There are so many things to do and places to visit in Romania - but most tourists have
no idea where to start! Most people come with low or no expectations to our country, as it's often the case with countries in Eastern Europe.
But they soon realize it’s a beautiful holiday destination with friendly people, lots of tourist attractions and cool things to do! So put Romania on your
2023 bucket list and use this article for inspiration!
What is Romania known for? Let’s have a look at some of the most beautiful places to visit and famous tourist attractions in our country, going from Bucharest to Brasov and other tourist cities, from Transylvania to other traditional regions such as Maramures or Bucovina, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, famous castles and wonders of nature!
But besides the usual touristy places to visit, we’re also going to tell you where to go in Romania to have authentic local experiences for example where to see the traditional rural life Transylvania is famous for, or what national dishes - and drinks! - to try.
And there are also some unique things to do in Romania such as seeing bears and and other animals or finding out why our country has a happy cemetery, or visiting a
haunted forest filled with legends!
The list is long because our country is BIG with many things to do :) but if you're wondering what our personal favourites are it's 5, 8, 12, 14, 17 and 19.
Finally, you should know that Romania is still an undiscovered and underrated tourist destination with few international visitors compared to more popular countries in Eastern Europe (eg. Hungary, Croatia). So there are no group tours because of low demand and tourist infrastructure is still underdeveloped.
Table of contents
- 1. Dracula's Castle in Transylvania: Bran Castle
- 2. Romania's most beautiful castle: Peleș Castle
- Bonus: Cantacuzino Castle, of the richest Romanian family
- 3. A Gothic Masterpiece in Brasov: The Black Church
- 4. Brukenthal and Astra Museums in bohemian Sibiu
- 5. Go hiking in the wild Carpathian Mountains
- 6. Romania’s most famous natural site: the Danube Delta
- 7. Discover how good Romanian wines are
- 8. Watch Brown Bears in their natural habitat
- 9. Admire the 500 years old Painted Monasteries of Bucovina
- 10. Go on a slow and picturesque steam train ride
- 11. Travel back to medieval times in the UNESCO Sighișoara Citadel
- 12. Try traditional Romanian food & tasty vegetables
- 13. Visit Romania’s Merry Cemetery... wait, what?
- 14. Ride an underground Ferris wheel in Turda Salt Mine
- 15. Visit Europe’s biggest building: Palace of Parliament in Bucharest
- 16. Drive on the famous Transfăgărășan Highway
- 17. Enjoy the nightlife scene in Bucharest's Old Town
- 18. See the Romanian Sphinx in Bucegi Mountains
- 19. Experience authentic Romanian village life
- 20. Visit Romania’s haunted forest - for real
1. Dracula's Castle in Transylvania: Bran Castle
Of all the remarkable places to visit in Romania, Bran Castle remains the most popular with international tourists and by far one of the most famous castles in our country. Although this Transylvanian castle was an important medieval fortress and home to Romania's Queen Marie, it's far better known for one fictional resident: the vampire Count Dracula.
Honestly, nobody's sure how much Bram Stoker was inspired by Bran Castle or Vlad the Impaler who is one of the most famous people from Romania… but that hasn't stopped Hollywood movie fans and tourists renaming it to "Dracula's Castle." This is what Romania is famous for and the #1 tourist attraction in the country so brace yourself for crowds of tourists!
Because of this, Bran Castle turned into a commercial tourist hotspot with all things Dracula. Including good-looking Dracula wines you find only in Romanian airports - that are not good! Lots of cheap tour guides and non-Romanian travel guides will give you fictional, made-up touristy Dracula stories. But if you’re looking for of the castle, Vlad the Impaler's life and even info about Poenari Castle - then our guides will do that.
Dating back to the 13th century, Bran Castle was built to protect the nearby city of Brașov and the Carpathian crossing into Transylvania from foreign invaders. There are four floors and 57 rooms tourists can explore. Each room is full of historic furniture, armour and clothing - so anyone passionate about medieval history will have a good time here!
2. Romania's most beautiful castle: Peleș Castle
If Bran Castle speaks of Romania's medieval heritage, then Peles Castle speaks to our country's royal - and golden - years. Add this castle to your list of places to visit if you want to be impressed by
royal living standards. It was built in in the late 19th century to serve as summer residence for Romania's royal family, descendants of Hohenzollerns from Germany.
Which explains the neo-Renaissance architecture the castle was built in with beautiful stained glass windows. Considered an engineering masterpiece for its time with modern amenities such as floor heating, the entire castle is impressive and well preserved on the inside and out.
There are 160 rooms in total for guests to explore over 2 floors, many of which have priceless works of art by painters as famous as Gustav Klimt. Visitors to Peleș Castle also get to enjoy thousands of fascinating artifacts in the castle's armory dating back to the 15th century. And, of course, original decorations and style worthy of its royal occupants.
A of ours, Peles Castle doesn't look like the other, mostly medieval castles in Romania. Built at the base of Bucegi Mts in the charming resort of Sinaia (1h30 min drive / train from Bucharest), the winding paved forest road leading up to it is already a sign you're about to see something different. And make sure to check out the neighboring Pelisor Castle which has its own history and legends to tell you.
Visiting Peles Castle, one of the largest castles in the our country, is one of the best things to do in Romania if you’re curious about Romanian history. On a you'll find out how in the span of 100 years Romania went from being 3 distinct principalities under foreign domination, then united into a democratic, flourishing monarchy that was eventually overthrown by communist dictatorship in 1944. Peles Castle played an important role in this period - so go and find out!
Bonus: Cantacuzino Castle, of the richest Romanian family
Not too far from Peleș Castle is the lesser-known Cantacuzino Castle. It belonged to Prince George Cantacuzino, also known as
The Nabab for his impressive fortune, as he was the richest person in Romania in the late XIXth century.
He built the castle in the unique Romanian architectural style known as Brancovenesc (or Wallachian Reinassance for connaisseurs). The castle has now become an international sensation thanks to another boost from Hollywood: it was featured in the popular Netflix series Wednesday directed by Tim Burton.
Start from: Bucharest
Romanian aristocracy picked the best place to build their homes. Prahova Valley, which includes the small towns of Sinaia, Bușteni, and Azuga, offers superb views of Bucegi Mountains. Lots of others neo-Romanian houses in the area, especially Sinaia, but these two Romanian castles have become the most popular attractions for history and nature lovers. Tourists love how they can combine sightseeing national monuments while enjoying jaw-dropping sceneries of the Romanian mountains.
3. A Gothic Masterpiece in Brasov: The Black Church
If you’re planning to visit Bran Castle - a stop in Brasov's Old Town is a must. The city is one of the most popular tourist places to visit in Romania. It's famous for its charming, well-preserved medieval atmosphere surrounded by mountains.
The city’s iconic landmark is the
Black Church which is also a great example of medieval German-Saxon architecture. This imposing Gothic church finished in 1477 is not just one of Romania's top tourist attractions but it also serves as the largest place of worship for Lutherans.
The Black Church is hard to miss on a stroll through Brașov’s Old Town. Towering over the main square and imposing from afar, inside you'll find many impressive Romanian artifacts including a huge mechanical organ, a wide array of Oriental carpets, and an intricately carved pulpit dating back to the late 1600s.
There are many things to do in Brasov, arguably one of the most charming medieval cities in Europe and known as Romania's 'darling city'. From here you can visit medieval castles in Romania such as Bran, Rasnov, Rupea or Fagaras, go hiking in Piatra Craiului or Bucegi Mts, or even go on wildlife watching trips. It’s a great city to use as a base for 3 days during your trip to Romania.
4. Brukenthal and Astra Museums in bohemian Sibiu
One of the best things to do in Transylvania is to visit the famous city of Sibiu home to Brukenthal National Museum and Astra Museum of Folk Civilization. With significant Saxon influences, an aristocratic air to it and a vibrant cultural scene compared to its rivals, Sibiu competes with Brasov as Romania's top tourist destination.
That’s why you should visit both and choose your favorite :) they're 2h apart but the decision on which one is best is hard even for me - and I've been to both many times! Sibiu's Old Town with its Lower Town and Upper Town is an architectural delight with many cultural sights, artisan shops and chic cafes. Make sure you have enough time to walk - or get lost - on its streets!
Local tip:our local guide is a history buff who can tell you many stories about the buildings in the Old Town. With such a long history, you'll be surprised of the small details, wide-spread cultural influences and funny facts in Sibiu historic centre
Now, back to the Brukenthal National Museum. The elegant building was originally the residence of an 18th century aristocrat of Saxon descent (and rich art collector) named Samuel von Brukenthal who lived in Sibiu. Brukenthal opened the doors to his home in the early 1800s to share his art collection with the community as he was a big fan of educating the masses. Today the Brukenthal National Museum is an important tourist attraction in Romania and cultural hotspot. The museum contains thousands of exceptional European paintings dating back to the 15th century.
In contrast, the open-air museum Astra Traditional Folk and Civilisation Museum received 3 Michelin stars for the amazing cultural experience it offers as an ethnographic museum. Over 400 village houses from all over Romania and "rural technology" will show you why the Romanian village is at the heart of our culture, literature and national spirit. The museum regularly organises festivals and workshops where you can find unique artisans and craftsmen.
With an airport served by many low cost flights from all over Europe, there are many things to do in Sibiu which can make it a perfect place for your city break in Romania. Famous places to visit nearby include day trips to Transfagarasan Highway, Corvin Castle or Sighisoara Citadel.
Sibiu was the 2019 European Region of Gastronomy thanks to its rich and varied food scene with many restaurants reinterpreting traditional Romanian dishes using locally-sourced organic ingredients. And, of course, you can go hiking in the picturesque area known as Marginimea Sibiului (outskirts of Sibiu) where villagers have preserved their traditional way of life.
5. Go hiking in the wild Carpathian Mountains
55% of Romania's territory is occupied by the Carpathian Mountains starting from foothills of 800m high and reaching 2,554m at their highest point called Moldoveanu Peak. So our country is not only an amazing - and - hiking destination but also a great place for mountaineering adventures, wildlife watching and other outdoor activities (MTB, via ferrata, enduro trails, camping, canyoning).
The Romanian Carpathians offer a wide variety of trails for city folk looking to be out in nature, amateur and experienced hikers alike. Plenty of natural attractions too (waterfalls, crests, gorges and glacial lakes) - so going on a hiking trip is one of the best things you can do Romania! It's also one of our favourites :)
Romania is known as
Europe’s last wilderness reserve with 2 documentaries about this: and - check them out to see why! Go hiking in Romania to discover and very old forests, and still untouched by civilization.
Natural attractions and places to visit in the mountains include Babele and Sphinx in Bucegi Mts, Zarnesti, Turda or Bicaz Gorge, Fundatura Ponorului, 7 Stairs Canyon and numerous waterfalls, lakes and caves. And 12 peaks over 2,500m waiting to be summited!
But because Romania's Carpathian Mountains are so wild and undiscovered - tourist hiking infrastructure is
severely underdeveloped and unfriendly even for locals! Check our guide for hiking in Romania and Transylvania to find out how to plan your trip, why you should hire a licensed mountain guide for your trip and where to go hiking!
6. Romania’s most famous natural site: the Danube Delta
OK - every country has castles, churches and Old Towns. But how many countries with a Delta do you know of? So another amazing place to see in Romania is the UNESCO natural reserve Danube Delta. This was the first UNESCO World Heritage site from Romania added in 1990.
The Delta formed where the Danube river meets the Black Sea and is the size of a whole county in Romania. It's the 2nd largest in Europe and has the 3rd largest biodiversity in the world exceeded only by the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Galapagos Archipelago in Ecuador.
The Danube Delta is considered one of the largest and best preserved deltas worldwide. In addition to its picturesque canals, numerous lakes and soft marshes, the Romanian Delta is home to over
3,450 animal species which includes over 300 species of birds, 1,700 of plants, many small animals and numerous fish.
So the Danube Delta is one of the best places to visit in Romania if you're into wild natural sceneries, have an interest in birdwatching and enjoy boat trips through scenic river canals. And the
sunsets in the Delta offer breathtaking, unique sceneries, pure magic!
This combo makes it a perfect destination for tourists looking for an alternative way to discover Mother Nature, wildlife or landscape photographers, and, of course, conservation enthusiasts :)
If you want to visit the Romanian Delta then hiring a local tour guide to take you on boat rides is a must because the region is impossible to navigate on your own local knowledge and... a boat! There's no 'public transport' in the Delta and few locals speak English.
So if you want to experience the best of the Delta and do birdwatching you'll need a knowledgeable guide with specialized boats
(not speed boats!) that doesn't scare them away - like our guides use. That's why we created an amazing 4-day itinerary and organise shared group tours. You'll visit the Delta the right way while protecting nature and giving back to the community.
The Delta is a 4h drive from Bucharest and you'll need 2-3 full days to actually see something because of its complicated logistics. The best time to visit the Delta is between April - October to see this beautiful natural oasis at its finest.
Oh, and the Danube Delta is also known for its unique fish-based cuisine (hint: it's not grilled fish!). Locals from fisherman villages will welcome you in their homes and cook delicious fish stews and dishes you won’t find anywhere else in Romania.
Letea Forest is another must see unique attraction in the Romanian Delta: trees growing from the sand, covered by water where wild horses freely roam the lands. So, clearly, the Danube Delta is one of Romania's most famous natural tourist attractions!
7. Discover how good Romanian wines are
You’ll be surprised to know that Romania is Europe’s 5th largest wine producer! With vast hills bathed in Sun and moderate weather, our country's geography is ideal for vineyards. And Romanians like to drink (also craft beer!) and sit for hours socialising over a glass, or two, or three... :)
In the last 15 years the quality and variety of our wines and the culture surrounding wine drinking has exploded. Besides popular large-scale producers who go for the whole spectrum of wines, there are many craft, artisan small wine makers who focus on 2-3 types which are exceptional.
Read our article on Romanian food to find out more. Oh, and the wines have
amazing value(taste)-for-money comparable to what you’ll find in France or Italy.
You know what this means, right? A wine tasting trip in the countryside is one of the best things you can do when in Romania! There are numerous wineries you can visit 1h away from Bucharest in the Dealu Mare region, famous for its vineyards and premium producers. There are also several wineries in Transylvania housed in aristocratic 18th century villas overlooking the picturesque surrounding area filled with vineyards.
Unfortunately due to high demand and low capacity, most wineries organise wine tastings only for groups of 4 or more. So if 2 people show up it’s unlikely they’ll take them. But luckily for you with some premium wineries so if you want a Romanian wine tasting paired with local cheeses and cured meats for two - we can arrange that!
8. Watch Brown Bears in their natural habitat
Let’s go back to the mountains! One of the best and
unique things you can do in Romania is wildlife watching - especially brown bears of which we have the largest population in Europe!
As many areas in the Carpathian Mts. are untouched and wild, lots of animals roam these lands freely: bears, deer, lynx, bisons, boars, wolves and many more. Europe’s last wilderness reserve is a rightfully earned title by our country. Which is also part of the reason why it may be for hikers to go on their own.
So if you want to see wild animals in their natural habitat the best place to do that is on our wildlife tours from Brasov. We run wildlife tours with specialist tour guides for wildlife and a conservation non-profit that will take you deep in the mountains:
85-100% chances of seeing bears on this tour:
60-80% chances of seeing bears and other animals on this tour:
70-100% chances of seeing animals on this unique trip in Romania's wildest area run by a conservation non-profit:
Start from: Rucar, Arges county
Please note - these tours are NOT your regular trip: you will go hiking sometimes on unmarked trails or difficult terrain to high observation points where -
hopefully - you will see animals. Logistics are more complex and prices are more expensive.
Here's how animals have fun in Piatra Craiului National Park
Remember - Mother Nature can't be controlled or predicted, so seeing animals is But our wildlife guides are experts with a good sense for animal movement. They will do their best to increase the chances of you seeing them and will give you a live lesson about tracking animals their natural habitat. So this is a great way way to learn about Mother Nature - especially for teenagers and young people!
Birdwatching can also be done in some forests close to Brasov where our specialist bird guides can take you on a private trip. Or in one of the many national parks in Romania.
Seeing wild animals is definitely a unique activity in Romania - but you can also see friendly animals such as sheep and cows during a hike in Piatra Craiului National Park (close to Brasov) or Apuseni Natural Park (close to Cluj-Napoca). You'll probably go hiking in traditional villages and try local specialty cheeses cold cuts and homegrown vegetables from the villagers.
9. Admire the 500 years old Painted Monasteries of Bucovina
Ok - back to culture! There are many beautiful churches in Romania tourists can visit because spirituality plays an important role in our culture and life. But among them the Painted Monasteries of Bukovina definitely stand out.
Built between the 15th and 16th centuries, these monasteries are known for their impressive exterior frescoes which depict scenes from the bible and are incredibly well preserved despite their age - almost by miracle!
So vivid and unique these paintings are that UNESCO awarded them World Heritage status. There are 6 monasteries to visit each located in small villages in the Bucovina region: Voronet, Humor, Moldovita, Pataruti, Probota, Suceava, and Sucevita.
Each of the monasteries’ frescoes use different colours to depict saints, major Biblical scenes and local legends. The quality and style of these paintings is truly impressive considering how old they are. And because they're so well preserved with only minor works carried out over hundreds of years, religious people believe these churches have significant spiritual power and meaning.
A great place to start visiting the Romanian painted churches is Voronet which is the most famous among them for its unique 400-year old blue nuance, used to depict Judgement Day in an impressive detailed frescoe.
Even though the monasteries are among Romania's most famous tourist attractions, please keep in mind they are also active religious sites served by monks and nuns who live there. Romanians are very religious people so visiting these sights require that you
be respectful of local customs and not use selfie sticks or act like an ignorant tourist.
Finally, the logistics of visiting the churches is a bit more complex too: you'll need at least 3 full days to travel to Bucovina from Bucharest and have enough time to visit the monasteries and other attractions in the area, of which there are plenty. You may want to check our guide for public transport in Romania to understand why we keep saying logistics are complicated... :)
The Semering Oravita-Anina train in Timisoara
10. Go on a slow and picturesque steam train ride
The best way to enjoy Romania’s natural beauty is through
slow travel. Hiking or going by car on countryside roads may be what comes to mind - but there’s a better alternative: old steam trains moving at 50 km/h through beautiful natural areas not accessible any other way! How cool is this?
The Mocanita Steam Train in the North-Western region of Maramures is probably the most famous. A 3-hour long ride (with multiple stops) through valleys, hills and woodlands will make you appreciate nature’s simple beauty - best enjoyed slow, of course! This narrow railway was originally used for forest exploitation activities and the Mocanita (name of the train) is the only one capable of navigating it.
A similar steam train ride can be found in the neighbouring region of Bucovina and is called Hutulca.
Start from: Timisoara
my favourite train ride is lesser known – and more beautiful – the Oravita-Anina Semering train, South of Timisoara (pictured above). The Semering (name of the train) will take you on a route where picturesque scenery with mid-level mountains and open valleys dotted by traditional villages.
And, by the way, Timisoara is the 2023 European Capital of Culture - so now there are even more things to do in Timisoara you may be interested in!
Pro tip:the best time I like to go on these train rides is during mid-September - late October when the autumn foliage offer spectacular views!
11. Travel back to medieval times in the UNESCO Sighișoara Citadel
Sighișoara is a small city in the heart of Transylvania where you'll find one of the most culturally significant and popular tourist places to visit in Romania: Sighisoara Citadel another UNESCO heritage site since 1999.
Situated on a small hill overlooking the plains of Transylvania, this fortified citadel from the Middle Ages was built in the 12th century by German Saxon merchants to protect their trading routes. It's one of the best-preserved medieval citadels in Europe. Sighișoara is also the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler (the inspiration for Dracula) and his childhood home stands out in bright yellow.
One of the best things to do in Romania is to get lost on Sighisoara's cobbled streets and admire its medieval houses - where people still live! My favorite time to visit this place is during winter in Romania when the cold air, snow-covered streets and few tourists create a magical feeling.
Besides the many photos you'll take, make sure to check the seven figurines of the Clock Tower, the main attraction in Sighisoara Citadel, which represent the days of the week - but who are those figurines? Go with a guide, there is much history to learn here :)
12. Try traditional Romanian food & tasty vegetables
When people think of things to do in Romania they tend to think of castles (and vampires), communist architecture and... who knows what else! While the typical tourist attractions are undeniably awesome, what most travelers don’t know about is just how tasty Romanian food is. Why?
Start from: University Square
Because Romanian cuisine is a unique mix - a reflection of our agrarian roots and self-sustainable households at the intersection of Turkish/Balkan, Austro-Hungarian and Russian influences. Our traditional dishes have surprising, delicious flavours reminiscent of grandma's comfort food.
Pro tip:if you're a vegetarian or vegan - you're in luck! Thanks to the long Orthodox Lent (fasting) periods which some Romanians strictly observe, there are lots of recipes without meat or any animal products. just ask for mancare de post or religious fasting foods and you'll enjoy filling, nutritious and delicious recipes!
Romanian local food (especially outside major cities) is
wildly appreciated by Western visitors who've had enough of processed and tasteless industrialised food. They are delighted by the delicious taste of simple, organic ingredients (a label that doesn't exist in the countryside!) like eggs, milk, veggies, honey or meat from household animals. Hand-to-mouth farming is widely practiced in traditional regions such as Transylvania, Maramures or Apuseni.
In simpler terms - if you want to know the real taste of an unsprinkled
tomato or let your kids discover the flavours of freshly picked veggies or fruits from a farmer's garden - come to Romania!
Authentic Romanian dishes you should try include sarmale, mici and ciorba (sour vegetable broth), mamaliga (polenta) with shepherd's cheese and sour cream, or stuffed peppers. That is if our appetizers (vegan-friendly) such as eggplant salad, zacusca or baked beans paste won't already fill you up! And then you get to ciorba a vegetable sour broth, with or without meat, that's so filling and will warm you up on the inside!
And, like all agrarian people, there's a variety of cheese (white/fresh, aged or smoked), cured meats and sausages to discover, usually served with seasonal veggies! And leave room for desert: papanasi, sweet cheese pies or homemade sweet bread (cozonac) filled with nuts, poppy seeds or Turkish delight.
We've got food tours in all major cities where our guides will take you to farmer's markets where, besides the cultural shock, you'll also get to try authentic Romanian food. And if you're looking to experience more of Romanian cuisine - go in the countryside! Few restaurants in the cities can compete with that!
Our mission is to support responsible tourism in Romania and that's why most our trips include which is, for me, arguably the most interesting thing I want to experience when visiting a country besides typical tourist sightseeing.
And to top it off -- since 2010 specialty coffee culture and consumption
boomed in Romania. Check our list with the best coffee shops in Romania so you finish your meal in style - like Romanians do!
13. Visit Romania’s Merry Cemetery... wait, what?
One of the more unusual things to do in Romania is to visit a cemetery with a happy and funny view on death: the Merry Cemetery is like an open-air museum in the village of Săpânța, Maramures region. Unlike the usual sombre and grey cemeteries, the Merry Cemetery is filled with colourful painted wood panels where the story of the deceased is told in a humorous way - with life lessons that will make you think!
Pro tip:the stories are so without a local guide to translate there's really no point in visiting
Started in the 1960s the Merry Cemetery is a unique tourist attraction in Romania and Europe for its approach despite being located in one of the most religious regions of Romania. For context: on Sundays people in Maramures wear their best
folk costumes and go to their UNESCO wooden churches.
There’s an interesting reason this 'happy' cemetery exits. And if you visit with our guide, a native of Maramures, he'll tell you what that is and also take you to the local artisan who makes these crosses. Though the cemetery is an interesting place for tourists to visit in Romania, don't forget that, well - you’re in a cemetery! - so be respectful of the dead.
14. Ride an underground Ferris wheel in Turda Salt Mine
40 minutes South of Cluj-Napoca in the city of Turda is one the most popular and interesting tourist attractions in Romania: Salina Turda as the locals call it, a salt mine dating from Roman times that now houses an insane, unexpected amusement park! So this day trip is one of the many things to do in Cluj you should put on your list!
In this huge underground complex you'll discover impressive caverns and corridors carved in salt where carefully-placed lighting installations create a magical feeling! In addition to its famed Ferris wheel, this underground amusement park has a bowling alley, a golf course and even an underground lake where you enjoy a unique boat trip... underground! So this is a perfect place to visit for families with kids.
If this wasn’t enough to convince you to visit Turda Salt Mine, you should know that breathing salty air is good for your lungs and prescribed as treatment for people with any kind of respiratory issues. So spending 3 hours in this popular place will be one of the best and healthiest things you can do in Romania!
Bonus: go on a boat trip in the underground like, a
unique thing to do in Romania and in the world!
15. Visit Europe’s biggest building: Palace of Parliament in Bucharest
When travelers start searching for places to visit in Romania, images of the Palace of Parliament in Bucharest inevitably show up. This national monument was the most ambitious and infamous megalomanic dream of communist leader Nicolae Ceaușescu - that's why it's commonly referred to as Ceaușescu’s Palace or House of People.
An entire neighbourhood was razed and huge human, material and financial sacrifices were made over the course of 6 years in the 1980s to make space for it. And Romanians are still divided on the value and importance of this most famous attraction...
The building houses Romania’s democratically elected Parliament. With over 1,000 rooms, 4,500 chandeliers and 12 stories high - only the US Pentagon building has a larger on-the-ground footprint than Bucharest's Parliament! And the inside is beyond impressive. Undoubtedly this is one of Romania's most famous tourist attraction, so it's a must see even if only from the outside.
Tours inside are led by official staff but they'll only tell you facts about the building -
nothing about the communist regime or Ceausescu. So read our blog about communist Romania if you want to find out more historical facts, communist attractions to visit (e.g. Palace Square where the 1989 revolution started!) or go on our dedicated communist tour to get the 'real deal:'
Start from: Bucharest
Or visit this unique time-bubble communist apartment to feel what it was like to live in communist Romania:
And in case you're wondering is Bucharest worth visiting? the short answer is - YES. For the long one - read our city guide on the many things to do in Bucharest and decide for yourself.
Our capital is by far the largest city in Romania and is worth visiting even if only to see go for a short walk in the city centre, for example in University Square and then on Calea Victoriei Boulevard to see some of the most impressive buildings in Romania such as the Romanian Athenaeum, Palace Square or George Enescu Museum. Or in the Old Town area where, although famous for its nightlife, you'll find Curtea Veche the former seat of power of Vlad the Impaler and Bucharest's first administrative institution.
16. Drive on the famous Transfăgărășan Highway
The ultimate sightseeing – and driving – experience in Romania is a road trip on Transfăgărășan Highway. 3 hours drive from Bucharest or 1h30 from Sibiu or Brasov, this 150 km scenic road across Fagaras Mountains was built during communist years for military purposes using approx. 6,000 tons of dynamite - and much, much effort.
It’s one of the main tourist places to visit in Romania thanks to an episode of the popular BBC show Top Gear when Jeremy Clarkson named it the best driving road in the world! Driving enthusiasts will absolutely adore the many twists and turns of this incredible drive - even if someone else is driving! - and everyone will enjoy the jaw-dropping sights of Fagaras Mts. the wildest and tallest in Romania!
The road ends at the glacial Balea Lake reaching 2,200m altitudes and offers breathtaking views of Transylvania’s plains in the far distance - in contrast with the nearby peaks over 2,500m altitude. This is also the starting point for many hiking routes into Fagaras Mts. so it tends to get very crowded. Keep in mind the road is open for driving only from 1 July - 30 October. Outside this period it can be visited coming from Sibiu or Brasov and taking a cable car over it - if weather permits - to the glacial lake Balea.
Local tip:less famous but equally spectacular are Transalpina and Transbucegi roads - two other high-altitude driving roads that offer more than just a driving experience!
17. Enjoy the nightlife scene in Bucharest's Old Town
unique thing to do in Romania is to experience Bucharest's diverse and intense nightlife. The trendiest area with today's youth is (ironically!) the Old Town area in the city center.
On Lipscani Street you will see both locals and tourists hopping from bar to bar since there are over 50 in the area. Stag and bachelorette groups from all over Europe come here to party for good reason: Romanians love going out!
But even if you're of clubbing - there are many beautiful restaurants, hip bars and cosy wine bars in Bucharest. And during Summer months most of them turn into beautiful urban gardens! And you'll probably go out for dinner anyway - so why not go for drinks after in a different place? You'll see Romanian local life at its best!
For a fancy, luxury clubbing experience head to the Northern part of Bucharest. In clubs such as Fratelli, Gaia or on the shores of Herestrau Lake, you’d better dress well to not feel out of place. Local tip: the real Bucharest nightlife starts after 11-12 pm - read our post on places to go out in Bucharest to find out more!
Pro tip:during Summer months Bucharest's nightlife scene moves to the Romania Black Sea resorts! In Mamaia beach resort you'll find the posh clubs by the beach while in the hippie resort of Vama Veche people go just to party all day, night and weekend long!
18. See the Romanian Sphinx in Bucegi Mountains
The Sphinx is a mysterious natural rock formation located high up in Bucegi Mountains. It's accessible via cable car from the small town of Busteni or on our hiking tours.
Local legends claim the rock represents a god who was worshiped long ago by our ancestors the Dacians before the Romans conquered these lands. There are also stories that link the rock to aliens! In any case, many believe the location possesses a special energy and so there are always lots visitors to this unique attraction in Romania's mountains.
The Romanian Sphinx is also the subject of folklore and conspiracy theories that make it incredibly intriguing. So, if you are into paranormal activity or just want to see what all the fuss is about - this popular tourist attraction should be on your list of things to do in Romania!
Nearby are also the Babele rock formations and on a 4h hike (one way) you can reach Omu Peak the 7th highest in Romania at 2,505m altitude.
19. Experience authentic Romanian village life
You haven’t experienced authentic Romanian culture until you spend a couple of days in the countryside. You'll disconnect from civilisation,
slow down and reconnect with living in tune with nature's rhythm. Villagers in some areas have preserved their ancestral way of life, customs and values - which is why the Romanian village represents the heart of our culture.
Believe it or not, life in the small traditional village is one of the things Romania is so famous for - even if it's not your typical popular tourist destination. It's not 'a place to go' - it's something to experience!
It's why King Charles owns 3 restored village houses Viscri, Breb and Valea Zalanului. Going into traditional regions such as Transylvania, Maramures and Bucovina, or in the mountains in Apuseni (close to Cluj-Napoca), in Marginimea Sibiului (close to Sibiu) or village of Magura, Pestera and Sirnea (close to Brasov) is a favorite holiday activity for locals. And it should be for you as well!
Start from: Cluj-Napoca or Sibiu
Some small villages in these areas are true time-capsule: shepherds will greet you, roosters and cows will wake you up, and public transport is reduced to horse drawn carts and locals are happy to give you a ride. Fresh vegetables and fruits from people's gardens and 'in-house' animal products will create simple, delicious meals. And - best of all – this is the perfect place for you to slow down, relax and enjoy a quiet, peaceful life with beautiful scenery.
Rural regions of Romania may look poor or underdeveloped from the outside but that's part of their charm and - to your surprise - you'll see locals are much happier, welcoming and authentic than city folks. Untouched by consumerism or the business of our modern, tech-heavy society, their way of life is the purest example of resourcefulness and enjoying the simple pleasures of life.
Local folklore, crafts and traditions handed down from one generation to another are well preserved especially in the regions of Maramures and Bucovina. If you're looking for authentic Romanian culture these are the best places to visit for this, especially around Easter or Christmas in Romania.
However, once again, there's
no tourism infrastructure for non-locals: few people speak English, no public transport, cash is king and without a local guide with connections in the area, it's harder to experience the beauty of these place. It's like going into the mountains of Morocco to see berber tribes, the remote villages or Vietnam or in the Amazonian jungles without a guide...
That's why we support inclusive tourism in Romania by including in our tours, especially those in the countryside, local services, meals and visits, so local communities benefit too while you have an authentic Romanian experience. So I invite you to consider our trips :)
20. Visit Romania’s haunted forest - for real
Let’s close the list with one of the most unique places to visit in Romania: Hoia Baciu forest near Cluj-Napoca. The forest was named after a shepherd and his entire flock of sheep without an explanation! In 1968 the forest gained even more popularity when a military technician claimed he saw a UFO flying over the forest. And there are plenty of other stories and myths in local folklore which our guide knows.
What also makes this place unique is the unusual shape of trees and weird natural layout you don't normally see in a forest. One of the strangest spots is a clearing, a perfectly round-shaped patch of land in the middle of the forest (!) where not a single ounce of vegetation grows - without any human intervention! Many locals are truly afraid to go into the forest and some have said voices and sounds can be heard at night. Hence the ‘haunted forest of Romania’ title.
To be honest the first time I heard about this "tourist attraction" I was
skeptical. Until I went on a tour in the haunted forest of Romania with a "show me what you've got!" attitude with our guide who is truly passionate about this unique attraction in Romania.
It was unlike any other night-walk I've ever been on, with an eerie feeling to it. Besides hearing the stories about the Hoia Baciu forest and seeing trees like nowhere else, our guide will also give you special measurement equipment for paranormal activity - so you'll see for yourself! Whether you’re superstitious or not - this is definitely one of the most unique things to do in Romania!
Whoa, that’s a long list!
And even if we haven’t mentioned other tourist attractions in Romania (like Hunyadi Castle or Poenari Castle, the Mud Volcanoes, Dacian Ruins) or things to do (rock-climbing, local craft workshops, caving, via ferrata, MTB or photography trails) I think this should be enough to get you started with planning your trip to Romania.
On our website you'll find lots of resources, articles and tours and if you need help with your itinerary send us a message – happy to help!
Your Romanian Friend