It’s not possible to see everything Romania has to offer in one trip – and we don’t suggest you try. What follows, in no particular order, is a selective and subjective taste of the best things to do in Romania: outstanding architecture, natural wonders, spectacular hikes and unforgettable festivals.
Built in 1875–83 for Carol I, and largely decorated by his eccentric wife Elisabeta (better known as the popular novelist Carmen Sylva), it contains 160 rooms. These rooms are richly done out in ebony, mother of pearl, walnut and leather – all totally alien to traditional styles of Romanian art.
Visit Romania's most beautiful castle, Peleș Castle, and learn about its amazing history. Explore the beautiful grounds and admire the Carpathian Mountains, sitting high just behind the castle on the Castle Tour with An Expert Guide.
While not an easy city to love – its wide nineteenth-century Parisian-style boulevards are choked with traffic, once-grand fin de siècle buildings crumbling and the suburbs dominated by grim apartment blocks – its cultural institutions, abundant greenery and lively Old Town nightlife reward patience.
In recent years, the gastronomic scene has improved beyond recognition, while a wave of artisan coffee joints has revitalized the city’s café culture.
Explore more things to do in Romanian capital with our guide to the Coffee, cocktails and communism in Bucharest.
The area is particularly important for birds, which pass through during the spring and autumn migrations, or come from Siberia to winter here or from Africa to breed in summer.
Spend 2 days discovering the wonderful Danube Delta. In addition to experiencing this UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll visit the ancient port city of Tulcea and the old Roman territory Constanta. Enjoy a boating trip to fish or watch the bird life on the 2-Day Tour from Bucharest.
Travelling from Bucharest or the Delta, your first stop on the coast will almost certainly be Constanța, a relaxed seaport-cum-riviera town, dotted with Turkish, Byzantine and Roman remains, which has always seemed to keep a discreet distance from the surrounding resorts.
Spend the day at the coastal city of Constanta and get amazing views of the Black Sea. Learn more about traditional life in Romania and top up your tan at the seaside resort of Mamaia on the Constanta and Mamaia Day Trip.
Access is through a 30m-long vaulted gallery with a sliding portcullis in the middle. Built by 1225, the cross-shaped church was taken over by the Cistercians in 1240 and enlarged in their Burgundian early Gothic style. The nave has late Gothic vaulting, and there’s a fine Passion altarpiece (1450–60). There is also a small museum, boasting fine examples of Saxon costume.
Discover two of Eastern Europe’s best preserved fortified churches on a half-day guided tour from Brasov. With your guide, learn about and explore the history-rich Harman and Prejmer churches which date back to the fascinating Saxon era.
The column’s rippling form is echoed in many of the verandas of the old wooden houses throughout the region. Brâncuşi actually began working on variations of the column in 1918 (the original, oak, one is in the Museum of Modern Art in New York), though this structure wasn’t installed until 1938, following a request from the local authorities to create a memorial for those killed during World War I.
It is, without question, one of the most striking – and recognizable – pieces of architecture not just in Romania, but anywhere in Europe.
This is Romania’s premier ski resort, and while it’s a great place to learn, with lots of English-speaking instructors, experienced skiers may soon be bored (although some slopes are steep and often icy). It’s crowded at weekends, and it’s no longer cheap, but there has been considerable investment in lifts and new pistes, as well as snow-making and grooming equipment so that the season can extend into late April.
Ski gear can be rented at hotels and the cable car and gondola terminals.
Nowadays, the city is surrounded by high-rise suburbs and virtually abandoned by the Saxons themselves, but the Old Town’s brightly painted houses, with “eye” windows to ventilate their attic grain stores, are still startling. Sibiu has many fine old churches and some of Romania’s best museums, as well as the remains of the bastions and fortifications.
Get a perfect introduction to the recently renovated old town of Sibiu and discover one of the cultural capitals of Romania on this Sibiu Sightseeing Tour.
The monasteries are scattered across a region divided by rolling hills – the obcine or “crests” which branch off the Carpathians – and by the legacy of history. Although settlers from Maramureş arrived here in the mid-fourteenth century, the area remained barely populated for two centuries until Huţul shepherds moved south from the Ukrainian mountains.
They lived in scattered houses in the hills, and the region was a sort of free republic until the Habsburgs annexed northern Moldavia in 1774, calling it Bucovina, a Romanianized version of their description of this beech-covered land (Büchenwald).
Visit five of the most beautiful and representative painted churches in Bucovina on this Private 2-Day Bucovina Monasteries Tour.
Most visitors make a beeline for the largely Baroque Old Town, around Piaţa Sfatului, a strikingly handsome, quintessentially Germanic square dominated by the Black Church. Nearby, all coiled beneath Mount Tâmpa, are museums, medieval ramparts and the Schei quarter.
In this full-day tour from Brasov, you will discover 3 of the most beautiful and important touristic sights that Romania has to offer. You will encounter Peles Castle, Bran Castle (Dracula's Castle), and the Rasnov Fortress.
The narrow-gauge railway up the wild Vaser valley, towards the Ukrainian border, is still used by diesel-hauled logging trains; in addition, tourist trains run as far as Paltin, 21km up the valley. These are hauled by small steam locomotives – known as mocăniţa, meaning “little mountain shepherd” – which have been restored by enthusiasts, the oldest dating from 1910.
There’s a pleasant café in a typical wooden house at the departure point, with a small exhibition on the town’s vanished Jewish community. There are also three preserved steam locomotives here, including a huge standard-gauge beast near the train-hotel.
Enjoy a guided day trip to Maramures Mocanita train from Cluj-Napoca and discover Europe’s last historic forest railway. Learn its history, and admire this spectacular 20th-century working train.
The Piatra Craiului National Park is ideal for all kinds of outdoor pursuits, from observing animals in the wild to guided walks and sporting activities such as climbing and caving. These are organized by various local agencies, mostly members of the Association of Ecotourism in Romania dedicated to nature conservation and sustainable tourism development.
The most popular is bear-watching, which is now offered by dozens of companies, as well as some accommodation providers, though the following come highly recommended: Carpathian Nature Tours or Discover Romania. You’ll typically be taken up to a forest hide at dusk, and although patience is key (which is why it’s unsuitable for young children), there’s about an eighty percent chance of seeing a brown bear in its natural habitat.
Discover the Romanian Carpathian where over 5500 bears roam, on a wildlife watching adventure. Admire species like lynx, wolves, and bear from a special observation hide.
The practice of shepherds spending summer in the high pastures protecting the flocks from bears and wolves while making cheese gave rise to Measurement of the Milk Festivals (Măşurisul Laptelui). At dawn on the first or second Sunday in May, the flocks are brought to a glade outside the village, where the “measurement” takes place.
The nanny goats are milked by women and the ewes by shepherds – the yield of each family’s animals is measured to determine the share of cheese that they will receive that season. The ritual is followed by much feasting and dancing.
Some are terse – “who sought money to amass, could not Death escape, alas!”. While a surprising number recall violent deaths, like that of the villager killed by a “bloody Hungarian” during World War II. Or a mother’s final message to her son: “Griga, may you pardoned be, even though you did stab me”.
Village homestays (agroturism) – rural farmhousestyle accommodation – offer visitors the opportunity to spend some time with a Romanian family (most of whom won’t speak English) in often lovely surrounds. The downside is that many places are in fairly remote locations, and are therefore difficult to reach without your own transport.
A swathe of wooden churches stretches across Eastern Europe, from northern Russia to the Adriatic, but in terms of both quality and quantity the richest examples are in Maramureş. From 1278, the Orthodox Romanians were forbidden by their Catholic Hungarian overlords to build churches in stone, and so used wood to ape Gothic developments.
It was long thought that most were rebuilt after the last Tatar raid in 1717, acquiring large porches and tall towers, often with four corner-pinnacles, mimicking the masonry architecture of the Transylvanian cities. However in 1997 a tree-ring study showed that the wood used in many churches – notably those of Corneşti, Breb and Onceşti.
A tour to Rural Romania bringing you to the rural region of Maramureş, a place with beautiful natural landscapes where traditions such as wood carving have been maintained for generations.
Close to the borders with Serbia and Hungary, and with flights from all over Europe and Romania, Timişoara is also a major transport hub. The city’s sights are clustered around the two large main squares, Piața Victoriei and Piața Unirii.
Now on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, Sighişoara makes the perfect introduction to Transylvania. The Old Town or citadel is unmissable, dominating the newer quarters from a rocky massif whose slopes support a jumble of ancient, leaning houses, overlooking the steps leading up from Piaţa Hermann Oberth to the main gateway.
Explore the narrow streets of the only inhabited medieval citadel in Europe and enjoy the history of this UNESCO heritage site as you listen to the stories about the most famous vampire in the world, Dracula on the Sighişoara Tour of Dracula's Home Town.
Most hiking routes are well marked and easy to follow with Dimap’s 1:60,000 Munţii Făgăraşului map, which can be bought in Braşov, Bran, Făgăraş or Sibiu, or in the mountain cabanas. It’s useful, but rarely essential, to reserve accommodation. Always carry ample food and water, waterproofs and good boots – the weather is very changeable on the ridge.
In Romania he is renowned as a patriot and a champion of order in lawless times, while the outside world knows him as the vampire count of a thousand cinematic fantasies derived from Bram Stoker’s novel of 1897 – a spoof-figure or a ghoul.
Although the tourist industry focuses on Bran castle in Transylvania, which has almost no connection to the Dracula myth (aside from the fact that he may have attacked it on occasion),Cetatea Poienari (Poienari Castle, aka Dracula’s Castle) was once Vlad the Impaler’s residence, and its location in the foothills of the Făgăraş mountains makes for a wonderfully dramatic setting.
Discover some of the medieval castles of Transylvania on a full-day tour from Bucharest and visit the castle most associated with the legend of Count Dracula. Visit Peleș Castle and take a walking tour of Brașov.
Read more detailed information about one of Romania's symbols in our guide: Visiting Vlad the Impaler.
However, by making the trip independently, you’ll be able to spend more time at each monastery and stay in Bucovina’s charming pensions, many of which serve terrific home-cooked, organic meals. There’s not much choice at Moldoviţa, but plenty at and around the other monasteries.
Some 40km southwest of Bucharest is the small village of Clejani, which is renowned throughout the region as a centre for Romani music. This area was home to members of world-famous bands such as Taraf de Haidouks and Mahala Rai Banda. It is also the home of many other talented Romani musicians.
Cutting across the country are the sinuous Carpathian mountains – a continuation of the Alps – whose best-known range is the Făgăraş, between Braşov and Sibiu in the south of Transylvania, harbouring more than seventy lakes and Romania’s most elevated peaks, the highest of which is Moldoveanu (2544m).
The castle is an extravaganza of galleries, spiral stairways and Gothic vaulting, most impressively the Knights’ Hall (immediately to the right), with its rose-marble pillars, a display of weaponry and a statue of Iancu. To the southwest a long gallery bridge leads to the isolated Neboisa Tower (from the Serbian nje boisia or “be not afraid”), built by Iancu in 1446–56.
To the east the Council Hall is similar to the Knights Hall, divided by a row of columns. To the north, the Mátyás wing, which sports a fine Renaissance loggia, houses a display of costumes and sixteenth-century Florentine cassone chests. Viewpoints outside the fortifications give views of the fifteenth-century rhomboid pattern on the exterior of the Painted Tower, and of the steeple added in 1873, with a bronze knight on top.
It is now a glitzy underground theme park, with a Ferris wheel, bowling, minigolf and table tennis among the many activities, though all of these do cost a little extra. You’ll also pass through the Joseph Mine, known for its twenty or so echoes, and another with an altar sculpted from salt, allowing religious services and prayers before miners began their shifts.
Discover Turda Salt Mine and Corvin Castle, the largest gothic structure in Romania on this day trip from Timisoara. Climb towers, see chambers and descend 120 meters below ground.
Perhaps the most authentic Romanian dish is sarmale – cabbage leaves stuffed with rice, meat and herbs, usually served (or sometimes baked) with sour cream or horseradish; they are sometimes also made with vine leaves (sărmălute in foi de viţă).
Stews (tocane) and other dishes often feature a combination of meat and dairy products Muşchi ciobanesc (shepherd’s sirloin) is pork stuffed with ham, covered in cheese and served with mayonnaise, cucumber and herbs, while muşchi poiana (meadow sirloin) is beef stuffed with mushrooms, bacon, pepper and paprika, served in a vegetable purée and tomato sauce.
From the heart of the city to the tastes of the country, this tour takes you on a historical, architectural, and culinary adventure through the many faces (and tastes) of Bucharest!
Among the locals they are known as "pacla" (Romanian for "fog") and their similarity to real volcanoes is remarkable. Although the processes involved in these small volcanoes are similar to their majestic counterparts, what sets them apart is what they spew to the surface. Instead of bubbling lava, these little gurgles bring mud and water to the surface.
Explore the largest salt mine in Europe, Slanic Prahova, and the botanical reservation of the Berca Muddy Volcanoes. Enjoy a private and guided tour from Bucharest.
The museum’s centrepiece is Deinotherium gigantissimus, a 4.5m-high fossil elephant from the late Miocene period unearthed in Vaslui County, Moldavia, in 1890 and believed to be the largest of its kind in the world.
The basement covers Romania’s wonderfully diverse geographical regions, from the Delta and Black Sea Coast to the Carpathians, while the ground floor is devoted to world fauna; among the obligatory selection of stuffed animals, keep your eyes peeled for some rather gruesome-looking reptilia, like the hellbender salamander and the saw-scaled viper.
Choose the best option to travel on a budget among the various destinations in Europe with our guide to 20 best places to visit in Europe on a budget.
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Ready for a trip to Romania? Check out the snapshot The Rough Guide to Romania. If you travel further in Romania, read more about the best time to go and the best places to visit in the country. For inspiration use the itineraries from The Rough Guide to Romania and our local travel experts. A bit more hands on, learn about getting there, getting around the country and where to stay once you are there.
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