Romania is a mystery land crowned by mountains and enigmatic landscapes. Much of this thunderously stunning country can be explored via day trips from Bucharest. Dare to drive the most beautiful and treacherous road in Europe, float upon the salty Black Sea, talk with the descendants of Vlad the Impaler’s former servants and marvel at some of the most beautiful castles in the world. And each of these adventures is just a short drive away from Romania’s capital city.
Map of day trips from Bucharest
7. Transfagarasan Road[SEE MAP]
Rent a car, put on a warm coat and head up the mountainside on the stunningly beautiful Transfagarasan Road. This is one of the most gorgeous highways in the world making the drive itself worth the trip. The Transfagarasan Road traverses the Fagaras Mountains; the tallest mountains in Romania which are also known as the Transylvanian Alps.
It takes nerves of steel to drive this windy, narrow road that clings to the Fagaras mountainside. The road passes Fagaras Fortress, Vidraru Dam and Balea Lake. The fortress is surrounded by a deep moat and was formerly the residence of Michael the Brave while the Vidraru Dam holds back the amazingly blue glacial waters of the Balea Lake.
Getting to the Transfagarasan Road
- Lying to the northwest of Bucharest, the Transfagarasan Road is very easy to drive to from the capital. Just head west on the E81. Once you’ve passed Pitesti, continue on the 7C all the way there. All in all, it should take about two and a half hours to reach the start of the road. You can visit both the impressive Vidraru Dam and beautiful Balea Lake before zigzagging your way through the breathtaking Fagaras Mountains.
- If you want to experience the breathtaking Transylvanian Alps but don’t want to worry about driving, you might want to consider taking a sightseeing tour of the Transfagarasan Road. In addition to taking in all the beautiful scenery on the road trip, stops at Curtea de Arges Monastery and Poenari Fortress will help you come away with a greater understanding and appreciation for Transylvania and Wallachia’s historical and cultural sights.
6. Veliko Tarnovo in Bulgaria[SEE MAP]
Medieval history awaits just over the border in Bulgaria at Veliko Tarnovo. One of Bulgaria’s oldest towns, Veliko Tarnovo hangs on the side of the slithering Yantra River to make for some dramatic views. At the heart of this ancient town is the restored Tsarevets Fortress which served as the citadel for the Second Bulgarian Empire.
Much of the town is unchanged through the centuries. Take a stroll through time on the cobblestone of ul Gurko lane and peruse handcrafts at the Samovodska Charshiya market much like the townsfolk did two centuries ago. Some of Tarnovo has modernized quite nicely. The new side of town boasts Bulgaria’s second-largest university and is a haven for backpackers traveling between Istanbul and Bucharest.
Getting to Veliko Tarnovo
- The best way to visit Veliko Tarnovo, which lies directly south of Bucharest in neighboring Bulgaria, is to take a guided tour to the fabulous medieval city. As well as passing through some lovely scenery on the way there and back, you’ll learn a lot about Bulgaria’s rich history from your expert guide as you explore the city’s beautiful sights. Among the many highlights on show are the Tsaravets Fortress and Arbanasi Village.
5. Poenari Castle[SEE MAP]
Vlad the Impaler was a notorious figure in history. The story of Dracula is said to be based on the Romanian ruler. You can visit his castle, which has been remarkably untouched by time, on a short day trip from Bucharest. Before heading up to the castle, head just a few miles south to visit the town of Arefu.
The incredibly preserved ancient town is still full of the descendants of those who served Vlad the Impaler and they are proud of it. Vlad chose Poenari Castle as his stronghold in the 15th century.
The castle’s isolation fed the brutal ruler’s penchant for paranoia. He eventually isolated himself from his closest friends and even his own brother. They betrayed him by having him arrested for high treason the second he emerged from this castle to ask for their help. He escaped the charges but never returned to his home on the hill.
Getting to Poenari Castle
- To get to Poenari Castle by public transport is a bit complicated but just about doable. From the Pacii bus stop on the western outskirts of Bucharest, take a two-hour bus ride to Curtea de Arges. From here, you can either take a 30-minute taxi ride to Poenari Castle or catch one of the infrequent buses that head to the nearby Vidraru Dam.
- While it still takes two and a half hours to drive to Poenari Castle, you at least have reliable transport to take you there and back and explore the nearby sights. From the city center, simply take the E81 heading west until just past Pitesti, when you then continue along the 7C all the way to the castle. After having explored the castle, you could either visit the impressive Vidraru Dam or the stunning church in Curtea de Arges.
- For people interested in learning more about the history of the area as well as that of Vlad the Impaler, it is not a bad idea to take a guided tour; these not only take you to Poenari Castle, but also around the fortress, monastery and church at Curtea de Arges.
4. Constanta[SEE MAP]
Sitting on the Black Sea, Constanta lures tourists from all over Europe during the summer months. Constanta is the oldest attested city in Romania at 2,600 years old. It’s also Romania’s largest port and the third largest port on the Black Sea in Europe.
Romania’s oldest city has plenty of historical landmarks, museums, shops, beaches and even a grand casino. Accommodation here is much more affordable than what you’ll find in Mamaia and it is only a 15-minute cab ride away. Be sure to check out the popular gathering spot of Ovid Square, the intricate beauty of the Roman Mosaics and the 26-foot Genoese Lighthouse built by the Black Sea Company in 1860.
Getting to Constanta
- Lying on Romania’s Black Sea coastline, Constanta is serviced by trains from Bucharest Nord Gara A station. The quickest journey takes about two hours. Make sure to check the train schedule in advance, as only a few direct trains leave each day. Once you arrive, you’ll find yourself just a short walk from Constanta’s impressive waterfront.
- Driving to Constanta from Bucharest couldn’t be easier; all you need to do is stick on the E81 heading east. It takes about two and a half hours to complete the journey. Once you’ve explored Constanta, you can always drive to the nearby seaside resort town of Mamaia to enjoy some sand and sun.
- To make the most of your time at Constanta, you may want to consider taking a guided tour from Bucharest. As well as exploring its beautiful seafront, the tour also takes you to the fascinating Archaeology Museum and Roman Mosaic before stopping off at Mamaia Beach if you fancy a swim in the Black Sea.
3. Peles Castle[SEE MAP]
Considered one of the most breathtaking castles in Europe, Peles Castle is nestled up against the Bucegi Mountains north of Bucharest. The castle took dozens of stone masons, wood carvers and artists over 40 years to build. Their persistence and commitment to their craft show in this
Get here early as this wildly popular tourist destination can sell out during the summer months. To see the incredibly lavish interior of the castle, you’ll be forced to take a 40-minute guided tour and the lines can be long. You’ll be smitten by the Honorary Hallway where German landscapes are hand carved into the walls and blown away by the castle’s museum-worthy armory.
Getting to Peles Castle
- Peles Castle is very easy to get to by public transport. From Bucharest Nord Gara A, trains run directly to Sinaia – the nearest station – and these usually take just over an hour and a half. From the station, you can either take a short taxi ride to the castle or stroll peacefully through the picturesque town until you reach the castle. This takes about half-an-hour. After completing your visit, there are lots of lovely mountain walks to be had nearby, as well as the delightful Pelisor Castle to check out.
- By car, it takes just under two hours to get to Peles Castle. You really can’t go wrong when it comes to the directions, as you simply take the DN1 all the way there. The surrounding area is home to loads of lovely sights, so you could always visit Bran Castle or Brasov town once you’ve explored Peles Castle.
- Lots of people who visit Transylvania decide to take a guided tour so they can visit both Bran Castle and Peles Castle in the same trip. With a knowledgeable guide on hand, you’ll learn a lot about both castles, and the trip also includes a walking tour around nearby Brasov town.
2. Brasov[SEE MAP]
A massive Hollywood-style sign towers between Soviet blocks to make Brasov’s skyline one of a kind. Gothic guard towers still crown the city and you’ll have to enter through medieval gateways. Inside, you’ll find beautiful baroque churches and a cafe-lined main square called Piaţa Sfatului.
If you can pry your eyes off the city’s beauty for a moment, take the time to talk with a local. They will spin you tales about the city that include Vlad the Impaler’s mistress, an old noblewoman resurrected from her grave and that time when a bear wandered into the town square.
Getting to Brasov
- As lots of direct trains run between Brasov and Bucharest, it is very easy to travel from one to the other by public transport. Simply hop on a train at Bucharest Nord Gara A, and two and a half to three hours later you’ll find yourself in the center of Brasov.
- It takes a similar amount of time to reach Brasov by car, and the directions couldn’t be more straightforward: follow the DN1 all the way from Bucharest to Brasov. The drive takes you through some fantastic landscapes, and once you’ve had your fill of the city, you could stop off at the nearby Bran Castle or Peles Castle on your way back to Bucharest.
- In fact, many people combine a trip to Brasov with a visit to Bran Castle; a guided tour is one of the best ways to see both in one day. After having explored the spooky Bran Castle to your heart’s content, an expert guide will take you around all Brasov’s main sights, telling you about its interesting history and culture as you go.
1. Bran Castle[SEE MAP]
Bram Stoker brought Dracula to life in the pages of a book in 1897. He loosely based his main character on Vlad the Impaler and amalgamated many of his European castle visits to create Dracula’s home.
Bran Castle looks like Bram Stoker’s vision, but connections to Vlad the Impaler himself are thin. That doesn’t stop the people of the town of Bran from embellishing the origin story of this beautiful castle. Perched on a hill high above the town of Bran, the conical towers of this castle make for a great view of the surrounding landscape and town below.
The creaky wooden floors are covered in bear skin rugs, the furniture is ornate and the fireplaces made of ceramic. Queen Maria and King Ferdinand actually lived in this homestead. Ignore any scant stories connecting the magnificent building to Bram Stoker or Vlad the Impaler.
Getting to Bran Castle
- To visit Bran Castle from Bucharest is just about possible by public transport, although it will take you around three and a half hours one way. Firstly, you need to take a direct train from Bucharest Nord Gara A to Brasov; this usually takes between two and a half to three hours. From here, Bran Castle is a 45-minute bus journey away; buses depart very regularly from Autogara 2 bus stop. To get to Autogara 2 from Brasov train station, it is best to take a five-minute taxi ride, which will save you from walking half-an-hour or having to work out the local buses. The whole journey is quite time consuming, but on the way, you pass through some spectacular scenery.
- As you can see, it is quite challenging to get there by public transport. Consequently, many people prefer to drive. The journey takes around two and a half hours from Bucharest. Just head north out of the city and hop on the DN1, which will take you almost all the way there. Just before you reach Predeal, turn left onto the 73A and follow it as it zigzags through the lovely mountain scenery. Once you arrive at Rasnov, you’ll see signs pointing you to the castle. After having explored the castle, Brasov is just half-an-hour’s drive away if you want to see more of what Transylvania has to offer. Alternatively, Peles Castle is a brilliant place to stop off on the way back to Bucharest.
- Another option for visiting Bran Castle is to take a guided tour from Bucharest. As well as telling you all about the myths and legends that swirl around the castle, your guide will take you for a walking tour of nearby Brasov, after which you’ll have time to explore the city at your leisure.