Romania Travel Guide
🗝️ Key Facts
💶Currency: Romanian Leu (RON)
🕙Time Zone: +2 GMT
📞Phone Code: +40
✈️Best time to visit: September to November
🍷Drink: Tuicã (plum brandy)
🗺️Don't miss: "Dracula's Castle"
🗺 Menu of Contents:
Romania is often characterised by dark forests, medieval villages, and gothic castles, which often can escape the itineraries of many travellers coming to Europe. However Romania is very worthy to plan a visit and explore its seven UNESCO-listed monuments, magnificent landscapes, as well as a vivid culture!
The country has slowly emerged from the effects of repression under communism, and is rapidly regaining its identity as a popular tourist destination with plenty to offer the international traveller. Especially it saw the market flourish in 2007, when Romania was officially included in the European Union.
Exploring Romania is certainly rewarding, with the names of attractions alone evoking a certain charm, like Transylvania, the literary home of mythical monsters.
The country's geography is diverse: from mountains, rolling hills, and rural farmlands to white sandy beaches and resorts along the Black Sea Coast. Dotting the natural landscape are rustic villages where local people live much as they have done for the past 100 years. There is an abundance of religious architecture, with ancient churches and cities bursting with history. The capital Bucharest, is re-inventing itself, its damaged architecture slowly being restored to its original glory. It has elegant restaurants, a revitalised nightlife, and cultural attractions that are becoming integral to its new image.
The mix of quaint medieval towns and castles and the diverse rural landscape seemingly untouched by modern history, offers a fascinating scenery to photograph. Romania appeals to visitors because it is so unique: it has one foot firmly placed in the past, while the other is going forward in an effort to keep up with the progress of the modern world.
Romania has enjoyed a healthy boost in services to and from its main cities thanks to its integration into the European Union in 2007. Getting there by bus, train and plane are the most common ways of transport.
Many Romanians have also emigrated to various European countries, including Spain, Italy, Germany or the United Kingdom, making it specially popular to fly from these countries to not only Bucharest, the capital, but to other major cities.
Flying to Romania is the best option, as it's location in southern Europe makes it a 2 or 3 hour flight from Western Europe. The national airline is TAROM Romanian Airlines, which reaches most European capitals and Mediterranean hotspots. It also worth checking if you coming from Tel Aviv, Amman, Beirut or Istanbul. Alternatively, for cheaper fares and using low cost airlines it's easy to reach Romania with Wizzair, Ryanair or Blue Air.
Direct long haul flights have been axed in the last years, meaning that i you are coming from USA or Asia you will need to get a connecting flight via a European Capital or middle eastern city to reach Bucharest.
There is also heavy demand to travel the long distance by bus, from cities like Berlin, Paris, Madrid or even London, to Bucharest. This is because of the lower quality of life in Romania and many people opting to travel on a tight budget and taking ample heavy luggage. Not really the best idea considering the trip can take up to 48 hours to complete. For more information visit Eurolines.
Once in the country, moving around the big cities is easy by public transport (metro, busses and trams), however smaller cities and towns rely only busses or trains. The transport infrastructure is somewhat old fashioned and in need of repair and replacement, but as with the integration to the European Union, services are getting adapted and improved in coming years.
It's geographical position makes it a country with big differences when it comes to climates. Summer's are a popular time to go to Romania (June to September) but heat is intense and temperatures reaching as high as 35 °C! The best time to visit Romania is during the Autumn (September to November) for autumn colours, pleasant temperatures plus an abundance of mushrooms in the forests. Spring is also good to visit for the blossoming of flowers and strong green colours to be seen in the countryside. Winter's are harsh in the northern part of the country, often temperatures getting to below 0 °C! But in the south it can be still nice to visit during this time, as the Mediterranean Sea acts as a barrier to the cold winds from the north. Take waterproof gear if you are visiting during most of the year (except Summer) as it can rain often and during whole days at times.
Romanian cuisine is a mix of different cultural influences, with influences from Turkey, Germany and Hungary Traditionally, Romanian food tends to be meat-based. Breakfasts almost always include eggs, either softboiled, hard-boiled, fried or scrambled, and omelettes filled with either cheese, ham or mushrooms are also frequently served. The highlight of a traditional Romanian restaurant meal is usually the appetiser dish. Most mains are served alongside a hearty bowl of fresh vegetable/pork/chicken soup. Eating out in Romania is very cheap and affordable, even good quality restaurants are often better to go than a fast food chains, so you get traditional local grown products, freshly cooked and prices are not that much higher either. Cabbage is a culinary favourite and is often used in soups and salads. In Bucharest, however, and in bigger cities such as Cluj-Napoca, the culinary scene is far more international. You may not find any Michelin-starred restaurants, but the standard far surpasses the prices.
✔️Tip: When eating out in Romania make sure you give yourself plenty of time and are not in any hurry. The level of service is friendly and professional in most restaurants but extremely slow at some! Food is cooked to order in most places, so the time it can take to reach your table can be over 30 minutes in many restaurants, specially in smaller or local towns. This is due to the relaxed atmosphere and slower pace of life. Eating in Romania is however relaxing and enjoyable.
Specialities which can be found are: Ciolan afumat ,(smoked pork knuckle with beans). Mamaliga (cornmeal polenta). Carnaţi de pleşcoi (mutton sausages) Soups, like Ciorba de perisoare (soup with meatballs), Ciorba tãrãneascã (vegetable soup with meat and rice balls served with sour cream). Moldavian parjoale (flat meat patties, highly spiced and served with garnishes). Nisetru la gratar (grilled Black Sea sturgeon). Pasca (a sweet cheesecake). Kurtoskalacs, or known in English as Chimney Cake, it's a long rope of sweet yeast dough tightly wrapped in a spiral. It is then baked, slowly turning, after cooked it's soft bread texture with an addictively crunchy caramelised sugar crust is very tasty and a great snack any time of day! You can find many flavours, including cinnamon to crushed walnuts or chocolate.
As for drinks, it's possible to find regional drinks such as Tuicã (plum brandy) and Tuicã de Bihor (strong brandy, generally known as palinca). Wines and beers are also very popular. Wines which are popular are Pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, riesling, pinot gris and chardonnay from the Murfatlar vineyards. Grasa and feteasa (wine from Moldavia’s Cotnari vineyards). Sparkling wines.and Glühwein (mulled wine).
Romania has many surprises for the visitor, and it was with no exception that I wanted to check out the country for myself. Visited with family, the first stop was Bucharest, the capital. I was a little disappointed that the city is not like other beautiful capitals where buildings are restored to their former glory and there is limited things you can see and do. Eating in Romania is cheap, however service is extremely slow and relaxed. People however, are friendly and approachable, but they have difficulty understanding English.
The highlight of the trip was visiting Brasov, this was a city taken care of! Squares and streets are full of quaint shops and nice decorative flowers and fountains. There are many little pretty towns nestled in the countryside in Romania, not to be missed is "Dracula's Castle", a must see if you're in the region. As well the landscape of Romania is beautiful, green hills, abundant vegetation with lots of different colours to photograph, specially during the Autumn when our visit took place. If you are keen in outdoor tours, nature and small cities then this country won't disappoint you!
Bucharest Tourism Information Guide
Romania's capital is Bucharest, it's the industrial and commercial centre of the country, it lies in the southeast of the country on the Dambovita River. Despite the etymology of its name meaning "City of Joy," Bucharest hasn't exactly had an easy time. It's history has been very unstable and until today you can still see the effects and consequences of the many periods of development and decay.
Bucharest was occupied by German forces for two years between 1916 and 1918. After the war, Bucharest became the capital of Greater Romania and made the mistake of siding with Germany during the Second World War. As a result it was bombed extensively by Allied forces. Then after the Soviet-backed Petru Groza government suppressed pro-monarchist rallies and took the country's helm.
In 1997, an incredibly severe earthquake (7.4 according to Richter) claimed 1500 civilian lives and even more old buildings, making the scenery of the city even more destroyed and devastated. Finally, Romania's economy and formerly glorious capital led to the mystery-shrouded Romanian Revolution of 1989, whereby the Communist regime was overthrown and the Ceausescus executed. Former communists and political protests were the order of the day until a centrist government came into power in 1996. From then onwards, the city together with the country, has been improving democracy and levels of life for Romanians.
Bucharest again became a bustling boom town in the 21st century as the city undergoes a period of urban renewal, modernisation and economic growth. Significant and much needed restorations are now taking place all over the city thanks to the EU funds, as Romania was accepted as full member of the European Union in 2007.
A continental climate in Bucharest makes travellers experience hot, dry summers and cold winters when temperatures often drop well below freezing.
The city lies on the Romanian Plain, and this brings chilly winter winds. Mid Spring and Autumn are the best time to visit, (April to June / September to November) as temperatures are usually pleasantly warm with occasional rains, and humidity is low.
In summer (June to August), temperatures can shoot up to 37°C, but in winter (December to February), temperatures average between -2°C and 9°C.
When arriving to Bucharest by plane, the easiest way to get to the city is by train or bus. Trains connect Bucharest Henri Coandă International Airport to Bucharest North Railway Station. However you will need to take a transfer bus to reach the train station, (CFR “Airport Stop”) which departs from the Arrivals Terminal. You can buy the tickets from office located in the International Arrivals public area, one ticket costs 6,8 lei.
For a less hassle option, take the bus. You can take the 780 Express line to the Gara de Nord (main railway station). Or if you want to go directly to the city centre take bus 783, to the city centre. This line runs day and night, for only 3.5 Lei. At night, the bus leaves every 40 minutes. Visit 780/783 timetables for more information.
Once in the city centre, Bucharest has an extensive public transport system taking you anywhere in the city by metro,tram, trolleybus and bus. Below you can view the transportation maps for Bucharest. For more information about the transport and to plan an itinerary please visit Bucharest Transport.
Despite it's turbulent history and past, Bucharest is a city on the rise. Nowadays you can visit the city and appreciate many of it's historical and classical buildings restored to their former glory thanks to EU funds and to an effort of the city council to bring the city in line with many of it's neighbours. Known for its wide, tree-lined boulevards, magnificent large buildings and a reputation for the high life (which in the 1900s earned its nickname of "Little Paris"), Bucharest is becoming a modern and chic metropolis where to enjoy cosy relaxed evenings, good food, shopping and a big culture scene waiting to be discovered. Below you will find the highlights of what to see in the city and not to miss.
- Old Town Bucharest (Centrul Vechi), the location also known as "Lipscani area", is where the first medieval merchants and craftsmen established their stores and shops, a mix of streets between Calea Victoriei, Blvd. Bratianu, Blvd. Regina Elisabeta and the Dambovita River.The area takes the name from the many German traders from Lipsca or Leipzig. Other streets took on the names of various old craft communities, such as Blanari (furriers), Covaci (blacksmiths), abroveni (knife makers) and Cavafii Vechii (shoe-makers). Today, the area is home to art galleries, antique shops, coffeehouses, restaurants and nightclubs.
- Parliament Palace (Palatul Parlamentului): It's of the most impressive buildings and sites you can see in Bucharest. This colossal construction was built at the special request of Nicolae Ceausescu, leader of Romania's Communist Party in 1984. Is the world's second largest administrative building, after the U. S. Pentagon. It's 12 stories high, 1,100 rooms and eight underground levels, including an enormous nuclear bunker. Today, it houses Romania's Parliament, Bucharest International Conference Centre and Romnaia's Museum of Modern Art.A guided tour takes visitors through a small section of dazzling rooms, huge halls and quarters used by the Senate (when not in session). The interior is a luxurious display of crystal chandeliers, mosaics, oak panelling, marble, gold leaf, stained-glass windows and floors covered in rich carpets.Note that to access the parliament a valid passport or national Identity card is required.
- Churches: Bucharest has many old churches, some of them of major historical importance. From different centuries and built in different architectural styles. Important ones to visit are the churches of Stavropoleos, Coltea, Selari, Zlatari, Bucur, Radu Voda, Sfantu Gheorghe, Sfantul Spiridon Nou and the Patriarchy. The churches are open daily but Sundays are very crowded as Romanians flock to them to pray and attend the morning Mass.
- Museums: If you are keen to learn about the history and turbulent past which the capital went though, you can find many museums and galleries which won't disappoint you. You can visit the National Museum of Romanian History, National Military Museum, Romanian Peasant Museum or the Museum of the Municipality of Bucharest. In addition, Romania has exploded onto the contemporary art scene in recent years. Some of the best galleries for experiencing the new art include the Zorzini Gallery, the H'art Gallery, and Anaid. The Galateca gallery, across from the National Museum of Art. Another interesting museum is the Village Museum, it's an open-air ethnographic museum located in Herăstrău Park, showcasing traditional Romanian village life and contains 272 authentic peasant farms and houses from all over Romania.
- Parks: Bucharest has not many parks in comparison to other cities, but there are a few that are worth visiting by their own share of historical importance. Carol Park was inaugurated in 1906 by King Carol the 1st, you can visit the Nation's Heroes Memorial in the park and appreciate some decent views of the city. While Cismigiu Park is the oldest park in the capital, and Herastrau is the largest. Each park is a nice place where to escape the hassle and buss of the city and relax, ideal for walks, running or cycling.
Easily accessible from Bucharest by train, this city is a big contrast when you compare it to the capital, you will be surprised how beautiful this city is and how it is much better preserved than Bucharest. It has remained nearly intact and has survived the history and wars which makes it a very interesting city to visit. It's location is also very impressive, flanked by the peaks of the Southern Carpathian Mountains and resplendent with Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance architecture, as well as a wealth of historical attractions, Brasov is one of the most visited places in Romania in fact.
It was Founded by the Teutonic Knights in 1211 on an ancient Dacian site,Brasov resembles a distinct medieval ambience and has been used as backdrop in many period films.
Around the city you can find fortifications which were erected around the city and continually expanded, with several towers maintained by different craft and merchants, according to medieval custom. Brasov is home to one of the the narrowest streets in Europe. The Rope Street (Strada Sforii) is approximately four feet wide and it links Cerbului Street with Poarta Schei Street.
In the city, walk around the old Town Hall Square (Piata Sfatului) where you can admire colourful painted and ornately trimmed baroque structures. You can visit the Black Church (Biserica Neagra), the largest gothic church in Romania. Its name derives from damage caused by the Great Fire of 1689. The surroundings of Brasov are very impressive with nearby high mountains, rolling fields, thick forests and villages with fortified churches.
To get there, you can take the train or the bus from Bucharest. Trains leave frequently from the main Bucharest Train station and take around 2.5 hours.
✔️Tip: Many tourists combine Brasov with the famous Dracula's Castle, possible to see within a day trip from Bucharest. See the next tab "Dracula's Castle".
What is more associated with Romania, is Transylvania, Dracula's Castle, Vampires etc.. So any trip to Romania can't escape a visit to Bran, the origin of the story or the legend of Dracula. Visiting Transylvania, will take you back in time with Gothic castles and medieval villages. The highlight is Bran Castle, a thirteenth century hilltop fortress, said to be the home of the protagonist in Bram Stoker's Dracula. Also nearby is Peles Castle, a former royal residence in Brasov, a medieval town which is perfect for stopping off for lunch.
How to get to Bran Castle: First you need to get to Brasov from Bucharest (by train is the best idea). Once in Brasov, you can walk from the train station to the Bus station N2 (there are 3 bus stations in Brasov), the walk is around 25 minutes or you can take bus 25/29. At the bus station (Autogara 2) take a bus to Bran. Busses run every hour and take about 45 minutes to reach Bran. (prices are 5 Lei per person). Romania's roads can make for an interesting drive as well if you are keen to rent a car.
Entrance: Tickets to Bran Castle is 35 lei (€7) per adult. Entrance to Peles Castle is 20 lei per adult.
✔️Tip: plan your visit early in the morning from Bucharest, as the castle closes by 4pm in low season (October to March), or 6pm during high season (April to September).
Note that Mondays are usually closed in low season.
Bucharest’s bars are scattered around the city and searching for the best venues can be a little hard, unless you are with a local. The city offers cosy pubs, chic lounges and trendy bars that all add to the city’s nightclub scene. There are enough top nightspots here to cater to everyone’s taste, whether you want to dance the night away or chill out in one of the more mellow venues.
When visiting, stick around the old town area of Bucharest for the best places for a more tourist friendly feel.
Bucharest does not offer the same shopping experience as other top cities in Europe, however the highlight lies in local products. If you are hunting down souvenirs, there is an endless range of little shops that sell Romanian handicrafts and knick-knacks, some more authentic than others, as well as wonderful antique shops and stores selling items from the days of Communism.
There are now many western style shopping centres that have now come to Bucharest and offer all the modern commercial names. However, luxury shopping is not quite established in Bucharest, and doesn't have the amount of stores. However, with time this trend is set to grow as more and more shops decide to open in the many malls.
Some of these are World Trade Center Bucharest, Unirea Shopping Centre and Plaza Romania. (to reach some of these you will need to take a taxi or go by public transit).
Finding cheap and affordable accommodation in Bucharest is not complicated, even in the city centre you can find reasonable Hotels with good service and quality which are not over priced. Hotel rooms can cost as little as €25 per night, but these are often very basic Hotels. More modern facilities and up to date Hotels can charge in the region of 35-50€ per night. Central Hotels are not hard to find, as well as other located in the outskirts which can be easily reached by public transport.
If you are on a budget, there are plenty of Hostels in the city centre, but be advised that quality and standards are not always as high as other Central European countries.
As well, keep in mind that staff are very limited with English, so information provided is very basic. Not good if you are keen to ask many questions at reception!
The city of Bucharest can be seen easily in a few days as everything is in walking distance. If you like Museums and culture perhaps you want to spend a bit more time wondering around and learning from the history. However, many tourists come to Bucharest whilst travelling in Europe and combining other cities and usually spend around one or two nights in the capital before moving on to the next destination. If your come just to Romania and visit other cities nearby like Brasov, then 4 nights would be ideal or a long weekend.