20 Things to Do in Romania: Popular, Cool and Unique!

20 Things to Do in Romania: Popular, Cool and Unique!


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 but soon realize it’s a beautiful holiday destination with friendly people, lots of tourist attractions and cool activities to do! That’s why many plan on returning!


So 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 Transylvania and other traditional regions such as Maramures or Bucovina, covering UNESCO 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 a typical local experience: where to try delicious dishes with organic food or how to experience traditional village life far from civilisation! Finally, there are also some unique things to do in Romania such as seeing bears and and other animals in the wild, visiting a haunted forest or a happy cemetery!

The list is long because the country is big with many things to do :) if you're wondering our favourite activities are 5, 8, 12, 14, 17 and 19. If you're looking for practical info check our article with tips to plan your visit in Romania.

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. Although this Transylvanian castle was an important medieval fortress and home to Romania's Queen Mary, 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… 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 - even now during Covid times! If you’re looking for a guide to give you the real story of the castle then our guides will do that. If you're looking for fiction, made-up stories and unproven connections with Vlad the Impaler, other guides will give you 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 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 Peleș 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. Situated at the base of the Carpathian Mountains in the charming resort of Sinaia (1h30 min drive from Bucharest), Peleș Castle was built in in the late 19th century to serve as summer residence for Romania's royal family of German descent.

Which explains the neo-Renaissance architecture the castle was built in with lovely 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 both outside and inside. 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.

Visiting Peles Castle is one of the best things to do in Romania if you’re curious about Romanian history. On a guided tour you'll find out how in the span of 100 years Romania went from being 3 distinct principalities under foreign domination into a democratic monarchy and then communist dictatorship.

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 places to visit in Romania. It's famous for its charming, well-preserved medieval streets surrounded by mountains . Check our guide on what to do in Brasov to find out more. The city’s iconic landmark is the Black Church which is also a great example of medieval German-Saxon architecture. This imposing Gothic church is not just one of Romania's 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 and imposing, 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 other things to do in Brașov, arguably one of the most charming medieval cities in Europe. Visiting other medieval castles Rasnov, Rupea or Fagaras, going hiking in Piatra Craiului or Bucegi Mts. or even 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 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 Traditional Folk and Civilisation. With significant Saxon influences, an aristocratic air to it and a vibrant cultural scene, Sibiu competes with Brasov. That’s why you should visit both and choose your favorite – they're only 2 hours apart but the decision on which one is best is hard even for me - and I've been to both many times!

The elegant building that serves today as the Brukenthal National Museum 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. 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.

But if you're not a fan of indoor museums then you'll be happy to know there's an amazing outdoor museum with 3 Michelin stars: Astra Museum of Folkloric Traditional Civilization. Here you'll find out more about Romanian folk culture and village life.

Sibiu is another great base for your trip in Romania (also has an airport!) with several famous places to visit on day trips: Transfagarasan Highway, Corvin Castle or Sighisoara citadel. Or go food on a food tasting trip in typical Transylvanian mountain villages. Sibiu was the 2019 European Region of Gastronomy thanks to its rich and varied food scene with restaurants reinterpreting traditional Romanian dishes using locally-sourced organic ingredients.


5. Go hiking in the wild Carpathian Mountains

One third of Romania is occupied by the Carpathian Mountains reaching altitudes of 2,500m - so our country is an amazing destination for hiking, mountaineering adventures, wildlife watching and other outdoor activities (MTB, via ferrata, enduro trails, camping). The Carpathians offer a wide choice of trails for city dwellers, amateur outdoor people and experienced hikers alike - so going for 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 and there are 2 documentaries about this: Wild Carpathia and Untamed Romania -- check them out to see why! Go hiking in Romania to discover untouched sceneries and old forests, a rich wildlife population and traditional mountain villages still untouched by civilization. Natural attractions and places to visit include Zarnesti and Turda Gorges, numerous waterfalls and peaks over 2,500m waiting to be summited!

Check our hiking guide in Romania to find out how to plan your trip, why you should hire a licensed mountain guide and where to go hiking!

6. Romania’s most famous World Heritage attraction: the Danube Delta

Besides the great mountain outdoors, another amazing place to see in Romania is the UNESCO natural reserve Danube Delta. This biosphere the size of a region is one of a kind and among the best places to visit in Romania if you're into birdwatching and enjoy boat rides through river canals lush with vegetation and watery sceneries! This combination also makes the Delta a popular place to go for wildlife photographers and conservation enthusiasts :)

The Danube Delta is considered one of the largest and best preserved deltas in all of Europe and worldwide. In addition to its picturesque canals, numerous lakes and soft marshes, the Romanian delta is home to over 300 species of birds who nest here every year until flying South before winter. Photographers, wildlife enthusiasts or curious tourists should visit the Delta between April - October to catch a glimpse of nature’s wonders. Hiring a local guide with a boat is highly recommended as the region is impossible to navigate without local knowledge and a boat.

The Delta is also known for its unique fish-based cuisine - locals from traditional fisherman villages will welcome you into their homes and cook delicious fish stews and dishes you won’t find anywhere else in Romania. Letea Forest is also a unique spot where wild horses can be seen. Without a doubt the Danube Delta is one of Romania's most famous tourist attractions.

7. Discover delicious Romanian wines

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 that. And Romanians like to drink (also beer!) and sit for hours at a table. In the last 10 years the quality and variety of our wines and the culture surrounding wine consumption 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 compared to what you’d find in France or Italy.

You know what this means, right? A wine tasting trip is one of the best things you can do when in Romania! There are numerous wineries you can visit close to Bucharest and scattered all over Transylvania. Some are housed in aristocratic 18th century villas overlooking the vineyards.

Most wineries organise wine tastings only for larger groups. So if 2 people show up it’s unlikely they’ll take them. But luckily for you - we've built strong connections with some premium wineries so if you want to have a Romanian wine tasting paired with local cheeses and cured meats for 2 - we can arrange that!

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Bike & Wine Tasting Trip in Bucharest Countryside

Start from: Dealu Mare wine area (or Bucharest)

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8. Watch Brown Bears in their natural habitat

Let’s go back to the mountains! One of the best 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 vast and wild (and under the constant threat of illegal deforestation), lots of wild animals roam these lands freely: foxes, deer, lynx, eagles, wolves and many more. Europe’s last wilderness reserve – a rightfully earned title by our country!

If you want to see wild animals... in the wild! (their natural habitat) the best place to do that is on guided tours from Brasov. We run wildlife tours with a conservation non-profit and specialist wildlife guides that will take you deep into the wilderness of Fagaras Mts. Just know these tours are NOT your regular activity: you will go hiking sometimes on unmarked trails or difficult terrain to high observation points where - hopefully - you will see animals. Wildlife rangers will show you how to track animal marks and tell you more about their natural habitat. And, remember, Mother Nature can't be controlled so seeing animals is not guaranteed but our guides know where to go to increase the chances of that :)

Birdwatching can also be done in several places in Romania other than in the Danube Delta. There are some forests close to Brasov where our specialist bird guides can take you on a special trip.

Seeing wild animals is definitely a unique activity in Romania - but you can also see friendly animals such as sheep herds and cows during a hike in Piatra Craiului National Park (close to Braosv) or Apuseni Natural Park (close to Cluj-Napoca). You'll probably go through traditional mountain villages and have the opportunity to try local "specialty" cheeses, cold cuts and homegrown vegetables.

9. Admire the 500 years old Painted Monasteries of Bucovina

Ok - back to culture! There are many beautiful churches in Romania tourists could visit 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: Voronet, Humor, Moldovita, Pataruti, Probota, Suceava, and Sucevita.

Voronet is the most famous among the painted monasteries for its unique blue nuance used to depict Judgement Day. All the churches are located in small villages in the North-Eastern region of Bucovina - hence the name Painted Monasteries of Bucovina. 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.

The region of Bukovina
8-Day Complete Tour of Traditional Maramures & Bucovina

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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. The logistics of visiting them is a bit more complex too: you'll need at least 3 full days to travel to the region and have enough time to visit the monasteries and other attractions in the area, of which there are plenty!

10. Go on a slow and picturesque Steam Train ride

Romania’s natural beauty is best enjoyed 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 30-50 km/h through beautiful natural areas not accessible any other way! How cool is this?

The Mocanita Steam Train on Vaser Valley 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.

But my favourite train ride is perhaps lesser known – although more beautiful – the Oravita-Anina route in the Banat region, South of Timisoara (pictured above). The Semering (name of the train) will take you on a route where the picturesque scenery with mid-level mountains and open valleys is dotted with traditional villages. As opposed to the closed mountain valleys of the other two trains, this slow-train ride will mesmerise you in such a way that 3 hours will pass very fast!

11. Relive medieval times: Sighișoara Citadel Historic Centre

Sighișoara is a small city in the heart of Transylvania where you'll find one of the most culturally significant and popular tourist place to visit in Romania: Sighisoara Citadel another UNESCO heritage site in 1999.

Situated on a small hill overlooking the plains of Transylvania, this fortified citadel 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 Tepes or 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 to admire medieval houses - still inhabited! - and imagine how people lived 500 years ago! And if you go with a guide there is much history to learn here :)

One of the best times to visit is during Summer when the famous Sighișoara Medieval Festival takes place (in pre-Covid times - but hopefully it will come back). This festival celebrates authentic medieval culture and brings together traditional dances, sword-fighting, artisans with their wares and, of course, tasty traditional Romanian food! Sighisoara can be easily visited on day trips from Cluj, Sibiu or Brasov.

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 traditional food is. Why?

Because Romanian cuisine is a unique mix - a reflection of our agrarian roots and life in mountain villages at the intersection of Turkish/Balkan, Austro-Hungarian and Russian influences. Our traditional dishes have surprising, delicious flavours and are incredibly filling for both meat-lovers and vegetarians or vegans (thanks to Orthodox Lent periods which Romanian observe). The best thing about our food is that it's made with home-grown (aka organic) hand-to-mouth vegetables and animal products from local households (especially in the countryside) - unlike the bland, industrialized food you find in Western countries. Want to know the real taste of a tomato? The flavours of strawberries? How a chicken raised on a farm really tastes like? Come visit Romania!

Authentic Romanian dishes you should try include sarmale, mici and ciorba (sour vegetable broth), mamaliga (polenta) with fresh cheese and sour cream or stuffed peppers. Appetizers (vegan-friendly) such as eggplant salad, zacusca or baked beans paste will already fill you up! And, like all agricultural people, there's a variety of cheese (white/fresh, aged or smoked), cured meats and sausages to discover! And leave room for desert: papanasi, fruit pies, pancakes and pastries stuffed with sweet cheese, nuts or fruit jams!

And to top it off -- since 2010 specialty coffee culture and consumption boomed in Romania. Check our list with the best coffee shops in Bucharest, Brasov, Cluj-Napoca, Sibiu and Timisoara to finish your meal in style!


13. Visit Romania’s Merry Cemetery

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 in the village of Săpânța in Maramures region. Unlike the usual sombre 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!

  • the stories are written in Romanian and without translation so without a local guide there's no point to go there

Started in the 1960s the Merry Cemetery is a unique tourist attraction in Romania and Europe for its unorthodox approach - although located in one of the most religious regions of Romania. For context: on Sundays people in Maramures wear traditional folk costumes and go to church (also famous - wooden, UNESCO heritage, 400 years old). There’s an interesting reason for this, of course, and if you visit the local artisan that makes the crosses you'll find out what it is. 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!

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: a salt mine dating from Roman times that now houses an insane, unexpected amusement park!

In this unique underground complex you'll discover huge caverns and corridors carved in salt where carefully-placed lights 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 can rent a boat!

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 here will be one of the best and healthiest things you can do in Romania!

15. Visit Europe’s biggest building: Palace of Parliament in Bucharest


When travelers start searching for places to visit in Romania, images of the monumental Palace of Parliament in Bucharest inevitably show up. This building 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. A historic neighbourhood was razed and huge material sacrifices were made over the course of 6 years in the 1980s so this building was finished. Romanian people are still divided on its value and importance.

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! Undoubtedly it's one of Romania's most famous tourist attraction, so this place is a must even if from the outside. Tours inside are led by official staff and they'll only tell you bland facts about the building. So if you want to find out more about communist Romania with historical facts, stories and local truths you should book one of our specialized tours.

You might be wondering if it's worth spending a couple of days in Bucharest. In short - YES. In long - read more about what to do in Bucharest to decide for yourself.


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 which named it the best road in the world! Driving enthusiasts will absolutely adore the many twists and turns of this incredible drive but everyone will enjoy the jaw-dropping sights of Fagaras Mts. the wildest and tallest in Romania!

At its highest point at Balea Lake the road reaches 2,200m altitude and offers breathtaking views of Transylvania’s plains in the distance in contrast with 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 this road is open for driving only between June-October. Outside this period it can be visited only coming from Sibiu or Brasov and using a cable to get to Balea Lake - if weather permits.

17. Enjoy the nightlife scene in Bucharest's Old Town

One unique thing to do in Romania - though more toned down now because of the Covid pandemic - is to experience Bucharest's nightlife. The trendiest area with today's youth is (ironically) the Old Town area. On Lipscani Street you will see both locals and tourists hopping from bar to bar. Stag and bachelorette groups from all over Europe come here to party for good reason: Romanians love going out and when they do - they go out in style!

Even if you're not a big fan of clubbing, there are many beautiful restaurants, cafes, garden spots and wine bars in Bucharest that switch to a cool evening vibe especially during Summer. And you'll probably go out for dinner anyway - so why not spend 1-2 extra hours after in a different place? It will be fun, guaranteed!

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. A tip from us: nightlife in Bucharest starts after 11-12 pm. Check our post on places to go out in Bucharest for more inspiration!


18. See the Romanian Sphinx in the Bucegi Mountains

The Sphinx is a mysterious natural rock formation located high up in Bucegi Mountains. It's accessible via cable car from Busteni or on 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!


19. Experience authentic Romanian village life

You haven’t experienced authentic Romanian culture and local life until you spend a couple of days in the Romanian countryside to disconnect from civilisation, slow down and reconnect with nature in its wildest, ancestral form. One of the things Romania is famous for and a favorite activity for locals is to go into traditional regions such as Transylvania, Maramures or Bucovina or in the mountains in Apuseni (close to Cluj-Napoca), around Sibiu or in the Brasov area for their holiday.

Some villages in these areas are like a time-capsule: shepherds will greet you, roosters wake you up, vegetables from people's gardens and homemade products create delicious meals and – best of all – a slow, quiet peaceful life with beautiful scenery. The perfect place to relax.

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 who are happier 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 things. Local folklore, crafts and traditions are very well preserved so it’s one of the best places to visit in Romania if you’re interested in this.

In the countryside there are lots of traditional homes turned into modern guesthouses, including boutique and unique accommodations. However, few locals speak English, cash is king and without a local guide with connections in the area it's harder to experience the beauty of this place. It's like going into the mountains of Morocco, the villages or Vietnam or in the Amazonian jungles without a guide.

20. Visit Romania’s haunted forest

Let’s close the list with one of the most unusual places to visit in Romania: Hoia Baciu forest near Cluj-Napoca. The forest was named after a shepherd went missing there with his whole flock of sheep. In 1968 the forest gained further popularity when a military technician claimed he saw a UFO flying overhead. And there are plenty of other stories and myths in local folklore.

What also makes this place unique is the unusual shape of trees and weird natural layout you wouldn't normally see in a forest. One of the strangest spots is a clearing, a 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 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 night tour in the haunted forest of Romania having a "gimme your best shot" attitude with our partner-guide. It was unlike any other night-walk I've ever been on, with an eerie feeling to it. Besides telling you stories about the Hoia Baciu forest, our partners 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 we haven’t covered other tourist attractions (Corvin Castle, Muddy Volcanoes) or things to do (caving, via ferrata, MTB, photography trails) but 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

Marius

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