Top 5 most interesting cities to visit in Romania
Romania is a mix of cultures, landscapes and flavours. The vibrant colours of traditional costumes, the lush green meadows and century-old forests, the smoke of village chimneys in winter, the hum and buzz of medieval towns with cobbled streets in the summer all make up what prince Charles called „a beautiful country with remarkable people”. Romanian towns and cities are an integral part of this amalgam of beauty, with almost every street, wall or building hiding a beautiful story that is waiting to be told.
We invite you to discover the story behind five of the most interesting cities in Romania:
One of the oldest known cities in Romania, Brașov is a city of legends and wonders. In fact, this is where the myth of the blood-thirsty vampire known as Dracula first emerged, as told by Saxon merchants in the sixteenth century, who were terrorized by Vlad the Impaler’s repeated raids in the South of Transylvania. According to local folklore, Vlad was furious on the merchants who sold their goods on his realms without paying any taxes. He ordered the capturing of hundreds of Saxons and sentenced them to death by impalement. The prince then had his lunch in the middle of the agonizing convicts – the story goes – and as he ate the wine spilling from the table became one with the blood. Historians agree today that although the killing did take place, the legend was much exaggerated. Still, who wouldn’t like to see the place where it all began?
There is however more to Brasov than this gruesome legend. The city is home to the largest gothic cathedral in south-eastern Europe – the famous Black Church, reminiscent of the city’s turbulent medieval history. It also hosts the first Romanian school, who still preserves a classroom with furniture dating back to the 18th century. The first Romanian school and the adjoining St. Nicholas’ church are also the starting point of an annual festivity with ancient origins which is still held today. Every year, one week after Easter, seven groups of men known as “Juni” dressed in brightly-coloured traditional clothing and holding a ceremonial mace ride their horses to the city’s main in a unique parade that blends both pagan as well as Christian elements. After the parade the men head to the outskirts of the town where they are joined by hundreds of locals and tourists in a feast that lasts until nightfall. Of course, you are invited as well!
The following tours operated by TravelMaker include the city of Brasov:
- Two Castles in One Day – Full Day – Shared
- Transylvania Break – 2 days – Shared
- Full Day Trip to Peles & Bran Castle – Full Day – Private
- Medieval City of Brasov – 2 days – Private
- Bucovina & Transylvania Tour – 3 days – private
- Medieval Transylvania Tour – 3 days
- Magic Transylvania – 4 days – Private
- Romania UNESCO Heritage Tour – 4 days – Private
- Transylvanian Medieval Castles and Fortified Churches Tour
A two-hour drive westwards from Brașov will take you to another Transylvanian treasure: Sibiu, a former European Capital of Culture in 2007. With its narrow streets, brightly-coloured baroque houses and multitude of events, from music concerts to theatre festivals and peasants’ markets, Sibiu will give you a sense of what authentic culture really looks, sounds and smells like.
Former capital of Transylvania, Sibiu has always been a city of innovation and avant-garde. Sibiu is where the first pharmacy on the current territory of Romania was first founded in the fifteenth century. In fact, a more recent building – “only” dating back to the sixteenth century – is now home to an incredible museum of pharmacy history with over six thousand exhibits. Another attraction that should not be missed is the Brukenthal art gallery, situated just a stone’s throw from the pharmacy museum, in the city’s central square. Set up in the residence of an eighteen century Transylvanian governor, the gallery houses works by Rubens, Tizian and Pieter Bruegel and is supposed to have been the first public art gallery in Central and South-Eastern Europe. And last but not least, Sibiu and the surrounding area are home to the largest theatre festival in the southeast of Europe, as well as to an international jazz festival and numerous other concerts and events.
But don’t forget to enjoy the outdoors! Less than 10 km from Sibiu lies one of the largest open-air museums in Europe – the Astra Museum of Rural Civilization. It encompasses more than 300 traditional houses, workshops and barns from the pre-industrial area, linked by over 10 km of walkways that run through patches of forest that run around two beautiful lakes. What a better way to get to know the local cultural heritage than by actually walking around it and discovering it step by step?
The following tours operated by TravelMaker include the city of Sibiu:
- Medieval City of Sibiu (Hermannstadt) – 2 days
- Medieval Transylvania Tour – 3 days
- Transylvanian Medieval Castles & Fortified Churches – 4 days
- Magic Transylvania – 4 days
Just as legendary Rome, Iasi – the largest, oldest and most prosperous city in Eastern Romania – is spread across seven hills in the picturesque province of Moldavia. And just as the Roman capital, the city has some legends of its own. According to one legend, the five-hundred years old lime tree on Copou hill was supposedly the meeting place of famous Romanian poet Mihai Eminescu and his lover Veronica. No one knows for sure if these is the case, but one thing is certain: the tree did inspire the writing of some very beautiful poems and is today a symbol of the city and its heritage.
Speaking of heritage, the city is home to probably the most beautiful neogothic building in Romania: the Palace of Culture. Build in the early 20th century, the Palace was the administrative centre of the city and its surrounding area. Nowadays, the Palace functions as a museum and is now open to every visitor curious to discover its beautifully-adorned interiors. After a visit to the Palace, take your time and relax in the newly-built English gardens nearby: the numerous fountains, water basins and the lush vegetation will certainly give you a fresh perspective on Romanian big city life!
“Capital” of western Romania, Timisoara has always been a city ahead of its time. In fact, the city is now the proud owner of several records. It is the first city in Romania with public lighting and home to the second oldest beer factory in the country. Timisoara is also the first city in the former Austrian Empire to host a public lending library and the first Romanian city to install a telegraph and later a telephone line. In 1884, it became the first city with electric public lightning in continental Europe and in 1953 the first European city to host three state theatres in three different languages: Romanian, German and Hungarian. Most importantly, Timisoara was the starting point of the Romanian revolution in 1989 and is therefore seen today as a symbol for freedom and democracy.
Today, Timisoara is a vibrant centre of culture and arts. It’s historic centre with colourful baroque two- and three-story houses lead to the city being dubbed „little Wien”. Victory Square, the place in which Timisoara was proclaimed the first Romanian city free from communism is the annual meeting spot of hundreds of jazz enthusiasts taking part in Jazz TM, one of the top jazz festivals in the country. And if you happen to visit Timisoara outside the summer months, don’t forget that the city’s philarmonic hall – which witnessed interpretations by Franz Liszt, Brahms and George Enescu – still hosts numerous concerts and auditions. Not surprisingly, Timisoara is one of the cities that submitted its application for becoming a European Capital of Culture in 2021. We’ll keep our fingers crossed for you, Timisoara!
At one time dubbed „Little Paris” due to its beautiful pre-war European classic architecture, Bucharest should be the starting point of every trip to Romania. Said to be founded by a shepherd in the 14th century, the city flourished as a handicraft and trade centre, attracting merchants from all over Europe on its narrow cobbled streets. Several centuries later, these streets are still filled with hundreds of foreigners; however, they are here not to sell their staff, but to enjoy themselves in the numerous restaurants, bars, pubs and clubs scattered all across the city’s historic centre. In fact, Bucharest is a city that never sleeps, being widely known for its nightlife and for the buzz of its streets.
Despite the fact that it is home to some very beautiful Parisian-inspired buildings, Bucharest also holds bleak remnants of its communist past. The Palace of Parliament built during Ceausescu’s dictatorship is till this day the largest, most expensive and heaviest civilian building in the world. Twelve-stories high, it encompasses over one thousand rooms with lavish interiors. Tours are organized on a daily basis, as well as various conferences and events. Speaking of events, Romania’s capital city is host to one of the most publicized cultural events in Central and Eastern Europe: the George Enescu Festival, whose last edition brought together over 120.000 classical music lovers from all over the world. In 2015, the festival will start on August 30th and will include over one hundred concerts and related events. If you hadn’t bought tickets, please hurry – Bucharest is waiting for you with open arms and beautiful music!
We are offering the following tours in Bucharest: