You’ve eaten pizza in Italy, sipped wine in France and island-hopped around Greece. There’s no disputing these classic European destinations are favourites for a reason. But there are still plenty of other lesser-visited countries worth paying attention to, and Romania is a perfect example of that.
Captivating history, character-filled architecture and majestic mountains are just a handful of the things that make this place unfairly underrated. Cast your eyes over these Romanian hotspots and I dare you not to want to book your flights right away!
Admittedly Romania’s capital city isn’t the prettiest or chicest place you’re ever likely to visit, but it shouldn’t be overlooked. In fact, Bucharest is becoming increasingly better known for its cosmopolitan feel and energetic vibe. It also houses the world’s second largest building; the Palace of Parliament is a 12-storey beast of gargantuan scale with 1,100 rooms and 4,500 chandeliers.
Other must-sees include the open-air Dimitrie Gusti Village Museum, which showcases models of Romanian homes throughout the centuries. The Carturesti Carusel, a mesmerising bookstore in the centre of old Bucharest. Obor market, one of the biggest and liveliest, is also well worth a visit. It’s a great place to meet locals and try your first taste of traditional Romanian mici (or mincemeat rolls).
Take me there: Eastern Europe Express
Imagine floating reed islands, tree-fringed lakes and canals, dense forests, rolling sand dunes, and you’ll begin to build a picture of what you can expect from the remote Danube Delta. This UNESCO protected area is one of the biggest wetlands on the planet and is home to more than 300 different species of birds, as well as around 16,000 local people leading a modest and secluded lifestyle.
Spanning a whopping 4,152 square kilometres, this vast delta contains around 30 different eco-systems, placing it third behind the Galapagos and Great Barrier Reef in terms of biodiversity. It’s here that the Danube empties into the Black Sea, after meandering 2,860 kilometres through ten different countries. Taking a peaceful boat ride is a great way to gain an understanding of local life here.
Take me there: Moldova, Ukraine & Romania Explorer
Craving a flavour of old Romania? Then a pitstop in Maramureş is essential! Often described as the most traditional part of the country, it’s hard not to feel like you’ve stepped into the pages of a fairy story. From centuries-old wooden churches sporting sky-touching steeples to local women dressed in embroidered blouses, skirts and aprons – it’s a world away from anything you’ve already experienced.
Try and soak up every bit of the peasant culture here. Learn about their folklore, listen to folk music and head to a local peasant market to witness the trade of grain and livestock. Admire the intricately carved gates that front every farmhouse and even visit a church for the traditional service. Pop by the Merry Cemetery too, where colourful wooden crosses feature poems and illustrations of the dead.
Take me there: Eastern Europe in Depth
Think of Romania and what springs to mind? Count Dracula must be up there, and Sighişoara just so happens to be the birthplace of ‘Vlad the Impaler’, the inspiration behind Bram Stoker’s renowned fictional character. This 12th-century Saxon town, located right in the heart of historic Transylvania, is also recognised as being one of the best preserved and most beautiful medieval spots in Europe.
Travellers come to Sighişoara to stroll down its sweet cobbled streets and passed the pretty pastel-hued houses, that helped it to receive UNESCO World Heritage status back in 1999. If you do just one thing whilst here, make it a climb to the top of their famous clock tower. Not only does it have incredible views of the entire town and its surroundings, but it also has a great little museum.
Venture a bit further into Transylvanian country and you’ll come across the quaint village of Viscri. First colonised by Saxons from Luxembourg, this idyllic spot really is like something off a postcard. Famed for its fortified church that encases the village within. Witnessing its high white walls and contrasting red-tiled roofs rising from the hills, is a view you certainly won’t forget in a hurry.
Viscri is not a hive of activity by any means but it’s a great place to walk around, enjoy the tranquillity, watch the locals going about their business and get a closer look at some charming Romanian homes. Clamber up the lookout tower for beautiful panoramic views over the neighbouring countryside. And of course, check out the church that features a small museum with information about local life here.
Take me there: Budapest to Bucharest
Getting the impression that Transylvania is a sleepy place? Braşov will help to change your mind. Here you’ll find the perfect combination of old-school Romanian charm and modern city life. Encircled by the Carpathian Mountains and gifted with a fascinating mix of architectural influences, from gothic to renaissance, this historical hub of churches, museums and more is a great place to spend a few days.
Start with a trip to the Black Church, the largest Lutheran church on the planet. Head for the Council Square, said to be the spot the Pied Piper led the children of Hamblin, to absorb the atmosphere. Squeeze your way down Strada Sforii, one of the narrowest streets in Europe at just four feet wide. Before catching the cable car up Mount Tâmpa for great views and a peek at its Hollywood-style sign.
P.S. This is also the perfect launchpad for reaching spooky Bran (Dracula’s) Castle, which is just a 45-minute bus ride away.
Take me there: Journey through Central Europe & Romania
Ready to explore a different side of Europe? Check out our range of Romania trips here.