Romania’s capital and largest city is a lively and entertaining place to visit, with a vibrant culture that’s been on the rise ever since the country’s communist dictatorship fell from power.
There’s much to do and much to see in Bucharest, but once you have explored the streets and museums and hung out in the great cafes and restaurants, you may want to head further afield, and the city is perfectly situated to act as the gateway to the rest of Romania.
From Bucharest, you can easily head out into the countryside, escape the city in the beautiful Piatra Craiului Mountains which are home to some of Europe’s last surviving brown bears, while exploring the history of Transylvania, where legends of Dracula were born in the medieval era.
The warm climes of the Black Sea are never far away, while northern Bulgaria is just waiting to be explored.
Here are the best day trips from Bucharest.
1. Bran Castle
Bran Castle is a spectacular, gothic masterpiece that rises from the hills in the heartland of Transylvania.
This is the stuff of legends, so much so that over the years its unique design and architecture have become undeniably associated with Bram Stoker’s Dracula and the towering turrets and haunting atmosphere have been said by many to be the inspiration for Dracula’s castle in the novel.
This is nothing but a legend, as there is no evidence for this, but it hasn’t stopped the locals from embellishing the idea to draw in more tourists.
Regardless of the truth, though, Bran Castle makes for a great day trip from Bucharest, as it’s surrounded by rolling green hills and is found in a dramatic location.
Take a tour of the castle to find out more about the myths and legends, and perhaps to uncover a semblance of truth amongst the mystery too.
Recommended tour: Dracula’s Castle Full-Day Tour from Bucharest
Found close to Bran Castle, and around a two-hour drive from Bucharest, the city of Brasov is Transylvania at its finest.
It’s in a glorious setting, with the towering Carpathian Mountains surrounding the city, and spectacular countryside to be found everywhere.
Its location at the crossroads of European and Eastern trade routes has given the city its distinctive character over the centuries, and you can see influences here from as far afield as Germany and Turkey, and much further beyond too.
Explore the historic streets, churches and old fortifications, before taking a hike to the top of the nearby Tampa Mountain for an all-encompassing view of Brasov.
Available tour: Bucharest: 12-Hour Tour of Brasov and Dracula’s Castle
3. Piatra Craiului Mountains
The beautiful Piatra Craiului Mountains form part of the larger Southern Carpathian Range and make for an excellent outdoor adventure from Bucharest.
The area is protected as a national park, and there are many wonderful walking trails of varying difficulties that meander through the foothills and along the ridges.
The area is home to some of Europe’s rare brown bears, and in the town of Zarnesti, you can even visit the Liberty Bear Sanctuary, an establishment that for two decades has been working tirelessly to help protect the bears and to rehabilitate those that are found injured.
You can visit the sanctuary to learn more about the bears and the work being done to save them.
4. Peles Castle
Found to the north of Bucharest, Peles Castle is located in the beautiful surrounds of the Carpathians, and its slender and elegant renaissance style architecture is a treat for the eyes.
The castle dates back to the mid 19th century when Romanian Royalty decided that this spectacular, mountainous area was perfect for an estate and hunting lodge, where they could spend the summer in the countryside away from the city.
It’s more of a grand mansion than a castle as such, but that just makes it all the more graceful.
Recommended combo tour: Peles & Bran Small Group: 2 Transylvanian Castles in 1 Day
5. Rasnov Citadel
Rasnov Citadel is found close to Brasov and was constructed as the first line of protection for Transylvanians.
It occupies an incredibly dramatic location, overseeing a pass from its high position on a clifftop.
The citadel dates back to medieval times and has seen its share of warfare and invasions over the centuries.
Things are much more peaceful now of course, and it makes for an excellent day trip, if only for its photogenic qualities.
6. Slanic Salt Mine
The Slanic Salt Mine makes for an unusual, underground excursion from Bucharest.
Found in the town of Slanic an hour north of the capital, the cavernous chambers below ground that have been hollowed out by workers over the decades form a surreal network of almost art-like chambers that tower high above you.
The regulated air below the surface is said by locals to be good for your health, and many therapeutic sessions are bizarrely held underground here.
It’s a strange place to explore, but an infinitely interesting day trip.
Suggested tour: Slanic Salt Mines and Wine Tasting Tour
7. Prahova Valley
The Prahova Valley is the location of the town of Slanic, and it’s one of the most scenic regions within an easy drive of Bucharest.
The spectacular Prahova River makes its way through the Carpathian Mountains, creating a wide valley that is becoming somewhat of a tourist sensation.
It’s the perfect location for outdoor activities, and there are some really stunning hiking trails through the valley and into the surrounding mountains.
A visit to the small village of Snagov makes for an easy day trip from Bucharest, as it’s just 20 miles away from the city centre, and there is much here to keep you occupied for hours.
The community is found on the banks of the rippling and serene Lake Snagov, a peaceful place encircled by green scenery.
On the lake itself can be found the enchanting Snagov Monastery, floating on a verdant island.
Locals claim that the monastery is, in fact, the final resting place of the legendary historical character and bloodthirsty conqueror, Vlad the Impaler, the real-life ruler who inspired the fictional Dracula.
This legend, however, may just be that, a legend, but it’s still an incredible place to explore.
Suggested tour: Full-Day Private Tour w/ Mogosoaia & Snagov
9. Mogosoaia Palace
Visiting the Mogosoaia Palace is an equally easy and relaxed day trip, as this 17th-century mansion is found just a short journey outside of Bucharest.
The palace has variously served as an inn, a royal home and now a museum, as its previous owners all seem to have befallen various unwelcome fates.
The grounds around the Mogosoaia Palace are stunning, tranquil and a very welcome escape from the streets of nearby Bucharest.
10. Poenari Castle
The Poenari Castle dates back to the 13th century when it was constructed to solidify local rule in the Carpathians.
By the 15th century, however, this castle was already being abandoned, before the infamous Vlad the Impaler came along and decided to rebuild the crumbling fortifications to defend his lands.
Locals will say that it is this castle, in fact, that should be known as Dracula’s Castle, because Vlad, the character’s inspiration, has more connection to Poenari Castle than to Bran Castle.
Poenari Castle was ruined in a landslide in the 19th century, and once again fell into abandonment.
Here you will find none of the glorious architecture of Romania’s many better-known castles, but you will find dramatic ruins that can only be reached after climbing up over a thousand steps from the road below.
Craiova makes for a long day trip from Bucharest, but a visit to this city to the west of the capital is very much worth it, to enjoy the quiet streets of this low-key Romanian city.
There is a fine selection of museums and galleries, reflecting Craiova’s long position as a university city.
There are some beautiful parks and green spaces, and it’s a wonderful place to simply stroll and wind down, as compared to Bucharest, not a lot happens in laid-back Craiova.
Constanta is Bucharest’s getaway on the Black Sea.
Found overlooking beaches and with its fair share of resorts, restaurants and bars, this is one of the most popular destinations to visit in the country during the summer.
Any time of year though, the city too is a great place to explore, with a beautiful promenade, some interesting museums and an often overlooked history that makes this one of the oldest cities in Romania.
Ensure you visit the old casino, a magnificent piece of architecture that overlooks the waterfront and that has become something of a photographic sensation in recent years.
Mangalia is Romania’s other popular Black Sea city, found along the coast to the south of Constanta.
Mangalia is a very popular place in summer, as the area has a huge range of resorts overlooking the beaches, and there is a vibrant nightlife to be found across the waterfront.
14. Veliko Tarnovo
Veliko Tarnovo is found across the border in the beautifully scenic and culturally rich region of northern Bulgaria.
This is one of the historic capitals of former Bulgarian kingdoms, and the rambling streets are awash with history.
The surrounding hills and scenery are equally as spectacular as the medieval city, and it’s well worth a cross-border excursion from Bucharest to experience.
Visiting the Bulgarian coastal city of Varna makes for another excellent cross-border excursion too.
As well as being a great location to experience the Black Sea, Varna is home to a wide range of archaeological museums and exhibits, dating back as far as the Roman times, and is always an interesting city to delve into.