Romania probably isn’t the first country you’d think to visit in Europe. Cold, dark and scary – these were my initial thoughts on what Transylvania would be like. After all, my main reference before my visit was the story of Dracula! From old castles to crumbling fortresses, I couldn’t think of a better introduction to Eastern Europe. After just one week in Romania, I couldn’t explain my fascination with the place. It was like a region stuck in time. With architecture and history that will surely impress, definitely consider Romania on your next trip to Europe.
(Spoiler alert) No, we didn’t see any vampires during our visit to Transylvania but we did see a few traces from the life of Dracula. Here are the places we visited in during our week in Romania:
One Week in Romania Itinerary
We made Brasov our base for exploring Transylvania after considering it has the best options for cheap accommodation and food as well as ease of transport. While the rise of shopping centers is evident when you first arrive in Brasov , its old town remains authentic. The Old Town Hall Square is a great place for a stroll where you can witness a lot of old yet well restored buildings.
The Black Church (Biserica Neagra) was one of the attractions we saw in Brasov’s old town. The Black Church is the largest Gothic Church in Romania and considered one of the best historic monuments in Transylvania. Over 500 years old, the Black Church was called as such because of its blackened stone walls after it was partially destroyed by the Great Fire of 1689.. With its highest point at 65 meters high, it was an effort to take a photo of this structure.
Above the fomer fortification system that surrounds the old town of Brasov are two towers – the Black Tower (Turnul Negru) and White Tower (Turnul Alb). These two observation points provide great views of the Old Town in Brasov.
While hard to spot, make sure to walk around town and look for Strada Sforii or Rope Street. Romania claims that it is the narrowest street in Romania and Eastern Europe.
A huge Hollywood-like sign that says “Brasov” is visible from the old town. You can also visit the Citadel Fortress which you can reach by walking up the windy tracks uphill. We didn’t get to go inside as it was closed but it apparently now houses a restaurant.
How to Get to Brasov:
You can easily reach Brasov by train. From Bucharest, the train ride to Brasov took around 4 hours and cost 25 Lei.
Although we didn’t plan it, we were in Transylvania during Halloween! We thought the festivities in Romania would be celebrated more but we only really saw kids’ costumes, masks and odd items for sale in some shops. We weren’t really there to do any trick or treating. We had our own plans for our Halloween celebration in Romania – a visit to Bran.
Bran Castle is set upon a 200 foot hill and was made famous by Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Although the author never visited Transylvania, Bran Castle is said to be only castle in all of Transylvania that actually fits Bram Stoker’s description of Dracula’s Castle that is why people later referred to it as Dracula’s Castle. As for Vlad the Impaler, known as the inspiration for the character of Dracula, he lived close to the area but he has no significant role in the history of Bran Castle (Bran Castle was a formal royal residence). Regardless of the incoherent stories that surround this castle, it remains a gem of Transylvania and is surely worth a visit during our one week in Romania.
How to Get to Bran:
Bran can be reached by taking a bus from the Autogara 2 Bus Station in Brasov. The bus cost 7 Lei per trip and takes less than an hour. Note that the same bus goes to Rasnov so it is best to do these two places in one day trip.
My expectations for a medieval fortress in Romania were quite well met when we visited to Old Citadel of Rasnov. While some of the structures were already in ruins, the majority of the fortifications still stand strong. We even got the chance to go up to one of the old towers. Located on top of a hill, the views from Rasnov Citadel were amazing.
Rasnov citadel is a bit of a walk from the bus stop in town. It can be quite confusing to find the entrance to the citadel so ask for directions if needed. If you don’t fancy walking uphill (it is easy though), there is a tram available from the entrance at the bottom of the hill to the citadel itself.
How to Get to Rasnov:
The bus to Rasnov is the same bus that goes between Bran and Brasov. From Bran, we took a bus headed for Brasov and alighted at Rasnov. Then we took the bus of the same route on the way back to Brasov. Each trip cost 7 Lei and took less than an hour.
I couldn’t help but think of stories like Robin Hoood when we visited Sighisoara. This 12th Century medieval town in Romania stands as one of the most beautiful and best-preserved in Europe. From its many stunning towers to its colourful houses, one can’t help but be fascinated by this town in Transylvania. This was definitely one of our favorite placws during our one week in Romania.
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Wandering around its old streets is the best way to experience Sighisoara. There are nine towers that still stand in the old town and the best one to visit is the Clock Tower. The clock mechanism still works and the views here are amazing.
The Church on the Hill and the Saxon Cemetery in Sighisoara are also worth a visit. The old gravestones were quite fascinating. We also walked along the Scara Acoperita, a historic wooden staircase with 300 steps.
If you still search for traces of Dracula in Transylvania, you can visit the house were Vlad the Impaler was born. The house now serves as a restaurant but they have a small room with some paintings of Vlad the Impaler.
How to Get to Sighisoara:
Sighișoara is easily visited by train. From Brasov, the train journey took just under 3 hours and cost 19 Lei.
Our last stop in Romania was visit Busteni, a small mountain town we ended up visiting as recommended by a Romanian local (it’s his hometown) who we met on the train. This small mountain town is a great place to experience the Romanian countryside. With just one week in Romania and with plans to leave that afternoon, we realised too late that we didn’t have enough time to explore the attractions in this town. The cable car ride which takes you to the mountains is highly recommended. There are also several ski resorts here which could be perfect for a Romanian winter holiday.
How to Get to Busteni:
Busteni can be reached in under an hour by train from Brasov and cost 5.5 Lei.
The Romanian capital, Bucharest, was our entry point to the country. We only spent two days here but we really enjoyed our stay. Also known as Little Paris, Bucharest has an interesting Old Town where you can find beautiful shops, pubs and cafes. The impressive architecture in this part of the city is enough to keep you occupied before you head to Transylvania.
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Travel Tips for Your Visit to Transylvania, Romania
How to Travel in Romania by Train:
There are different types of train in Romania. During our time in Transylvania we took a lot of the R trains which were often half the price of the other trains but they made more stops (which means they take a bit longer). Note that timings aren’t always great for the R trains though, so you may end up having to get up very early to catch a train (like we did to get to Sighisoara!)
To get out of Romania, we took the night train from Brasov to Budapest which took around 12 hours and cost about 220 Lei.
Where and What to Eat:
If you’re looking to try Romanian food, a Romanian guy we met on the train recommended the sarmale (cabbage rolls stuffed with meat) and mamaliga (cornmeal with sour cream). These local dishes were good.
There are also some nice restaurants that serve international dishes in Brasov. We particularly liked the Indian food in Taj Mahal Restaurant. If you’re on a budget, there is a big supermarket where you can buy roasted meat, packed salad and bread for quick meals.
Where to Stay :
In Brasov, we stayed at Casa Marius, a guesthouse just a few minutes’ walk from the old town. Our room was huge, complete with a dining area and small living room area. Marius was also a great host. He insisted we join him for some local wine/ spirit before we left. (We didn’t get paid for this mention.)
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Do you have plans to visit Romania? Are you keen to see Transylvania?
Have you been to Romania? Do you have anything to add to our One week in Romania itinerary? Let us know.
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