In a country with countless stunning castles and natural wonders, exploring Romania as a tourist can be a bit tricky. The 92,046 square-mile land contains some of the best attractions in Romania, and it seems like with every corner you turn there is more waiting to be discovered.
After spending several weeks in Romania exploring this underrated Balkan gem, we realized that getting around and seeing everything is quite difficult without your own car. That is why we highly recommend doing a Romania road trip.
With your own vehicle, this mysterious country is much easier to explore. However, driving in a foreign country like Romania can be both confusing and terrifying, which is why we have written this guide on the perfect road trip to Romania.
Renting A Car In Romania
If you are planning on doing a road trip in Romania, chances are, you will need to rent a car. Luckily, as part of the European Union, renting a car is easy, especially if you have a driver’s license from another country in the EU.
Surprisingly, the requirements for car rentals in Romania vary slightly by company. For example, some companies will allow you to rent a car when you are 18, but some only allow you to rent a car when you are 21.
Here are some of the most common requirements for car rentals in Romania:
- Most car rental companies in Romania require you to be at least 21 years old. Rarely, you will find a car rental that requires you to be at least 18 years old.
- The maximum age you can rent a car is 70 years old.
- You must have held your driver’s license for at least 1 year.
- A credit car to make the payment and hold a deposit (just in case something happens to the car).
- For US citizens, you must have an international driving permit (IDP) as well as a valid US drivers’ license to rent a car in Romania. However, it is not unheard of to rent a car without an IDP if you only have your driver’s license.
- EU citizens do not need an IDP, just a driver’s license from their country to drive in Romania.
Looking for a reliable rental car company in Romania?
Check out our recommended car rental company here!
Driving In Romania (Parking, Roads, Regulations & More)
Though Romania’s roads tend to get a bad rating, we found that the roads in Romania are generally pleasant to drive on, minus the few that are a little off-the-beaten-path.
Compared to the roads in New York City, Romanian roads are better maintained and less congested. (That is not really saying much I know.) In rural areas, you might share the road with livestock and horse-drawn wagons.
Driving in Romania is on the right-hand side of the road, so anyone from North America would have an easier time in Romania. At first, we were quite nervous about renting a car and driving in Romania, but then the beautiful scenery along the way and the easy-driving roads soothed our worries.
Most cars in Romania are in manual drive, just like the Dacia Logan sedan that we rented. Though there are automatic options, those tend to be a little bit more expensive.
To be able to drive in Romania, you must have the required license and documentation. Requirements will be different depending on where you are from. Check with the respective laws before renting a car in Romania!
If you intend to do a road trip in Romania in the winter months, make sure you drive extra carefully, have snow tires, and preferably a 4WD vehicle.
Parking in Romania
One of the biggest concerns when renting a car in a foreign country is parking. Luckily, parking in Romania is generally effortless, though you might have to walk a bit to/from your accommodation.
Generally speaking, the bigger the city, the harder it is to find free parking. Cities such as Bucharest will give you a headache if you try to find free parking, especially in the historic center. (Good thing you don’t need a car to explore Bucharest!)
Free parking is abundant in most of the tourist attractions in Romania since most of them are located in the countryside of Romania. Just don’t park at the designated parking lot for the attraction (ex. Bran Castle parking lot) and you can save tons of money.
We didn’t have to pay a single dime for parking on our 2-week Romania road trip.
Where Should You Start Your Romania Road Trip
The most common question I get about doing a road trip in Romania is where to start and end your trip. Most travelers opt to start their trip in Bucharest (the capital of Romania) for 2 reasons:
- Flights to Bucharest are cheaper
- Car rentals are also cheaper
While it is a nice option when traveling on a budget in Romania, Bucharest is not exactly an exciting city. Most of the attractions in Bucharest can be done in a day or two, and you are left with nothing but an overcrowded metropolitan city.
The other city to start your Romanian road trip is Cluj-Napoca, the capital city of the mythical Transylvania region of Romania.
This is the perfect place to start your road trip because you can rent a car in Cluj-Napoca and drop it off in Bucharest and then get on your flight. The con is that it would be a little pricier, as flights to Cluj can be more expensive and you will have to pay extra to drop the car off at a different location than the one you rented it from.
Whichever city you decide to start your road trip, I would recommend dropping your car off at a different location than where you rented it so you don’t have to spend a day or two backtracking.
Road Trip To Romania Tourist Map
Featured above is our Romania road trip itinerary. As you can see, it starts in Cluj-Napoca and ends in Bucharest or vice-versa.
Click on the map and you will be led to our personalized Google Interactive Map, where you can find more information about the road trip route, where to stay, and things to do in Romania. We highly recommend you to check it out.
Essentially, you will be basing yourself out of 4 locations: Cluj-Napoca, Sibiu, Brasov, and Bucharest. You will use these four cities as a base to explore the nearby attractions, which are color-coded on the map.
For example, the color green contains all the things to do in Brasov, and it is best to visit those attractions while you are in Brasov.
Most of your road trip will be in the Transylvania region, which is definitely the most culturally-enriching and exciting part of Romania! Get ready for dramatic castles, fortified towns, vampire tales, and more!
If you have any questions, leave a comment down below!
The Ultimate Road Trip In Romania Itinerary
Cluj-Napoca, The Capital of Translyvania (2-3 Days)
(You can also do your road trip backward, starting in Bucharest and ending in Cluj-Napoca)
Cluj-Napoca, or commonly referred to as Cluj, is the unofficial capital of Translyvania, a region known for its medieval towns, impressive mountains, and stunning castles. It is a region so special that even Prince Charles has fallen in love and paid many visits.
As the second-most populous city in Romania, Cluj is famous for its prestigious universities, amazing student nightlife, exciting music festivals, and many historic buildings.
You will spend around 2 to 3 days in Cluj, exploring the best things to do in Cluj-Napoca. Most of the attractions are concentrated in the Old Town of Cluj Napoca, and accessing them on foot is easy and a great way to experience the city.
As a result, we recommend you to rent your car in Cluj when you are done seeing the city and want to explore the places inaccessible by foot such as the Hoia Forest, arguably one of the most haunted places on Earth, or something like the impressive Turda Salt Mines.
Things To Do In Cluj Napoca, Romania
While there are many things to do in Cluj-Napoa, here are some must-do activities.
- FREE Walking Tour Cluj-Napoca
One of my favorite things to do when traveling is to take advantage of the free walking tours offered in each city. The majority of these tours are run by locals that have lived in the area for a long time and know the city like the back of their hand.
What is best about these free walking tours is that they are completely free, but a tip is appreciated at the end. You are free to tip as much or as little you want, depending on whether you think the tour was worth it or not.
The tours usually include information about the city, its history, the best things to do there, and even personal recommendations on places to eat. Essentially, you have a local tour guide that can answer any questions you might have about the city without the hefty price.
It is also a great place to meet other travelers if you are traveling solo in Romania or looking for road trip buddies!
You can find more about the Cluj-Napoca free walking tour here.
- Unirii Square Cluj-Napoca
As the biggest square in Cluj-Napoca, Unirii Square is the perfect place to hang out and just observe the local life. Besides being a good spot to chill out, the Unirii square is home to two very important landmarks – the St. Michaels Church and the statue of the King of Hungary Matthias Corvinus.
Why is there a Hungarian statue of a king in Romania? Because Cluj-Napoca has actually been under the rule of Hungary for close to a thousand years.
St. Michaels Church is the church with the tallest watchtower and the second biggest Gothic-styled church in Romania, a stunning display of the grandeur at the time. If there is one landmark in Cluj-Napoca that is worth seeing, it is the St. Michaels Church.
Though we weren’t able to enter because it was under construction, visitors are normally allowed to enter.
- Central Park / Citadel Park / Botanical Garden
Anyone looking to enjoy some of the green spaces in Cluj-Napoca must not miss Central Park, Citadel Park, or the Botanical Garden. Though all these 3 places are similar, they are also different in many ways.
Central Park is located inside the Old Town, making it the perfect and convenient place to just relax after a long day. Grab a coffee and just stroll around the almost 200-year-old park. Make sure you don’t miss the serene lake that attracts many locals.
If you are looking for a panoramic view of Cluj-Napoca, the Citadel Park, or Cetățuia Park in Romanian, is the perfect place to go. Located on a hilltop across the Someșul Mic river, the Citadel Park is the perfect place to watch the sun set behind the gorgeous city of Cluj.
The Botanical Garden is another great option for anyone looking for leisure activities in Cluj. During the summer, various species of plants are in blossom and it feels like nature’s paradise. The entrance cost of the Cluj Botanical Garden is 11 lei, a fairly low price for the number of plants it offers!
- Piezisa Street (Strada Piezișă) for Nightlife
Anyone visiting Cluj-Napoca without experiencing some of its nightlife is missing out. Home of many students from universities, the nightlife in Cluj is perfect for anyone young or young at heart.
Many students gather on the popular Piezisa Street, also nicknamed Cluj’s student street. With dozens of bars and clubs concentrated on Piezisa Street, visitors will unquestionably have a crazy night here!
- Hoia Forest (Hoia Baciu) / Turda Salt Mines
Once you have seen all the attractions inside Cluj Napoa, it is time to explore the surrounding areas, namely the Hoia Baciu ad the Turda Salt Mines.
Known as one of the most haunted places in the world, Hoia Baciu is a must for anyone that enjoys dark tourism or the supernatural. Inside the Hoia Forest are trees that grow in a zig-zag or spiral pattern, and scientists that have investigated the cause have come up with nothing.
Besides the numerous UFO sightings and shadowy figures that have been reported in the forest, a perfectly circular area named The Clearing is located deep inside the forest. Strangely, this circular area is the only place in Hoia Forest with no trees, and scientists again have failed to come up with a solution.
Many locals refuse to get near the Hoia Forest, and some tourists that have taken the taxi there are dropped off a 10-minute walk away from the entrance. However, there are some locals that use the Hoia Forest as a recreation area daily.
If the Hoia Forest is too spooky for you, visit the impressive Salina Turda salt mine instead. This amazing engineering feat has been named as one of the 25 hidden gems in the world worth visiting and it is not surprising.
The first record of the Salina Turda dates back to the late 11th century, making this salt mine almost one thousand years old. What was one of the most active salt mines has now become a museum, an … amusement park, and a spa. Yes, I said amusement park.
Inside the Rudolf Hall of the Salina Turda is a ferris wheel, mini-golf court, billiards, ping pong, and even a bowling alley. But that is not all; down another lift is a boating lake 120 meters below ground where visitors can rent a boat for 20 lei and row it around.
If you don’t fancy all these extra activities, visitors can stroll around the various halls and learn about the salt mine. Breathing in salty air is said to have positive properties and there is no shortage of that inside the mine. If you want a more professional halotherapy (salt therapy), guess what? They have a halotherapy spa at the Salina Turda!
Salina Turda is one of the most
insane unique places to visit in Romania. Don’t miss it on your Romania itinerary!
An idyllic small village about an hour from Cluj-Napoca, Rimetea is one of the most popular day trips from Cluj. It is a village where a magical phenomenon happens, the sun rises twice, once over the horizon and once over the Piatra Secuiului, or Rock of the Szeklers mountains.
The Piatra Seciului mountain raises 480 meters above the town, attracting many avid hikers.
Rimetea was once a popular mining town, but now there are only about 1,000 residents. Most residents in the town speak Hungarian, just like many people in the Transylvania Region, because this part has been under Hungarian rule for about 1000 years.
Strolling through the idyllic village should take no more than an hour or two, but there are several restaurants, bars, and museums to explore. However, the most popular thing to do in Rimetea is hiking the Piatra Secuiului Mountain.
At 480 meters above the village and the surrounding area, the picturesque views of the stunning Romanian countryside are all yours to enjoy when you set foot on the peak.
Though 480 meters higher in elevation, the hiking trail only takes about an hour. As you can imagine, the trail is not only steep but contains loose sand in certain sections. Be careful when you are hiking in Rimetea, but trust me, the views are worth the effort!
Because Rimea is on the way to on next destination (Sibiu), I highly recommend you to visit Rimetea on the day you are leaving for Sibiu.
Visit Rimetea in the morning, stop by Alba Iulia for some late lunch, and then check out the Red Ravine. The sunset at Red Ravine will leave anyone and everyone in awe! Finally, head down to Sibiu!
Where To Stay In Cluj Napoca
Best Hostel In Cluj-Napoca – Retro Hostel
If you are looking for a social atmosphere to meet more potential road trip partners, Retro Hostel is perfect for you. Featuring friendly vibes, clean and spacious beds, free coffee and tea, and a sauna, Retro hostel knows how to make hostel life enjoyable!
Best Airbnb In Cluj-Napoca – Vinodorum Residence
If you are looking for a unique stay in Cluj-Napoca then consider Vinodrum. A 1-bedroom apartment with a somewhat unusual design philosophy, it aims to provide guests with an experience of 5 senses.
Enjoy wine tasting, listen to complementary music, and admire the charming brick interior decor to take your stay to the next level. Vinodorum Residence provides guests with many wine self-catering services.
This 1-bedroom Cluj Airbnb is situated in an 18th-century historical building, representative of the local heritage. It can comfortably accommodate 4 guests!
Best Hotel In Cluj-Napoca – Modern Central
Modern Central is the perfect hotel in Cluj for anyone looking for a modern, spacious, and easy-to-access accommodation for an affordable price. This hotel (apartment) has the same luxury as some famous hotels in the city without a hefty price tag.
Its location in the Old Town of Cluj means you are within walking distance to pretty much everything you might want to see!
Sibiu, The Most Idyllic City in Romania (3 to 4 Days)
Sibiu is that one city that no one has heard about before traveling to Romania and also the one that everyone talks about after being there. It is the place that you plan on visiting for a few days but then end up staying there longer because you have fallen in love with the city … bought a house … and have three kids.
The charm of Sibiu isn’t unheard of. In fact, Sibiu has been designated as the European Capital of Culture in 2007 because of its significance with the Transylvanian Saxons.
In 2008, Forbes has named Sibiu the 8th-most idyllic place to live. In 2019, Sibiu was named the European Region of Gastronomy. History, aesthetics, and great food, who wouldn’t love this place?
Sibiu’s most iconic feature is the eyes that appear on its houses, earning it the nickname of “The City With Eyes” or “Seebiu”. The “eyes “appeared on the houses as early as the 15th century and are part of Baroque architecture. The real purpose of the eyes is ventilation for houses’ attics, but some believe they were built to scare people.
The city is easily walkable, and most of the attractions are located inside the Old Town of Sibiu. Though the landmarks are stunning, the beauty of Sibiu lies within its everyday elements: the cobble-stoned roads, the beautiful houses, the relaxed vibes, the friendly people, and the delicious food.
We recommend you to spend a minimum of 3 days exploring Sibiu and its surrounding attractions. However, free feel to stay as long as you desire, whether that be 5 days, a week, or forever!
Things To Do In Sibiu, Romania
Because there are so many things to do in Sibiu, we have written a separate guide! But here are some of the attractions you cannot miss!
- The Large Square & The Small Square (Piata Mare & Piata Mica of Sibiu)
Inside every medieval town is a massive square where trade is conducted, gatherings are held, and executions are taken place. The Large Square (A+ for creativity) is exactly that historical center. Nowadays, you won’t find any executions, but you will find a number of historical buildings surrounding the massive square, such as the Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church, the Brukenthal Palace, and many more.
If you are lucky to visit during Christmas, you will get to enjoy the renowned Christmas market in the Large Square (also known as Piata Mare). Numerous stalls are lined up in this beautiful cobble-stone square selling local food as kurtoskalacs, handmade crafts, accessories, toys, and many more.
Along with the giant Christmas tree and the glamorous lights, it is no wonder why the Sibiu Christmas market has been considered the best Christmas market in the world in 2012 by El Mundo and the best in Europe in 2019 by About Times Magazine.
Adjacent to the Large Square (Piata Mare) of Sibiu is the Small Square (Piata Mica), known for its diverse dining establishments ranging from Mediterranean to Eastern European. Patrons are welcome to enjoy outdoor seating and admire the beautiful Baroque architecture surrounding the square with a glass of chilled wine.
After you are done enjoying your meal at the Small Square, head over to the Bridge of Lies and learn about its legends. Though there are many variations to the legends, one thing for certain is that it connected the Old Town of Sibiu with the New Town.
- Lutheran Cathedral of Saint Mary
When we visited the Lutheran Cathedral of Saint Mary on our Romanian road trip, the cathedral was under renovation. Only a small portion of it and the lookout tower were available for sightseeing.
The lookout tower itself is enough to make your trip worth it; I can’t imagine how beautiful this place would be if the main halls were open.
Visitors must take a guided tour with one of the members of the church, who will first explain to you the significance and history of the Lutheran Cathedral of Saint Mary. Afterward, the guide will take you all the way up to the top of the watchtower, where you can get the best views of Sibiu in its entirety (much better than the Council Tower, or Turnul Sfatului).
The roofs of the Sibiu houses are truly spectacular, as well as the mountains that surround the region in the distance.
Along the way up, you will see the beautifully preserved structural components of the building and the added steel in parts where the wood has become too weak. It is truly an adventure! At the observatory near the top, you are close to 70 meters above the ground.
The Lutheran Cathedral of Saint Mary is a landmark in Sibiu you must visit.
- Corvin Castle + The Citadel of Alba-Carolina (Day Trip From Sibiu)
Once you have finished exploring Sibiu, it is time to take some day trips from Sibiu.
Corvin Castle, or Castelul Corvinilor in Romanian, is one of the Seven Wonders of Romania, and is a must-visit for anyone on a trip to Romania. As one of the biggest castles in Europe, visitors can spend hours here, wandering up and down the corridors and admiring the Gothic-Renaissance architecture.
Fun Fact: The Vajdahunyad Castle in Budapest is a replica of the Corvin Castle, make you check it out when you visit Budapest!
The drive from Sibiu to Corvin Castle is about an hour and a half, and we recommend you to start early in the day and pair that with the meticulous Alba-Carolina Citadel in Alba Iulia.
That way you will have enough time to explore the significance that has earned the castle’s title as one of the Seven Wonders of Romania, as well as take enough photos at one of the most beautiful places in Romania.
After spending a few hours in Hunedoara seeing the Corvin Castle, head to the small city of Alba Iulia. Grab yourself a traditional Romanian lunch and then head off to the Citadel Alba-Carolina, the biggest medieval citadel in Romania.
The star-shaped fortress was built in the early 18th century by Prince Eugene of Savoy to fortify the defenses of the newly conquered provinces of the Habsburg Empire.
Nowadays, the restored citadel has become a top attraction in Romania. Its new QR code functions at every point of interest inside the citadel, ensuring that every visitor leaves with a newfound knowledge of this historical place.
The Citadel Alba-Carolina is a huge fortress, and you can spend ages there. Though the citadel itself is free to enter, there are museums inside that require an entrance fee.
Visitors can also rent a bike to explore the citadel, as the length of the outer walls measures up to approximately 12 kilometers! Many bars, restaurants, gardens, and fountains are scattered throughout the citadel, making it feel like a city inside a city!
Sighisoara is known for its preserved walled Old Town, a famous UNESCO World Heritage Site. As one of the few remaining inhabited fortified towns in Europe, a visit to Sighisoara is like stepping into a time machine.
To understand the importance of Sighisoara, we must understand a bit of its history. The Old Town of Sighisoara was built in the 12th century, when the Saxons were invited by the Hungarian King to fortify its boundaries in Transylvania.
Eventually, Sighisoara became an artisan hub and a popular trading post, attracting many craftsmen to come and settle there. The new craftsmen created as many as 15 craft guilds, and each guild was responsible for creating its own fortification to protect its riches.
Sighisoara was handed to Romania after World War I and is one of the few fortified towns that are still inhabited.
Here almost everything has been preserved in time, and a stroll down its colorful cobble-stone streets is a delight, as colorful houses line up on both sides. You will notice the numerous guild towers that were built for fortification by each craft guild, some of which are still standing today.
The must-visit place in Sighisoara is the 13th century built Clock Tower (Turnul cu Ceas), a 64-meter high tower that served as the main tower in the fortification. Nowadays, it is a museum and the most recognized landmark in Sighisoara. Stunning views of Mures County can be seen on the open-air balcony at the top of the tower!
- Transfagarasan Road (Transfăgărășan), The Best Driving Road In The World
If you have rented a car in Romania, chances are, you already know about the Transfagarasan Road or Transfagarasan Highway. Made famous by the TV show Top Gear, the Transfagarasan Highway is considered the best driving road in the world!
No Romania road trip would be complete without driving on this well-paved road that crosses the southern parts of the famed Carpathian Mountains.
Is it safe to drive the Transfagarasan Road? Yes, it is! Though there are some sharp turns, the road is well-paved and easy to drive on.
If you are coming from Sibiu, you want to arrive at Balea Lake on the Transfagarasan Road (also known as DN7C). The glacial lake sits at the base of the surrounding alpine giants, offering views that belong on the front cover of a travel magazine.
Here you will also find many “street” vendors selling various local crafts and food (lots of cheese and cured meats), as well as restaurants and accommodations, including the famous ice hotel.
Balea Lake also offers the best views of the Transfagaran Highway, so there is really no reason to not come here! If you think driving it is insane, seeing the Transfagarason Road in its entirety will mesmerize you.
On the way to Balea Lake, you have the chance to stop by and hike to the Balea Waterfall. At over 60 meters tall, the Balea Waterfall is the tallest stepping waterfall in Romania, and a short 45-minute hike away!
Because the Transfagarason Road is located between Sibiu and Brasov (our next destination), we recommend you to visit the Transfagarason on the day you are planning to depart for Brasov.
Where To Stay In Sibiu, Romania
Best Hostel in Sibiu – B13 Hostel
If you are looking for an affordable hostel located in the historic center of Sibiu, B13 Hostel is the one for you. Featuring comfortable beds and clean spaces, B13 Hostel will give you the sleep you need after a long day on the road. They also feature a big common area, which would’ve been perfect for socializing had there been more people staying when we visited.
Best Hotel in Sibiu – Rabbit Hole
Located in the Big Square of Sibiu, the location of the Rabbit Hole hotel just cannot get better. When you are not exploring the city, guests can enjoy views of the Big Square from their stylishly decorated rooms or grab some food at their on-site restaurant. Though breakfast is not included in the price, guests can pay a little extra for one of the best breakfasts in town!
Brasov, One Of The Medieval Walled Citadels (4 to 5 Days)
Other than Bucharest, Brasov is probably the most well-known and popular place to visit in Romania. Featuring medieval Saxon fortifications, mysterious gothic-style churches, and nostalgic cobble-stone streets, Brasov is one of the most stunning places in Romania.
Similar to Sibiu, Brasov was one of the seven Saxon walled citadels to protect the Hungarian empire. As a result, you will find many similarities in the architecture and types of buildings.
However, the Carpathian Mountains loom over the southern parts of Brasov, and the historic streets now look so much more tasteful with the jagged mountains in the background.
We recommend you to spend 4 to 5 days in Brasov, exploring the city and learning about its history, hiking in the nearby region, and visiting some of the nearby castles such as the Bran Castle that inspired Bram Stoker’s famous novel Dracula and Peles Castle.
Things To Do In Brasov, Romania
There is a multitude of attractions in Brasov, but here are the things you must do!
- FREE Walking Tour Brasov
As a medieval city with centuries of history, uncovering the depths of the information is a difficult task without the help of a professional tour guide. Luckily for you, Brasov has many FREE walking tours that will help you learn about the gorgeous city and its significance.
I personally have taken the Brasov free walking tour with Walkabout Free Tour. Their local guides gave us detailed information about the landmarks in Brasov such as the Black Church, Catherine’s Gate, and the Strada Sforii, the narrowest street in Europe.
Tours are completely free-of-charge. Voluntary tips are collected at the end and that is how the tour guides make their money. If you don’t think the tour was worth it, you don’t have to pay (that much).
- Hike Or Take A Cable Car Up Mount Tampa
At close to 400 meters above the city, the summit of Mount Tampa offers panoramic views of Brasov from above. Here the vibrant orange hues of the buildings contrast with the monotonous mountains and trees, bringing the city to life.
Not only is the Tampa Mountain a great vantage point, but it is also the home of the giant sign that says “Brasov”. Anyone that has been to Los Angeles will find the sign quite similar to the Hollywood sign.
There are two ways to reach the top of Mount Tampa, hiking or taking the cable car.
The cable car runs from 9:30 AM to 4 PM and costs 16 Romanian lei for a round trip. If you want to watch the sunset from the mountain, this option might be a little more difficult.
If you decide to hike up to Mount Tampa from Brasov, you are in for a treat. The well-marked trail takes about 1 hour to the top and passes through some lush landscapes. It is a great way to move your legs after sitting in a car for so long!
- Day Trip To Bran Castle And Rasnov Fortress
The biggest attraction in Romania has to be the famous Bran Castle, allegedly the birthplace of the legends of Dracula, Bram Stoker’s famous novel. Considered the most recognizable landmark in Romania, the Bran Castle is also known as Dracula’s Castle in other parts of the world.
When Bram Stoker was writing Dracula, it is said that he took inspiration from Vlad III (also known as Vlad Dracula), one of the best rulers of the Wallachia region of Romania. Vlad III had a reputation for cruelty and would often impale his enemies. There are rumors that he would drink the blood of his enemies when they bleed out.
However, the truth is that Bram Stoker has never been to Romania, let alone Bran Castle. Vlad III himself was never the ruler of Bran Castle, nor was he born there. (He was born in Sighisoara.)
Just how did the legend of Dracula come about? Visitors can find more about that in Bran Castle, which has now become mostly a museum for the art and furniture collected by Queen Marie. The top floor of the castle features an exhibit that will explain everything about the legends of Dracula!
The trip from Brasov to Bran Castle is 30 minutes by car. Since it is located in the small village of Bran, you can easily find parking on the side of the road. Don’t pay for parking!
On the way back from Bran Castle, stop by the Rasnov Fortress. The fortress was originally built for defending the nearby Transylvanian villages, and its former glory can still be seen.
Because of its strategic location, Rasnov Fortress often provided refuge for long periods of time. As a result, many houses were built inside the citadel, including a chapel and a school.
The remains of the Rasnov Fortress can still be seen today, and the watchtower at the entrance of the citadel is one of the best places to see it in its entirety!
NOTE: As of February 2020, Rasnov Fortress is closed for renovation. The anticipated duration of renovation is 3 years.
- Hiking the Piatra Craiului Mountains or Seven Ladders Canyon
If you are a hiking enthusiast and the hike up Mount Tampa only got you warmed up, head over to the Piatra Craiului Mountains for more hiking trails! Though there are many routes to choose from, the one we did was an easy 4-hour Zarnesti Gorge hike.
The trail guides you through the bottom of the gorge and offers a serene and placid atmosphere, perfect for anyone traveling in Romania with kids or family.
If you want a more difficult hike, there are plenty to choose from the Piatra Craiului mountain range. Alternatively, you can visit the famous Seven Ladders Canyon hike, a hike that requires you to climb up a metal ladder. In return, you can see 7 stunning waterfalls! Though it sounds difficult, the trail is quite easy and safe.
- Peles Castle, The Most Beautiful Castle in Romania
Though Bran Castle is the most famous castle in Romania, it is by far not the most beautiful.
In the Sinaia region of Romania is a Neo-Renaissance castle called Peles Castle, and it is considered one of the most beautiful castles in the world!
Built by King Carol I, Peles Castle took a total of 10 years to construct. By the end, the palace had more than 170 ornate rooms, including a concert hall and a movie theater.
Architecturally, a blend of Neo-Renaissance, Gothic Revival, and Saxon influence can be seen. The interior decor is mostly Baroque influenced, featuring carved wood and eloquent fabrics.
Everything in the rooms is lavishly designed and furnished, and it is so meticulous that visitors have to put on plastic shoe covers to enter. The only way to enter the castle is with one of their daily guided tours.
When purchasing your ticket, you have to decide whether you are interested in seeing both floors of the palace or just the lower floor. A tour to only the lower floor costs 30 lei, while a tour to both costs 60 lei. Photography (even with your phone) is an additional 30 lei (Yes, they are strict)!
We did the tour of the lower floor and were impressed by the extravagant palace. It is no wonder why many people refer to the Peles Castle as a fairytale castle. The Peles Castle is a must on any Romania itinerary!
Where To Stay In Brasov, Romania
Best Hostel In Brasov – JugendStube Hostel
If you are looking for a no-frills hostel with a decent free breakfast, spacious rooms, comfortable beds, and a nice common area to socialize with other travelers, then JugendStube Hostel is perfect for you. The staff at the reception is friendly and will answer any questions you have about Brasov.
Best Airbnb In Brasov – Casa Carolina Brasov
Casa Carolina Brasov is a charming 19th-century traditional house located in the historic center of Brasov. Designed to provide the utmost comfort and elegance through a combination of rustic elements and contemporary touch, this Airbnb is the perfect place to stay in Brasov.
Guests can enjoy a relaxing bath in the 100-year-old clawfoot bathtub, which is situated right next to the Thonet washstand in the attic bathroom.
The Council Square of Brasov is only 2 minutes away and the Black Church is only 5 minutes away!
Best Hotel In Brasov – Safrano Palace
Safrano Palace is a hotel in Brasov that offers luxury at an affordable price. The rooms are spacious, clean, and offer some of the most comfortable beds. The receptionist is always there to assist you with anything. The free breakfast is diverse and delicious, the perfect way to start your day in Brasov!
Bucharest, The Capital of Romania (2 Days)
Alas, you have arrived at your final destination – Bucharest, the capital of Romania.
The metropolitan city of Bucharest is the center of culture, education, and finance in Romania. Nicknamed “Paris of the East”, the elegant architecture of the historic center will certainly make you fall in love if the delicious Romanian cuisine hasn’t.
When you are not strolling down Bucharest historical streets or enjoying the charming parks, visit some of the city’s hidden historic churches. With its deeply Eastern Orthodox religion, many churches here are stunning architecturally with lavish interior designs. There are many reasons to visit Bucharest.
Once you have arrived in Bucharest, there is really no need for a car. Most of the attractions in Bucharest are concentrated in the historic center. If not, then they are accessible by the convenient public transportation system.
In fact, we recommend you to get rid of the car as soon as possible after arriving in Bucharest, as traffic and the lack of parking can be a real issue.
Two days is the optimal amount of time in Bucharest. Outside of the historic center, there really isn’t much to do.
Some visitors might even stay just one day in Bucharest.
Things To Do in Bucharest, Romania
Here are our recommended things to do in Bucharest, Romania.
- FREE Walking Tour Bucharest
Yes, this is the third time we have talked about the free walking tours in Romania and it will be the last time! These free walking tours are just so great when you are trying to discover a new city on your own, especially one as big and rich in history as Bucharest.
The free walking tour company we recommend is still Walkabout Free Tours. We’ve had nothing but delight with their professional and humorous tour guides!
- Palace of Parliament
The Palace of Parliament, or Palatul Parlamentului in Romanian, is the most famous building in Romania. Weighing about 4 billion kilograms or 9 billion pounds, the Palace of Parliament is the heaviest building in the world.
Well, that is not surprising considering that this administrative building is 84 meters (276 ft) tall and has a floor area of 365,000 square meters (3,930,000 sq ft) in a total of more than 1100 rooms combined. It is the second biggest building in the world, after the Pentagon in the United States.
Built in the late 20th century by the communist leader Nicolae Ceaușescu, the Palace of Parliament was a display of Romania’s grandeur at the time. However, behind the facade of splendor, many Romanians were suffering from hunger and malnourishment.
The street that leads up to the Palace of Parliament (Bulevardul Unirii) was filled with buildings with elegantly designed front facades. However, if you visit the back of such buildings, you will notice many of them are dilapidated.
Guided tours of the Palace of Parliament occur daily almost every hour. However, you must make a reservation by phone before. Because of its popularity, we recommend you book a few days before your desired date of the tour.
- Visit the Orthodox Churches and Monasteries
Bucharest is the home of many Orthodox churches and monasteries, and none are as famous and gorgeous as the Stavropoleos Monastery and New St. George Church.
Stavropoleos Monastery is a small Eastern Orthodox monastery built in 1724 in the charming Old Town of Bucharest for nuns. Boasting an elegantly-designed exterior in Brâncovenesc style, the monastery is one of the most beautiful buildings in Bucharest.
Though the space is tiny, the interior is visually stunning with tasteful paintings and enchanting ceilings, and visitors can spend a good amount of time here admiring the ornate features. The entrance is free for the Stavropoleos Monastery, but a donation is always appreciated.
Known for its amazing paintings and artworks inside, the New St. George Church is another one of Bucharest’s churches worth visiting. The outside of the church features a statue of Constantin Brancoveanu, the ruler who was executed by the Ottomans when he refused to renounce his faith.
He became a saint of this Eastern Orthodox church and his remains can be found on display inside this church, the biggest church built during his reign.
- Dine at Caru’ cu bere, The Oldest Restaurant in Bucharest
Dining at Caru’ cu bere is a quintessential experience in Bucharest. Translating to the “Beer Wagon”, Caru’ cu bere is the oldest restaurant and brewery in Bucharest, and one of the best places for traditional Romanian cuisine.
Situated in an old historical building, stepping inside feels like you are stepping into a museum. With colorful ceilings, old wooden furniture, and stained glass windows, the atmosphere is warm and cheerful.
Now usually, a place like this is a tourist trap, selling you subpar food at a high price. Caru’ cu bere is the opposite.
Not only is the food delicious, traditional, and reasonably priced, the waiters are polite and ensure you have a good experience. If you ask any local Romanians for a restaurant recommendation, it is likely they will suggest Caru’ cu bere.
When dining at Caru’ cu bere, you cannot miss the signature roasted pork knuckle. Pair that with the traditional polenta soup, a dish made from boiled cornmeal!
- Visit the Cărturești Carusel (Carousel of Light) Bookstore
Inside the historical buildings of Old Town Bucharest is one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, the Cărturești Carusel. Visiting bookstores is one of our favorite things to do when traveling because it just tells us so much about the country, and Cărturești Carusel is no exception.
The exterior of the bookstore isn’t exactly spectacular, but upon entering, you are transported to a cathedral for books. The elegant interior design, the geometrical layout, everything is just gorgeous. If you are looking for an Instagrammable spot in Bucharest, Cărturești Carusel is the place to go.
Where To Stay in Bucharest, Romania
Best Hostel in Bucharest – First Hostel
Hostels in Bucharest are abundant, and choosing the perfect one cannot be more difficult. We highly recommend First Hostel. As a hostel run by travelers, it is designed perfectly to meet the needs of travelers.
Featuring a clean kitchen and a small cozy common area, First Hostel is a social hostel perfect for meeting other travelers!
Best Hotel in Bucharest – Concorde Old Bucharest Hotel
Featuring snazzy decor and comfortable rooms, the Concorde Old Bucharest Hotel is one of the best value-for-money hotels in Bucharest. Each big and spacious room comes with its own balcony, perfect for anyone that wants to bathe in the sun or just admire the views of Old Town Bucharest, where the hotel is conveniently located. The free breakfast buffet is a plus!
Other Places To Visit On Your Romanian Road Trip
If you have followed our Romania itinerary to the T, you will have yourself the perfect 2 weeks in Romania road trip. However, if you can allocate more time for your trip to Romania, there are plenty more amazing places to be discovered.
Below we will talk about some of our favorite places in Romania that you could add to your visit to Romania!
Constanta, The Romania Beach Town Next To The Black Sea
Constanta might be the only beautiful beach town in Romania, but it certainly does impress. Bordering the Black Sea, the beaches in Constanta are stunning. In the summer, you can expect locals and travelers from all over the world in this small city with over 2000 years of history.
If the weather permits, we would recommend visiting Constanta from Bucharest, potentially as a day trip or for a weekend. The drive is a little more than two hours to get from Bucharest to Constanta.
Timisoara, European Capital of Culture for 2021
Because of its location, Timisoara is one of the places in Romania that is not often visited by tourists. However, that will change in 2021, when Timisoara earns the title of the European Capital of Culture.
As the third-largest city in Romania, Timisoara has its own small-town lively vibe. The interesting history and the charming architecture of Timisoara make it an exciting place to visit for any type of traveler.
Timisoara is located in Western Romania, and it is a 3-hour drive from Sibiu and Cluj-Napoca.
Maramures county is considered the most traditional region in Romania. Home to many villages where century-old traditions are preserved, a visit to the Maramures county is like stepping back in time. Many women still wear their traditional dresses, live in their farmhouses, and go to wooden churches.
The natural landscape in this region is incredible, as miles of greenery stretch beyond the horizon. I would highly recommend adding the Maramures region to your Romania trip!
Romania Road Trip FAQs
Is It Safe To Drive Through Romania?
According to the European Union, Romania has the highest per-vehicle rate of road fatalities of any country in the European Union. Though from our experience, driving in Romania is not dangerous. The roads near the cities are in good conditions, but you’ll need to be aware of horse-drawn carriages, stray dogs, and other hazards when you are in rural areas.
How Good Are the Roads in Romania?
The major highways that connect the big cities and towns of Romania are typically in decent condition. However, the roads in the rural parts of Romania can be unpaved, full of uneven surfaces, and have unusual hazards (horse-drawn carriages, stray dogs, and etc).
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This concludes our Romania road trip itinerary blog post. We hope you will enjoy visiting Romania as much as we did!
Any questions? Leave them in the comments!
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