A country steeped in legends of Dracula, stories of vampirism and the former home to one of the most bloodthirsty rulers in European history, Romania has a colourful and eccentric past which will fill the adventurous traveler with intrigue and seduce them in to visit. This country still remains relatively off-the-beaten track but in truth, there is a lot more to Romania than initially meets the eye. Friendly locals, stunning countryside, and cheap and delicious delicacies make it a perfect destination for anyone with an appetite for exploring Eastern Europe.
This ten day Romania itinerary takes you completely cross-country – from the intimidating communist architecture of Bucharest, through medieval villages and fairy-tale castles, right up to the trendy student city of Cluj-Napoca. There is plenty to do in the destinations noted, and although I’ve surmised this as a ten day Romania itinerary (the minimum I feel can give you a good feel for the country and its culture), it’s possible to travel at a more relaxed pace and I’ve made suggestions for places where you may wish to spend a little extra time.
Days 1 – 2: Bucharest
Bucharest isn’t an especially beautiful city. The countless bullet holes that scar the faces of many of its buildings demonstrate the tragic past that the country experienced during the previous communist regime and uprising.
This city however, is very up and coming. Hipsters swig coffee while peering at classic literature through oversized spectacles at the many trendy coffee bars in Bucharest old town, and a great array of quirky stores, bars and international restaurants have really put the city on the map as a destination for a weekend break.
Bucharest offers up plenty of museums and free walking tours, providing the traveller with a great insight into Romania’s history. For inspiration on some of the best things to do in Bucharest, click here.
If you grow tired of the “big city” vibes, there are plenty of easy day trips from Bucharest that you can take. Consider travelling to Valea Calugareasca, one of Romania’s top producing wine regions to spend a pleasant half day wine tasting and enjoying local delicacies while in the area.
Day 3 – Sinaia and Peles Castle
A popular vacation destination for Romanians due to the plentiful skiing and hiking options in the area, Siniaia is a picturesque little mountain top town. You can cover the town in a day, and you really don’t need to spend any longer in this area. Although Peles Castle is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country, it is seldom busy so you do not need to rush to get there. Either drive or take the train to Sinaia station, the journey will take you a little over an hour. Proceed up the stairs directly facing the station and follow the signposts to Peles Castle. The journey will take you around 30 minutes.
At the foot of Peles castle awaits Sinaia Monastery, an Eastern Orthodox building dating back to the 16th century. Though granted there are several beautiful churches and monasteries throughout Romania, the buildings and interiors within the complex are truly stunning and definitely worth a visit. Experiment with traditional local cuisine in one of the many affordable and excellent quality Romanian restaurants in the town, and don’t miss a venture through the majestic 18th century Siniaia casino and its neighbouring gardens.
Day 4 – Brasov
The medieval town of Brasov is an interesting destination in itself, however also acts as a great base for wider exploration in the area – particularly for day trips to the infamous “Dracula’s Castle” in the village of Bran, and the crumbling defensive citadel at Râșnov. The city is famous for its fortifications and scattered around it you will find remnants of these medieval defences – from elaborate gates which marked the entrance and exit into the city limits to the remnants of the former defensive walls.
The historical centre is relatively small, and you can walk its entirety in half a day. Start by taking a stroll into the central plaza of Piata Sfatului and enjoy wandering the old cobbled streets that surround it, occasionally ducking into the many stunning Eastern Orthodox churches. Waiting for you in the centre, the “Black Church” is the oldest gothic church in Romania and the murals and paintings within will take your breath away.
Speaking of taking your breath away… Brasov also has its very own Hollywood sign which you can hike up to (Who needs California when you have Eastern Europe, right?). From here, you are a-top mount Tampa and you will be greeted with stunning views of the quaint villages of old Transylvania below. For
the lazier those who enjoy views without the hard work, there is also a cable car which travels up the mountain from Casa Pădurarului.
Day 5 – Bran and Râșnov
Bran is a small and extremely touristic town, but a visit to the legendary Dracula’s castle is no doubt on the “must see” in Romania list. Spend the morning exploring the castle and its grounds before heading back to the bus stop to visit Râșnov. There is also a sweet little “traditional” village that depicts how peasant life in rural Romania used to be. There are frequently fairs here selling local delicacies and handicrafts which, although a little pricier than elsewhere in the country, are nice to see.
Upon arrival at Râșnov, marvel once more at Romania’s plagiarised Hollywood signs (Râșnov also has one!) and head to the citadel. There is plenty to do in Râșnov to occupy the remainder of your day. Naturists can enjoy the natural beauty inside the Valea Cetatii caves, or hike Postăvarul massif (a mountain which is just truly massif… terrible joke I’m sorry) and families and paleontology lovers can enjoy the remains and replicas on display at the Dino park.
Getting to Bran and Râșnov: If you are travelling via public transport rather than renting a car, then from Brasov, you need to take the number 1 bus from Autogara 2 stadium station which departs hourly and stops at both Râșnov and Bran. Depending on where you are staying in Brasov, Autogara 2 may or may not be walkable, however if you find that it isn’t, you can take either the bus 23 or 23b from Brasov station, travel four stops to Autogara 2, and then transfer to the Bran bus. (You won’t miss it. It’ will say BRAN in large letters at the front and more than likely, the presence of tons of tourists will give it away).
Days 6 and 7 – Sibiu
An old Saxon city, Sibiu is best explored on foot with the most notable attractions located within a short walking distance of each other. This picturesque little place makes a regular appearance in global “best cities to live in” polls, and is home to numerous medieval piazzas and churches.
Perhaps the most unique attraction in the area is Sibiu’s “bridge of lies”, a bridge constructed in 1859 which, legend has it, will collapse if anyone standing on it starts to tell lies… That’s for you to try out!
Sibiu is also a good base for exploring lesser known nearby Transylvanian villages and the fortified churches of Cisnadie and Cisnadioara, both less than ten miles away. It can be difficult exploring the area without renting a car, but you can also negotiate a price with a local driver and have him stop and wait for you at various sites of interest.
Day 8 – Sighisoara
The site of Dracula’s birth (aka Vlad the Impaler), Sighisoara is more than just a town with vampire legends and although small, it turned out to be my favourite stop off on my journey through Romania.
Traverse the quaint, narrow cobbled streets and pastel coloured houses that make up Sighisoara, and sip your cappuccino as you relax in the dining establishments with medieval piazzas which are centuries old.
You can explore Sighisoara in half a day – progressing up the seemingly infinite stone steps towards the “church on the hill”, admire the design of the clock tower, the quaintness of the town’s streets, and take that obligatory selfie in front of Dracula’s former house and birth place before heading on to explore the nearby Saxon villages of Biertan and Viscri.
Observing Romanian country life in these villages provides an interesting insight – farmers still tend to their crops with old fashioned equipment, and use horse drawn carts to get around their fields. The villages are inexplicably picture perfect and very pleasant to explore.
Days 9 and 10 – Cluj Napoca
The second largest city in Romania, and a buzzing student town, if I described Bucharest as “up and coming” then Cluj is certainly already there. There’s an artistic vibe to be felt from the city and indeed, it has become home to many digital nomads in recent years. It’s entertainment scene is fun and quirky – from speakeasy bars with eccentric themes, to vibrant nightclubs. The many gardens, churches and architecture are certainly enjoyable to discover.
With its own airport, you can take affordable flights with Wizz Air from Cluj Napoca onwards to various locations around Europe, or back to Bucharest if you are traveling onwards from there.
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