The best places to visit in Romania, from wooden churches to medieval castles
There are so many touristic attractions and places to visit in Romania that it’s impossible to see them all. This is why we decided to put together a list of some of the best touristic hotspots in Romania, so you’ll be prepared for when you arrive. Here are some of the sights that we encourage you to visit.
Places to visit in Moldova & Bukovina
The Painted Monasteries of Bukovina
The 8 Painted Churches were built between 1487 and 1583, and they have been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site ever since 1993. The first person to start building some of the stunning monasteries that we find today in the region of Bukovina is Stephen the Great. Throughout his life, he built an approximate number of 40 churches, and many of them were built to celebrate his victories against the Ottoman Empire. But the one who thought about painting the monasteries wasn’t Stephen the Great, but his son, Petru Rares.
The most beautiful of the Bukovina’s painted churches is, by far, Voronet. Often referred to as “The Sistine Chapel of the East”, Voronet Monastery was established in 1488 by Stephen the Great, and it was constructed over a period of 3 months and 3 weeks in order to celebrate the victory at the Battle of Vaslui. One of the most astounding things about Voronet is the fact that its murals were painted in a unique shade of blue. Known in Romania as “Voronet blue”, the composition of the color was lost, and nobody managed to reproduce the exact shade so far.
Known as “The Cultural Capital of Romania” Iasi is the second-largest city in Romania, after Bucharest. It is a true symbol of Romanian history, and here you will find the oldest Romanian university and the first Romanian engineering school. The city features historical monuments, churches, and monasteries that are more than 500 years old, as well as modern buildings that feature contemporary architecture.
The landmark of the city is by far the Palace of Culture, which houses the Moldavia National Museum Complex and the Cultural Heritage Conservation-Restoration Center. Its construction started in 1906, and its architecture includes numerous representations of the gothic bestiary, such as two-headed eagles, dragons, griffons, and lions. The Palace of Culture has a total of 298 rooms, it features a Clock Tower with a beautiful legend.
Besides the Palace of Culture, Iasi has numerous other landmarks that can make for an amazing experience, such as the Botanical Garden, the “Vasile Alecsandri” National Theatre, and the “Gheorghe Asachi” Technical University Library.
The Bicaz Gorge
The Bicaz Gorge is part of the Cheile Bicazului-Hasmas National Park, and it is located in the Neamt and Harghita counties. The gorge was created by the waters of the Bicaz River, which for thousands of years carved into the mountain to create the path that exists today. It now serves as a passageway between the historic regions of Moldova and Transylvania.
The 8-kilometer road makes for one of the most spectacular drives in Romania, and it is often in serpentines, with mountain walls on both sides of the road. The area is widely popular for rock climbing, hiking, and trekking, and during the summer season, thousands of tourists visit the area. Inside the Bicaz Gorge, you will also find Lacul Rosu, situated at an altitude of 980 meters.
Places to visit in Transylvania
Peles Castle is one of the most exquisite touristic attractions in Romania, boasting a fabulous architecture and a valuable cultural heritage. Nestled within the majestic Carpathian Mountains, Peles is a very important museum that houses a vast collection of arms, armor, and art pieces.The best known is the Great Armoury Room, hosting 4000 exhibits – weaponry that was collected or received as a gift from the four corners of the world.
Peles Castle was built under the reign of King Carol I of Romania, who commissioned its construction in 1873. Peles was the first fully electrified castle in the world, and over the years it was visited by numerous artist and renowned persons, such as Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Muammar Gaddafi, and Yasser Arafat.
If there is one location that shouldn’t miss from our list of places to visit in Romania, that’s Bran Castle. Located in the village of Bran, close to the medieval city of Brasov, this majestic structure is usually regarded as the home of the famous character brought to life by Bram Stoker, Dracula. But in fact, its history is much more intriguing.
Bran Castle was built in the 14th century by the Saxons of Transylvania, and it served as an important defensive position against the Ottoman Empire. The heavily fortified castle also guarded the main trading route between Wallachia and Transylvania, and it helped improve the relations and the economies of both regions. Vampire stories aside, Bran Castle remains a site worth visiting for its history, as well as for its influence on the lives of those who have crossed its threshold.
Located in the Hunedoara county, Corvin Castle is the largest medieval castle in Romania. It was constructed during the 15th century at the order of John Hunyadi, the King of Hungary. This majestic castle is split into 3 large areas, and it was initially designed as a defense fortress and a prison.
One legend claims that this is the place where Vlad the Impaler was imprisoned for several years, although there is no official source to support it.
Alba Carolina Fortress
The Alba Carolina Fortress is the largest citadel in Romania, and it was built in the first half of the 18th century. Previously, the site was home to two other fortifications, the Roman Castle of Legio XIII Gemina, and to the Bălgrad Medieval Citadel.
Today, the Alba Carolina Fortress became one of the main attractions of the Alba Iulia county, by providing a unique historical and medieval ambiance.
The history of the city that we know today begins in the 12th century when the King of Hungary invited German craftsmen and merchants to settle in Transylvania and to help defend the borders of the realm. The settlement quickly became one of the most important strategic and commercial centers at the edges of Central Europe, with the German artisans and craftsmen dominating the urban economy and fortifying the city constantly. Estimates say that during the 16th and 17th centuries, Sighisoara had as many as 15 guilds and 20 handicraft branches. After World War I ended, Sighisoara passed together with the rest of Transylvania to the Kingdom of Romania.
The city center has preserved in excellent conditions the features of a small medieval fortified city, and UNESCO listed it as a World Heritage Site in 1999. Today, the city is home to the last inhabited fortress in Europe, the Sighisoara Medieval Citadel.
Turda Salt Mine
Known as Salina Turda, the salt mine is located in a village near Cluj, and it is home to a stunning underground theme park built inside one of the oldest salt mines in the world. Dug in the salt deposits of Transylvania more than 13 million years ago, this site was used for salt mining for hundreds of years.
Inside, you will find an amphitheater, you can play bowling, mini golf, or ping pong, ride the Ferris wheel, and even take a boat ride on the lake. Besides providing numerous ways to have fun, the theme park also has extraordinary curative properties, especially for the respiratory system, and it is equipped with several treatment rooms.
Places to visit in Maramures
Located in the village of Sapanta, the Merry Cemetery is famous for its colorful tombstones and naïve humorous paintings. The tombstones of those who are buried here depict moments from their lives, and over the years the cemetery became an open-air museum and a national tourist attraction. It is believed that this place has Dacian origins, mainly because in Dacian culture death was considered a moment of joy because a person’s soul will enjoy a better and eternal life.
The cemetery was founded by Stan Ioan Patras, a local craftsman and artist, who carved the first epitaph in 1935.
Wooden churches of Maramures
As Bukovina has its Painted MonastMaramureso Maramures has its Wooden Churches. These amazing wooden constructions perfectly represent the craftsmanship and dedication of the Romanian people. They were built and narrow, with slim clocks at the western side of the building. There are 8 Wooden Churches included in the UNESCO Patrimony, and their construction began in the 17th century and lasted until the late 19th century. They were built as a reaction to the prohibition against the erection of stone Orthodox churches by the Catholic Austro-Hungarian authorities.
One of the best known wooden church is Barsana, officially named the Church of the Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple. It was built in 1720, and it features some of the most representative Baroque murals in Maramures.
Others places to visit in Romania
The Danube Delta is yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is part of the Man and the Biosphere Program. It is the largest and best-preserved delta in Europe, and it forms a natural border between Romania and Hungary. From a touristic point of view, the place is very popular and it provides countless opportunities for exploration and sightseeing. Bird watchers would definitely enjoy admiring the majestic paradise of beautiful birds. There are over 300 species of migratory and local birds, including geese, cranes, egrets, vultures, pelicans and graceful swans.
Bucharest has been Romania’s capital city ever since 1862, and it is the center of Romanian culture and art. It is a city that perfectly mixes the elements of the interbellum and communist periods with today’s modern architecture.
Oftentimes called “Little Paris”, Bucharest can charm you with its variety of landmarks, varying from impressive buildings such as the Palace of the Parliament, the Stravopoleos Church, or the Romanian Athenaeum, to natural and traditional reservations such as Herestrau Park, the Village Museum, and the Grigore Antipa National Museum.
The Transfagarasan is one of Romania’s most exceptional roads, and it can be found in the Southern Carpathians. Breathtaking views and unique experiences are all within reach for those that get a chance to travel across this magnificent road. This spectacular route takes the traveler on a 92-kilometer journey through nature reserves, around a massive artificial lake, under waterfalls, through tunnels, to the top of the mountain, at an altitude of 2042 m, on the shore of the Balea Lake.