MAMAIA, 6km north of Constanţa, is Romania’s best-known coastal resort, and the place where the majority of package tourists end up. Legend has it that the gods created the beach to reunite a kidnapped princess with her daughter, who was abandoned on the seashore wailing “Mamaia, Mamaia!”; its fine, almost white sand, fringed with wild pear trees, is the resort’s greatest asset, especially since its gentle gradient and the absence of currents and strong tides make it particularly safe for children.
As late as the 1930s, Mamaia was, in the words of Gregor von Rezzori, “an empty expanse, excepting two or three bathing huts and a wooden pier, of miles of golden sand and tiny pink shells”; a far cry from what you’ll find here today. Ranged along a narrow spit of land between the Black Sea and Lake Siutghiol, the resort’s main street curves away around the shore of the lake. The southern stretch of the beachfront promenade is dominated by fast-food stands, mini-markets, pharmacies and shops selling all manner of beach paraphernalia and other accessories, but, beyond the casino (which is more or less the heart of Mamaia), the resort is more restrained. The telegondola will whisk you the 2km from near the Aqua Magic park at the southern end of Mamaia to just north of the casino. There’s a big plaza on the inland side of the casino, with a small stage and rows of family restaurants (mostly pizza places, all with big terasas). Mamaia’s main summer festival is the (biannual) Sunwaves Festival, which is held alternately in May and mid-August and features a world class line-up of electronic acts performing across several stages on Kazeboo beach in the north of the resort.