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Home » Brașov: travel guide to the city and its neighborhoods

Brașov: travel guide to the city and its neighborhoods

Medieval streets, hiking and skiing in the Carpathians

Transylvania’s history reads like a hefty, multi-course meal. It’s more than a thousand years deep, and it’s been a part of all sorts of empires and kingdoms. Served as a piece of Hungary from the 11th to 16th centuries, then dished up as an autonomous principality within the Ottoman Empire, and later again as part of Hungary under the Habsburg Empire. It was only after World War I that Transylvania was plated up as part of Romania, which explains the rich Hungarian cultural seasoning found in the area and the significant Hungarian diaspora.

Transylvania? Think the snowy peaks of the Carpathians and thick forests brimming with wild critters in national parks. Think over 1400 kilometers of trekking trails like culinary pathways to explore, authentic cuisine that hums of tradition, and local markets bursting with flavor. The region’s multi-century history has left behind a complex architecture of castles and cathedrals, like dishes from different eras of gastronomy. Here, you’ll find more than 50 various festivals, like pop-up eateries, each with a different vibe. And come winter, 27 ski resorts get cooking.

You can tour Transylvania by car or public transport. Buses and electric trains are like the reliable waitstaff of the region—always there, affordable, and ready to take you to the next course of your journey. Whether it’s a weekend wandering through Brașov’s center or attending a music festival in Râșnov, or maybe a full two-week holiday exploring ancient towns and diving into day hikes in the Carpathians, Transylvania serves up a taste of Romania that might just make you want seconds. It’s a mix of the old and new, a cuisine of cultures that invites you to pull up a chair and taste what’s been cooking for centuries.

Brașov—a legacy of the Teutonic Order and Austro-Hungary

Founded in 1234 and housing over 280,000 souls, it’s a place where history meets today. The city center is a canvas painted with medieval and Austro-Hungarian brush strokes. Move away from the heart of the city, and you encounter a mix of communist-era blockhouses, juxtaposed with modern residential complexes and office spaces. It’s the kind of place that’s not afraid to wear its history on its sleeve while looking firmly forward.

Inside the Fortress

This town has its secrets. Part of its defense wall still stands, a fortress of towers from the Middle Ages. Inside the Weaver’s Bastion (Bastionul Tesatorilor), you’ll stumble upon a museum harboring artifacts from the 15th to 17th centuries, with an entry fee that’s a steal at seven lei ($1.50). The Black Tower, once white before a fire in 1649 gave it a new name and shade (though not much darker, mind you), offers a view of the Black Church and the main square. At least, it did before they closed it up for reconstruction.

Brasov has preserved part of the defense wall and towers from the Middle Ages. The black tower was white when it was built, but after a fire in 1649 it was renamed, although its color has not changed much. Photo: Whitepixels / Wikimedia.org

From the early days of the town’s history, only one fortress entrance to the old town of the 16th century has survived. It’s the Catherine Gates, named after a nearby monastery. Those four-pointed towers signify the “right of the sword”—a grim reminder of the days when execution was the punishment of choice. Needless to say, those times have passed.

The Gothic Black Church (Biserica Neagra) from 1476 lords over the city. Like the Black Tower, it earned its name after a devastating fire. But step inside, and it’s light, filled with the glow of stained glass and the haunting strains of organ music. The church is still living, still a place of worship.

The Gothic Black Church of 1476 is the main dominant feature of the city. Like the Black Tower, it got its name after a major city fire. Photo: Maria Teneva, Vlad Moldovean / Wikimedia.org

The Şchei District

Beyond the defensive wall lies the old Şchei district (Poarta Schei), a part of town that feels like a sequestered, rustic pantry, stocked with Romanian and Bulgarian diaspora back during the medieval days under Austro-Hungarian rule. Property inside the fortress wasn’t something you could just walk in and buy like today’s supermarket fare. If you didn’t live there, you’d even have to pay to get in. Think of it as a cover charge to a secret culinary club.

In 1495, this district opened the doors to the first Romanian school (Muzeul Prima Școală Românească). It was here that the Romanian language and grammar began to simmer and develop. The building now houses a museum with a blend of manuscripts, language history, and classrooms preserved with the interiors of that time. Entrance will set you back 20 lei—a fair price for a taste of literary history. Next to the school stands the oldest culinary establishment in Brașov, so to speak—the 13th-century Church of Saint Nicholas. Inside, you’ll find a collection of paintings and frescoes by renowned Romanian artist Mișu Popp and 13th-15th century icons—a veritable feast for the eyes.

The Church of St. Nicholas is the oldest church in Brasov: it was built in the 13th century. Photo: Michael Coltman / Unsplash.com

In the 19th century, the gates of Şchei (Poarta Schei) were built, connecting this district with the center, and their classical architecture harkens back to the days of Napoleon. The culinary equivalent of a fine wine paired with the right cheese. In the Old Town, there’s a narrow street, Strada Sforii, just 111 centimeters wide, where two people might find it hard to pass each other. Think of it as the East European version of a crowded kitchen during dinner rush—originally a service passage for firefighters, now a must-see landmark.

Škej Gate, connecting the district of the same name with the center, and Strada Sfori Street with a width of 111 centimeters, on which it is difficult to separate two people – it is the narrowest street in Eastern Europe

Not far from the gates stands the district’s only synagogue, built in the late 19th century. Although followers of Judaism settled in the town in the 15th century, it was only in the early 19th century that they were officially allowed to reside in Brașov—a delayed ingredient to a complex cultural recipe. The synagogue is styled in neo-Gothic architecture, laced with Moorish elements. Entrance fee is 20 lei. A fascinating fusion dish of history, architecture, and tradition.

Stylistically, the Brasov synagogue is made in neo-Gothic style with Moorish elements

Brasov’s Central Square

Piata Sfatului, is the place where all paths cross, a magnetic nexus for tourists. Historically, a market place; today, a festive ground for fairs, decorated with a Christmas tree during the winter season. There’s an odd collection of summer-veranda restaurants, a fountain, museums, monuments, all arranged haphazardly around a surprisingly triangular-shaped plaza. The surrounding facades are like an architectural tour through various epochs, culminating in the 1420’s Casa Sfatului, housing a museum replete with chambers of judgment, spots of incarceration, tortures, and the city’s twisted history. A ticket? Seven lei, a mere pittance, really. Come the weekend, trumpeters atop the City Council tower honor tradition, alerting the square to the time.

Pjata Sfatului is the central square of Brasov, the place where all tourist flows converge. Historically, the square served as the main trading place, and nowadays it hosts various fairs and festivals, as well as the Christmas tree decorations

The Mușenița Family Museum offers a glimpse of affluent 18-19th century life, complete with personal artifacts and a history rich with secret meetings for Romanian independence from Austria-Hungary. Jacob Mureșan, the family’s founder, was a political firebrand, and editor of Gazeta de Transilvania.

Move to Piata Sfantul Ioan, and you’re greeted by the city’s main murals. They splashed onto the scene in 2017, the joint enterprise of the Brasov mayor’s office, Urban Art Depot community, and the Franciscan Monastery’s Mural Art and Story project. This space is now one of the largest art objects of its kind in Romania, a creative effort to breathe life into a once overlooked square by the monastery.

In Pjata Sfintul Yoan Square, you can see the main murals of the city

Strada Republicii

Strada Republicii, a street where you can walk through time. The heart of retail, it’s a showpiece not just for what you can buy but what you can see. Back in the Middle Ages, this was the main street to hustle your wares, a pathway to the city’s gates. Despite a fiery calamity in 1689, it’s held on to its past, though dressed now in provincial baroque, like a German town’s quaint row of facades.

Strada Republich is home to the main stores, but architecturally it’s nice as well

There’s the Jekelius House at the intersection with Michael Weiss Street, where, back in 1848, Ferdinand Jekelius slapped together an apothecary that lasted a century. A storied building across the way, once held the National Bank, recently brought back from the brink of decay. The Coroana Hotel on Strada Republicii, dating from 1910, was the latest and greatest when it was slapped together.

The 16th-century Jackelius House, where Ferdinand Jackelius founded an apothecary in 1848 that operated for a century. Photo: Stefanjurca / Wikimedia.org

Tampa Mountain

Then there’s Tampa Mountain, looming like Romania’s answer to the Hollywood Hills, staring down at the city’s central square from 400 meters above. A sign spelling “Brasov” at the peak adds a touch of Tinseltown, but make no mistake, this is Transylvania’s turf. Between 1950 and 1960, they even called the city Orasul Stalin, planting trees on Tampa’s slopes to spell out “Stalin.”

Two ways up to the top. The popular and quick route? A vintage 1971 funicular, five minutes and you’re there, though sometimes you’re cooling your heels for up to 20. Twenty-five lei for a round trip, 15 for one-way. In the summer, it quits at 5 pm, winter at 4 pm, and when the weather’s foul, it doesn’t run at all.

The most popular and fastest way to get up to Tympah is the 1971 vintage cable car. Photo: Zoltan Rakottyai / Unsplash.com

The other way is to hike it, about an hour’s hustle one way. Up top, two key spots await you. One, right above the “Brasov” sign, 500 meters from the funicular stop, and the other, near the flagpole. According to the locals, these are the vantage points to capture the city at its best, weather permitting.

The second option on how to get to the top of Mount Tympa is a kilometer-long hike, it is best to budget about an hour one way

Museums and amusement

Stroll into the Art Museum, and you’ll find a kaleidoscope of 19th and 20th-century visual arts for just 50 leu ($10.71). The Museum of Communism? A time warp. Household items, newspapers, pamphlets, and even the famed “Romanian Wall Unit,” a staple in every Soviet home. A ticket? That’ll run you 35 leu ($7.50).

The Museum of the Age of Communism exhibits characteristic household items of the period, newspapers and leaflets. Photo: Museum of Communism

Kids will find their minds blown at the Interactive Science Museum. Touching isn’t just allowed; it’s encouraged. Play scientist for a day. Adult tickets at 30 leu ($6.43), kids for 20 ($4.28).

Then, there’s the zoo: a menagerie with over 100 species of animals, birds, reptiles. White Bengal and Siberian tigers, leopards, white and African lions, jaguars. Adults are 20 leu ($4.28), and kids are a steal at ten ($2.14). In the same compound, a planetarium with cosmic exhibitions. Different shows for kids and adults. Just one catch — everything’s in Romanian. Entry? 20 leu ($4.28).

The Brasov Zoo has more than 100 species of animals, birds and reptiles: white Bengal and Siberian tigers, leopard, white and African lion, jaguar. Photo: Daniela Turcanu / Unsplash.com

Need a park to stroll in? Try Nicolae Titulescu Park near the center. Near the zoo, there’s a park with a lake and adventure galore: 16 rope routes, a climbing park, zipline. Entry is a mere five leu ($1.07), activities starting from 80 ($17.14). Aquatic Paradise? That’s six indoor and one outdoor pool, water slides, a sauna, relaxation zone. Entry’s 55 leu ($11.78).

Shopping, anyone? Two major malls: AFI Brasov, a walk from the center with a picturesque terrace overlooking Mt. Tâmpa, and Coresi, bigger but out on the town’s edge. A place, a moment, a memory – that’s the city for you.

Brașov Sightseeing Map

Food

The core of this region’s cuisine? Meat, cornmeal, vegetables, and dairy, richly and unapologetically used. My top picks, you ask? Meaty bean soup in bread, grilled pork ribs with mamaliga, and the delectable dessert papanash. If you’re looking to take a taste tour, find your way to La Ceaun – two spots in the city, one gazing at the City Council, the other hidden in Strada Republicii. Want more? There’s Ograda, Bistro de l’Arte, Ursul Carpatin, Sergiana. A feast for two? Roughly 150-300 leu (32.13-(64.26USD).

The basis of the region’s cuisine is meat, corn grits, vegetables and dairy products. Photo: La Ceaun

Ah, Italy’s romance with Romania’s history post-communism. You feel it in the food. Italian dishes aren’t just done well here; they’re a local love affair. At Dei Frati, you’ll think you’ve been transported to a top Italian ristorante – reservations, an absolute must. And don’t forget Trattorian Artisan Food or Prato. One Soul? Perfect for seafood enthusiasts or celebratory dining. Dze, a Georgian joint, is a little exotic here, while Delicious Raw and Rawdia are vegan favorites. Burgers? Old Jack’s got them canonical. Roman pizza? Try Pinseria Publick.

Breakfast? Check out Book Coffee Shop, Shake Coffee, Shakespeare, La Birou, or the local chain 5 To Go. Coffee with breakfast? 30-60 leu (6.43-(12.85 USD).

For a quick bite, Luca’s bakery is famous for Romanian-style sausage in pastry and chocolate croissants. Traditional Transylvanian pastry, kurtos kalacs? Transylvania Bakery’s got them sweet, hollow, coal-cooked with toppings – classic sugar and cinnamon are the move.

Traditional Transylvania pastries kurtos kalacs (kurtos kalacs) are made at Transylvania Bakery. Photo: Transylvania Bakery

Bubble Waffles offers gigantic waffles with fillings, and along Republicii Street, ice cream spots like Velocita, Emma La Dolce, Royal Gelato beckon all year round. Craving sweets to go? Candy Cat’s the place.

And the night? It’s alive at 13 Club, a raucous rock bar with occasional concerts. Berăria Poftă sau Foame brews its beer, Deane’s is your classic Irish pub, and Piana Vyshnia is known for its cherry liqueur (hint’s in the name). Tipografia’s a decent all-rounder. If you’re daring, take a stab at palinca (plum brandy) or tzuika (apple brandy). In this city, every meal’s an experience, a taste of history, culture, and downright hedonism. It’s a place where flavors and stories linger, long after the plates are cleared. Enjoy, fellow traveler.

Piana Vyshnia is known for their cherry pours. Photo: Piana Vyshnia

Where to Stay

Centrally located neighborhoods, or the nearby Schei and Brașovechi areas, are the most convenient places to stay in Brașov.

The majority of the city’s hotels are mid-range three-star establishments. From the traditional Bella Muzica and modern classic Residence Hirscher to the stylish Belfort, scenic Kolping, and cozy Casa Chitic, there’s a broad selection. Radisson Blu Aurum stands as one of the few chain hotels in Brașov. For a minimalist, contemporary design, you can opt for Qosmo, but note that it’s a 15-minute drive from the center. Smaller boutique options include the modern Kronwell, historical Vila Katharina, and Golden Time Hotel.

In Brasov, it is most convenient to live in the central district or in the neighboring ones – Skjei and Brasoveki. Photo: Sebastian Dumitru / Unsplash.com

Budget travelers may consider hostels like Secret, where a night in a six-bed room costs around 95 leu (20.35 USD), Jugendstube from 80 leu (17.14 USD), or Centrum House, even more affordable at 65 leu (13.92 USD) per night.

If you prefer Airbnb, ensure that the property has heating. Winters can get chilly with sub-zero temperatures, and the shoulder seasons tend to be damp with plenty of precipitation. Good apartments start from 250 leu (53.55 USD) per day. Many central apartments come with historical interior details, at least in the entryway, providing an authentic touch to your stay.

Resort Towns and Skiing Slopes in Transylvania’s Enigmatic Arms

The Southern Carpathians, or as they prefer to be called, the Transylvanian Alps, hold court in Transylvania. A place where you can wash down a day of soaking in medieval architecture with a stiff shot of mountain hiking. Near Brașov, you find resorts and ski trails of varied challenge levels, going as high as 2011 meters. From December to April, it’s the snow’s dominion; in the warmer months, the Carpathians dare you to hike their unpredictable paths.

Poiana Brașov

10 kilometers from Brașov

Poiana Brașov is the closest to Brasov and the most popular ski resort in the country. This is where the alpine action is at 24 kilometers of slopes, elevations up to 1800 meters, and trails that lure beginners into thinking skiing’s a breeze. Ski-lifts go from dawn till the neighbors complain, and floodlights at night keep things interesting. Day ski-pass is an affordable sum; for six days, it’s still a fair shake. Season? Early December to April.

Poiana Brasov is the closest to Brasov and the most popular ski resort in the country. There are 24 kilometers of slopes with an altitude of up to 1800 meters and several dozen hiking trails for trekking. Photo: Muntean Liviu-Nicoale / Unsplash.com

The accommodation game here ranges from the grand Teleferic Grand Hotel to the glitzy Aurelius Împăratul Romanilor. Looking for some budget-friendly stays near the slopes with those coveted indoor pools? Give Denisa and Rizzol a look. They’ll do you right. Want something with charm, but not keen on a pool? Casa Emil’s got your back. Many travelers, pinching pennies during the season, opt to bunk in Brașov and make the quick less-than-half-an-hour jaunt to the resort by city bus or car. No fuss, no frills.

And when the hunger kicks in, the rumble for authentic Romanian fare, there’s a table waiting at Stâna Turistică Sergiana, Șura Dacilor, or Coliba Haiducilor. Live national music on certain nights adds the finishing touch to the feast.

You can dine on Romanian dishes at Stâna Turistică Sergiana, Șura Dacilor and Coliba Haiducilor

Predeal

30 kilometers from Brașov

Predeal it’s smaller, quieter, and ideal for those who seek solace with their skiing. A modest 7.5 kilometers of trails, a couple of lifts. In Predjel, you won’t find bustling promenades filled with shops and restaurants. No, this place is different. It’s where the action circles around the slopes and hotels, an arena reserved for those craving a quieter, more contemplative retreat. Looking for the right spot to lay your head? Consider the Rozmarin, Eden Grand Resort, or Pensiunea Hilltop. They’re not the noisy heart of the city; they’re an escape.

Bușteni

40 kilometers from Brașov

Busteni Resort is the runt of the litter when it comes to the length of its trails, but don’t let that fool you. Nestled at the foothills of the picturesque Bucegi Mountains, its surrounding landscapes set it apart, creating a dramatic backdrop that distinguishes this town from the rest. With two lifts and three kilometers of trails, it’s the ski enthusiast’s underdog.

But there’s more to Busteni than the slopes. When the snow’s gone, it’s hiking boots and explorations, and you’ll want to take in the Caraiman Monastery and the neoclassical Cantacuzino Castle from the early 20th century, a structure with a story, built for Romanian Prince Gheorghe Cantacuzino, even making a cameo in the TV series ‘Wednesday’. Admission? 55 lei (11.78 USD).

Cantacusino Castle made it into the Wansday series as part of the Nevermore Academy. Photo: Сantacuzinocastle.com

And if you’re looking for a night’s rest, part of that castle’s been turned into a hotel, with interiors that hark back to the late 19th century. A double room will set you back 160 euros (170.55 USD) a night for two. Or for a group, you might opt for the separate hunting lodge at 260 euros (277.14 USD) a night. If the castle’s full, Suru and Margaritar are waiting in the wings. Dining? It’s an intimate affair here, with most restaurants housed within hotels and guesthouses. Options? Try La Cerdac or Casa Magica. Busteni’s a small package, but like a well-crafted dish, it’s layered with flavors and surprises.

Sinaia

50 kilometers from Brasov

A chill in the air, a snow-covered hill, and a town hidden like a jewel among the Carpathians – welcome to Sinaia, Romania’s most fabled winter sports destination, a mere stone’s throw from Brasov. With 12 ski lifts and over 20 kilometers of groomed trails, a single trip down the slopes hits you with the exhilarating rush of life at 2000 meters.

A hundred years ago, this was where royalty kicked off their boots and gathered around roaring fireplaces. Peleș Castle, standing with regal grace, stands testimony to those days, a cocktail of eclectic, alpine chalet architecture with electric vibes – the world’s first electrified castle, mind you.

Peleș Castle is eclectic with elements of an Alpine chalet, and it was the world’s first electrified castle

A fusion of wood and stone gives it its mystique, and stepping inside, you’re bombarded with wood carvings, paintings, sculptures. More than 4000 pieces of weapons and armor watch you from the walls, a silent guard over the 168 rooms, of which 35 are open to all and sundry. The garden’s a gentle symphony of sculptures, fountains, and mountain vistas. The castle’s free to gawk at; an entry will set you back 50 leu.

Inside the castle there is a lot of carved wood, paintings, sculptures. Photo: Hongbin / Unsplash.com

The royal presence lent Sinaia its status as the country’s most fashionable resort. The early 20th century left a mark here – the train station from 1913 built just for the royals, the former Sinaia Casino, oozing classic grandeur, historical hotels Caraiman and Palace, and over a hundred villas, aging gracefully or abandoned to add a touch of atmospheric ruin. The 15th-century Sinaia Monastery and Stirbey Castle with its own museum deserve a visit. And, the cherry on top – the chance to sleep in a real castle at a small local inn.

Sinaia isn’t just about grandeur; it’s a place to eat, too. For a bite to grab, you’ve got La Roq, Crama Sinaia, Bistro La Teleferic, Hungarian place Alex, or Umami Burgers for a chunky patty, and La Cafenea or Caramello for dessert. Accommodations are aplenty – the vintage Caraiman and Palace, or modern and sleek like Sinaia, Carpathia Sinaia, International, and Regal Sinaia.

The Caraiman Hotel in Sinai is housed in a historic building

Râșnov – Rock Festival and Cave Concerts

20 kilometers from Brasov

A little farther out, you hit Râșnov. It’s got its own ‘Hollywood sign,’ a vestige of the 14th-century knights, and the Râșnov Fortress perched high, a defense against nomadic marauders. A climb or a funicular ride (12 leu) leads you up. It’s under restoration (till 2024), but you can still wander the grounds.

The main attraction of Rysznowy is the fortress located on a rocky hilltop. Photo: Pudelek / Wikimedia.org

Five kilometers off, “Valea Cetății” cave opens its maw. Discovered in 1949, it’s a natural amphitheater where the Brasov Philharmonic echoes in primordial harmony. Entry is 20 leu.

Râșnov’s rock festival – Rockstadt Extreme Fest, in August (2–6 August 2023), is a roaring call to the metal and rock faithful. This year’s headliners? Deicide, Agnostic Front, Dropkick Murphys, Infest, Eyehategod, Mayhem, Obituary, Soulfly.

For the younglings, there’s Dino Parc with dino replicas, right by the fortress – 42 leu.

The annual major rock festival Rockstadt Extreme Fest takes place in Rysznow at the beginning of August. Photo: Rockstadt Extreme Fest

Bran’s Dracula Castle

30 kilometers from Brașov

Bran Castle, where the imagination of Bram Stoker summoned the legendary Dracula to life. Allegedly, this ancient fortress was once the residence of Vlad the Impaler, the 15th-century ruler of Wallachia, infamous for his bloodthirsty tortures, thus earning the name Dracula. Now, the evidence shows he never lived there, nor even visited, but that’s beside the point. With 57 rooms mostly flaunting recreated interiors, filled with a collection of knight’s armor, utensils, and treasures, the castle stands atop a mountain, a perfect vantage point. The views of the Carpathians? Stunning. From the 19th century to 1938, the castle was a royal residence. Entry? 45 lei (9.64 USD).

The famous Bran Castle inspired Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula. Photo: Elisa Photography / Unsplash.com

Covasna

60 kilometers from Brașov

Covasna, part of Transylvania, soaked with Hungarian ethnicity, framed by stunning nature and intriguing spots.

A bison reserve — home to Europe’s last wild bulls, teetering on the edge of extinction. Along with bison, deer, mountain goats, horses, and peacocks. Entry is ten lei (2.14 USD), and you can buy feed for the creatures.

A bison reserve in Kovasna holds Europe’s last wild bulls, which are on the brink of extinction. Photo: Bison reserve

Gastro Local — a network of homey restaurants run by locals. Using local farm products, the menu shifts daily. Among them is Anca Vlad Vama-Buzaului’s restaurant, operated by a bright and hospitable owner. The daily spread? Soup, entrée, dessert. The drinks? Homemade wines, compotes, cherry liqueur for aperitif. The interior? Traditional, with various everyday objects. Delicious, authentic, soulful. The awards, seemingly surprising, but after a visit, doubt their merit you won’t.

Gastro Local is an association of home restaurants run by local people. They use local farm products for cooking and mostly operate without a permanent menu. Photo: Gastro Local

The region’s ready for hiking, brimming with vantage points and waterfalls (like the Screaming Waterfall and Pruncea Waterfall). All Trails gathers all the hike-routes. For a deeper plunge into local color, opt for a guesthouse (Gospodaria lui Nea Ion). For tenters or RVers, decent campgrounds await, like Festung and glamping spot Spiritul Zimbrului.

Bucegi National Park

70 kilometers from Brașov

Up in the Bucegi mountain range lies a national park, a hiker’s paradise, a landscape that’d make you believe in something bigger. It’s the kind of place I’d want to explore, boots on, backpack ready.

Ialomita Cave, a main attraction, sits at 1560 meters above sea level. Spanning 1208 meters, with 408 accessible to those who dare, it offers massive halls, dramatic height variations, and a river running through it. Deep inside, a powerful waterfall roars. A monastery stands at the entrance, monks use the cave’s first hall for their services. To enter this surreal underworld? Ten lei (2.14 USD).

Jalomica Cave is 1,208 meters long, but only 408 of them are accessible to visitors. Photo: Andrei R. Popescu / Unsplash.com

Dozens of trails can be explored at komoot.com. Among the rocky formations, the Babel stone monument and the Bucegi Sphinx stand as silent sentinels. For the less adventurous, there’s a cable car – though you’ll wait, it runs every half an hour, and the price is steep, 160 lei (34.27 USD). On foot, the ascent to these wonders takes about an hour and a half.

The park isn’t just a day trip. Stay a while, take in the multi-day hikes. Belmont, a stylish hotel with a pool and street Jacuzzi, offers views of the mountains that make you wish to linger forever. Pestera, most convenient for hiking, closest to the slope and trail’s start. Chalet Alpina, a guesthouse with a chalet style, peers out over the mountains.

And there it is, a haven for wanderers, a feast for the eyes, a place where nature shows off its grandeur. You hike, you breathe, you live. You have dinner under the stars, a simple meal tasting like a Michelin feast after a day of adventure. You’re alive, and all’s right with the world.

There is a national park in the Buceji mountain range, a great place for hiking. Photo: Tiia Monto / Wikimedia.org

What to Bring Back from the Journey

Ah, the spoils of travel. That tangible bit of the exotic, the flavorful, the beautiful that you can bring home to friends, family, or just to remind yourself that once, you were somewhere else.

How about some cașcaval, a homemade cheese from sheep or cow’s milk? They even smoke it if you like, making cașcaval afumat. There’s also the sheep’s cheese brânză de burduf – rustic, flavorful, real.

You might prefer something from the carnivore’s side of the aisle. Homemade salami or smoked meat (muschi file) perhaps? These are flavors that are old, honest, and steeped in tradition.

A jar of craft jam, maybe from lilacs, because why should your palate ever become complacent?

A bottle of Romanian wine. Or a hit of the hard stuff, a powerful tsuica or palinka, fruit moonshine, that’ll warm you through the winter or remind you of those warm Carpathian nights.

Jewelry crafted by local artisans, made with semi-precious stones like sodalite or rhodochrosite. Small pieces of art to wear.

Decorative items from the unique Horezu pottery. It’s a style, a statement, the bright shades of brown, red, green, blue, and what’s called “Horezu ivory.” This is not just pottery; this is place and history in tangible form.

Horezu – decorative items made of unique Romanian ceramics. Photo: Bogdan29roman / Wikimedia.org

Buy them. Take them with you. They’re not just souvenirs; they’re pieces of a world that you’ve touched, tasted, and lived, even if only for a little while. In a far-off land, in a time that’s beginning to blur, you sat down at a table, you walked through a market, you met people who weren’t that different from you. You were alive in Romania. And now, these little things, these flavors, these textures, these memories, they’ll keep that world alive for you.

Transport

The region’s got a bus network that’s more than passable, and there’s something endearing about those electric trains. If you’re without wheels, it’s still no biggie getting around, particularly if you’re holed up in Brașov. The bus to Bran? Every hour on the hour, a 50-minute ride, and it’ll set you back a mere eight lei (1.71 USD) – the schedule’s online, if you’re that way inclined. To Poiana Brașov, you’re looking at a bus every half hour, 20 minutes on the road, five lei (1.07 USD). To Râșnov, 25-minute ride every 20 minutes, five lei (1.07 USD). For Predeal, Bușteni, and Sinaia, the trains have you covered – 30 to 70 minutes. Fares are downright reasonable, from five lei (1.07 USD) depending on how you roll.

But, if you’re itching to really explore the guts of the region, nothing beats a good old-fashioned car. Rental’s gonna cost you from 20 euros (21.32 USD) a day, depending on what you’re driving and when you’re doing the driving. Roads are in good nick, drivers aren’t out for blood, and gas is only six lei (1.29 USD) a liter. It’s a landscape that almost begs to be driven, so why not throw caution to the wind, get behind the wheel, and let the road take you where it will?

Renting a car will cost from 20 euros per day depending on the car, rental period and season. Photo: Theo Onic / Unsplash.com

Tips

Money and Travel Costs

The local currency is Romanian leu. Euros will do the trick if you’re looking to swap currencies. Credit and debit cards are taken almost everywhere. A meal’s going to cost you between 80-120 lei ($17.14–25.70), a hotel stay starts at 200 lei ($42.84), apartments – from 170 lei ($36.41), and hostels at 60 lei ($12.85) per head.

Language

The region speaks Romanian, but you’ll find a high percentage of Hungarians in some towns and villages, chattering away in Hungarian. English? Better here than most of Eastern Europe, especially if you’re mixing with the tourist crowd.

Communication

5G’s connection’s good. My advice is grab a Vodafone SIM. Other operators not exactly rolling out the welcome mat for foreigners. The cost for a SIM card with minutes and internet? About 25 lei (5.35 USD). Easiest option is to buy esim like Airalo.

How to Get There

By Plane. Transylvania hosts a few international airports: Sibiu, Cluj-Napoca, and Târgu Mureș. Mainly connected with European cities, you can catch flights from Italy (Milan, Venice, Naples, Rome), Budapest, London, France (Paris, Lyon, Nice), Germany (Berlin, Dortmund, Nuremberg), and over 15 more countries. Low-cost fares start from 15 euros ($15.99) one way per person. The country’s primary airport is in Bucharest.

By Bus. Buses run both from central Bucharest and directly from Otopeni Airport. It’s around two hours of travel, and tickets cost from 90 lei ($19.28). You can check the schedule and buy tickets on autogari.ro.

By Train. There are two classes of trains on this route: IR (InterRegio) takes two and a half hours, and R (Regio) takes three and a half hours. IR tickets are from 40 lei ($8.57), and R from 24 lei ($5.14). Tickets and schedule are available on the Romanian railways website.

There’s a direct train from Budapest to Brașov, running twice daily, 13 hours in travel, and tickets start at 100 lei (21.42 USD), available for purchase via link. A daily direct bus from Sofia to Bucharest takes about ten hours, costing from 75 lei (16.06 USD), available on the bus company’s website. A direct bus from Chisinau to Brașov runs four times a week, seven hours in travel, and costs from 50 lei (10.71 USD), tickets are sold on Chisinau’s bus station website.

From Budapest there is a direct train to Brasov, it runs twice a day, 13 hours on the way, the ticket costs from 100 lei

When to go

Well, it depends on what you’re after. For snowboarding, think mid-December to March. That’s the season. Hiking? Summer’s your time, from June through August. But if you prefer fewer tourists, try May or September to October. It’s all about finding the right time for the right adventure.

Cover: Maria Teneva

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