What surprised me the most about my first visit to Romania? The sheer beauty of the country, the quaintness of the towns nestled in the Carpathian Mountains, and how tasty the local food and wine was. what surprised me more? That more people don’t visit Romania.
Romania is a country that doesn’t seem to be on many people’s “must visit” lists, but I’m telling you now… that’s a shame. A country that I repeatedly got asked, “Why would you go there, what’s in Romania?” vs “How awesome!” If you plan to spend your “8-day vacay” visiting Romania, you’ll only be scratching the surface; trust me, there are tons of places to visit in Romania. But only scratching the surface is well worth it for now!
Please note that this “8-day vacay” will focus mainly on the Transylvania region of Romania. However, it’s important to know that Romania is made up of so much more than Transylvania! Its different regions include Transylvania, Wallachia (where Bucharest is), Banat & Crisana, Bucovina & Moldova, Dobrogea, and Maramures. It happens to be the 12th largest country in Europe, and for that, you’ll need much more than eight days to dive in and explore it in its entirety.
WEDNESDAY – Depart from home, fly to Bucharest, Romania
Once you arrive at the Bucharest airport – Henri Coandă International Airport – you’ll need to get a ride into the city. Depending on your destination, the ride into the old town is approximately 11 miles. You can choose to take an Uber, taxi, or bus. Beware that if you choose to take a taxi, taxi drivers are notorious around Romania for scheming up many different ways to rip you off. You’ll order your taxi from the yellow touchscreens at “arrival” – where you’ll notice that the taxi is labeled as $/km. Make sure to choose a taxi that is anywhere from 1.7-2 Lei/km and know that it should not cost you more than 55 Lei to get to the old town. Double-check that the taxi meter is on and running before leaving!
For a longer, but cheaper alternative, opt to take the bus. The Express Bus 783 leaves the airport every 30 minutes with the price varying from $1-2.
THURSDAY – Arrival in Bucharest
Highlights of Bucharest Day 1 – Exploring Old Town
Stay: There are tons of options to choose from in Bucharest. I’d recommend staying in the old town or as nearby as possible. When looking for a hotel, I use booking.com to search and compare prices. Otherwise, I stay in an Airbnb.
Full disclosure, Bucharest didn’t necessarily do it for me (you can read about it here). Because you’ll be utilizing it for its airport, it’s worth the stop to see, but the city as a whole didn’t excite me as much as the other towns in Romania. And out of all of the places to see in Romania, it quickly fell to the bottom of my list as I ventured from town to town.
Depending on when you land in Bucharest, you may want to start the day with a strong coffee. Origo is a hip coffee joint on the outskirts of the old town. Close enough to walk to, but far enough away to avoid crowds of tourists. Head here for some of the best coffee in Bucharest.
After your caffeine fix, head straight to sightseeing! If you have time, I always recommend a free walking tour to get oriented to the city and get squared away. If you don’t have time venture out on your own. (Know that you’ll be hitting Bucharest on your way back so anything you don’t complete on day one can be completed later in the week). The old town is walkable so you won’t need a car here. Make sure to stop by and check out Stavropoleos Monastery, an Eastern Orthodox Monastery for nuns with a beautiful exterior. Also worth checking out is Cărturești Carusel, a beautiful bookstore located in the heart of the old town. Browse the book selections or head to the top floor for a seat in the cafe.
While you might be tempted to visit the famous Umbrella Street be warned that it is entirely overrated. Located in an alley, the umbrellas are faded, the street is dirty, and it doesn’t live up to the hype. While you’re at it, avoid the Museum of History of Bucharest. Ill explained, the museum isn’t worth the money.
Once night rolls around you’ll have a plethora of restaurants to choose from for dinner. Aside from the museums and other things to see and do, the restaurant scene is quite good in Bucharest. You can find both international cuisine and local cuisine dotting the sidewalks. Stay in the old town or venture outside for an equally amazing experience! If you’re looking to try local food head to Lacrimisi și Sfinți. If you want local wine head to Pâine și Vin.
FRIDAY – Depart Bucharest, arrive in Brașov
Highlights of Brașov Day 1 – Stop in Sinaia for Peleș Castle + Exploring Old Town
Transportation: I’d highly recommend renting a car for your trip to Romania. Many stops between towns are worth visiting, which is more difficult to do if you’re relying on public transportation. It’s important to know that if you do decide to rent a car you will need an international driver’s license if you live in the USA or Canada. If you’re in a different country, check beforehand. Make sure to get your license ahead of time! Also, if you rent an automatic car call ahead of time to confirm you will be receiving an automatic car! I’ve shown up after renting an automatic to be told: “We don’t have any available”.
I rented a car from the airport, where there are many companies to choose from. Because you will be coming from the airport on Thursday, you may choose to pick up your car then. If you want to save a bit of money I’d recommend picking it up on Friday because you won’t need it in Bucharest. However, if you’d rather save time, pick your car up on Thursday while you’re already at the airport.
Stay: Just like Bucharest, there are many options for where to stay in Brașov. If you’re looking for an affordable hotel in the center of the old town, Drachenhaus may be up your alley. Nearly 200 years old, this hotel is one of the oldest buildings in town and most importantly, is central to the main highlights of Brașov. If Drachenhaus isn’t up your alley browse booking.com or Airbnb.
Get your day started early so that you’re able to not only spend quality time in Sinaia exploring the Peleș Castle complex, but you arrive in Brașov in time to explore the city before the sunsets. Set off from Bucharest and head two-ish hours north to Sinaia. Here you’ll find the breathtaking Peleș castle complex housing Peleș and Pelișor. (Peleș was one of the most impressive Romania attractions that I stumbled across). To access the complex itself, there is no entrance fee. You only need to pay a fee if you want to enter either castle.
After Peleș was built in 1873 (construction went on until 1914), it became one of the most important European cultural centers. It was built for King Carol I and Queen Elisabeth, acting as their summer residence. Since 2007 it is owned by the Romanian Royal House and is rented out as a public museum.
There is limited parking available at Peleș and the closer you are to the complex, the more expensive it is. Parking near the castle will set you back 20 Lei and you will still need to complete the walk up the hill. To enter Peleș it cost 30 Lei while if you want to take pictures, it’s more than that. It’s important to note that Peleș hours are from 0915-1700 and the complex is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Pelișor is a smaller castle that is part of the Peleș complex. It was built from 1899-1902 and was given from King Carol I as a gift to his nephew. While Peleș is much more impressive than Pelișor, Pelișor is only a short walk away and worth seeing. Plus it’s much less crowded than Peleș.
There are restaurants all around Peleș complex if you need food or drink to refuel before continuing the drive further north to Brașov.
From Sinaia head one hour further north until you get to the charming town of Brașov, located in Transylvania. Being inhabited since 100 BC, Brașov has a fascinating history. At one point in history, the Hungarians (who invited the Saxons to secure the border) took over Brașov. Although Romanians were a majority of the population, they managed to kick them out of the city center and made them live on the outskirts. The Romanians were given no rights or voting powers due to their religious beliefs. To this day the gate still stands, Catherine’s Gate, where Romanians were required to enter and leave the city from.
If you make it in time, opt for the free walking tour in Brașov. It gets you a bit further out of the city and best explains the history and what went on that makes Brașov what it is today. However, if you don’t make it in time for the walking tour… Brașov is a completely walkable and easy town to navigate on your own.
While you’re in town make sure to make time to wander the main square – Piața Sfatului – where you’ll come across bars, restaurants, bookstores, and souvenir stores galore! From the main square tiny twisting streets snake their way through the city. You could spend hours walking from street to street taking in all that Brașov offers. While you’re sightseeing, make sure to hit the Black Church – black because it caught fire. Strada Sforii Street – the narrowest street in Eastern Europe and an access street for firefighters. The street has since been turned into a street art gallery. And make sure to stop by the St. Nicholas Church – a Romanian Orthodox church established in 1292.
For dinner head to Sub Tâmpa for Romanian cuisine overlooking the town. With both indoor and outdoor seating, this is a popular restaurant amongst locals so making a reservation ahead of time may be worth it.
SATURDAY – Brașov
Highlights of Brașov Day 2 – Bran Castle, Râșnov Citadel
Wake up early to hunt for Dracula! Bran Castle is less than an hour’s drive southwest from Brașov and is known as “Dracula’s Castle”. Truth be told Dracula is a fictitious character that many believe is derived from the ruler of Wallachia in 1456-1462 – Vlad Tepeș (aka Vlad the Impaler). Throughout history, Vlad has always been perceived as a bloodthirsty ruler all due to political reasons. It’s said that he would impale people (stick a pole through the body) to cause death.
Bran Castle is open seven days/week from 0900-1600 and at 1200-1600 on Mondays. I’d recommend getting an early start to beat the rush. There is limited parking around the castle for a mere four Lei/hr. Once you park you will pass by many shops on the way to the gates of the castle. To enter the castle grounds you do NOT need a ticket. There will be a line queuing for tickets so if you don’t intend to enter the castle you can skip this line altogether and just walk along the grounds where there are shops, restaurants, and coffee stands. However, if you do want to enter the castle you’ll buy tickets outside the gates before trekking up the steep hill that the castle sits on. It costs 40 Lei to enter the castle.
Once you’re done browsing the castle grounds head back towards Brașov and stop at the Râșnov Citadel. Here the fortress was built to keep the small villages in Transylvania protected from unwanted visitors. It’s considered to have been built been 1211 and 1225. To enter the fortress you will need to purchase a ticket from outside the fortress walls (once you walk up the hill).
SUNDAY – Depart Brașov, arrive in Sighișoara
Highlights of Sighișoara Day 1 – Stop in Viscri for the Fortified Church + Exploring Old Town
Stay: Just like the towns mentioned above, Sighișoara also has plenty of hotels to choose from and if that doesn’t suit you there are many Airbnbs. Again, I’d recommend getting as close to the old town as possible!
Located halfway between Brașov and Sighișoara, Viscri is an ideal stop on your Romania vacation. Only 430 people call Viscri home, but it’s home to one of the most well preserved fortified churches in Romania – Viscri Fortified Church. The church forms part of the villages with fortified churches in Transylvania UNESCO World Heritage Site. To this day the church is used once a month by the people of Viscri.
Entrance into the church is five Lei and if you find yourself driving there is free street parking right outside. Also, make sure to check times before going, the church is closed from 1300-1400 every afternoon. Hours of operation are seven days/week from 1000-1300; 1500-1800.
After finishing up at the Viscri Fortified Church continue to make your way an hour northwest to Sighișoara. Here you’ll find an idyllic town of colorful buildings, old churches, cobblestone streets, and sidewalk cafes. To see Sighișoara in its entirety you don’t need much time. The old town itself consists only of three main streets. Prepare to walk a little, see everything quickly, and instead enjoy spending your time in cafes or chatting with the local shop owners.
Some things to fill your time in Sighișoara include climbing up the Sighișoara Citadel for sweeping views over the town. Walking the many steps up the Scholars Stairway to St. Nicholas Church. Or if you’re interested in learning more about Vlad Tepeș (the real Dracula) perhaps you’d find visiting his house, Casa Vlad Dracul, worthwhile. Note that it is now a restaurant but I believe you can still ask to see Vlad’s room!
If you’re looking for a spot to have local wine and local spirits stop in the 500-year-old Teo’s Cellar. A spooky cellar that may have you wishing you’d opted out instead.
MONDAY – Depart Sighisoara, arrive in Sibiu
Highlights of Sibiu Day 1 – Exploring Old Town
Stay: Again, like above both hotels and Airbnbs are easy to find in Sibiu. I’d recommend getting as close to the old town as possible. But keep in mind if you come in a car, make sure to ask about the parking situation beforehand!
Also located in Transylvania, Sibiu is a fascinating city. Not only was it designated as the European Capital of Culture in 2007, along with Luxembourg, but in 2008 Forbes ranked it as “Europe’s 8th-most idyllic place to live”. It was settled in by the Saxons so the town has a bit of German influence in its architecture. Also impressive, Sibiu has great restaurants and tons of places for international cuisine if you’re getting tired of Romanian food.
Begin your journey exploring Sibiu’s old town by crossing The Bridge of Lies. Built in 1859, legend has it that if you tell lies on this bridge it will come crashing down. Feel free to try your luck, I know I sure didn’t. After leaving The Bridge of Lies head towards the Council Tower of Sibiu, which separates the two main squares in town. If you want to spend the money, you can climb to the top of the tower for a look at Sibiu from above. If you’re interested in wandering through a museum check out the Pharmaceutical History Museum (this museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays so if you’re in Sibiu on one of these days it won’t be open), which houses an 18th-century pharmacy and medieval chemist’s collection. Lastly, make sure to spend time in each of Sibiu’s three main squares – Piața Mare (big market square), Piața Mică (small square), and Piața Huet (Hayes square).
Once dinner rolls around there are endless options to choose from. While there’s a big international cuisine culture here if you want to stick with local traditions head to Kulinarium or the kitsch restaurant Crama Sibiul Vechi.
If you’ve had enough of exploring old towns and are up for more driving there are two-day trips you could take from Sibiu. (Neither of which I had time for). Head an hour and a half west to visit Corvin Castle. Or an hour east to visit the Clay Castle Valley of the Fairies known as Castelul de Lut Valea Zanelor.
TUESDAY – Depart Sibiu, arrive in Bucharest
You’ve come full circle! From Sibiu, Bucharest is a four-hour drive south. If you want to save money, I’d recommend dropping your car off at the car rental before heading back to Bucharest. However, if you’re looking to save time, keep the car and drop it off tomorrow when you head to the airport to fly out.
WEDNESDAY – Depart Bucharest, fly home
Because Europe is ahead of the US time-wise, you should be able to leave on Wednesday and arrive back to the states on Wednesday. Just in time to clock in for your shift Thursday without taking any PTO! And just like that, in eight days, your visit to Romania has come to an end. I know that my visit to Romania was incredible, I only hope that yours is too!
Information About Romania
Official language: While there are many spoken languages in Romania, the official language is Romanian. However, English is widely spoken so you should be able to get by!
Currency: Although Romania is part of the EU, it does not operate on the Euro. Instead, it operates on the RON (singular) or Lei (plural).
Emergency: If you find yourself in an emergency in Romania the number to call is 112.
Country code: Dialing a Romanian number requires you to use the code +40.
Travel insurance: Don’t forget to book travel insurance before leaving! I use World Nomads when I travel.
This is part of my “8 Day Vacay” series! A travel series aimed at nurses who are looking to take 8 days off from the hospital (with no need to take PTO) and travel to destinations both near and far. For more information, read A Guide to the “8 Day Vacay” and How to Make the Most Out of Your “8 Day Vacay”