13 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Romania
Romania is in many ways the most underrated European country. It's small, it has a long history, and has hardly any known tourist sights, yet it's filled with an amazing mix of ancient ruins, castles, medieval towns, picturesque mountains, and pretty villages.
For a country of its size, Romania is actually rather surprisingly blessed with an impressive array of stunning natural sights, most notably mountains and lakes, including the Danube Delta, the Carpathian Mountains, and the Sarmizegetuza National Park.
This diversity of sights, however, is very much a land of contrasts, as the country is one of the most heavily industrialized and polluted in Europe. Not surprisingly, many of the best and most important Roman ruins and archaeological museums are far from the tourist-traffic-heavy cities, but these rarely affect the modern, urban Romania.
Romania's vibrant cities, including Bucharest, are themselves destinations of their own worth visiting, with fine food, fascinating history, and bustling nightlife. Romanians themselves are among the friendliest people you will find anywhere. Even if you don't learn Romanian, you will still get a feeling for Romania, whether you stay in cities or in small villages, and even if you just visit the sights.
Explore Romania with our guide to the best things to see, and do, in this beautiful and underrated country.
Often referred to as the most perfect example of medieval Romanian architecture, Sighisoara has everything to delight tourists: a great little museum, wonderful views, medieval churches, a bustling market, great little restaurants and cafes and it all sits surrounded by medieval walls. Once the second largest city in Transylvania, Sighisoara has become something of a tourist attraction itself, and many come for the city's half-day excursion to the nearby town of Brasov. After the trip, walk or cycle around the walled city. The old town is only about 500 meters from the bus stop, making it easy to get around. The restaurants along the main street are quite good and there are lots of cafes and shops. If you come in the early morning or late evening, you'll see fewer people, and fewer tourists too, so you'll find this a great little town to enjoy. The Museum of Sighisoara is well worth visiting. As the name suggests, it has a bit of a collection but is done very well, making for an enjoyable visit. It's free entry, and the old town is completely free to visit. There are lots of small, affordable cafes and restaurants and you can stop for a coffee and browse a book for a couple of hours while enjoying the atmosphere.
Romania's capital is a bustling and modern city of almost one million people in the heart of Transylvania. The city is packed with life and color, especially in the Romanian capital. Romania's tallest structure, the TV Tower, stands over the city. The main public building is the Romanian Parliament, which has two faces: the famous Curtea Veche Hall and the modern State Council. The city boasts a surprising number of ancient buildings. The highlight of the city is the city's central park, the magnificent Parcul Carol. Get out of the city for an overnight stay in the more relaxed surrounding countryside. North of the capital lies the Maramureș region, famous for its earthy and rustic architecture. This is a wonderful area to visit for a weekend, as you can see the traditional wooden farmhouses and stroll in a more traditional part of the country.
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Sibiu is the smallest of all the walled towns in Transylvania. Sibiu Citadel (Cetatea de Sibiu), located on a wooded hill, is home to an 18th-century fortress, the best view of which is from the West Gateway, the Town Hall, and the Botanical Gardens. Sibiu Citadel Park is a large park with lovely avenues, landscaped gardens, and a spring-fed lake. The central square of Sibiu is Caragiale Square (Piața Valahiei Caragiale), located on the northwest side of the old town, and home to a number of museums. Look for the two largest churches in Sibiu, the Church of the Assumption (Biserica Domnița) and the Red Tower, built in the 14th century. While the red tower is currently under restoration, it's the oldest building in Sibiu and a must for visitors. Several other sights are located in Sibiu, including the Great Church of God in the Desert (Biserica Marea Domnului la Munte), built in the second half of the 15th century; and the Palazzo del Governatore. In addition, guests at the Grand Hotel Vila Romana can enjoy the hotel's guided historical tour of Sibiu. The region is best known for its beautiful wines, sold in specialty stores such as Grozsgeräte and Sibiela. A favorite is the roseate, semi-sweet Pinot Noir Vin de Paillettes, available in various varietal styles.
Transylvania (Romania) is a landlocked region that has a distinctly other-worldly feeling. Set amidst gothic-style castles, steeply-sided mountains, and woods where the scents of pine and fir dominate the air, it's the very definition of an enchanted European fairy tale. Set on the banks of the Mureș River is the market town of Cluj-Napoca, known by the locals as "old princess." At 2,267 meters (7,311 feet), it is the highest point in Romania, though not for long; the Little Carpathians range higher at 2,669 meters (8,868 feet), while the Carpathians themselves peak at 2,728 meters (9,007 feet) in the far north.
Although the word "castle" conjures up images of castles constructed to defend against attackers, Bran Castle (also called Bran) dates back to the 16th century. Designed to be a fortification against Turkish attacks, it's actually made of interlocking wooden beams, protected by brick and reinforced with stone. Like many castles in the area, it has beautiful gardens. The castle was restored to its original state and opened to the public in the 1950s. Its walls and towers are said to have inspired Jack Nicholson's film of the same name. Visitors can stroll around the gardens and explore the castle from a number of viewpoints, including the tower in the centre.
Transfagarasan (pronounced ta-ra-ra-sar-na, pronounced ta-ra-RA-Sar-Nah) is a 1,250-mile (2,088-km) walking route across Romania that has taken hundreds of hikers and mountain bikers over the past few years. It begins in the town of Sebeş, a couple of hours from Cluj, in Transylvania, and is finished in the city of Braşov in southern Transylvania. The full route is quite demanding, so this edition of Where To Go has only outlined the first half, which takes you across Transylvania through the Carpathian Mountains, crossing the Transfagarasan and traversing the rivers Bârlad, Sebes and Codru. It's an especially popular route for cycling, especially from the Transfagarasan (it's only a little over 100 miles to the next section of the route) but equally so as a walking trail. Tourists can use it, starting from the Păltiniş border crossing between Romania and Hungary. A more gradual route is also available, from Timişoara (150 miles/241 km) to Cluj, though it misses out some of the most dramatic scenery, walking through flatlands where the ground is often boggy and there are numerous rivers to ford.
Built as a fortified base for the Roman army, this hill-top fortress dates from the 4th century and offers views of Romania's verdant vineyards. It was on top of this hill that the Council of the Royal Court of the Kingdom of Hungary in April 1461 decided to make King Matthias Corvinus absolute ruler of Transylvania. Valea Cernei is on the way to the Medieval town of Sighisoara (5 km away), and a funicular (for hikers only) that goes up the hill to the castle is now the principal way to get there. Take bus no. 57 from Rumania's main city of Braila, the transport station of Sighisoara. Sighisoara is now a major tourist attraction with numerous stores selling handmade and traditionally made goods, particularly church silver. You can visit the prefecture museum and the church of St. Michael. In Sighisoara, the castle offers panoramic views of the city.
One of Europe's most breathtaking mountain ranges, The Alps (Himala Muntelei, in Romanian) straddles Romania and, like those in Switzerland, Austria and Germany, straddles the borders between countries. The entire range is used for skiing and can boast some breathtaking views. It is also an important environmental reserve. The region is a collection of mountain ranges including the Retezat (the highest) and the Ochiul Muntelui (the second highest), both forming the border with Moldova, and the Carpathian and Babadag ranges. Although the range is usually divided into three groups, the Babadag group (the most western) and the Ochiul Muntelui (the most eastern) actually form the Eastern Carpathian Range, also known as the Retezat Mountains (although they are separate). A great mountain for hikers and climbers, it offers not only a range of challenging climbs (including the Punta Mustoe Hiking Trail), but also a host of spectacular treks for all levels.
Constanta is a busy port with loads of ferry connections from across Europe. The railway line runs from Bucharest, passing through Brasov and Alba Iulia before reaching the Romanian Black Sea port. Highlights of a visit include the picturesque Old Town, in particular the port area with its stone-paved squares and arcaded buildings. The ancient Musaeum of the Bulgarian St. Nedelya is a Christian holy site that is now the city's main museum. It features frescoes, icons and church antiques. A small but enjoyable museum in the modern city centre is the Chiftea Fluturisti Roman-French Museum (Museum of Folk Heritage). This outstanding collection houses memorabilia from the Cernavodă region. Constanta is the last town on the Danube before you reach the Black Sea. Several ferries operate daily between Constanta and Istanbul.
Cotroceni Palace, located at the epicenter of Romania's capital, is home to one of the most important royal residences in the country. With a history that dates back to the late 17th century, the palace underwent major renovations in the late 1990s to create a collection of lavish interiors which provide a stunning backdrop for one of the most expensive exhibitions in the country. Highlights of a visit include the art collection featuring pieces by Picasso, Matisse, Monet, Van Gogh, Bruegel, and Chagall, and The Michael Raphael Choylain Cabinet, which is filled with fine paintings and other works by European masters. Also, don't miss the setting of the world-famous Court Concerts, which takes place every evening in the summer and throughout the year.
Situated on the Caransebes peninsula, this beautiful black-and-white-striped village of stone houses lies just 15 km southwest of Bucharest and is easily reached by car. The 14th-century town square has a charming old Roman fountain in the center, with shops and cafés built into its ruins. Notable sights include two medieval castles built on a hill that offer fine views of the Caransebes peninsula and across the Strait of Tirabuzi to the distant Carpathian Mountains.
Silistea is a little-visited town tucked away on the Bulgarian side of the Danube in the region of Dobrogea. One of Romania's best-kept secrets, Silistea has an unexpected mix of historical monuments and restaurants, and perfect walking and biking trails. As well as the churches and fortress of San-Roman in the center, a host of Roman remains exist all along the road running through town and the main sites are best seen at low-tide. Take time to visit the church of San-Roman and the crypt beneath, but also see the main cathedral, which features a replica of the Angel of the Last Judgment and an altar featuring carvings of the hours of the clock. The town of Silistea has a fine church to visit and there are a few typical restaurants serving the simple traditional fare, often served with a view of the Danube and vineyards that define the nearby country. There are regular buses that run to town from Bucharest and Ploieşti. You can stay in the sleepy town, which has few hotels, or take a day trip to visit a rural area of charming little villages.
Romania's seaside city of Giurgiu is a smaller but quite as impressive a rival for the title as its neighbor, Targoviste, a few miles away. In addition to the beaches, the seaside resort town of Tighina is a particularly pleasant place to stay. If you enjoy rock climbing, there is excellent climbing in the area, with cliffs offering easy access to a variety of small crags. During the summer months there are also more challenging rock climbing trips on offer to the few climbing guides in the area. There is a popular walking trail along the shoreline. On the left is Pescova Cave (the name of which translates to Fishing Cave), a famous landmark of Cetatea Giurgiu. To find it, walk toward the far end of the beach and you will soon see the signpost for the cave, from which a path leads to the cave mouth.