Europe

Romania? You’re in for a surprise (In a grand way)!

Peleş Castle | Photo credit: Victoria Reay

If you enjoy the history, cultures and romance of a European vacation, then consider spending some time in Romania. The diverse landscape, the traditions and the remarkable foods are just few of the reasons which make Romania a great destination choice for your trip.

Romania is situated in south central Europe and is considered the westernmost point in continental Europe. Politically, many people include Romania in the Eastern European bracket of countries or in the Balkans. When you visit Romania, you’ll discover a history-laden country filled with intriguing sights and charming medieval towns and.

Romania today still carries strong reminders of its past. From imposing Gothic castles that once defended against invaders to medieval Transylvanian towns fortified by city walls, Romania is rich in historical interest, but also boasts unspoiled natural landscapes and bustling cities rising in economic importance.

If you’re seeking a bit of Paris in the East, you can head to Bucharest, the largest city in Romania. Here, you’ll be greeted by an eclectic mélange of cultural and historical attractions, from grand and opulent palaces, to art galleries and museums, to magnificent churches.

During the last decade, the country has seen significant development and is one of the most recent members of the European Union. Still, it may surprise some visitors who are used to Western Europe. Romania is a large country which can sometimes be shocking with contrasts: some cities are truly Western Europe; some villages can seem to have been brought back from the past. While it has significant cultural similarities with other Balkan states, it is regarded as unique due to its strong Latin heritage.

'Dracula's Castle' | Photo credit: Flickr user jtriefen

Things for which Romania is famous include: the Carpathian mountains, Constantin Brancusi, wine, medieval fortresses, Mircea Eliade, Dacia cars, Dracula, stuffed cabbage leaves, Nadia Comaneci, the Black Sea, Gheorghe Hagi, sunflower fields, painted monasteries and the Danube Delta.

Bucharest is the primary entry point into Romania. Bucharest is Romania’s capital and largest city, as well as the most important industrial and commercial center of the country. There are some 2 million inhabitants in the city proper and more than 2.4 million in the urban area, and as such, Bucharest is one of the largest cities in South eastern Europe.

Known in the past as “The Little Paris” Bucharest has changed a lot lately and today it has become a very interesting mix of old and new that has little to do with its initial reputation. Bucharest provides visitors some excellent attractions, and has, in recent years, cultivated a sophisticated, trendy, and modern sensibility that many have come to expect from a European capital. Those who knew Bucharest in the past but have not visited recently will be surprised by the scale of the changes that are taking place. The center of the city is being completely revamped and there is a major project in every part of the city.

Romania offers a rich tapestry of attractions and experiences unique in Central-Eastern Europe: medieval towns in Transylvania, the world-famous Painted Monasteries in Bucovina, traditional villages in Maramures, the magnificent architecture of Bucharest, the romantic Danube Delta, fairy-tale castles, the Black Sea resorts, the majestic Carpathian Mountains, spas and, of course, much more.

Romania is a country of great natural beauty and diversity, and a rich cultural heritage.

So, aside from spending some time in Bucharest, you may want to plan some of these other activities that will ensure everlasting memories of this enchanting country …

Try Romanian Food and Drink Țuică

Romanians have a particular way of cooking, and their food is delicious. You absolutely must try the cabbage meat rolls (sarmale) with polenta (mamaliga) and garnished with sour cream. This dish is actually the traditional Christmas dinner. Soups are very important and they are part of the daily menu. The chicken soup with noodles served with fresh parsley is among the most famous. Others are meatball soup (ciorba de perisoare), vegetable soup (ciorba taraneasca) (with or without meat) and tripe soup (ciorba de burta). In the countryside, people still use clay pots and cast-iron kettles for cooking. Food prepared in this way has a unique taste.

Țuică is a Romanian alcoholic drink made from plums, and is, in essence, a type of brandy. The plums are kept in a wooden barrel but the distillation must be done in a brass still, using a traditional fire source. After distillation it may be served fresh, or can be kept in oak barrels for aging. Aged Țuică has a yellow colour and a strong aroma. In the winter time, Țuică can also be served hot, which is very popular among Romanians.

Drive the Transfăgărășan

The editors of BBC Top Gear declared Transfăgărăşan Road the best road in the world. Drive it yourself or better still engage a driver so you can concentrate on the scenery. The 90 kilometres of twists and turns scurry across the tallest sections of the Carpathian Mountains, between the highest and second peaks in the country, climbing to an altitude of 2,034 metres. Among the attractions along the way, you can view Bâlea Lake and Bâlea Waterfall. Offering dramatic views and breathtakingly beautiful places, a drive on this road is not something to miss.

Visit Sighișoara

The clock tower of Sighişoara | Photo credit: Paul White

Sighişoara is a city located in the historic region of Transylvania. The fortress is among the most spectacular and mysterious medieval citadels in Transylvania, and it is a true historic monument. Visitors are thrilled when discovering this place, and encountering a world of the past. This is actually a Saxon settlement which was first mentioned papers in 1289, but was actually founded sometime in the 12th century. The fortress is made up of 9 towers, the most representative being The Clock Tower. It is also worth visiting the Hill Church, a valuable architectural monument of the fortress, the covered stair built in 1662, to facilitate the children’s access to the up-hill school. Initially it had 300 stairs, protected by a roof, but after the modifications in 1849 only 175 stairs remained. Sighişoara is a true phenomenon of modern times. Older than the majority of the European capitals, it seems to be insensitive to time and changes, keeping its quiet medieval town aura, refusing to accept the realities of the 21st century. Sighişoara has preserved in such an exemplary way the features of a small medieval fortified city that it has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Transylvania

Located in the heart of Romania, Transylvania today is blessed with some of Europe’s best-preserved medieval towns and is home to captivating Gothic castles such as the popularly named Dracula’s Castle. The medieval towns in Transylvania are seeping with charm that even Dracula would be enchanted by. Sibiu, the former hub of the Transylvanian Saxons, will captivate you with its cobbled streets and pastel-coloured houses. The city walls, well-preserved defence towers and old city squares take you back to Transylvania’s more clamorous times and now stand as important historical attractions. Also a culture-soaked city, Sibiu is home to two large museum complexes, three theatres and a handful of festivals throughout the year.

Visit the Monasteries

Barsana Monastery | Photo credit: Flickr user Slip

The best place to start is Bucovina, in northern Moldova. There is no other place in the world with so many Orthodox monasteries and with such high quality exterior frescoes. These painted monasteries are so beautiful and so rare, that they have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The presence of these monasteries has transformed Bucovina in one of the most attractive and most visited areas in Romania. Then, plan to visit the Wooden Churches in Maramureș. They are considered to be unique, because of the way they combine Gothic style with traditional wood construction. Eight of the churches of this mountainous area of northern Romania have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Breathe Fresh Air in the Mountains

The Romanian Carpathians surround Transylvania. The Carpathians provide visitors various adventure opportunities. The Carpathian Mountains are the eastern wing of the great Central Mountain System of Europe, curving 1500 kilometres along the borders of Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro and northern Hungary. Romania boasts by far the largest area of the Carpathians, and forms the eastern and southern boundaries of the region. One trek, cycle, horseback, kayak and climb these magnificent mountain ranges.

Fishing in the Danube Delta

Fishing the Delta | Photo credit: Moise Nicu

The Danube Delta is an exceptionally vast wildlife reserve, home to 160 kinds of fish and 300 species of birds. It is the second largest delta in Europe and the best preserved. There are many places form where you can rent a boat and fishing equipment. The ideal time to fish the Delta is between June and March. In the summer, the weather is hot and dry, in September and October pleasantly warm, though cool at night, and during the winter it’s cold and dry.

Rejuvenate at the Thermal Springs

You may want to take advantage of the natural resources that Romania has to offer, and is famous for! Many Romanian spa resorts were developed near thermal springs. There are approximately 3,000 thermal springs in Romania, providing treatments and traditions that date to the ancient times of the Romans, who founded many of the spa resorts. The oldest spa resort in Romania is Băile Herculane, which was a treatment ‘resort’ established by the Romans.

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