The mysterious and alluring country of Romania is guaranteed to captivate you from the moment you cross the border. Although many people link Romania to Transylvania and Dracula, there is so much more to explore about this relatively untouched destination.
Marked by towering medieval castles and ancient fortified churches, Romania has no shortage of jaw-dropping architectural achievements. It’s also home to some of the most dramatic landscapes on the planet, including the Carpathian Mountains and the Danube River.
If you’re looking for a country rich in history and full of outdoor adventure, then look no further than Romania.
17. Corvin Castle
The Corvin Castle is a stellar example of traditional Transylvanian architecture. Built in the 15th-century by Hungarian military leader John Hunyadi, the castle’s massive stone towers and brightly colored roofs can be seen from miles around. It’s perched atop a rocky cliff overlooking the city of Hunedoara and the Zlatsi River.
Not only is Corvin Castle one of the largest castles in Europe, but its history is also steeped in mysterious legends. It is believed to be the residence of Vlad the Impaler. Many visitors also argue that it was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula.
16. Statue of King Decebalus
The Statue of King Decebalus may be one of the most unique things you’ll see in Romania. As you sail through the Iron Gates on the Danube River, you’ll encounter a 141-foot-high face of Decebalus carved into the side of a rock. This sculpture honors this last king, who fought for the country’s independence against the Roman emperors Domitian and Trajan.
While it may look ancient, the sculpture was actually commissioned in the mid-90s by Romanian businessman Iosif Constantin Drăgan. Under the sculpture’s face, you’ll see the Latin text “DECEBALUS REX—DRAGAN FECIT,” which translates to “King Decebalus—Made by Drăgan.”
15. Palace of Parliament (Bucharest)
The imposing Palace of Parliament in Bucharest is a spectacular architectural achievement. Designed by over 700 architects, this massive structure is the heaviest and most expensive administrative building in the world. Composed of 23 sections, it is constructed with materials like crystals, marble, wood, and carpet entirely of Romanian origin.
The Palace of Parliament houses both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. Besides being an administration building, the Palace of Parliament also has three on-site museums and an international convention center. However, roughly 70% of the building remains empty due to seasonal events and conferences.
14. Sarmizegetusa Regia
Step back in time with a visit to the ancient capital of Sarmizegetusa Regia. It was built an astounding 2,000 years ago as the central defense system of the Dacian Empire to protect against Roman conquering.
During your visit, you’ll be able to see the layout of different buildings that were used, including a giant quadrilateral fortress as well as workshops, houses, and water pipe systems. As you walk through the ruins and stone fragments, you’ll be able to imagine what daily life was like for the Dacians.
13. Palace of Culture (Iași)
It’s hard to miss the monumental Palace of Culture, which towers over the bustling city of Iasi. Located on the former grounds of the Princely Palace, the Palace of Culture was used as an administration building and courthouse until 1955. It now contains four different museums – the History Museum, the Ethnographic Museum, the Science Museum, and the Art Museum.
Besides the museums, the palace has almost 300 different rooms and halls. One of the most notable rooms is Voivodes’ Hall, which is ornately decorated and filled with paintings of kings, emperors, and royal families. You can also walk up to the clock tower for panoramic views outside the palace.
12. Sighisoara Citadel
As one of the best-preserved medieval towns in all of Romania, the Sighisoara Citadel is a must-see attraction to add to your itinerary. This historic city was built in the 12th-century and is most notably known as the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler.
As you walk the winding streets through the old city, you’ll see charming city squares and brightly painted houses. Don’t forget to visit the Sighișoara Clock Tower, which sits in the heart of the village. By spending a few hours in this picturesque town, you’ll start to truly soak in the history and culture of the Transylvanian Saxons.
11. Merry Cemetery (Săpânţa)
Visiting a cemetery might not be at the top of every traveler’s to-do list. However, the Merry Cemetery in Săpânţa is unlike any cemetery in the world, and one of those places you must visit during your trip to Romania.
On the 800 or so colorful tombstones, you’ll find poems and illustrated pictures depicting the life stories of the people that are buried there. Some of the stories are symbolic, but many of them are joyful and even humorous. Don’t forget to look closely at the illustrations – they often explain how the person died.
10. Poiana Braşov
The mountainous resort of Poiana Braşov is an outdoor lover’s paradise. You can come throughout the year and enjoy a plethora of sports and outdoor activities. During the winter, it’s a popular destination for skiing, ice-skating, and tubing. In the summer, the slopes are full of hikers, cyclists, and horseback riders.
Even if you aren’t the adventurous type, you can still enjoy a visit to Poiana Braşov. The town is filled with bustling hotels, restaurants, and even nightclubs. You can also indulge in traditional cuisine and alcoholic drinks, like the famous pepper-spiced Țuică.
9. Danube Delta
Flowing across Romania and into Ukraine is the Danube Delta, the second-largest river delta in all of Europe. As you navigate through the narrow canals into the Black Sea, you’ll cross wetlands and marshes teeming with numerous plants and animals. The water is home to an abundance of marine life, like carp, mollusks, and sturgeons. The delta is also home to a variety of bird species, including the rare pygmy cormorant.
Much of the delta can only be reached by boat, so it’s a good idea to join a cruise or tour in order to make the most of your visit.
8. Sibiu Big Square
Nicknamed the “Little Vienna” of Romania, Sibiu is a quaint, colorful town lined with charming Baroque houses and Gothic buildings. In its center is the Big Square, a beautiful plaza that is dotted with hotels, shops, and restaurants. It’s been around for over 500 years and continues to be the center of daily life and the beating heart of the city.
In the middle of the square, you’ll find a statue of St. John Nepomuk, the square’s main attraction. Grab some lunch or a cup of coffee and relax while admiring the view of one of Romania’s most beloved squares.
7. Fortified Churches
Romania is home to some of the most spectacular fortified churches in Europe. These churches are testaments to the rich, cultural heritage of the Saxons that came over from Germany to settle in Transylvania. There are over 150 fortified churches in Romania, many of which were built between the 13th and 16th-centuries.
Visit the meticulously preserved church of Biertan or the rare 15th-century murals in the church of Harmam. The picturesque fortified church of Viscri is also another popular tourist destination, along with the church of Calnic and church of Prejmer.
6. Transfagarasan Highway
With breathtaking views of sparkling blue lakes, rolling mountainous hills, and ancient castles, the Transfagarasan Highway is guaranteed to delight all travelers. Extending 56 miles from Wallachia to Transylvania, the Transfagarasan Highway is one of the most popular road trip destinations in the world.
Because of the steep hairpin turns and winding S curves, the highway is only open in the summer, where there is little chance of rain or snow. The drive may be challenging, but it’s an unforgettable journey for anyone willing to tackle its roads.
5. Turda Gorge
The untouched Turda Gorge is a tranquil destination for anyone who wants to escape to the great outdoors. The jagged cliffs of the limestone canyon are practically made for hiking. At almost five miles long, it should take roughly 1.5 hours each way to complete the trek.
Along the way, you’ll encounter a variety of plants, trees, and animals. There are over 1,000 plant species in the gorge, and over 67 types of birds, fish, and mammals. The Gorge is also home to the incredibly rare rock eagle.
4. Peleş Castle (Sinaia)
Situated on the foothills of the Bucegi Mountains, Peleş Castle is a striking Renaissance castle that needs to be seen to be believed. It was commissioned by King Carol I in 1873 and was used as the summer residence of the royal family.
Inside the castle, you’ll find over 160 rooms that are all designed in a different theme. Many of them are ornately decorated with Germain stained-glass windows, Murano crystal chandeliers, and colorful murals and frescoes. In fact, the castle is home to over 4,000 artifacts, paintings, and furniture items.
3. Painted Monasteries
The painted monasteries throughout Romania are pristine examples of Byzantine art. Instead of traditional brick or stone, you’ll find the exteriors of the monasteries decorated with colorful frescoes. The paintings on these monasteries often date back to the 15th and 16th-centuries, and many of the frescoes depict scenes from the bible. They may also include images of saints, prophets, heaven, and Jesus.
Some of the better-known painted monasteries include Humor, Moldovita, Probota, and Suceava. These small but incredibly unique buildings are worth visiting during your trip to Romania.
2. Bran Castle
Bran Castle is arguably one of the most important landmarks and attractions – not just in Transylvania, but in all of Romania. It is often referred to as Dracula’s Castle, since it was believed to be one of the inspirations for Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula.
Built in the late 1300s, Bran Castle was initially used to house and protect German colonists. It was then given to Queen Marie in 1920, who made it her royal residence. After being passed to her daughter, the castle was later used as a hospital during WWII. It’s now a museum dedicated to the life and art collection of Queen Marie.
1. Brașov Old Town
Brașov is one of the most visited cities in Romania, and for a good reason. The city’s picturesque old town is lined with winding stone alleys, colorful houses, and historic fortified churches. With centuries worth of history in its quarters, Brașov Old Town is a charming destination to spend a few days in Romania.
Standing in the center of the town is the Black Church, which got its name after being burnt in a devastating fire in 1689. You can walk down Strada Sforri, which is the narrowest street in all of Europe.