Romania isn’t usually the first country travellers think of when envisioning Europe.
Talk to anyone from the States about Romania, and you’re likely to cue images of dark, spooky villages. Can you blame us with the legend of Dracula being so prominent in culture?
In Bucharest for a few days early October to speak at a conference, I was excited to explore a new city and intrigued by the prospect of visiting Transylvania.
Post-conference, I decided to stay in Romania for another day and started to look at the possibility of doing a day trip to Transylvania. Many of the blog posts and guided tour reviews I read advised against trying to do it in a single day- they warned of long queues on country roads and excessively long drives between each destination.
In retrospect, I’m glad I did it- enjoyed being able to see more of Romania. But, if I had the choice of doing it again or spending the extra day in Bucharest to see more of the city, I’d without question spend it in Bucharest.
For what was advertised as a 12 hour tour, the actuality was closer to 16 hours. And, even though there was a lot of time spent on a bus, getting back very late (after 10:30 pm) to the city and having a 6 am flight to Tel Aviv meant I was incredibly exhausted for the next leg of my trip.
If you’re determined to see some of Transylvania and don’t have the time, a guided tour like the one I did may be suitable- but, make sure you know what you’ll be getting into. And, if you can spare the time in your travel plans, I’d take the train from Bucharest to Brasov and make that your home base to explore for a few days.
Spending a few more days in Transylvania will ease the pace of your trip, and give you time to see additional places, like Busteni, Sighisoara and Sibiu.
Whether you’re short on time or have a few days, don’t miss these three wonderful things in Transylvania:
Peles Castle: Hailed as one of the most beautiful castles in Romania, the former residence of the kings of Romania doesn’t disappoint. Located in Sinaia, this was our first stop of the day.
The castle itself and its decor makes the stop worth a visit. And, the stunning surrounding countryside cements the castle as a must-visit- especially on a beautiful autumnal day.
Bran Castle: Set upon a 200 foot hill, Bran was made famous by Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Interestingly, Bram never actually visited Bran, but it’s said to be the only castle in all of Transylvania that fits his description of the castle in his novel. Folklore is boosted by Vlad the Impaler’s tangential associations to the castle as well (even though Dracula was a fictional character).
The castle is fairly bare, some of the rooms were empty on our visit, but the entire place was decorated for Halloween, which was a nice touch. We spent about an hour in the castle, and then explored the small town below before hopping back on the bus. The town isn’t much to see, but there is good food if you’re craving a snack.
Brasov: An adorable town, there’s plenty to explore whether you spend one day or a few here. Don’t miss Old Town Square with its old, restored buildings, The Black Church, the largest gothic church in Romania, or the huge Hollywood-like sign perched on the mountain above town.
With so many pretty pastel houses and trendy cafes, it’s no wonder I enjoyed Brasov. If you’re in need of coffee while visiting, check out Ted’s Coffee Co- great lattes.
Have you ever visited Romania? Is it on your list of destinations to make it to one day?
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