From Pristine landscapes to medieval castles, Romania has a lot to offer first time travellers. If you’re thinking of travelling to Romania and not sure what to see and do then read on for our following breakdown of places to visit while on an alternative European tour.
Bucharest situated in the South of Romania is the country’s capital. An iconic landmark is the massiv Palatul Parlamentului government building, which has more than a 1000 rooms. The Palace of the Parliament is Billed as the most famous and most controversial building in Romania. At 86m high and 92m deep, this grandiose structure is the world’s second largest building behind the Pentagon and is where Romania’s parliaments sits today. Commonly known as the People’s Palace, is spread across 12 floors both above and below ground level. Despite being home to Romania’s Museum of Contemporary Art, the vast majority of the palace sits vacant and remains unused. You’ll need to bring your passport or driving license with you, when you visit.
Revolution Square Located just a ten minute stroll north of the Lipscani district, Revolution Square is a significant historical and cultural site that is an absolute must-see. Renamed after the 1989 revolution, the square is home to some of the most beautiful buildings in Bucharest. This includes the Royal Palace, the University Library and the stunning Romanian Atheneum which showcases some stunning baroque architecture. It is now used as an auditorium that is world renowned for its incredible acoustics. Aside from the impressive architecture and the bold statue of King Carol I, perhaps the most striking feature to grace the square is the extraordinary looking Memorial of Rebirth, which was built to commemorate the victims of the popular revolt against Ceausescu’s regime.
The Peasant Museum
If the weather isn’t pleasant enough for a trip around the Village Museum then head to the Peasant Museum and immerse yourself in the culture and traditions of the country’s peasant lifestyle. Boasting a rich collection of artefacts, ceramics and textiles including traditional clothing, ancient religious icons and terracotta pottery, this museum has received the honourable European Museum of the Year Award. Considered to be one of the best museums in the country, it hosts a range of craft fairs as well as puppet shows at least once a month for children each Saturday and Sunday morning.
Located in the mountain town of Sinaia, the magnificent Peles Castle is one of the top highlights in Romania. Built between 1875 and 1883 for King Carol I as a royal summer residence, Peles Castle cost over 16 million gold lei to construct. The equivalent of which works out at around £10 million today. Set against a stunning alpine backdrop at the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains, the exterior of the castle is like something out of a fairytale. Its spiked turrets, pointed towers and marble statues, elevated over acres of fields and meadows are all breath taking. The interior is even more magical still. Its 160 rooms are ornately and opulently decorated with stained glass windows depicting fairy tales, huge arched doorways, secret passageways and even a wooden stairway leading to nowhere. Peles was also the first castle in Europe to boast electricity, central heating and vacuum cleaning systems all of which are still working today. It also houses Romania’s first cinema room with original paintings from a young Gustav Klimt.
Nestled in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains and known as the gateway into Transylvania, the medieval Saxon town of Brasov is an absolute gem. A world away from the lively buzz of the capital city, Brasov provides the perfect base for exploring the Transylvanian countryside. With its rural villages, fortified churches and infamous Bran Castle, the would-be residence of mysterious Count Dracula. The pace of life in Brasov’s Old Town is noticeably slower and more relaxed than in Bucharest making it the ideal location for those who prefer to take in the atmosphere at a leisurely pace, ambling around the cobbled streets. The town’s distinctive medieval ambiance is reflected in its striking examples of gothic and baroque architecture, the most prominent of which has to be the Black Church. Its smoke-blackened walls loom over the beautiful old square in the heart of the town. All the sights worth seeing in Brasov are accessible by foot. These include the narrowest street in Europe and the climb up to the top of the Black Tower where the entire city unfolds before your eyes.
Visiting Bran Castle
Bran Castle Perched high atop a rocky plateau with imposing spiked turrets and blood-red towers looms eerily over Transylvania cloaked in myth and legend. Commonly known as Dracula’s Castle, the 13th century castle is the real life setting of Bram Stoker’s sinister novel and the would-be residence of Count Dracula himself. Despite being a fictional character, Dracula was based on the Wallachian prince, Vlad Tepes also known as Vlad the Impaler. The prince allegedly spent some time at the castle during his bloodthirsty reign of terror. Dark narrow stairways wind through the castle connecting underground passage, watch towers that served as dungeons. The castle includes 57 rooms housing collections of Gothic furniture, weapons and armour dating all the way back to the 14th century. You can’t leave Transylvania without paying a visit to the castle. The castle has points of description throughout the rooms as well as audio guides that you can purchase at the entrance point so you can choose to explore the castle at your leisure in whichever way you choose.
Perched high up in Transylvania’s Fagaras Mountains at an altitude of 2,034 meters, the glacial Balea Lake is a stunning location that will take your breath away. In the summer, the lake is reached via the Transfagarasan, a twisting snake of a road that has earned its title as ‘the best road in the world’ by Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson. The rugged alpine scenery at the top is a beauty to behold and is made even more ethereal thanks to the serene and crystal clear waters of the lake. As winter arrives and temperatures in the mountains begin to plummet, the lake gradually freezes over. Huge blocks of the icy lake are then cut and dragged to the location of the Ice Hotel where the construction process begins. In a matter of weeks, part of the frozen Lake is transformed into a beautiful hotel of ice with its very own Ice Church, Restaurant and Sub Zero Ice Bar.
Nestled between the icy peaks of the Fagaras Mountains and veiled by clouds, the remote Ice Hotel stands 2000m above sea level and can only be accessed via cable car. Hand carved by local craftsmen using traditional techniques, the frozen Balea Lake is transformed into the beautifully intricate structures of the Ice Hotel, the theme changes every year. With 14 beautifully lit bedrooms carved from ice no two rooms are the same but will always feature intricate statues and impressive sculptures. For something extra special you can even choose to sleep in your very own igloo. This is larger than the standard ice rooms and which are away from the main hotel making them more private and exclusive.
Located just a stone’s throw away from the Ice Hotel itself, the stunningly carved Ice Church is perhaps the most beautiful with its iconic frozen cross and hand carved archway. Inside the church, handcrafted tableaux adorn the frozen walls while an icy altar at the far end provides an impressive and surreal feature. Rows of ice pews are covered in blankets and there are candleholders and other decorative items all made from the frozen Balea Lake. There’s even a collection box carved out of ice if you’re feeling charitable and want to leave a few lei as a donation.
Don’t miss the opportunity to diner in the first and only Ice Restaurant in the world. Set within the magical setting of the Ice Hotel’s main hall with its frozen vaulted ceiling guests are seated at ice tables on frozen chairs topped with fuzzy-fur cushions. There are additional wool blankets available should you feel chilly between courses although most diners choose to warm up with a shot at the Sub Zero Ice Bar! The evening kicks off with a complimentary drink followed by a starter of salmon tartar and caviar with a citrus zest served on a slate of ice.
If we’ve already got you excited about visiting Romania then check out Untravelled Paths’ Ice Hotel Experience where you can book interesting tours