When people think of Romania, they tend only think of gypsies and Dracula, but there is much more the country than that. I had no idea what to expect when I visited (hopefully a lot of vampire stuff) and found Romania to be far more wonderful than I ever imagined. I love the delicious and hearty food, the historic cities with their cobblestone streets and their medieval architecture, the warm people, and the beautiful, picturesque countryside. I love Romania to bits and I strongly, strongly encourage you to take the country slowly and spend extra time here. Few people come here so you’ll get most of it to yourself! (P.S. – There’s no Dracula tourism in this country so don’t expect to visit and find any.)
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Romania
1. Explore Brasov
2. Explore Bucharest
3. Trek in the Fagaras Mountains
4. Visit Sibiu
5. See the painted monasteries in Bucovina
Other Things to See and Do
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1. Alexandru Borza Botanic Gardens
Located in Cluj Napoca, this is a massive botanical garden with rolling green hills, an observation tower, a rose garden, and even a Japanese garden. Admission costs 10 RON and it’s open from 8am-8pm in the summer and 9am-6pm in the winter.
2. Get a cultural immersion in Maramures
This medieval region of Romania is one of my favorites. Peasant culture is still thriving, and there is an interesting blend of traditional music, hand-made wooden structures, and colorful textiles to experience. It’s like stepping back in time (in a good way).
3. Hike at Mount Tampa
Towering above Brasov, this is one mountain that is riddled with interesting history. It’s easy to hop on a cable car, and check out the view from the top, as well as explore with the defensive fortress. Many people like to go hiking here and visit the Brasov sign.
4. Visit the Romanian Patriarchal Cathedral
As one of the most religious countries in Europe, it should be no surprise that there are churches, cathedrals, and monasteries everywhere, many of which date back several centuries. This particular cathedral in Bucharest still has all of its original interior paintings and icons, in addition to some beautiful frescoes.
5. See the wildlife at Northern Dobrogea
Here there are tons of wildlife and exotic birds to see, but you still have a bit of the city to keep from being entirely secluded. There is a decent selection of restaurants and entertainment spots, including theater and opera houses.
6. Visit the Danube Delta
Flowing over 1,700 miles from its source, this is Europe’s second largest and best-preserved delta. There is so much wildlife to see here, and the hiking is surreal. You can go bird watching and fishing as well.
7. Celebrate Hora de la Prislop
Held every August, this festival is a celebration that brings together Transylvania, Moldova, and Maramures. Known more commonly as the Dance at Prislop, you can probably guess that there is lots of traditional dancing and singing, beautiful costumes, parading, and awesome feasting.
8. Set up base at Baia Mare
If you are wanting to check out a bunch of the traditional villages, this is a good place to start. It is easy to access many of the famous valleys from here, including Iza, Viseu, Cosau, and Mara – all of which are riddled with interesting villages.
9. Hunt for Dracula in Sighisoara
Founded during the 12th century, this town is one of the most beautiful and best-preserved medieval towns in Europe. A world heritage site, there is a mass of towers, ornate churches, and burgher houses to see throughout the cobbled streets. This is also the birthplace of Vlad Tepes, otherwise more commonly known as Dracula.
10. Visit Peles Castle
Not too far from Brasov is Sinaia, the site of Peles Castle. The castle itself was constructed between 1873 and 1914 as a getaway spot for the monarch. The building is lavishly decorated and serves as a great indication of the luxurious lives these rulers enjoyed. A visit to the ground floor of the castle costs 20 RON and goes up in price for tours of additional floors.
11. Tour a salt mine
Salina Turda is the salt mine in Turda which has been converted into a subterranean museum. The mine dates back centuries and was used heavily during the Middle Ages. The layout of the museum is really neat and looks almost futuristic. If you’re in the area, this is worth a visit.
12. Go to Cluj-Napoca
Cluj-Napoca is very pleasant university town located in Romania’s northwest and a big stopping point for people coming east from Hungary. The city dates back centuries, and there are a lot of historical churches, museums, and ruins (especially on Cetatuia hill) to visit. Because of the university here, there are a lot of affordable restaurants and a very happening nightlife in the city. I really liked the days I spent here and, while not as historic and medieval as many of Romania’s other cities if you’re looking for a city with a cool atmosphere in Romania, this place is it.