Say you heard about Romania, it sparked your interest enough so as to start researching and you’re decided to give it a go.
Can we assume your next step is looking for the cities people generally prefer for a visit in Romania?
After all, it’s only natural everyone is interested in the tried-and-tested route since the most popular Romanian destinations tick a few of the boxes tourists are generally interested in:
- Convenient accommodation and transportation
- Touristically-resourceful surroundings
- Appealing touristic sites
- Broad range of activities
- Cultural events
- Accurate displays of Romanian multiculturality, cultural life and architectural styles
- More opportunities to engage with locals and with.
And the list could go on.
But more than implying lots of advantages, these places exert a genuine charm any globetrotter would love to experience. It’s now time to reveal what Romanian cities we are talking about, so make sure you sit comfortably and set your wanderlust on for a visit to Romania.
A city of contrasts – that’s the reputation the capital city of Romania has earned throughout time.
Being situated at a cultural crossroad between Balkanic heritage and Western influences, this city counting over 2 million inhabitants is an unpredictable mix of aesthetics.
If you’re coming from a well-structured city with straight streets and homogenous design, Bucharest will baffle you at first.
Tangled streets leading to large boulevards, ruins next to 5-star hotels, covert places full of history next to contemporary art galleries, several architectural styles on the same street. In short, Bucharest is anything, but plain.
History and Culture – a Brief Account
After Slavs started settling the surrounding areas of current Bucharest, the first historical mention of the city has been registered in 1459, as a residence of Prince Vlad Dracul III and others following him.
Throughout the 17th century, the city saw several invasions which put it in a continuous state of reconstruction. From then on, Bucharest started to take off in terms of development – especially as a trade and cultural center.
Due to economical and historical fluctuations, Bucharest did not experience constant growth – which partly explains its layered and unstructured architectonic style. Speaking of architecture, here are the main influences you’ll notice on the city streets:
- Brancovan style – the Romanian architectural trademark Renaissance style
- Art Nouveau
- Art Deco.
The communist regime left a strong mark on the city’s overall aspect by imposing an urban redesign according to the so-called brutalist architecture. This style flourished starting 1950 (when Stalinism got fully-established) and can be recognized in the raw concrete buildings (both administrative, cultural and residential).
Parks and Recreation
Bucharest has the highest number of parks you can visit in Romania, which makes it an ideal destination for outdoor breaks. In short, here are the places you could look for in case you need a little bit of fresh(er) air:
- Herastrau – the largest green public space, it also includes The Village Museum (Muzeul Satului) and is located in the Northern part of the city.
- Cismigiu – you can find it in the city center, so it’s the most convenient if you don’t have much time to spare.
- Carol Park – a place which endured the passing of time and hosts heritage items (e.g. the Cantacuzino Fountain, the ‘Dimitrie Leonida’ Technical Museum, the Mausoleum).
- Tineretului – a relatively recent park (inaugurated in 1974) to be found within Southern Bucharest.
If you’re visiting with the whole family, a fun time for the kids would be at the Bucharest City ZOO, close to the Baneasa Airport.
If you’re a culture aficionado and you’re interested in Romania’s cultural heritage, Bucharest is the place to be. Our selection of enticing Bucharest museums:
- The National Museum of History – the best way to learn about the history of Romania
- The National Museum of Art
- The National Museum of Contemporary Art
- The Antipa Museum – fascinating display of natural history
- ‘Dimitrie Gusti’ National Village Museum – one of the most valuable open-air Romanian museums, documenting and preserving replicas of Romanian folk households, region-specific
- George Enescu National Museum
- The Romanian Peasant Museum (Muzeul Taranului Roman) – a smaller alternative to the Village Museum, it is located in the proximity of Victoriei Square and Kisselef Park, so it’s a must-have site to tick on your list
- The Old Court Museum – archeological site
- The Museum of Aviation.
A recent, fun and also educational addition is the Museum of Kitsch, wherein you’ll encounter a selection of communist-era kitsch items which were part of the mainstream, back in the day.
If what you want to visit in Romania is more than the capital city, then you may want to head to the hilly Transylvania.
And when you do that, you’ll most likely go past Brasov. However, we’d advise you don’t just ‘go past’, but rather take a whole day (at least) to explore it.
Off the top of our heads, we’d say even just for the vintage cobblestone streets set in eerie surroundings.
But this is not the only reason this ‘gateway to Transylvania’ attracts so many tourists throughout the year. Below, we’re going to list a bunch of other solid attributes of the former Saxon settlement:
- It hosts both the first school building in Romania and the most impressive Gothic cathedral in Romania – The Black Church (Biserica Neagra – 15th century).
- It lays at the bottom of a mountaineering area towered by the Tampa Mountain (960 m). Visible from across the whole city, it is also used for touristic purposes – you can enjoy a bit of hiking to the top and take the cable car from there.
- The Black Tower and White Tour (both 15th-century relics)
- Brasov has one of the narrowest street in Europe, called the String Street (Strada Sforii) and measuring 44 inches.
Surrounding Touristic Sites
Maybe the greatest aspect about Brasov is it offers much more than urban aesthetic. You can easily get from there to other fascinating places like the Bran Castle, the Rasnov Fortress, Peles Castle, the Valea Cetatii cave or the fortified churches of Prejmer and Harman (both being UNESCO sites).
Sure, the panoramic pictures can give you an idea of how aesthetically pleasing Brasov is, but it’s only until you set foot there you can truly appreciate its vibrant bohemian, yet fresh air.
This city has always been at the forefront of Romanian urban development, but it got an international reputation once it became the European Capital of Culture in 2007. Since then, it has constantly been drawing the interest and catching the eyes of travelers to Romania.
If we’re talking about the general aspect, Sibiu is somewhat similar to Brasov. The picturesque former walled Saxon city still showcases the urban structure which was representative of fortified settlements which first appeared at the borders of the Transylvania province in the 12th century.
If we speak about history, it’s worth mentioning Sibiu was a city which heavily relied on craftsmen guilds to ensure economic stability. That explains why you might spot actual craftsmen working if you take a stroll along the walls of the former fortress. They’re dressed up in Saxon folk attire and they mainly use traditional tools and methods of working wood or metals.
Besides seeing the artisans in action, there are a bunch of other sights worthy of passionate travelers’ attention.
What to Look for in Sibiu
It’s easy to get lost in Sibiu’s charming streets. However, you might as well want to jot down a few of the city’s not-to-be-missed destinations and make up a list of sites to visit:
- The Bridge of Lies – located at the edge of Small Square, it is also a great sightseeing spot for you to admire a part of the city.
- The Art Galleries of the Brukenthal National Museum – a local pride, this 18th-century art collection pertaining to Lord Brukenthal is one of the most complex and well-kept private collections in Romania.
- The Sibiu Museum of History – after its redesign a few years ago, the museum has turned into a spectacular time machine, taking visitors from pre-historic to modern times, using relics found in the surrounding areas.
- The Museum of Natural History – located in the vicinity of Huet Square (also known as The Great Square).
- Huet Square contains many Gothic buildings, of which the main one is the Evangelical Cathedral.
- The Stairs Passage – connecting the Upper Town (where the city squares are located) to the Lower Town, this staircase dates back to the 13th century. Its archways and staircases are pretty much unaltered since then, making for an ideal spot for taking panoramic photos.
- Emil Sigerus Saxon Ethnographic Museum – you’ll find this small gem inside the Small Square and we recommend you enter to have a look at the Saxon Folk Art assembled by Emil Sigerius (the most important collector of such items in Romania).
Also, if you’re headed to Sibiu during December, you’re lucky. You’ll see the beautiful Main Square turned into a cozy Christmas fare to explore at large.
Breathing Multicultural History
Sibiu is a cultural hub where the Transylvanian multiculturality is visible at each step.
So, if we talked about Saxon folk art preservation, we must also mention the Romanian heritage Sibiu is preserving.
More specifically, it’s about the Astra National Museum – an open-air museum you can see if you get a 10-minute ride from Sibiu city center to Dumbrava, a neighboring village.
The location has been chosen due to its variety of natural landscapes which are representative of the Romanian landforms (which range from delta to mountain landscape).
Thus, this setting was perfect for the large ethnological park organized according to the Romanian traditional regions, each one of them being represented by a suite of folk households preserved in their original form.
So, if you want to really get a glimpse into the Romanian roots and its ancient way of living, The Astra Museum is a must-visit.
In recent years, Cluj-Napoca has grown in popularity due to its extremely fast-paced development. Partly smart investments, partly rich academic background, Cluj is brimming with youthful energy from all across the country – and abroad.
So it’s explainable why Cluj is known for its rich cultural life and one of the most attended-to music festivals in Eastern Europe.
We’re talking about Untold Festival and Electric Castle Festival.
The former is held right in the city center and had its fourth edition this summer, while the latter can be enjoyed near the picturesque walls of Bánffy Palace.
But before having a fun night out, you can seek for one or several of the following:
- Hoia-Baciu Forest – said to have been the scene of paranormal activity, it is a well-known attraction for connoisseurs all around the world.
- The Ethnographic Museum and the Ethnological Park.
- The Museum of Pharmacy – a charming little retreat showcasing pharmacy tools and ancient cures. Also, a cellar where alchemists’ research was carried.
- Saint Michael’s Roman-Catholic cathedral – this one is hard to miss once you get to the city center. Its 80-meter high Gothic walls rise above the other historical buildings making for a quiet spot in the middle of the crowded Unirii Square.
A 30-minute ride away from Cluj will get you to Turda and its redesigned salt mine. Large, decorated in an alien-like fashion (as some call it) and having numerous health benefits, the mine offers an outstanding experience including a boat ride on the small salt lake.
One of the best-kept medieval fortified cities, Sighisoara’s uphill medieval fortress is still functional to this day, with inhabited households and a school still running.
The Citadel Clock Tower, the Vlad Dracul House or the City Museum are must-have locations. But beyond these, people love to just stroll across the citadel and breathe in the history its walls exude.
Climbing the Tower Clock and looking at the clock’s internal mechanism is a genuine ride in a time machine. Not to mention, the experience is completed right after reaching the tower top platform, from where you can have a look around the whole region surrounding the town.
Have You Decided What City You Want to Visit in Romania?
If you can’t decide between these five destinations, rest assured. You can reach several of them with the TravelMaker tours – here are our picks:
- Transylvania Break – 2 days (starts from Bucharest)
- Romania Photo Tour – 14 days (includes all the cities in this articles and many other eerie Romanian destinations worthy of seeing and photographing)
- Treasures of Romania – 9 days (this is perfect if you enjoy slow tourism)
Want to customize your Romania touristic experience? Drop us a call and see what options Travel Maker can offer you.
We hope we can deliver an unforgettable experience and a loyal picture of the best Romania has to offer.