Top 10: Romania sights worth seeing
Located in Eastern Europe and being one of the countries, which were once behind the Iron Curtain, Romania is not as interesting for tourists as many other EU countries. In recent years, however, the number of tourists has been steadily growing, with a total of 9.3 million tourists per year from all over the world. Given its geography and geopolitical past, the country has a lot to offer, both in terms of cultural heritage and in terms of diversity of natural landscapes.
It is a mix of East and West, and their mixture can be found in everything from architectural style to national cuisine and local customs. Transylvania, the land of the mythical Dracula, is also part of Romania, so you are sure to have a lot of experiences. Here are 10 tourist attractions in Romania that you won’t want to miss.
10. Bucharest and the Palace of Parliament
If you come to Romania as a tourist, chances are that your first stop will be the capital city, Bucharest. As the sixth largest city in the EU with 555 years of history, Bucharest has a lot to offer its visitors. However, Romania’s capital city is not exactly suitable for tourists. It is not that the city is dangerous, or for any other reason, it is all about public transport and accessibility of tourist information, in this respect the city needs some improvements. Nevertheless, Bucharest’s inconveniences are made up for by the hidden treasures waiting to be discovered here.
At the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th centuries Romania developed its own architectural style, known as the Brancovenesc style, which was later perfected at the end of the 19th century. Buildings in this style can be found all over the city center, but most of all in some areas, such as Cotroceni or Dorobanti. As for nightlife, the Old Town is one of the liveliest areas in the entire EU.
One of the impressive features that everyone who visits Bucharest for the first time immediately notices is the Palace of Parliament. This communist-era building, commissioned by the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, dominates the cityscape for miles around. In the 1980s, more than a fifth of the historic city was demolished to make way for large boulevards and Soviet-style apartment blocks. An entire neighborhood was also razed to the ground to build the Palace of Parliament, which is the largest administrative building in the world, and the heaviest structure ever built. With more than 1,100 offices, the Palace is a fine example of a megalomaniac you can visit.
9. Peljes Castle
Founded in 1873 by King Charles I of Romania and completed ten years later, Peles Castle is considered one of the most beautiful in all of Europe. Built in the style of German New Renaissance architecture, Peles is situated at the foot of the Bucegi Mountains, in the picturesque town of Sinaia, which is also a popular tourist and ski resort. The castle acted as a summer residence for the royal family from its construction until 1947. The interior of its 160 rooms is as fascinating as the exterior of the palace – each room has its own decor and individual theme. The Armory contains more than 4,000 pieces of weapons from Europe and Asia, and the castle cinema is considered to be the first place where movies were shown for the first time in Romania.
A second castle was also built on the same grounds for Charles’ successor, King Ferdinand. Known as Pelisor, this smaller version of the castle is as striking as its larger counterpart, especially in its interior. In the Gold Room, for example, the walls and furniture are covered with precious metal. After the end of World War II and the Communists came to power, both castles were confiscated and the royal family was expelled from the country. Dictator Nicolae Ceausescu sought to turn Peljes into a protocol residence, but thanks to the caretakers this never happened. They are said to have told him that the castle had a mold problem that could pose a serious health risk to those who lived inside. In any case, Pelesch was closed to the public from 1975 to 1990, after which it was opened as a museum.
8. Danube Delta
On the southeastern edge of Romania, where the Danube River meets the Black Sea, is the second largest marshland in Europe, known as the Danube Delta. Second only to the Volga Delta in Russia, this area has a total area of 1994 square kilometers. It remains one of the most pristine places on the continent and an important stopover for many migratory birds from Africa and Europe. The Danube Delta is also home to the largest colony of pelicans in the world, as well as 300 other bird species and 45 species of freshwater fish.
Accessible today only by boat, about 5,000 years ago the delta marshes and many lagoons did not yet exist. Back then, the area was nothing more than a bay of the Black Sea. But over the centuries, silt has steadily accumulated at the mouth of the Danube, slowly expanding the delta to its present form. Even to this day, the area of the marshes increases by about 40 meters each year. But despite the ever-changing landscape, people have lived here for centuries. Still relying on what the delta offers them, the locals have not changed their way of life. They still build houses out of reeds, and you can still see them in small wooden boats with a fishing rod in their hands.
7. The Old Wine Route.
Given its geographic location, Romania has a very long history of wine production. Both archaeological and historical evidence suggests that vineyards in the region have been growing for at least 2,700 years. Some historians even say that the Greek god of wine, Dionysus and his Roman counterpart, Bacchus, were prototypes of the Thracian and Dacian God Sabazios. To this day, Romania is the 13th largest wine producer in the world and the sixth largest in the EU.
Only a relatively small region in the center of the country is not suitable for wine production because of its high altitude. Nevertheless, there are more than 250 wine cellars throughout the country, which can be visited all year round. However, the best time is from April to October. The old wine route runs along the southern and southeastern side of the Carpathian Mountains, past numerous vineyards, estates, monasteries, wine museums, and other historic sites. But this is by no means the only place where you can sip a big glass of wine, as wine tasting is a must for every tourist (who can enjoy the benefit of their age) when visiting Romania.
6. The Mountain Fortresses of Dacia
To experience Romania’s ancient past, it’s best to climb high into the mountains. Sarmizegetusa Regia was the capital of the Dacians who inhabited the area during Roman times. Built around the 1st century B.C., this fortress, along with five others in the area, acted as the seat of the Dacian Kingdom as well as a unique defensive system that was used in wars against the Romans. The main fortress is also the largest and consists of three parts: the defensive structure itself, the civil quarters and the sanctuary. This sacred place was built on two terraces and was dedicated to local deities. The Great Sanctuary is a circular structure, a bit like Stonehenge, and served both as a place to perform rituals and as an astronomical calendar.
Today, although all six fortresses have become nothing more than ruins, each is unique in its own way, either because of its purpose or because of its difficult location. Legend also says that somewhere in these mountains the last Dacian king buried a huge treasure. Before the Romans arrived, he temporarily diverted the river from its usual course and hid the treasure at the bottom. But before you dare to find the treasure, know that the legend also speaks of a curse. Anyone who goes in search of the hidden treasure will be bitten by a poisonous snake and die.
5. City of Sigishoara
In the heart of Transylvania is the town of Sighisoara. Although a settlement existed in the area even in Roman times, the city as we know it today was founded by Transylvanian Saxons in the 13th century. The economic strength of Sighisoara, which increased during the 14th and 15th centuries, ensured its survival over the centuries as one of the “seven Saxon strongholds”. Although Sigishoara was neither the richest nor the largest of the seven, it has become the most popular in recent times. Today the city is famous for its striking architecture, cobbled alleys, steep staircases, numerous defensive towers and turrets, medieval churches, and the main citadel itself.
Only nine of the fourteen towers originally built managed to survive the test of time. Each of them was built and maintained by one of the guilds of craftsmen located in the city. Another interesting fact about this place is that it is the birthplace of Vlad the Colossal, the infamous ruler of Wallachia and the prototype of Count Dracula from Bram Stoker’s work. The house where he lived until he was six or seven years old still exists and can be visited.
4. Danube Gorges
Nowhere along its 2,864-kilometer length is the Danube River more spectacular and mesmerizing than where it passes through the Carpathian Mountains. Forming a natural border between Romania and Serbia, the gorges, also known as the Danube Cauldrons, sometimes give the impression that the water here is boiling. But even if this is not the case, the narrowing in this place of the mighty river from time to time creates certain problems for navigation. Nevertheless, it is the largest and oldest river canyon in Europe.
In addition to a boat cruise on the Danube, you can climb the surrounding mountains and enjoy the spectacular views from them. You can also explore the many caves found here, which in ancient times were used either as safe havens or as docks for boats sailing up and down the river. And as proof that this place is steeped in history, there is an ancient plaque on the Serbian shore, commissioned by the Roman Emperor Trajan to commemorate the construction of the bridge used by the Roman legions to invade Dacia. And on the Romanian coast, a 55-meter-high stone face is carved directly into the rock, depicting the last Dacian king. It is the largest statue of its kind in Europe.
Monasteries of Bukovina
The northeastern region of Romania is proud of its many monasteries. Built in the 15th and 16th centuries, these medieval churches are unique in Europe and famous for their exterior frescoes. Built in a combination of Gothic and Byzantine architectural styles that also include their own unique elements, these monasteries are an immortal cultural world heritage. Each of the 40 monasteries and churches is said to have been commissioned by sovereign Stefan cel Mare and his successor Petru Rares after various victories in battles against Tatar invaders from the east.
Most of them also acted as fortifications against marauders, protecting both people and ancient manuscripts. Eight of the monasteries are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In addition to their architecture, these monasteries also stand out for the unique colors used for their wall paintings. The original recipes have since been lost and cannot be recreated even with modern technology. Nevertheless, according to chemical analysis, traces of the traditional Romanian plum brandy were found in both the plaster and the paints themselves.
2. Turda Gorge and the Salt Mine
Back in the time of the dinosaurs, most of modern Romania was part of the ancient seabed. Because of this, some regions are rich in salt deposits, such as Central Transylvania. Here you will find the Turda Gorge and the Salt Mine. The outer gorges offer spectacular views of narrow vertical cliffs, waterfalls, caves, dense forests, sunny meadows and picturesque villages. There are more than 1,000 species of plants and animals, many of which are endangered. The area is a favorite destination for hiking with more than 250 climbing trails of varying difficulty.
The underground is as striking as the terrestrial landscape. Since Roman times, the salt mines have been continuously exploited. Today they are open to the public and offer their visitors the opportunity to descend to incredible depths. The towering galleries, somewhat fitting the descriptions found in Tolkien’s books, are now illuminated, making them mesmerizing. Inside, there are various activities you can indulge in, such as miniature golf, tennis, bowling, soccer, or a swimming pool. There is also a large Ferris wheel that takes visitors close to the top of the mine to see the many stalactites up close. There is also a huge underground lake in one of the many galleries, on which you can take a peaceful boat ride.
1. Dracula’s Castle
Bran Castle owes much of its fame to the myth created around Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Perched on a 60-meter-high cliff, this castle was built by Transylvanian Saxons in the 15th century on the site of a former Teutonic Order fortress from the 1100s. Although Stoker never visited Transylvania, he imagined Dracula’s castle based on descriptions of this particular fortress. And, since this place is associated with blood-sucking vampires, it should be visited. Interestingly enough, there is also a connection between the castle and the infamous Vlad the Colossal, lord of Wallachia.
The Bran Castle is located right at the entrance to the mountain pass that connects the historic regions of Transylvania and Wallachia. Back in the Middle Ages, the castle played the role of a customs office, imposing high duties on Romanians who wanted to do business with the then Saxon city of Brasov. This caused relations between Vlad the Colossus and the Lords of Bran to become strained to say the least. Whether the lord of Wallachia ever seized the castle is unknown, but he was imprisoned here for two months after being taken prisoner by the Hungarian king in 1462.
Those who visit this mythical castle should also consider visiting other medieval towns and fortresses in the region, including the city of Brasov. The pass that lies at the base of Bran Castle should not be ignored either. There are several caves here that have been regularly used by both criminals and prehistoric animals such as extinct cave bears. The neighboring village of Pestera (cave) offers a truly amazing view of both the majestic Carpathian Mountains and the lives of people in the days when “vampires” still roamed the land.
The most beautiful cities of Romania
Romania is a small state located in the southeast of Europe. It is not among the most popular tourist destinations like Turkey or Cyprus, but this is completely undeserved. This bright and beautiful country with colorful landscapes is amazing. Romania – it’s beautiful ancient castles, ancient temples, charming villages. Magnificent palaces and cathedrals tell stories about the royal dynasties, mighty fortresses will tell amazing stories of the Middle Ages. Beautiful nature of Romania will charm any traveler with the purity of deep lakes, snow-capped mountains, blue azure sea. This is a country of not only ancient architecture, but also ski resorts, beautiful beaches, thermal springs.
Top 10 most beautiful cities in Romania
- Bucharest is the historical and cultural center.
- Brasov is the most mysterious.
- Sibiu is the religious center of the country.
- Constanza is a resort city.
- Iasi is the spiritual capital of Romania.
- Sighisoara – birthplace of Dracula.
- Sinaia is a city of mineral springs.
- Timisoara is multinational and cosmopolitan.
- Cluj-Napoca is the capital of youth culture.
- Alba Iulia – the ancient city of Transylvania.
Bucharest is a major tourist center
Bucharest is the capital of Romania, its cultural center with many attractions. The city is quite large, with a population of 1,800,000 people. It is constantly expanding, filled with new high-rise buildings. Bucharest is very versatile. Attracts both its historical part and modern architecture. There are also magnificent gardens and parks for recreation. Traditionally, tourists begin their tour of Bucharest with the historical district. The oldest building is the Princely Court (Courtya-Veche). This architectural complex dates back to the existence of medieval Wallachia. It includes the Church of St. Anton and the court of Hanul-lui-Manuk. Originally on their site was a fortress built by the Wallachian Voivode (14th century). Then it fell into decay and was rebuilt a century later by Vlad Tepes (the famous Dracula). On the ruins of the first fortress Tepes built a new stone fortification – Dymbovica (1459). This date is considered the beginning of the emergence of Bucharest. Another hundred years later, the Church of Curtia-Veche appears. The fortress is expanded and the cellars are strengthened. The church is used for the coronation of the rulers of the Romanian lands.
Another ancient building of Bucharest is the Patriarchal Cathedral. It is a complex of buildings located on the Metropolitan’s Hill. Construction of the church began in 1656 by order of Prince Basarab. It is dedicated to St. Constantine and St. Helen. It is the spiritual center of the Romanian Orthodox Church. There is a silver sculpture of St. Demetrius, inside the walls of the temple are decorated with paintings with religious images. Tourists will be interested in the church of Stavropoleos. This is a small but very beautiful building from the 18th century. The facade is decorated with frescoes with the faces of saints, openwork arches, carved columns. The interior decoration is even richer and more luxurious. The church forms an integrated complex with the female monastery. According to the reviews of tourists, it is the most beautiful and spiritual place in Bucharest.
The attention of lovers of antiquity will also attract the Museum of Romanian villages under the open sky. It is located in a park which occupies 15 hectares. There are 300 peasant houses with interiors and buildings, typical for medieval Romanian villages. It is located on the shore of a picturesque lake and is more of a nature reserve than an ordinary ethnographic museum. Also worth visiting in Bucharest:
- art museum;
- Grigore Antipa Museum of Natural History;
- Parliament Palace;
- Cismigiu Park.
Brasov – an aura of mystery
Brasov is a very interesting Romanian city, lying in the center of the most mysterious place of the country – Transylvania. All tourists who come to Romania are interested in it. This region is shrouded in mysterious legends about Count Dracula, who became a character in books and various mystical stories. Brasov has a long history; its foundation date is 1234. There are many attractions preserved from the Middle Ages. A popular place is the ski resort located in the Carpathian Mountains. One of the most famous religious buildings in Brasov is the Black Church. It was built by Transylvanian Saxons around the 14th century. The church got its name after a big fire, when its walls turned black from soot and smoke. It is the largest Gothic building in Romania. The basilica has a design characteristic of German cathedrals, as its architects were of German origin. Inside is an organ of 4,000 pipes. The interior decoration consists of stone patterns, arches, columns, sculptures of saints.
A beautiful and unusual construction of Brasov is the Gate of Catherine. They were built in the 16th century for defensive purposes, in place of the old gate, destroyed by a flood. The structure gets its name from the monastery of St. Catherine, previously located on this site. The gate consists of 3 floors and has beautiful turrets in the corners, ending with bell-shaped domes. In the Middle Ages it was the only entrance to the city. Now there is a museum here.
Pelesh Castle is one of the most popular attractions in Romania. It is located on the medieval route from Transylvania to Wallachia, among the Carpathian mountains. It was built in the 19th century in the Neo-Renaissance style. It is a beautiful building with a stone facade, numerous balconies, towers, and bay windows. The upper floors, finished in the style of half-timbering, speak of the influence of the German school of architecture. It is a palace, but it is called a castle because it is architecturally closer to this structure. It was erected for King Karol I, who was captivated by the picturesque nature of these places. Inside the castle there is a collection of antique furniture, paintings, weapons and decorations from Eastern and Central Europe.
On the outskirts of Brasov, surrounded by the slopes of the Carpathian mountains, is the most famous castle in Romania – Bran. It is also known as the Castle of Dracula. It is a grandiose construction, standing on a rock among the mountain ranges overgrown with forests. It was built by the locals at their own expense in the 14th century. The castle served as a strategic defensive fortress. It has 4 levels, the arrangement of premises is a labyrinth. Legends say that Vlad Tepesh stopped here during his campaigns and hunted in this area. There is a version that he was later imprisoned in the dungeons of the castle for his crimes. The building is now the property of a descendant of the Romanian kings, Dominik Habsburg.
Constanza – the center of beach tourism
The Romanian city of Constanta is located on the Black Sea coast. It is the largest seaport in the country. It is famous for its magnificent clean beaches, healing mineral springs. It also has a lot of ancient architectural structures, through which the popular routes of tourist groups. It is a multifaceted, lively city, loved by tourists. There are not only ethnographic and historical museums, but also a museum of the sea and the Romanian Navy. Walking through the streets and boulevards of the Old Town, you can see interesting houses of the late Middle Ages. They still preserve the original atmosphere of the city. Here lived, fishermen, artisans, merchants.
Famous among tourists is the Catholic Cathedral of St. Anthony, built in the Romanesque style. It is a beautiful, but a little gloomy building. The interior walls of the cathedral are painted with images from the lives of saints, figures of angels. Also will be interesting to visit the Karol Mosque and the Orthodox Cathedral of Peter and Paul. A bit unusual is the casino building. This building is in the Italian style, with arches, columns and cornices. There are drama and musical theaters and a planetarium. Constanta’s gigantic aquarium is one of the best in the world. Constanta is famous for its beautiful wide, sandy beaches. Here are the mud resorts of Mamaia and Eforia.
Sinaia – center of ski tourism
Sinaia is a small Romanian town with a population of only 14,000 people. However, it is world-famous for its ski and balneological resorts. Sinaia is situated in a beautiful place called the natural amphitheater. Its lower part is formed by alpine meadows, surrounded by mountain ranges covered with dense forests.
A popular attraction is the Sinai Orthodox Monastery. The date of its construction is 1695. The first buildings of the monastery were built in the architectural style of “brinkovenesk” (Romanian style of the late Middle Ages). The complex consists of: Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Trinity Church, brotherhood building, the bell tower. Among the natural attractions will be interesting park Dmitri Gika with a fountain and multi-level stone staircases. You can take a ride on one of the ropeways to admire the beauty of nature. There are ropes that lead to the slopes on the eastern and western slopes of Vyrful ku Dor Mountain. From there you have a fantastic view of the scenery.
Cluj-Napoca – a tourist favorite
This city also has the names Cluj, Kolozhvar, and Clausenburg. It has a rich history, beginning with the formation of a Roman legion base called Napoca at the beginning of the 2nd century. During the Middle Ages it was under the rule of the Kingdom of Hungary. The official date of origin of the city of Cluj is 1270. It is considered the most non-Romanian place of the country. At different times it was inhabited by the Dacians, the Romans and the Hungarians. There are many old buildings harmoniously blending in with the modern ones. Cluj-Napoca is a favourite place for Romanian youth and has a vibrant nightlife.
The historical center is full of old buildings. The most famous is the Roman Catholic Church of St. Michael (1390) built in the Gothic style. Its southern side is decorated by an equestrian monument to King Matyas I. Popular places for tourists are:
- Baboša Palace;
- A monument to the King of Wallachia Mihai the Brave;
- Evangelical Lutheran Church;
- Banffi Palace;
- Museum of King Matyash.
Many modern buildings are of unprecedented beauty. The National Theater named after Lucian Blaga is one of them. Its facade is decorated with columns, shaped windows, tower superstructures, topped with sculptural compositions. The building of the Cluj County Prefecture attracts attention. It reminds one of an ancient castle with turrets, balconies, and architectural elements stretching upwards. It will be interesting to walk in a botanical garden, located near Alexandru Borza University. It is laid out on the slopes of a hill, and preserves the natural terrain. In addition, Cluj-Napoca has the status of the youth capital of Europe. Every year the city hosts a great number of cinematic and musical events of international importance. Festivals of electronic, popular, jazz music gather a huge number of fans of this art and tourists. These are very bright, memorable events with laser shows and colorful decorations.