Romania: The Heart of Transylvania
With excellently-preserved medieval castles, fairy-tale villages, and luxurious Black Sea resorts, Romania is one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the world. The country is linked with one of the most popular characters in literature – Count Dracula. You will find many castles and streets named after this famed character.
Whether you prefer weaving in and out of the green slopes of Transylvania or viewing the painted monasteries with quiet wonder, hiking through the Southern Carpathians or learning about the people’s revolt against its Communist regime, Romania will hook you in. Perhaps you prefer to soak in the medieval history and culture by touring a castle perched on a cliff’s edge, or you like the more thrilling version of the tour, complete with the tales of Count Dracula and the real Vlad the Impaler. Or maybe you just like visiting a beautiful European country that still retains its authentic feeling of being something “real” rather than the overcrowded hotspots of countries further west.
Bucharest is both the capital city and the largest city in Romania. Sometimes known as “Little Paris,” a nickname gained in the 20th century, Bucharest was always known for its residents who live the high life. Despite the Communist-era blocky buildings, its most beautiful spots include lovely boulevards, open green spaces, and charming 17th-century buildings. Although much of the city was destroyed in World War II, you can still see its old charm in the Cismigiu Gardens and Herastrau Park, streets such as Soseaua Kiseleff, and, of course, the Arcul de Triumf, which was intentionally built as a replica of Paris’ Arc de Triomphe.
Brasov is known for its authentic medieval atmosphere and charming old city center. You can take a stroll around the town, enjoying its lovely Renaissance, Baroque, and Gothic architecture, or you can get a feel for some of Romania’s past defenses by checking out the old fortifications here. Whatever you do, you will enjoy the history positively oozing from every nook and cranny of this delightful walled city. Check out the Council Square, which is supposedly where the Pied Piper led the Hamlin children. From here you can view the red roofs of the houses (which previously belonged to the city’s merchants), as well as the 13th century Old Town Hall in the center of the square. As the most massive building in the city, Black Church (which isn’t black at all) should be easy to find. If you visit in the summer, you can catch one of the three organ concerts held here every week.
Sibiu is the cultural capital of Romania. A place of bohemian charm that has drawn some of the world’s most famous musicians, Sibiu was also the center of the country’s first modern developments, including its first hospital, school, library, pharmacy, and Romanian-owned bank. More recently, Sibiu was the elected European Capital of Culture in 2007, illustrating the fact that its cultural relevance is far from over. You can expect some kind of festival to be going when you visit, and if not then one of its many regular concerts or performances should suffice.
Sibiu is divided into two parts: the Upper Town and the Lower Town. There are many squares to stumble upon in the Upper Town, the largest of which is the Great Square. The Great Square, a UNESCO monument, is home to the Brukenthal Palace as well as its Roman Catholic Church. Of course, this is also where public executions, as well as other happier public activities, took place. Be sure to climb up the Council Tower to get a fantastic view of the entire city.
As one of Romania’s largest cities, Timisoara is filled to the brim with art and culture. Lovingly nicknamed “Little Vienna,” Timisoara is known for its lovely architecture, beautiful performances and artistic displays, and cosmopolitan city life. The public squares in Timisoara are a significant part of the appeal of this city. Victory Square is home to the Romanian Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral, which includes a memorial to those who died during the Revolution of 1989. To learn more about this important piece of history, visit the Memorial Museum of the 1989 Revolution. Cross the city center to get to Union Square, which served as the center of commerce during the 1700s. It also was the place of choice for certain public events, including military processions and religious ceremonies.