Step into the enchanting land of Romania and prepare to be mesmerized from the very instant you enter its borders. While the connection between this pristine gem and the tales of Transylvania and Dracula is well-known, Romania’s offerings extend far beyond that.
Behold a country dotted with majestic medieval castles and time-honored fortified churches, each telling a story of yesteryears. Romania boasts some of the world’s most stunning natural wonders, including the soaring Carpathian Mountains and the mighty Danube River. Romania is your ideal destination for those who crave a journey steeped in historical splendor and brimming with adventures in the great outdoors.
1. Corvin Castle
Corvin Castle is a magnificent representation of classic Transylvanian architecture. Constructed in the 15th century by Hungarian military commander John Hunyadi, the castle’s enormous stone towers and vibrant roofs are visible from great distances. It sits majestically on a rocky cliff overlooking the city of Hunedoara and the Zlatsi River.
Not only is Corvin Castle among Europe’s largest castles, but it also has a history rich in intriguing legends. It’s thought to have been the dwelling of Vlad the Impaler. Many visitors further speculate that it served as the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula.
2. Bran Castle
Bran Castle holds a significant place not just in Transylvania but across the entire country of Romania. Often dubbed as Dracula’s Castle, it is said to have inspired Bram Stoker’s iconic novel, Dracula.
Constructed in the late 14th century, Bran Castle initially served as a shelter for German settlers. In 1920, it was gifted to Queen Marie and became her royal abode. The castle was then passed on to her daughter and was later transformed into a hospital during World War II. Today, it stands as a museum showcasing the life and art collection of Queen Marie.
3. Painted Monasteries
Romania’s painted monasteries are exquisite showcases of Byzantine artistry. Instead of the usual brick or stone, these monasteries boast vibrant frescoes adorning their exteriors. The artwork, often hailing from the 15th and 16th centuries, frequently illustrates biblical scenes. You may also find depictions of saints, prophets, heavenly realms, and Jesus.
Among the most renowned painted monasteries are Humor, Moldovita, Probota, and Suceava. These compact yet extraordinarily distinctive structures are worth visiting during your Romanian adventure.
4. Peles Castle (Sinaia)
Nestled at the base of the Bucegi Mountains, Peleş Castle is a breathtaking Renaissance masterpiece that truly needs to be seen to be appreciated. King Carol I commissioned its construction in 1873, and it served as the royal family’s summer retreat.
The castle houses more than 160 rooms, each boasting a unique theme. Many are lavishly adorned with German stained-glass windows, Murano crystal chandeliers, and vibrant murals and frescoes. The castle is also home to an impressive collection of over 4,000 artifacts, paintings, and pieces of furniture.
5. Turda Gorge
The pristine Turda Gorge offers a serene getaway for those seeking an outdoor adventure. The rugged cliffs of the limestone canyon are perfect for hiking enthusiasts. The hike should take approximately 1.5 hours each way, spanning nearly five miles.
As you journey through, you’ll come across a diverse range of flora and fauna. The gorge is home to over 1,000 plant species and more than 67 varieties of birds, fish, and mammals. Watch for the extremely rare rock eagle that calls this gorge home.
6. Transfagarasan Highway
Offering stunning vistas of shimmering blue lakes, undulating hills, and age-old castles, the Transfagarasan Highway is sure to charm every visitor. Stretching 56 miles from Wallachia to Transylvania, it ranks among the world’s most sought-after road trip routes.
Due to its sharp hairpin bends and winding curves, the highway remains open only during summer when favorable weather conditions are. While the drive might be demanding, it promises an unforgettable experience for those daring enough to navigate its paths.
7. Fortified Churches
Romania boasts some of Europe’s most remarkable fortified churches, reflecting the deep-rooted cultural legacy of the Saxons who migrated from Germany to settle in Transylvania. Over 150 such churches dot the Romanian landscape, with many dating back to the period between the 13th and 16th centuries.
Consider visiting the impeccably maintained Biertan church or marvel at the unique 15th-century murals in the Harmam church. The scenic fortified church of Viscri is another favorite among tourists, as are the Calnic and Prejmer churches.
8. Sibiu Big Square
Fondly referred to as “Little Vienna,” Sibiu is a delightful, vibrant town adorned with eye-catching Baroque homes and imposing Gothic structures. At its heart lies the Grand Square, an enchanting public space sprinkled with cozy hotels, bustling shops, and inviting eateries. This historic plaza has been a hub of activity for more than half a millennium, remaining the lively core and soul of the city.
Positioned at the center of this square stands the revered statue of St. John Nepomuk, which captures the attention of many visitors. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a leisurely lunch or sip on a coffee while soaking in the scenery of one of Romania’s most cherished plazas.
9. Danube Delta
Stretching across Romania and extending into Ukraine, the Danube Delta is Europe’s second-largest river delta. As you journey through its slender waterways towards the Black Sea, you’ll traverse lush wetlands and marshes brimming with diverse flora and fauna. The waters are a haven for numerous aquatic creatures, such as carp, mollusks, and sturgeons. Additionally, the delta serves as a habitat for a wide array of bird species, including the elusive pygmy cormorant.
A significant portion of the delta is only accessible by boat, making it advisable to partake in a cruise or guided tour to fully appreciate your visit.
10. Poiana Brasov
Poiana Braşov, a resort nestled in the mountains, is a haven for those who adore the great outdoors. It’s a destination that offers a wealth of sports and outdoor pursuits all year round. In the winter months, it becomes a hotspot for activities like skiing, ice skating, and tubing. When summer arrives, the hillsides teem with hikers, cyclists, and horseback riders.
But don’t worry if you’re not much of an adventurer; Poiana Braşov still has plenty to offer. The town is bustling with lively hotels, eateries, and even nightclubs. You can also treat yourself to local delicacies and traditional alcoholic beverages, such as the renowned pepper-infused Țuică.
11. Merry Cemetery
While a cemetery may not typically be a priority on most travelers’ itineraries, the Merry Cemetery in Săpânţa is an exception. This unique burial ground is unlike any other worldwide and is a must-see during your Romanian journey.
The approximately 800 vibrant tombstones are adorned with poems and illustrations that narrate the life tales of those laid to rest there. While some narratives are symbolic, many are filled with joy and even humor. Be sure to pay close attention to the drawings – they frequently reveal the cause of the individual’s demise.
12. Sighisoara Citadel
The Sighisoara Citadel, one of Romania’s most well-preserved medieval towns, is an attraction you shouldn’t miss. Established in the 12th century, this historic city is famously recognized as Vlad the Impaler’s birthplace.
As you meander through the old town’s narrow lanes, you’ll encounter delightful squares and vividly colored homes. Make sure to stop by the Sighișoara Clock Tower, a central landmark in the village. By dedicating a few hours to exploring this scenic town, you’ll immerse yourself in the rich history and culture of the Transylvanian Saxons.
13. Palace of Culture (Iasi)
Standing tall in the vibrant city of Iasi, the imposing Palace of Culture is a sight you can’t overlook. Situated on the previous site of the Princely Palace, the Palace of Culture served as an administrative building and courthouse until 1955. Today, it houses four distinct museums – the History Museum, the Ethnographic Museum, the Science Museum, and the Art Museum.
In addition to the museums, the palace boasts nearly 300 diverse rooms and halls. One of the most remarkable spaces is the Voivodes’ Hall, lavishly adorned and filled with portraits of kings, emperors, and royal families. Don’t miss the opportunity to ascend the clock tower for sweeping views of the surroundings.
14. Sarmizegetusa Regia
Take a journey into the past with a trip to the age-old capital of Sarmizegetusa Regia. Constructed an impressive 2,000 years ago, it served as the primary defense mechanism of the Dacian Empire against Roman invasions.
During your exploration, you’ll get to observe the arrangement of various structures that once stood here, including a massive quadrilateral fortress, workshops, residences, and water supply systems. As you stroll among the ruins and scattered stones, you can envision the everyday life of the Dacians.
15. Palace of Parliament (Bucharest)
The Grand Palace of Parliament in Bucharest is a remarkable architectural feat. The colossal tower, designed by more than 700 architects, holds the record as the world’s heaviest and most costly administrative building. Made up of 23 sections, it’s built entirely from Romanian-sourced materials such as crystals, marble, wood, and carpet.
The Palace of Parliament is the home of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. Beyond its administrative function, it also hosts three museums and an international convention center on its premises. However, approximately 70% of the building remains unoccupied due to seasonal events and conferences.
16. Statue of King Decebalus
The Statue of King Decebalus is likely one of the most distinctive sights you’ll encounter in Romania. As you navigate the Iron Gates on the Danube River, you’ll come across a towering 141-foot-high face of Decebalus etched into a rock face. This impressive sculpture pays tribute to the last king who bravely defended the nation’s independence against Roman emperors Domitian and Trajan.
Despite its ancient appearance, the sculpture was actually commissioned in the mid-90s by Romanian entrepreneur Iosif Constantin Drăgan. Beneath the sculpted face, you’ll find the Latin inscription “DECEBALUS REX—DRAGAN FECIT,” which translates to “King Decebalus—Made by Drăgan.”
17. Brasov Old Town
Brașov, a city that frequently tops the list of must-visit places in Romania, is truly worth the hype. Its quaint old town is a visual treat with its meandering cobblestone lanes, vibrant homes, and historical fortified churches. Immerse yourself in the rich history of Brașov Old Town, an enchanting spot to spend a few days while in Romania.
The Black Church, named so after surviving a catastrophic fire in 1689, stands proudly at the heart of the town. Don’t miss out on a stroll down Strada Sforri, known for being the slimmest street across Europe.