Beyond Dracula: Reasons to Visit Brasov, Romania

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The small city of Brasov may not be well-known around the world. In fact, I'm sure many of you have never even heard of it. But in Romania, this little city of 230,000 is kind of a big deal.

Brasov is one of the larger cities in Romania, and also one of the country's top tourist destinations — for both domestic and foreign tourists. Its central location — roughly equidistant from the Black Sea and the wooden churches of Maramures — makes it a good base for exploring the rest of the country.

Brasov, Romania

But of course Brasov has plenty of draws of its own, too.

Located in Transylvania, Brasov was settled by the German Saxons in the 1100s (much like Sighisoara) as a favor to King Geza II of Hungary. At that time, Transylvania bordered the Hungarian empire, and the Saxons were rewarded handsomely for settling the region and defending it in the name of the king.

Today, remnants of the Saxons' fortifications can be seen in the Old Town of Brasov, with its old stone walls, imposing watch towers, and orange-tiled roofs.

Brasov doesn't feel nearly as medieval as Sighisoara, however, even though both cities boast walls and a Saxon past. Brasov feels much more modern, with a lively cafe culture and more open space.

Brasov, Romania

And there's also a bit more more to do and see in Brasov than in Sighisoara.

Having spent two days in Brasov, here are what I deem to be the “must-dos”:

The top things to do in Brasov, Romania

The walls/towers

The Old Town of Brasov consists of what used to be the Saxons' fortified town. The walls and watch towers have been restored (partly using UNESCO funds) in recent years, and you should definitely find time to get up at least one of the towers. I can say from personal experience that the view from the Black Tower may well be the best view in the city.

Brasov, Romania
View from the Black Tower
Brasov, Romania
One of the gates into the city

Visit the Black Church

The Biserica Neagra, or Black Church, dates back to the late 1470s, when it was built to replace a much older church that used to stand on the same site. It got its “Black” name after a fire in 1689 blackened its outer walls. Inside, the church holds an impressive collection of antique Turkish carpets, which have been a staple in the church for centuries.

Outside, a small detail worth noting is a statue of what appears to be a small boy on the roof of the church. One story goes that, during the church's construction, the best builder was actually a young boy of about 14. Some of the older men were jealous of the boy and his skills, and he “accidentally” fell off the roof before the church was finished.

Black Church, Brasov, Romania

Black Church, Brasov, Romania
It's not really very black.

Go up Mount Tampa

Rising 900 meters above Brasov is Mount Tampa, a small forested mountain with great views out over the city and surrounding region. You can hike up the mountain (it takes roughly an hour each way), or you can take the funicular up for a few dollars.

Either way, go up if the weather is nice. You can admire the city from behind the Hollywood-esque “Brasov” sign.

Brasov, Romania

Mount Tampa, Brasov, Romania
The funicular up Mount Tampa.

Brasov, Romania

City Center (Piata Sfatului)

Piata Sfatului is the center of Brasov, where a huge open square is always filled to the brim on nice summer evenings. Cafes serving traditional Romanian dishes, ice cream vendors, street performers dressed up like Jack Sparrow… you'll find it all here.

Brasov, Romania

Brasov, Romania

Brasov, Romania
And yup, you can see “the Brasov sign” from the center, too.

Day trips from Brasov

Brasov is also quite close to a few other big attractions in Transylvania that are worth checking out:

Bran Castle

This former fortress on the border of Transylvania and Wallachia is often said to have been Bram Stoker's model for Dracula's castle in his 1897 novel. However this castle has no real connection to Stoker, or Vlad Tepes (“the Impaler”) who supposedly was Stoker's inspiration for his blood-sucking main character. That doesn't stop it from being one of Romania's top tourist attractions, though. During peak season, this small “castle” can see thousands of visitors per day.

Bran Castle, Romania

The castle was originally built as a fortress to defend the border, but in 1920 became a royal residence — mainly a mountain retreat for Romania's Queen Marie (yes, Romania had Kings and Queens!). Today, the small fortress/castle serves as a museum, and usually makes it onto everyone's Romania itinerary.

Bran Castle, Romania

Bran Castle, Romania
A room inside the castle.

Rasnov Fortress

Not far from Bran Castle lies Rasnov Fortress, built atop a mountain that towers over the town of Rasnov. This fortress easily outshines Bran Castle, in my opinion.

A 13th-century Dacian fortress used to stand on the site, and then the current fortress was built atop its remains. The fortress sat empty and decaying for quite some time until some wealthy people and then eventually the Romanian government decided to spruce the place up and turn it into a tourist attraction. Today it's much less touristed than Bran Castle — and also quite a bit cheaper.

Rasnov Fortress, Romania

Rasnov Fortress, Romania
The view from inside the fortress.

Rasnov Fortress, Romania

You can also easily reach some of the other castles in Transylvania, too, from Brasov, including Peles Castle near Sinaia.

Where to stay in Brasov

Here are some hotels to check out in Brasov:

  • Kronwell Hotel – This 4-star hotel is the top-rated hotel in Brasov on TripAdvisor.
  • Bella Muzica – An affordable hotel right on the main square in the city.
  • Pensiunea Toscana – This B&B has great views over Brasov.

Brasov tours

Definitely check out these day trips in/around Brasov, which are handy if you're not renting a car in Romania:

Have you been to Brasov? If not, is it a place you'd like to visit?

 

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The best things to do in Brasov, Romania

 

*Note: Intrepid Travel has graciously provided me with a complimentary “Explore Eastern Europe” tour. But all opinions, as always, are entirely my own.

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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39 Comments on “Beyond Dracula: Reasons to Visit Brasov, Romania

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  1. What a beautiful city! Brasov reminds me a lot of Estonia. The cities, rooftops, and medieval architecture are very similar. I love Eastern Europe and really want to visit Romania. I think I’ve been avoiding your posts because I just didn’t want to torture myself by reading them 🙂

      If you love Eastern Europe, you absolutely do need to get yourself to Romania! Cities like this make it well worth visiting.

    Gives me a reason to want to go to Eastern Europe! Hope you’re enjoying your trip!

      I’m definitely enjoying my trip! 🙂 And you should totally go to Eastern Europe sometime.

    Thanks for your recommendations on Braşov, Bran and Râşnov – these are some of my favorite places in my country too.
    Romania might be a small country but, as your post describes it, there are many historical and cultural sites here that are well worth a visit.
    And yes, Romania had Kings and Queens. In fact, the most beloved Queen of Romania – Regina Maria (Queen Marie) – was actually the Princess of Edinburgh and the granddaughter of Queen Victoria of UK: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_of_Romania

      It was great traveling around Romania and learning so much about the country that I never knew before!

    I just found the castle to be a little touristy! wish I had of known about the fortress though. The city and surrounding towns I liked, very similar buildings to those in Bavaria. Beautiful country side as well!

      Yeah, the castle IS quiet touristy, but it’s such a big attraction that I wanted to see it anyway. The fortress was definitely way cooler though!

    Reading your posts are great. Romania looks so pleasant. I’d never really considered Romania as a must-see-urgently destination. It’s always been on my list, but behind a lot of other places. Your posts are making me want to visit more.

      I’m glad my posts are making you want to go to Romania!

    for some reason pictures are not up 🙁
    I have to click on each image link… but they are great! love the “HOLLYWOOD” sign 😉

      Sorry that the photos weren’t working for you! They look fine to me… maybe a bad Internet connection on your end?

    So do you have any photos of yourself sitting on one of the letters of the hillside “Brasov” sign? 😀

    And I want one of those bear rugs, by the way, like the one in Bran Castle (and I’m disappointed that the castle isn’t the forbidding, dismal place that I’d been led to believe).

    Also, I like the Go Kart-type vehicle that the kid is riding in Piata Sfatului. Kind of like a Big Wheel, I guess, but with four wheels instead of three.

    Brasov looks like such a beautiful, charming place . . . My problem is that for the last few years, I’ve back-burnered Europe when making travel plans, because I’ve been to so many countries on that continent already and it didn’t seem as exotic as some of the other places I’ve been visiting. But I haven’t seen much of Eastern Europe, and your descriptions and pix have really made me want to check out Croatia and Romania, in particular. So little time, such a big world . . .

      Lol, no, I don’t think you can really sit on the Brasov sign…

      You should definitely consider Eastern Europe the next time you’re making travel plans. It’s SO different from Western Europe (and cheaper, too!).

    What a Beautiful City! How much do you think is the budget traveling Brasov, Romania?

      Hmm, it’s not too expensive. Romania in general is pretty cheap. Meals were generally between $5 and $10 USD, and I paid less than $5 for both Bran Castle and Rasnov Fortress. Accommodation is also WAY cheaper than anything you’d find in Western Europe.

    It certainly seems a very beautiful place! And also its not expensive, so thats the icing on the cake!! Pretty shots.
    Have a nice sunday Amanda:)

      Yes, the price certainly makes it even prettier. 😉

    It looks so cute! I was hoping to go to Romania this summer but I think I’m going to run out of time. It looks amazing though so it’ll definitely be on my list for next year.

      Aww, too bad! It’s a great place to travel right now, I think. You’ll definitely have to go next year!

    Your post has brought back many happy memories. Strangely it looks even nicer than I remember it and I had two wonderful stays there including living there for three months back in the 1990s. Would love to visit again. I’m sure it’s changed a lot and I’d love to see how it’s developed.

      Yes I’m sure it has changed a lot – but hopefully in a good way!

    Romania is one of those countries that we’re really disappointed we didn’t get to visit while we were in Europe. You’re right, I’ve never heard of Brasov — but now it’s firmly on my radar!

      Then you’ll probably be even more disappointed after reading my next post! 😉

      Seriously, though – next time you’re in Europe, go to Romania!

    Very nice article,it’s interesting to see an “outside” view on Romania (i’m one of the natives myself 😀 ),and i hope you enjoyed it and that you’ll visit us again! I would only want to point out that you refer to Rîşnov (Rasnov) Fortress as initially being a “13th-century Dacian fortress”,which is incorrect,as the Dacians lived in (roughly) the same lands that make up modern-day Romania,and formed an independent state until the 2nd century,then partially conquered by the Roman Empire,following 2 wars (101-102 ad,105-106 ad),and turned into a province with the name of “Dacia Felix” (translating roughly to “happy Dacia” or “blessed Dacia”,as the province was notoriously rich in,and provided immense quantities of gold to stabilize the empire during an economic crisis).The actual Rîşnov Fortress was rebuilt,probably sometime in the 1211–1225 timeframe :D.Also,it could be interesting for you to visit the southern and eastern part of Romania,the historical provinces of Wallachia and Moldavia (the last one only partly still inside Romania’s borders),with more pronounced turkish,slav and russian influences,a bit stronger eastern-european feel to them.Sure,they do not have the same medieval “flavour” of Transilvania,as that province was heavily influenced by Hungarian and German culture in the 13th to 16th century,but i have a feeling that between Wallachia’s museums,monasteries,and fortifications and Moldavia’s wines and memorial houses you will still love it!

      Thanks for that little history lesson! I appreciate it. And thanks for the suggestions for next time, too. I would definitely like to visit again!

    Brasov is simply amazing. And there are many more objectives in the area: Poiana Brasov (the best Romanian winter resort), the fortified churches, lots of castles and history, Transfagarasan not far away, etc. One of the best destinations I have been in Europe

      I really enjoyed Brasov, too. A very cool part of Romania!

    My partner and I are visiting Bucharest..brazov and sighisoara next week…thank you for your excellent insights…we will also be staying in istanbul…I will have to read your recommendations for that city..j.t.

      Enjoy, Jeffrey! Romania really is a great country – I hope you enjoy your time there (and in Istanbul!).

    First: Black Church was Roman St.Mary founded by Teutonic Order – their Patron – 1200 continued by Queen Marie D’Anjou of Hungary 1377 and finished by famous and glorious Prince Dracula Vladislav Tzepesh 1477. It was an Angevine -Aragonian Basilica the largest in South-Eastern Europe so-far. It is the only one with statue of Santiago, Spanish patron.
    It was not built by Saxons..
    Second: Dracula Tzepesh was born 1410 in the upper mountainous part of this old city named ‘Scheaisborgo ‘ Schei and that was a confusion with the small market of Schassburg (Sighisora) which was in those times just a Bohemian glass-factory village. The mistification of Tzepesh history was made by Lutherans (Saxons) after 1900 to destroy Roman (Catholic) history. It continued by Communists to destroy this great Romanic city. The walled down-town Saxon intramuros was Dracula’s prison and the Germans were as slaves at the crafts (guildas). Only Spanish Italian French Polish Magyars were fighting as Dragon knights (Uhlans Huszars) against Turks Tartars Bulgarians etc.
    Third: the tapestry inside Black Church was made in Corona Kronstadt (German TEPISCH like TEPISCH) as it was the greatest Weaving centre of South-Eastern Europe.
    And this add was made by me Brassovian native historian Diana Bertha Krausser

    I HAVE VISITED ROMANIA AND FOUND IT TO BE ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL. THERE ARE ROSE BUSHES AND POPPIES EVERYWHERE I LOOKED AND THE AIR SMELLS SO FRESH. THERE IS NO HUMIDITY AND THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE THERE WORK HARD IN THEIR GARDENS, AT THEIR JOBS. IT WAS SO SERENE, SO TRANQUIL. IN FACT, I MISS IT NOW. I MUST SAY I INDULGED ON THE RUM ICE CREAM AND THE GREAT COFFEE BECAUSE I WAS NOT USED TO THE FOOD THERE. BUT TO WAKE UP TO A DONKEY DRAWN CARRIAGE, OR A COW CHEWING HIS CUD IN YOUR WINDOW, THE MORNING SKY SO PINK AND WHITE, THE CLEAN AIR AND THE BIRDS SINGING SO BEAUTIFUL. IT IS A WONDERFUL PLACE TO VISIT AND YOU MIGHT JUST FALL IN LOVE WITH THE SIMPLICITY OF IT ALL. I DID.

    I must say I linked your post on my blog cause I wish people to see another opinion than mine, a Romanian native. I’m still working on it. I like the way you kept it short and conclusive. Thank you for writing about it as I believe Romania is so unique and push me to say is an unexplored gem.

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