Top 10 Attractions
The variety of the Romanian landscape, which combines high mountains with hills, plains and a unique delta, corresponds to a diversity also reflected in our customs and traditions, in our history and culture. There are not many places endowed with such a perfect combination of the beauty and the picturesque that makes a country desirable for tourists, so give up any prejudices and prepare yourself for nice surprises. Each region has its own specific, from the culinary specialities to the architectural style, from the monasteries to the museums and from the sunny seaside resorts to the modern health spas. All this diversity contributes to the preservation and valorisation of the Romanian cultural identity. Whoever is not already familiar with the country will require a good deal of time in order to fully discover all its celebrated values and beauties. Below we have tried to show you la crème de la crème of our country’s attractions, even if this represents only a small part of what you can experiment here. Trying to make a top 10 of its sights is, indeed, a hopeless exercise, as it will always exist an “and” at the end. Our advice? Visit Romania to try the complete experience!
Bucharest, Romania’s capital and most important city, is not only a major sight, but also a starting point for your trips across the country. It is worth visiting especially for its historic centre, a captivating labyrinth of narrow streets where you will find traditional restaurants, elegant stores and popular pubs which best remind us of the capital’s former nickname: “Little Paris”. If we were to paint Bucharest in different colours, corresponding to the specific of each neighbourhood, the rainbow’s colours wouldn’t be enough. From monumental buildings to imposing villas, from blocks of flats to large commercial centres and beautiful parks, there is an architectural mixture that will surely please every wanderer’s taste. An eclectic city, full of contrasts, Bucharest will surprise you, then it will disorientate you, but, at the end, it will definitely charm you.
2. Medieval Cities
During the 12th – 14th centuries, Saxon colonists came to the south of Transylvania and laid the foundations of burgs, urban settlements characteristic of medieval Central Europe (especially Germany). The fortified walls and towers and the narrow cobblestone streets with bridges and arched passages are typical for these kinds of cities. You will fall in love with the medieval atmosphere of Brașov, mainly expressed through the Gothic and Baroque architecture visible in the houses, buildings and churches. Sibiu was acknowledged as an important urban landmark of the Middle Ages and declared European Capital of Culture in 2007, mainly due to its wonderful architecture, represented by the Saxon-style red-tiled roofs of the buildings in the Old Centre. Sighișoara, the only inhabited medieval burg in Europe, is the foremost tourist attraction in Transylvania. Do not miss the local medieval art festivals, which will take you back in time to a period of tournaments and knights.
3. The Painted Monasteries of Bucovina
The history of Romania is marked by Stephen the Great, under whose reign the Moldavian religious architecture reaches full maturity. From his period date most of the painted monasteries of Bucovina, decorated in vividly coloured frescos, of Byzantine and Gothic influence. The mural painting of the whole of a church facade represented an artistic phenomenon unique in 15th-16th centuries Europe. The artists wrote with colours their own versions of history and their visions on the Bible. The elegance of the architectural forms and the richness of the interior and exterior murals are remarkable. With the monasteries’ inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage list and their integration in the tourist circuit, the visitors are offered the chance to be astonished by their unparalleled artistic beauty. Discover a world of folk tales and imagination, frescoes and icons, carvings and decorations that you will find nowhere else in the world!
4. Sun, Sand and Sea
The coast of the Black Sea is the main tourist area, considering the large number of Romanian and foreign tourists who come here to enjoy the sand and seawater. White, smooth beaches, warm water and more than 5 months of burning sun a year, doubled by good accommodation services and various free time activities, complete the image of the Romanian littoral. Apart from sunbathing and swimming, tourist can also enjoy nautical sports, such as diving, boat and water bike rides, ski jet, wind-surfing or paragliding launches. Try special balneary treatments and cures or have fun in amusement parks during the day and in clubs during the night. South of Constanța, there is a chain of wonderful resorts ideally suited for all tastes, among which Mamaia, Costinești and Vama Veche are the most popular. Whether you are the type of person who likes to stay in a luxurious hotel or you prefer to lay your tent on the beach, the Romanian seaside is the best option for you!
5. Danube Delta
At the end of its long journey through Europe, the Danube forms a true realm of waters, a landscape of unsurpassed beauty: the Danube Delta. Declared a biosphere reservation, the Danube Delta is one of the most visited UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The windings of the river merge into a network of channels and lakes guarded by dunes covered with centuries-old oaks and sub-tropical lianas, creating fabulous sceneries. Land and water, you never actually realize when one ends and the other one starts. Try travelling by boat through the thousands of channels, which will surely prove to be a wonderful experience. Crossing the Delta means entering a colourful and noisy world inhabited by a multitude of species of birds, animals and insects, some of which can only be found here. However, the Delta is a heaven not only for aquatic flora and fauna, but also for birdwatchers and fishermen. Prepare yourself for enjoying some of the best fish dishes in the world, garnished with polenta, garlic sauce and other aromatic plants which will make you lick your fingers. Literally!
6. Customs and Traditions
Few places in Europe offer such a strong connection with the religious and pagan archaic world as Romania. Each village offers us the image of a complete world, with well established values, passed down from generation to generation. “Authentic” is the adjective that best describes these parts of the country and people untouched by time and history, each with their own particularities and beliefs. The majority of the folk traditions are strictly connected to the religious calendar. Spring is the best time of the year to take part to a country-wide celebration. The biggest and most important Orthodox feast day, the Easter will give you the chance to experience the renowned hospitality of the Romanians. Accommodate in an agro-touristic pension in Maramureș and participate in the numerous Easter preparations and rituals, such as Easter egg painting (încondeiatul ouălor). Here, the folk costumes, the customs and the songs have kept the tradition unaltered for centuries. If you come here in the summer, for the feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God (August 15th), you will see long processions of children dressed in white and adults bearing church flags set off in pilgrimage to the churches. In the Rucăr – Bran, known for the ancient pastoral settlement, every year, on the last Saturday of September, you can witness the festival of the Scattering of the Sheep (Răvășitul Oilor). This is a traditional holiday symbolizing the end of the pastoral year, when the shepherds come down from the mountain and give the sheep back to their owners. Mărginimea Sibiului has become an important destination for rural tourism, as you can find here many pleasant agro-touristic pensions. Here, you will have the chance to try the authentic atmosphere and to enjoy the peasants’ hospitality, as well as to experiment the way in which they kept traditions intact. Winter is the best time to come if you want to take part in the Christmas and New Year’s customs, dotted with ancient stories and superstitions. Get ready to meet a different „goat” (Capra) or „bear” (Ursul) than you expect!
7. Castles and Palaces
Romania’s castles and palaces owe their fame to their architecture’s elegance and grace, to the spectacular landscapes of the surroundings and to the invaluable treasures they hide inside. The diverse and unique styles are combined with traditional elements that prove an impressive architectural richness. These styles range from the medieval Gothic to the Italian and German Renaissance elements, overlapped with items characteristic to the old Wallachian and Moldavian architecture of Byzantine influence. Many of these castles and palaces are true masterpieces, declared “architectonic monuments” and included on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Moreover, they are one of Romania’s major sights, attracting, annually, millions of tourists. Look for Dracula at Bran Castle, even if there’s no chance you’ll find any vampire there. Nevertheless, behind the massive entrance gate to this mysterious and fascinating world, crossed daily by hundreds of tourists, the legend is still alive. If you are more into “king-style” castles, Peleș Castle, considered to be a Versailles in miniature, will definitely deserve your thumbs up! From medieval, austere fortresses to modern, luxurious palaces, we have them all, and there is not a doubt that all of these monuments will charm you.
8. Ski resorts
The Romanian Carpathians are a paradise for skiers and winter sports enthusiasts, offering a snow cover for 100 to 120 days per year. You can choose between many ski resorts, which offer long, snowy slopes and good facilities (from cable cars to bobsleigh tracks) for skiing, snowboarding or sledding. Transylvania dominates the charts, as the longest and best equipped ski slopes are those on the Prahova Valley. If you like to end a day on the mountain with a glass of mulled wine drunk in a cosy pub and to spice up the night in a fancy club, choose Poiana Brașov or Predeal as your destination. Keep an eye on Rânca, a new resort which is catching up very fast in what regards the winter sports facilities and accommodation services, so you might just want to consider it too when you book your tickets to Romania. If your children share your passion for the mountain, let’s make a deal: you bring them here to learn how to ski and we give you the ski school, the monitors and baby-ski slopes! To all of the above, add breathtaking sceneries, good accommodations services, tasty Romanian food and a jolly atmosphere and you will have an idea of what we are talking about.
9. Wild Carpathia
Without a doubt, the Carpathian Mountains offer the most beautiful sceneries in Romania. Their geologic mosaic is expressed through spectacular gorges, caves, waterfalls and mountain peaks, all with their own legends. The national and natural parks protect some unique or endangered animals and plants species, gratifying the visitors with wonderful landscapes. The Carpathians provide many exciting opportunities for a wonderful vacation during the summer: rock climbing, hiking and other mountain sports on the cliffs, hunting in forests which are among Europe’s richest in wildlife, and fishing in the swift rivers. Adventurers will surely go for more “advanced” outdoor activities, enjoying the numerous possibilities for recreation, such as paragliding and bungee jumping. If you want something even more extreme, drive on the Transfăgărășan and Transalpina, the two imposing high altitude roads that cross the Southern Carpathians, which are the most rewarding journeys you can take in the mountains!
10. Health Spa Resorts
The Austro-Hungarians appreciated the effects of the minerals and thermal waters exploited by the Romans too, and built here the first balneary resorts in Europe. Since then, the health spas diversified and modernized, as well as their functions, services and facilities. Romania houses more than a third of Europe’s mineral waters, which are used in over 70 health spa resorts. These spas are perfect for recreation, but also for treatment, especially due to the curative properties of the waters, air and mud. Enjoy the great relaxation procedures, from massage to thermotherapy, from mud-packing to electrotherapy and many more. If you suffer from certain affections or if you are just seeking a bit of relaxation, you will find relief in Băile Herculane and Băile Olănești, which offer both treatment and additional recreational activities. Vatra Dornei is the best choice in the winter, as you can mix your cure with a bit of adrenaline, rushing down the ski slopes. If age has slowly started to take its toll, try beauty treatments with Gerovital and Aslavital, famous Romanian products which prevent premature ageing and reinvigorate the body.