves lined with books, photographs of Charlie Chaplin, and various artwork welcome guests to this elegant and artistic den of creative entertainment, making it perfect for a night out in Bucharest.
Location: Bd Dacia 153-155, Sector 2, București 020057, Romania
3. Make your own journey through the Bucharest underground.
When in doubt, just walk the streets of Bucharest at night and see where the evening takes you. Ask locals for the best apartment art galleries or badass basement punk shows. Try to locate the PopUp Dinner mobile restaurant whipping up three-course meals for less than €15 at random spots throughout the city. Discuss minority rights and urban planning over drinks, or catch a poetry reading at Tramvaiul 26. Design your own street-art stencil and leave your mark on Bucharest, a creative hub of Romanian art and culture that’s sure to leave its mark on you.