Choose from 21 Fun Things to Do in Transylvania
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With its striking pointed roofs, gothic façade and 73-meter turreted steeple looming over Piața Huet, the Lutheran Cathedral is not only one of Sibiu’s most distinctive buildings, but the highest cathedral in Romania. Built in the 14th century on the site of an earlier church, the Lutheran Cathedral of Saint Mary once served as a burial site for Sibiu’s mayors, earls and aristocracy. The original tombstones now form an eerie gallery, built into the interior church walls. Most famous is that of Mihnea the Bad, son of the infamous Vlad the Impaler (better known as Dracula), who was allegedly killed on the church steps.
Additional highlights of the Lutheran Cathedral include its grand 6,000-pipe organ, a series of exquisite 15th-century frescos and its elaborate fan-vaulted ceiling. As well as being a tourist attraction in its own right, the Lutheran Cathedral remains a working church, with regular services and choir recitals taking place each week.
The Lutheran Cathedral is located on Piața Albert Huet in central Sibiu and is open daily from 9am to 6pm. There is no admission fee.
Address: Piața Albert Huet, Sibiu 550182, Romania
Hours: Daily 9am-6pm
From $ 12
Famous enough to feature on the UK motor show Top Gear but remote enough that traffic jams won’t be a problem, Transfagarasan Highway might just be “the best road in the world” as Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson claimed. Despite hairpin bends, and sheer drops off rocky cliffs, this route rewards tourists with spectacular scenery.
Driving the Transfagarasan Highway is a real Romanian experience that pairs road course navigation with spectacular views, twisting and turning its way through the Carpathian mountain range in central Romania. Multi-day tours between Bucharest and Brasov (home of Dracula’s Castle) often include a spin on this legendary road. It’s also possible to visit on a day trip, stopping at sights such as Balea Lake, Poienari Castle, and Vidraru Dam along the way.
Things to Know Before You Go
- It takes about 2.5 hours to drive the road, but leave plenty of time to stop and take photos, or in case you get stuck behind flocks of sheep and local herders, who share the road with regular traffic.
- A restaurant and chalet accommodations are available at Balea Lake.
- It can be chilly in the mountains, even in summer, so bring warm clothing in case you want to get out and take photos.
How to Get There
The highway—known to locals as road 7C—runs for 56 miles (90 kilometers). It starts near Bascov, outside the city of Pitesti, to Sibiu in Transylvania. It ends near the intersection of D1 and Sibiu.
When to Get There
Because of its high altitude, heavy snowfall renders this road unsafe and it is usually closed from late October until late June. Closures are also possible during the summer months, depending on weather conditions, and it’s not possible to drive the road at night.
Transfagarasan: The Facts
Built as a military road in the 1970s, the Transfagarasan Highway is Romania’s second-highest mountain pass, reaching a height of 6,699 feet (2,042 meters). It has more tunnels and viaducts than any other Romanian road, and boasts the longest tunnel—the 2,900-foot (884-meter) Bâlea Tunnel. Because of the many s-curves, hairpin bends, and steep descents, the average speed along the road is around 25 mph (40 kph).
From $ 58
Set in the Carpathian Mountains in the heart of Transylvania, Poiana Brasov is one of the most popular ski resorts in Romania, as well as the largest and most luxurious – although still quite affordable. Completely modernized in the past five years, it offers snow cover from the middle of November to mid-March and features more than 24 kilometers of ski runs, with an emphasis on easy to intermediate runs. Transport up the mountain includes two aerial tramways, two chairlfits, five ski lifts, one gondola and one magic carpet. Lights on the lower slopes allow for skiing well into the evening.
Poiana Brasov is 14 kilometers from the center of medieval Brasov and tends to feel more like a small town than a ski resort. Several hotels and restaurants feature traditional Romanian cuisine and folk music. Other activities include swimming, horseback riding, cross country skiing and paragliding, as well as day trips to nearby attractions like Dracula’s Castle and Rasnov Fortress are great options.
To get to Poiana Brasov, first take the train from Bucharest to Brasov. Then, buses 20 and 100 run regularly between Brasov and Poiana Brasov. Once in town, nearly everything is within walking distance, though minibuses are also available to shuttle visitors from their hotels to the base of the ski runs.
Address: Poiana Brasov, Transylvania, Romania
Hours: Lifts operate daily 9am-7pm
Admission: Ski pass prices vary
From $ 31
Sitting high on top of a 200-foot (61-meter) cliff in the middle of Transylvania, Bran Castle is surrounded by an aura of mystery tied to both the myth of Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula and the infamous Vlad Tepes—also known as Vlad the Impaler—who is said to have made Bran Castle his home. One of the world’s most famous castles, Bran Castle today is a museum dedicated to Queen Marie of Romania.
Even if you are not enticed by Bran Castle’s darker history, visiting the so-called Dracula’s Castle makes a lovely day trip from either Bucharest or Brasov. Views from the castle, which overlooks the medieval city of Bran, are epic, and learning about the castle’s rich history is easy, as most of the displays are translated into English. Expect dozens of tunnels, a secret staircase, and nearly 60 rooms, several with museum-like displays around different themes. Don’t miss the room dedicated to Dracula. To experience more of the looming stone edifice, stroll around its base to see it from every angle. See more of Transylvania by booking a one-day tour that combines a visit to Bran Castle with sites like Peles Castle, Poenari Castle, Rasnov Fortress, or Brasov’s Black Church.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Bran Castle is a must-see for adventurous travelers and Goth history buffs.
- Allow two to three hours for your visit.
- Expect long entry lines; book tickets in advance to reduce wait times.
- Many parts of the castle have low ceilings, so watch your head.
- Bran Castle is not wheelchair accessible, but admission is free for the disabled.
How to Get There
Bran Castle is easily accessible from Bucharest and Brasov. Take the train from Bucharest to Brasov, about a 3.5-hour ride, and then transfer to a bus or taxi for the remaining 30-mile (48-kilometer) journey to Bran Castle. Buses run between Brasov and the castle every 30 minutes during the week and once an hour on the weekends.
When to Get There
Bran Castle is open year-round (April 1 to September 30: Tuesday through Sunday from 9am to 6pm; Monday from noon to 6pm; October 1 to March 31: Tuesday through Sunday from 9am to 4pm; Monday from noon to 4pm). The castle is best visited during summer, when the weather is pleasant and the castle remains open a few extra hours. That said, winter’s gray skies and chilly temperatures offer an appropriately gloomy ambience. Try to visit on a weekday and arrive first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds. Alternatively, arrive later in the afternoon and stay to watch the sun setting in the distance.
Bran Castle for Dracula Fans
Bran Castle is rumored to have been the home of the infamous ruler of Wallachia, Vlad Tepes, the vicious ruler who is said to be the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula. In addition to Bran Castle, Dracula fans will enjoy visiting Targoviste, once the capital of Wallachia and where Vlad held court. An hour from there is the Poenari Castle, one of Vlad’s main fortresses. And on the way back to Bucharest is the Snagov Monastery, where Vlad is said to be buried. Visit all four sights together by booking a Dracula tour from Bucharest.
Address: Strada General Traian Moșoiu, Bran, Romania
Hours: Open daily, hours vary by season.
Admission: Adults: 40Lei (8.5€)
From $ 20
Brasov’s monumental Black Church (Biserica Neagra) soars heavenwards at the southwestern end of the city’s focal Council Square (Piata Sfatului) and is the largest Gothic church in central Europe. Afloat with flying buttresses and a landmark tower, construction on the church began in 1383 and it was completed almost a century later in 1477; along with several other prominent buildings in the city it was all but destroyed in the great fire of 1689 and takes its present name from its blackened, smoke-damaged walls. Repairs took more than 100 years and even today only one of the two proposed towers is complete, standing 215 feet (65.6 meters) above the Council Square.
The Black Church’s Gothic vaulting remains but the interior now shows touches of Baroque in its styling; the flamboyant, 4,000-pipe organ is one of the best in Romania, designed in 1839 by the famous German organ-maker Carl August Buchholz and there are weekly organ concerts at 6 p.m. each Tuesday (tickets cost 10 lei). The church also has a priceless collection of 17th- and 18th-century carpets from Asia Minor, which provide a welcome splash of warmth and color against its austere walls.
Curtea Johannes Honterus 2, just off Council Square. Open summer Tues–Sat 10am–7pm, Sun 12pm–7pm; winter Tues–Sat 10am–3pm, Sun 12pm–3pm. Admission adults 8 lei; students 5 lei; children 3 lei.
Address: Curtea Johannes Honterus 2, Brasov, Romania
Admission: Adults: 8 lei; Students: 5 lei; Children 3 lei
From $ 12
Known in Romania as the Urlatoarea Cascada, the Wailing Waterfall is one of the most spectacular waterfalls, and one of the most impressive tourist sights, in the country. Located in the Bucegi Mountains at an altitude of about 1,100 meters, it stands nearly 15 meters high and gets its name from the sound of the water flowing down. Two smaller falls are nearby as well: Urlatoarea Mare and Urlatoarea Mica. One of the paths leading to the waterfall from the town of Poiana Tapului was built by King Carol I to connect the fall with Peles Castle.
The Wailing Waterfall can be combined with the fortified church at Prejmer and the fortified church Harman to make a good day trip from Brasov with a tour group or your own car.
The Wailing Waterfall can only be reached on foot. Visitors can follow a path from the cable car in the town of Busteni along a path marked with a red dot for about 30 minutes. Alternatively, follow the path from the town of Poiana Tapului marked with a blue dot.
From $ 83
Framed by old-fashioned lampposts and lined with colourful flowers, the iron footbridge running between Piata Mica and Piata Huet makes for a romantic spot, looking down over Ocnei street below. But if you believe local legend, Sibiu’s landmark ‘Bridge of Lies’ is much more than a pretty photo opportunity. First built as a wooden footbridge some 200 years ago, the bridge earned its ominous moniker thanks to local myth, which dictates that the bridge has ‘ears’ and magical powers. The bridge was said to expose liars and cheats, creaking and shuddering when lies were told in the town, and would allegedly collapse if a liar attempted to cross.
The iron bridge that stands today was built to replace its predecessor in 1859, but the legend remains and it’s often cited as an example to local kids about the importance of telling the truth. The Bridge of Lies has now become an important symbol of Sibiu and makes a popular destination for tourists, but if you plan on walking across the bridge, it’s probably best to watch what you say… just in case!
The Bridge of Lies is located in central Sibiu and connects Piata Mica and Piata Huet.
Address: Piața Mică, Sibiu 550182, Romania
From $ 12
Rarely does a mineral mine top the list of national attractions, but thanks to well-preserved machinery and spa-like features, the Turda Salt Mine has become a major destination for travelers to Romania. Visitors can venture into the mine’s depths and learn about the rich history of extraction that has kept a community afloat, then travel to Durgau Lakes, which formed mineralized salt on old mining sites. This picturesque spot offers visitors the perfect place to sunbathe, unwind and enjoy scenic Romanian landscapes.
Turda Salt Mine is also home to an impressive (and unexpected) spa complete with fitness center, Jacuzzi and saunas. The didactical swimming pool provides an alternative to the Durgau Lakes for visitors who prefer to log laps indoors. Travelers can also catch one of the popular shows at the amphitheater located on site, ride the massive Big Wheel Ferris wheel for spectacular views, or hop aboard one of the Turda Salt Mine boats for a memorable underground lake tour.
The salt mine is open Monday through Sunday from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. and costs 15 lei for adults and 8 lei for children. English, French, German and Hungarian speaking guides are available for groups of 20 or more upon request.
Address: Strada Frăgărişte, Turda, Romania
Hours: Open Monday through Sunday from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m.
Admission: Adults: 15 lei
From $ 44
This vast national park is one of Romania’s most important protected land areas. Home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, including the Garofita Pietrei Craiului—a purple flower found only in Piatra Craiului—the open spaces, majestic mountains and towering trees here beckon travelers seeking refuge from city streets and urban centers.
A diverse network of well-kept trails means outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty of places to wander. And landmarks like the Zarnesti Gorges, Dambovicioara Cave and the virgin forests offer spectacular access to some of the country’s most beautiful natural wonders. An easy educational trail details the park’s most unique features, while the brown bear observatory and rock faces perfect for climbing offer opportunities for travelers going it with an expert guide.
Those in the know say the park’s northern and eastern valleys tend to get crowded on weekends. Those looking for a quiet retreat should stick to the areas between Podul Dambovitei and Static, near Lake Pecineagu, were fewer people gather on Saturday and Sunday.
The easiest way to access the park is through Zarnesti via Brasov. Buses are available from Barsov to Cumpulung or Pitesti and minibuses are also easy to find. Hiking trails are well marked and use color-coding to designate level of difficulty.
From $ 40
Balea Lake is a glacial lake in Romania's Fagaras Mountains. Sitting at more than 2,000 meters high, it is one of the most popular lakes in Romania. Most visitors are drawn to the lake for the landscape and superb views on the drive there; the water is typically too cold for swimming. Two chalets are open near the lake all year round, but it is most easily accessed in the summer months. In the winter, visitors must ride the cable car from the chalet near the Balea waterfall to get there. In 2006, the first ice hotel in eastern Europe was built nearby using blocks of ice pulled from the frozen lake.
Balea Lake is a four-hour drive from Bucharest or Brasov. The nearest airport is at Sibiu, about 77 kilometers away and a better jumping off point. The lake can be accessed from the Transfaragan Road starting from Arefu village in the summer months, but the road is closed from November to early May. In the winter, it is possible to drive from Cartisoara to the Balea waterfall and take the cable car to the lake. The ice hotel may also offer transport in the winter.
Address: Fargaras Mountains, Romania
From $ 81
The Schei district lies outside the fortified medieval walls of Braşov and was originally the area where Romanian nationals lived; up until the mid-17th century, they had to pay a toll to enter the Saxon inner city. It was here that the church of St Nicholas was first built of wood in 1392, making it the oldest Romanian Orthodox church in the country; a stone replacement was completed in 1594, and the church was again much extended in the 18th century. Today it stands a glorious mix of Gothic, Byzantine and Baroque architecture, with a slender central tower and shorter spires. As it was the center of Romanian culture in Braşov, many wealthy patrons donated to the embellishment of the ornate church interior, which is liberally decorated with icons and frescoes, including several by the 19th-century artist Misu Popp.
Inside the walled gardens of the church lies a small cemetery, which is the burial place of Nicolae Titulescu (1882-1941), one of Romania’s most controversial diplomatic figures who featured large on the world stage and helped create the League of Nations in 1921. Also in the grounds is the First Romanian School, originally built in 1495 to educate young Romanians, rebuilt in 1760 and now housing a museum showcasing the backstory of Romanian life in Braşov’s Schei district.
Piața Unirii 1. Open daily 9am–7pm. Admission by donation.
Address: Piața Unirii 1, Brasov, Romania
Hours: Open daily 9am–7pm
From $ 12
Sibiu’s huge Orthodox Cathedral, or Holy Trinity Cathedral, demands attention with its neo-Byzantine edifice, unusual striped brickwork and central dome, inspired by Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia. Ranking as one of Romania’s largest and oldest Orthodox churches, it’s still an important place of worship today, as well as a popular attraction for tourists thanks to its dazzling architecture.
Built between 1902 and 1906 by Hungarian architects, Virgil Nagy and Joseph Kamner, the cathedral is best known for its magnificent interiors, almost completely covered with bold frescos and colorful mosaics. Highlights include the gigantic gilded alter, fronted by a glittering chandelier, paintings by Ioan Köber and Anastase Demian, and the spectacular dome, painted by Octavian Smigelschi.
The Orthodox Cathedral is located on Strada Mitropoliei in central Sibiu and is open daily from 9am to 6pm. There is no admission fee.
Address: Strada Mitropoliei 33, Sibiu 550179, Romania
Hours: Daily 9am-6pm
From $ 12
Located outside the fortified walls of Braşov’s medieval heart, the district of Schei is a charming tangle of narrow streets and multi-colored houses. It was here where Romanian nationals congregated in the city and the area became a symbol of Romanian unity and pride. Schei is also site of the Orthodox church of St Nicholas, which was built around 1290; the first school for Romanian people was built in its grounds in 1495 and it became a great center of learning. At this time, all religious tracts were written in Slavic and it was not until a century later that these were translated into Romanian and printed at the school in the 1550s, including bibles and hymn books.
The original school was replaced by a fine, pastel-hued Baroque building in 1760 and today it serves as a museum showcasing Romanian life in Schei down the centuries. Visits incorporate the schoolroom with its simple wooden benches, early printing presses, gleaming gold and silver icons, a library of thousands of books and an exhibition of traditional costumes worn by the residents of Schei.
Piata Unirii nr.2-3. Open daily 9am–5pm; admission is adults 5 lei, children 3 lei.
Address: Piata Unirii nr.2-3, Brasov, Romania
Admission: Adults: 5 lei; Children: 3 lei
From $ 12
This picturesque Neo-Renaissance castle is located in the scenic Carpathian Mountains in Romania’s Prahova County. Built in the late 1800s, Peles is home to vast hand-painted murals, 170 rooms, 30 bathrooms and an impressive collection of art and arms. Visitors can tour the grounds and take in the garden statues, old-world paintings, rich tapestries and shining armor collected from Eastern and Central European. The Swiss stained glass vitralios are also worth a peek and rank high among Peles Castle’s prized art works.
Travelers who elect to take a guided castle tour should be sure to check out the ornate woodwork in the Honor Hall and the 500-year-old leather wall cover in the Imperial Suite. Visitors say these are among some of the most impressive (and well-kept) items in Peles.
The castle is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9:15 a.m. until 5 p.m. On Tuesdays, visitors can only tour the ground floor of Peles. During the winter, the castle is open Wednesdays from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Thursday through Sunday from 9:15 a.m. until 5 p.m. It is closed from November 3 through December 3. Tour prices vary depending on the number of floors travelers wish to visit.
Address: Aleea Peleșului 2, Sinaia, Romania
From $ 34
Reputedly the narrowest street in Europe and certainly the narrowest in Romania, Rope Street (Strada Sforii) connects Cerbului with Poarta Schei in Braşov’s Old Town. It is 262.5 feet (80 meters) long and just 3.5 to 4.5 feet (1.10–1.35 meters) wide, making it almost impossible for two people to pass each other. It has its origins somewhere around the beginnings of the 17th century and may have been built for access by firefighters into the Old Town. Renovated in 2003, Strada Sforii is signposted from both ends and bears a plaque declaring its dimensions; it’s a favorite photo spot for travelers to the city.
Strada Sforii. Open 24/7 with no admission charges.
Address: Strada Sforii, Brasov, Romania
From $ 12
Located directly next to Peles Castle, this impressive example of Romanian history was built between 1899 and 1902 but a Czech architect. Once the summer residence for the nation’s second king and queen who had an affection for the Byzantine and Celtic aesthetics found in the castle’s chapel, and golden bedroom and chamber.
The main hall of this popular attraction serves as a museum with walls dressed in paintings, drawings and watercolors of the royal family. The bedrooms and other interiors are home to a vast collection of old-world furniture, handcrafted works and gilded thistle leaves that pay an homage to the queen’s native land of Scotland.
The castle is open May 15 through September 15 on Tuesdays from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. During the winter months it is open on Wednesdays from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Thursday through Sunday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Address: Aleea Peleșului 2, Sinaia, Romania
Admission: Guided tours only
From $ 41
Built, as its name suggests, on a hilltop overlooking Sighisoara, the Church on the Hill is one of the city’s oldest buildings, dating back to the mid-14th century. Acclaimed as one of Transylvania’s most important examples of ecclesiastical Gothic architecture, it’s a striking sight, perched on the 420-meter summit of School Hill.
It’s a steep climb up a 175-step covered wooden staircase, the ‘Scholar’s Stairs’, to the church, but it’s worth the effort to view the beautifully restored interiors. Highlights include a number of carefully restored 15th-century frescos, an elaborate 16th-century altar and an eerie crypt, home to around 30 tombs.
The Church on the Hill is located on a hilltop just south of downtown Sighisoara and is open daily from 10am to 6pm. Admission is 5 lei.
Address: Biserica din Deal, Sighisoara, Romania
Hours: Daily 10am-6pm
Admission: 5 Lei
From $ 110
The Fortified Church of Harman is located in the heart of Harman village in the Transylvania region of Romania. A visit makes a great day trip from Brasov and is often combined with a visit to the Fortified Church of Prejmer. The church, which dates to 1240, is one of nearly 300 fortified churches in Transylvania. The belfry tower was added to the church in the 14th century and walls were added in the 15th century. The south chapel has been preserved in close to its original state, while the north chapel was rebuilt in the 15th century. The church was originally built as a Romanesque three nave church, but was later taken over by the Cistercians. The interior features traces of different styles and eras.
The fortifications were built to protect the village from attacks by the Ottomans and originally included three walls. Only two walls remain, an outer wall at 4.5 meters high and an inner wall about 12 meters high. Visitors have access to some of interior living spaces within the fortifications, as well as the walkway around the wall, which is still close to its original state.
Located just a few miles outside of Brasov, Harman is easiest to reach by car. However, visitors can also take the train on the route from Brasov to Sfantu Gheorghe or a minibus from Autogara Vest in Brasov toward Sfantu Gheorghe. The church is open April 15 to October 15, Tuesdays to Saturdays 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. It is open the rest of the year Tuesdays to Sundays 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is 7 lei.
Address: Harman, Romania
Admission: 7 lei
From $ 83
Romania’s oldest national museum, the Brukenthal National Museum is actually made up of six distinctive museums, but it’s the Brukenthal art gallery that takes center-stage, in prize place on the Big Square (Piața Mare). Housed in the 18th-century Baroque-style Brukenthal Palace, the permanent art collection includes over 1,200 works dating between the 15th and 18th centuries. As well as European masters like Rubens and Van Dyck, the galleries include an Anatolian rugs collection; a library of rare books and manuscripts; and a comprehensive collection of Romanian art, including an impressive selection of Transylvanian medieval art.
Also part of the Brukenthal National Museum are the Museum of History, housed in the 16th-century Altemberger House; the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Natural History. Additional collections include the fascinating Museum of Pharmacy, housed in a medieval apothecary, and the August von Spiess Museum of Hunting.
The Brukenthal National Museum is made up of six museums, with the main building located on Piața Mare in central Sibiu. The museums are open Tues-Sun 10am-6pm (summer) and Wed-Sun 10am-6pm (Winter) and a day pass to all five museums is 45 lei.
Address: Piața Mare 4 - 5, Sibiu, Hermannstadt, Romania 550163, Romania
Hours: Summer: Tues-Sun 10am-6pm, Winter: Wed-Sun 10am-6pm
Admission: 45 lei
From $ 159
Built between 1211 and 1225, this medieval fortress was originally constructed from wood and erected to protect Transylvanian villages from outside invasions. The impressive structure was later transformed into a stone dwelling where locals sought refuge from outsiders.
Visitors can tour the grounds, which include two courts, several forts and a gallery, as well as a courtyard, school and chapel. The citadel is also home to the feudal art museum, where weapons, tools, stamps and local crafts are on display.
The fortress is open from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. April through October and from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. between November and March. It is accessible via private car or public bus and is located about 15 kilometers from Brasov-Rasnov. Admission is 10 lei for adults and 5 lei for children and students.
Address: Rasnov, Romania
Admission: Adults: 10 lei; Children: 5 lei
From $ 29