The quintessential Transylvania town, Brasov is one of the top cities in the country. There are few other places in this world that make you feel like you have stepped into the pages of a fairy tale. The fortified walls, main square with colourful buildings all around topped with red-tiled roofs, massive historic churches and an air of a Dracula vibe make the city perfect. I guess that's why so many people visit it every year! To keep you there even longer, the surrounding mountains and numerous castles- including Bran (Dracula's castle) add to its appeal. It may not be the cheapest Romanian city, but it is for sure one of the best to use as a base to explore the area.
What to do
Brasov has no shortage of things to do due to its impressive history. Being part of a very powerful nation for centuries and having a workforce of settled German Saxons, the city has developed a number of sights that can't be missed.
City Walls and Towers
Brasov was a very important city in Romanian history as it sits on a crossroads connecting several different regions. As such, it was also hotly contended by invaders as it was a key spot to control if you wanted to take over the region. This caused the city to develop an extensive walled area, much of which you can explore today. Sitting along a gorgeous promenade at the base of Tampa Mountain is the longest section of the several metre thick wall that is still preserved. In addition to this, it is also complete with several towers. Unfortunately, you
can not go into most of them right now, but there are plans to turn some into museums. On the opposite side of the historic center, are the two most famous towers; the Black and White tower. These towers, dating back to the 15th century, have been remodeled a number of times including a recent addition of a glass roof on the Black Tower. The towers have platforms that offer a great view over Brasov and towards Tampa Mountain meaning they are a great spot to take photos!
First Romanian School and
Saint Nicholas Orthodox Church
On the far west side of the historic district in Brasov lies a hidden gem of the city. Adjacent to the gorgeous Unirii square (p.s. it has a dog café!) the church grounds are absolutely worth a visit. While it is quite a small church, the surrounding cemetery with personal mausoleums and priestly graves make the whole space a sight to see. On the outside of the church are spectacular frescoes. At almost 800 years old, the church has gone through many changes and architectural styles making it gorgeous in its own way. On the grounds is also the first Romanian school. In 1585, the church started to use the Romanian language in its teachings making it the first school to teach Romanian. Prior to this change, all education was
done in the Church Slavonic Language. This was a big deal as it marked the growing influence that Romania was having both within the church and in the greater region. It also helped to cement the language as the national Romanian language and not be lost like many other regional tongues.
Sitting just off the main square in Brasov, the Black Church is not hard to find! Dating to the late 14th century, the church quickly became the largest church in Brasov! With a high German Saxon population, the high demand for a grand Lutheran church resulted in the largest Gothic church in Eastern Europe and one of the most important Lutheran houses of worship. A fire in 1689 resulted in the darkened colour and the popular name of the church. The impressive front doors, architectural work, and a collection of unique Ottoman carpets inside make the church a must when in Brasov.
Brasov is in a gorgeous location flanked on several sides by large mountains. Along the southern side of the historic center stretches Tampa Mountain. This is a perfect spot for a day hike or a scenic cable car ride to the top. At the top, you are rewarded with stunning views of the Brasov valley and surrounding mountains. It's not very often that you can get such a close up birds-eye view of a medieval city! The top of the mountain is also complete with the Hollywood-esque "Brasov" sign but watch out as winds often suspend the cable car!
It is a must for anyone who visits Brasov to try and find Strada Sforii, AKA Rope Street, as it is one of the narrowest streets in Europe. At just over 3ft at its thinnest, and less than 4ft at its widest, it may be a challenge to find but keep looking! Once used as a quick way for firemen to get through the cluttered streets of Brasov, the tiny street is now an open-air art gallery. With the Hollywood style sign on Tampa Mountain in the background, Strada Sforii is the perfect photo op spot! You can even sign the walls, but be sure to only do so in the designated areas!
Test your firefighter skills with a hike through the Seven Ladders Canyon!
Covid Conscious Activities
With Covid-19 being such a huge factor in daily life, it is important to take steps towards a safer holiday like trying to limit your daily contact with others. Keep up to date with the latest local advisories and information.
Brasov is one of the easiest cities to visit while being socially distant. There are so many different outdoor experiences to be had that you will never be bored. Pretty much the entire old city is surrounded by centuries-old walls with dozens of towers. You can walk alongside most of it and even through some of the old city gates. You can pick up, or download the GPSmycity app and get a digital tour guide! After that, walking downtown will take you into a fairy book setting with colourful buildings, and cobblestone streets. There are many restaurants with outside seating allowing you to take in your surroundings while getting some delicious Romanian food. Before heading out of downtown, make your way past the 16th century Black Church. Even without going inside, its imposing façade is a testament to its historical power. There are also numerous day trips to places like Bran and Sinaia which each have amazing hikes to keep you outdoors and socially distanced!
Where to Stay
Brasov is a city split between modern and historic. You have the narrow streets and alleys of the old town running into the French-inspired boulevards of the new city. For the majority of people, we would suggest staying either within the old city or on its eastern edge. Almost all of the major sites of Brasov are in the old city including the Black Church, the fortified wall, the Rope Builders Street and the Black and White Towers. Flanking the southern edge of the old town is Tampa Mountain with its Hollywood styled Brasov sign. Staying along the mountain will be a little bit quieter compared to the old town while staying close enough to all the action. There are so many Airbnbs in Brasov so set your price limits and area restrictions and find your favourite!
The biggest downside of staying in the old town is its distance from the train station. At about a 40 minute walk it is quite a distance if you are wanting to do day trips to the castles around. This is why we suggest staying on the east side of the historic district. Uber is very popular in Brasov and is a great way to get to your place of stay! Use'Derekk353lue' to get $5 off your first ride.
How to get there and around
Once you are in the historic area, everything can be easily reached by foot. The historic centre is quite compact with the first Romanian school being the furthest spot from the main square at only about 15-minute walk. The majority of visitors arrive at the main train station which is about 40 minutes walking from the centre. Instead of making the long trek, you can opt to take the bus or an Uber into town. An Uber costs about 10 Lei while the bus costs only 2.50 Lei. Bus tickets can only be bought as roundtrips, thus you will need to keep the slip for your journey back to the station. Be sure to stamp your ticket with the machine when you get on the bus or risk heavy fines! If you are travelling in a pair, you should be able to use your ticket as two one-ways if your plan is to only go the one way.
Brasov is well connected to the large cities of Romania and the tourist areas nearby. You can either take the IC train or regional trains from Bucharest to the south (2 hours) or from Sibiu or Sighisoara to the east. The most famous castle in Romania, Bran Castle, is located about an hour east by bus which can be picked up at the main bus station (which is not the same as the main train station so watch out!)
Brasov is the perfect base for southern Transylvania as it is a hub for transportation as well as being surrounded by world-class attractions. You can easily spend a week in Brasov if you explore the outer areas. While cities like Sighisoara and Sibiu are often said to be day trips, they are quite a distance and deserve way more time than a few hours. The options below are great day trips that take less than an hour to get to on public transportation.
At less than an hour on the train south towards Bucharest, Sinaia is a gorgeous mountain town with some spectacular hikes and even better castles. Peles, Pelisor, and Foisor Castles are the three major castles in the town and are all in a line about a 35-minute walk away from the train station. Peles and its younger sibling Pelisor, are modeled after hunting lodges rather than fortified castles like Bran or Rasnov and were built in the early 20th century for the
Romanian Royalty. Peles Castle was a state of the art luxury residence complete with electricity (the first in Europe to be built with it), a huge arms collection, and a retractable stained glass roof over its main foyer. Decked out in stunning wood trim from around Europe and filled with treasures of the world it is well worth the visit - and expensive entry ticket! Next door is the colourful palace of Pelisor built shortly after Peles Castle. Foisor Castle is still owned by the royal family and is private so you must have an invite for the small number of functions that are held within the space or be super special!
On the edge of the town is the Bucegi National Park, which is littered with excellent hiking routes. Follow the Royal Path up to the Franz Josef Rocks for an awesome overhead view of the city and down the valley.
High on a hill overlooking the valleys below is the major fortress of Râșnov. Râșnov was one of the biggest and strongest fortifications in Transylvania for centuries and developed a city within its walls. Way less travelled to than its neighbour to the west, Bran, the castle is not in as good of shape but is stunning in its own way. It is on the same bus route as Bran so you can easily do both castles on the same day if you are down for an adventure!
Bran Castle is the perfect example of what good marketing can create. "Dracula's Castle" has gone from a little known castle in a gorgeous area, to the most visited site in Romania though nothing truly special has taken place in it. It is not where Vlad Tepes (the real "Dracula") lived nor is it the actual castle that inspired Bram Stoker to create his classic novel. The only connection is the location of a castle overlooking a river that has allowed a great marketing team to spin this castle into the popular attraction it is now. This all being said, the beauty of the castle should not be discredited and the grounds are quite stunning! Take a look at the "Hidden Gems" page for information on how to find the perfect Photo Op spot!