Bucharest has over 60 museums and memorial houses spread all over the city, which is one of Europe’s biggest capitals. Whether it’s Romanian art, the country’s rich folklore, or a piece of the country’s exciting history you’re after, the capital has a museum for it, with something to offer each of its ever-growing number of visitors.
National Museum of Contemporary Art (MNAC)
Housed in the southwestern wing of the Palace of the Parliament, the iconic Communist-era building that dominates Bucharest’s skyline, the MNAC is the city’s top art venue. You can expect an eclectic collection of Romanian and Eastern European artists, as well as two to three temporary exhibitions by thought-provoking, up-and-coming Romanian artists. As the visit requires a long walk from the closest metro stop (Izvor, on the red and yellow lines), check the museum’s website in advance to see what’s on. Luckily, the museum, which is located on a hilltop, offers great year-round views over Bucharest from its terrace.
Located in the former Royal Palace in central Bucharest, the MNaR features an extensive collection of medieval and modern Romanian art, alongside an eclectic display of international art collected by the Romanian royal family. Sculptures by Constantin Brancusi, one of the pioneers of modernism, is the highlight of the Romanian modern exhibition.
Although smaller, this museum is a gem, featuring an eclectic collection of paintings and objects carefully curated by 44 of the most prominent aristocratic families of Romania, who later donated the artifacts to the museum. The core of the collection of paintings includes works by 19th- and 20th-century Romanian masters Alexandru Ciucurencu, Francisc Şirato, Nicolae Grigorescu, Theodor Aman, Nicolae Tonitza, and more. The museum’s remarkable collection of brightly colored Transylvanian wood and glass painted icons will add an original touch to the visit, as will the exotic display of Japanese stamps.
When only visiting for a city trip, a walk through the Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum is the best way to take in the diversity and charm of Romanian traditional village architecture. Located in Herastrau Park, Bucharest’s largest, this open-air museum showcases around 300 houses, farms, windmills, and churches from all regions of Romania, displayed along winding alleys bordered by old trees. When the weather allows, the museum hosts fairs where local artisans can display their craft, as well as mass picnics and workshops.
The Museum of the Romanian Peasant hosts the country’s most valuable collection of peasant costumes, ceramics, rugs and carpets, and other household objects gathered over generations from all regions of the country. Out of the 90,000 items on display, 20,000 are garments and accessories that reflect the richness and originality of peasant craft. Every year, on February 24th, when Romanians celebrate Dragobete, the local equivalent of St. Valentine’s Day, the museum’s yard hosts a dedicated fair.
The Museum of Romanian History has on display one of the most impressive display of artifacts, war objects, and jewelry made of solid gold in Europe. The beautifully adorned 13 Dacian gold bracelets dating from the 1st century BC, weighing around one kilogram each, represent some of the most valuable of the treasures in the Romanian patrimony. With their dual ornamental and votive function, the jewelry worn by Dacians, the forefathers of the Romanians, offer a glimpse into one of the most mysterious civilizations in the region.
Built in the Brancovenesc style, the Cotroceni Palace has seen 400 years of history unfold inside its walls. What started as a monastery erected in 1679 was later transformed by Romanian rulers into a summer residence, before King Carol I built the current palace and turned it into his royal residence. When the Communist regime came in, in 1947, the palace was turned into the headquarters of the Communist youth movement. Today, the royal palace is both a museum and the residence of the President of Romania. The museum has on display paintings, sculptures, decorative art, old books, religious art, and photography of high aesthetic and historic value.
Located in the center of Bucharest, on a quiet street where gentle, early 19th-century architecture still breathes old charm and character, Casa Storck is an art museum with a very personal touch. The visit begins the moment you start gazing at this old edifice, which was erected based on a design by Frederic Storck himself. Once inside, you step into an intimate space that combines the artistic works of several generations of artists with a significant contribution to the cultural heritage of the city. Apart from a carefully curated collection of paintings, illustrations, and sculptures, this eclectic museum welcomes the visitor with large murals depicting feminine silhouettes and floral motifs that cover the entire walls and ceiling.
Housed in Cantacuzino Palace, one of the most iconic Art Nouveau-style buildings in Bucharest, the museum is dedicated to the life and work of George Enescu. Known as a musical genius who began playing the violin at the age of four, Enescu is considered the greatest Romanian music composer. His most famous works include the Romanian Rhapsodiesand Oedipe, an opera in four acts. Every autumn, a major classical music festival bearing his name celebrates his legacy by bringing some of the most famous conductors and orchestras in the world to Bucharest.
As expected from such an establishment, the Museum of the National Bank of Romania has one of the most valuable collections of coins on display, some as old as two and a half millennia. But the most intriguing thing about the imposing edifice conveniently located in Bucharest’s Old Center, is its acoustics. Built by one of the collaborators of French architect Charles Garnier, who gave Paris its iconic Opera House, the building allows for conversations uttered in the lowest tone of voice to be heard from the balconies, an incentive for staff to always be at their most honest.