Romania was always a mystery to me. Maybe because of the frightening stories I had heard of Dracula, the dramatic images of his castle in Transylvania. Also the intriguing ancient painted monasteries in Northern Moldavia and the Bucovina culture. On a recent trip to Eastern Europe, I decided to add Romania to my itinerary to better understand this country.
Turns out, I didn’t have the full picture. I found a bucolic land with a pastoral countryside, stunning mountain ranges, rich layers of culture and history, and amazing strong spirited people.
Many travel friends told me it could take at least a few weeks to see all that Romania has to offer. With only one week, I decided to start in Bucharest. Then fly to Iasi in the northeastern part of the country, drive towards Bucovina, and return towards Bucharest for my departing flight.
Here are some recommendations from my trip to Romania.
First Stop in Romania–Bucharest!
My local tour guide Alexandra was excited to show me her city, and we walked Bucharest for a few hours to see the historic landmarks. She had some great insights about this city’s past, and even knew where to find the best dark chocolate in town!
Here are some of the highlights.
- Bucharest National Opera House: Neo-classical architecture and was built with funds by the local citizens. Opera and ballets are performed here.
- Revolution Square: Before the 1989 revolution, this square was called Piața Palatului (Palace Square). From the square you can see the balcony where Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu gave his famous last speech.
- Old Town or the Historic Center: We walked the area of Old Town, and continued down Strada Lipsconi. Noticed there are several outdoor cafes lining the pedestrian streets, and many buildings are being restored. There’s a covered passageway that houses an arcade of boutique shops – fabulous architecture at Macca Vilacrosse Passage.
- Cărturești Carusel: One of the most beautiful bookstores in the world! Recently renovated and was heavily instagrammed on its opening night.
- Casa Capsa Pastry Shop: Next door to the famous Casa Capsa Hotel that dates back to the 1800’s, this shop makes the best Romanian pastries & chocolates.
- Old Court Palace: Built in the 1500’s during Vlad Ţepeş, Prince of Wallachia or “Dracula’s” rule, the Old Court Palace ruins still stand. Bram Stoker’s fictional Dracula was inspired by real life Vlad who was from the House of Dracula. Don’t Miss! Visit the Old Court Church next door.
- Museums: Peasant Museum, Village Museum and the National Art Museum heard are worth a visit.
- Casa Poporului or Parliament Palace: The world’s largest civilian building stands at 250 feet with 12 floors. Next to the Pentagon, it’s the 2nd largest building in the world. The 3rd largest in volume next to the Giza Pyramids. It’s the most expensive building that was built during the darkest days of the Ceausescu regime, tasking 20,000 Romanian workers. If you have time, make a reservation in advance, to tour the interiors where you’ll find some of the largest carpets in the world, marble hallways, grand staircases, gigantic chandeliers and more extravagant items.
Iasi and Bucovina, Romania
Why go to the far north of Romania? You can see the incredibly well-preserved UNESCO painted monasteries, experience the Bucovina culture. And the landscape, hills and valleys are beautiful too!
Painted Monasteries: Best way to see the 15th century painted monasteries of Bucovina? With a guide! We recommend Sorin Fodor who is a licensed local guide – he’s excellent.
He has an in-depth knowledge of the painted monasteries and has great local connections.
“The unique features of these monasteries and churches are that they are painted with dramatic and colorful religious scenes on their outside walls. These frescoes, extraordinary works of Byzantine and Moldavian art have survived for more than 400 winters, as well as the dangers posed by wars and modern environmental pollution”, shared Sorin.
We saw the following monasteries: Probota (1530), Sucevita (1584), Moldovita (1532), Voronet (1488), and the Humor Monastery (1530).
Bucovina to Brasov, Romania
Highly recommend this drive through some of the most lovely countryside, and continuing through Transylvania through the spectacular Bicaz Gorges, and then over the Eastern Carpathian Mountains.
Brasov & Bran, Romania
There’s much to see in Brasov and the surrounding area of the Carpathian Mountains. If your plans include driving towards Bucharest after your visit to Brasov, you might want to consider a visit to Peles Castle on the way to Bucharest.
Brasov: The best way to see Brasov is to walk it! Start by visiting the Brasov Citadel and fortifications, walk around the old city walls, then head up the main street Strada Republicii (that you see on most of the Brasov postcards), and into the heart of the Old Town. Visit the lively town square, the towering Black church, and don’t miss the narrowest street in Europe, “Strada Sforii” or Rope Street. If you want to see the Brasov “Hollywood sign” up close, take the cable car to the top of Mount Tampa, and you’ll have the best views in town.
Bran: Visit Dracula’s Castle in Bran (only 45 minutes from Brasov). The Bran Castle has 57 rooms on 4 floors and lots of creaky staircases, including a hidden secret staircase. Don’t Miss! On the way to Bran, stop to visit Rasnov Fortress.
Where to Stay & Dine
Where to Stay?
Intercontinental Bucharest: The highest hotel in Bucharest offers fabulous views from every room’s private balcony. Rooms are clean, elegantly designed, and service is excellent.
Don’t miss! The Health Club on the 22nd Floor with panoramic views of Bucharest. Don’t Miss! Ask for the “Pillow Menu” and you can select your favorite pillow/s to try.
Athénée Palace Bucharest: Wonderful stay at this grand dame of Bucharest – celebrating 100 years of history. The rooms are modern, clean and spacious.
Where to Dine?
Modigliani: Savor Italian cuisine in Bucharest in an elegant setting at the Modigliani Restaurant, ground floor at Intercontinental Bucharest. Delicious steaks and fresh pasta are the most popular items on the menu, and the desserts platter is hard to resist.
Good to know: Dishes are certified “Ospitalita Italiana” for original ingredients and authentic recipes.
If you are wondering where to eat in Romania make sure to stop by…
Roberto’s: Fine Italian dining in the heart of Bucharest. Roberto’s offers some of the best homemade pasta in Romania. Located on the ground floor of the Hilton. Ask for Bogdan Cojocaru, Restaurant Manager, and he will ensure you have excellent service!
Where to Stay & Dine
Hilde’s Residence: One of the finest bed and breakfast homes in Romania, located in Gura Humorului. The home is set in the middle of a beautiful garden, with clean and well-kept rooms. There’s even a massage treatment room upstairs where you can relax with a Romanian massage. Meals are served downstairs, and the menu offers a variety of dishes – traditional and international. Don’t miss dessert! Homemade…
Where to Stay in Brasov, Romania
Bella Musika: Located in the historic center of town, and close to the medieval walls of the Transylvanian Fortress Kronstadt, is the charming Hotel Bella Muzica. Nicely restored, the 400 year old building still has its charm. My room was on the top floor with old wooden beams, very comfortable beds with down comforters, and all the modern amenities you need. Great view of the medieval walls too!
Global Adventuress would like to thank the Intercontinental Bucharest Hotel and Athénée Palace Bucharest for hosting my stay, as well as Modigliani’s and Roberto’s for hosting meals.
We also would thank Travelpro for the carry-on spinner suitcase, a favorite of travel crews and avid travelers, as well as DK Travel and Rough Guides for the Rough Guide Romania travel guide.
Exeter International: Need help planning your trip to Romania? Contact Alex Datsev at Exeter to customize your travels.
- Bucovina Painted Monasteries Driver & Guide: Sorin Fodor
- Bucharest Guide: Alexandra Chirila
- Brasov Guide: Cecilia Andrei
Good to Note: We used the travel guide site Viator to help us find the Bucharest & Brasov local guides.
- Iasi to Bucovina: Sorin Fodor
- Bucovina to Brasov: Sorin Fodor
- Brasov to Bucharest Driver: Driver: Constantin Lonut Paun or nickname, “Korsti”
TRAVEL PRODUCTS & SERVICES
DK Travel: Excellent travel guides with helpful maps, inspiring images, and lots of great information to help you plan your travels.
TravelPro: High quality luggage, preferred by flight crews, frequent travelers, and the Global Adventuress Team.
TRAVEL INFORMATION & ADVISORIES
U.S. Passports & International Travel: The U.S. Department of State provides helpful information at this site including passport & visa requirements, embassy locations, and safety & security.