Traversing the Best of Transylvania in One Day

ONE DAY IN TRANSYLVANIA

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?

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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 spending one day in 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Have you ever visited Transylvania? Is it on your list of destinations to make it to one day? 

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Beautiful Places to Visit in Bucharest

WHAT TO SEE IN BUCHAREST 

Recently, I flew to Bucharest for a few days to speak at Digitalium, a digital marketing conference.

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I’d heard Bucharest wasn’t a city for ‘lazy sightseers’ – that you had to dig to find the hidden gems. 

With only a few hours to wander the city, I had a few spots on my list of places to see, and decided to use any free time as a means to explore at leisure. 

Albeit I didn’t see much of the city, I love what I did see. Sure, it may lack the polished grandeur or historical quaintness of other European capitals, but there’s something to be said for places you have to look below the surface. 

Explore beyond what’s in plain sight and you’ll discover cozy cafes, garden spaces for sipping coffee and tons of great place to grab a drink or charming alleyways worthy of a stroll down.

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These are a few of my favourite finds while wandering Bucharest.

What to see in Bucharest: 

Stroll Old Town: Lipscani, Bucharest’s Old Town, has plenty of shops and restaurants to choose from. Plus, winding narrow streets, aged cobblestone and charming crumbling facades 

Pasajul Macca: A picturesque passageway in the heard of Old Town with lots of cafes and shisha places to enjoy 

Pasajul Vilacrosse: Nearby Vilacrosse, this passageway is known for its bright, rainbow umbrellas. A quick photo opp in the morning hours- at night, I’ve heard the passageway really jumps to life

Carturesti Carusel: A beautiful bookstore with lovely, quiet cafe on the top floor 

Relax in a lovely cafe: There are plenty to choose from- my favourite find was the Van Gogh Grand Cafe (colourful tribute to a painter I enjoy), and M60 for their cold brew 

Bonus: I was fortunate to be a guest at the semi-annual Portobello Straddle, Bucharest’s chic street festival. A tribute to urban lifestyle, Portobello is frequented by trendsetters and public figures in fashion, architecture, art, food and music. Really dug observing the festival and its vibes for a few hours on my first night in the city. A great way to really get a feel for local culture. Afterwards, we had dinner at Caju, which was excellent – think Eastern European + Mediterranean. 

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Hoping I make it back to Bucharest one day to see more of the city.

Have you ever been? What recommendations would you give to someone visiting for the first time?

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