7 Inspiring Places to Visit in Transylvania, Romania
Transylvania is a historical region in Romania known for its traditional rural culture, medieval cities and the Carpathian Mountains. Few regions in Europe are as rich in tourist attractions as this one, and tourists who visit soon know why.
With UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as Sighisoara Citadel, Brasov and Sibiu Old Town, charming villages and a scenic highway across the highest mountains, the tourist attractions here will impress any travelers looking for inspiring places off the beaten path.
So let’s see what are some of the best sights you could visit in Transylvania.
1. The famous Bran Castle aka Dracula Castle
Bran Castle is by far the most famous tourist attraction in Romania. Most people immediately associate Romania with the land of Dracula!
This Transylvanian fortification is credited to be the home of Count Dracula in Bram Stoker’s fictional novel. Even though the author didn’t visit Romania, the description depicted by him best resembles Bran Castle very much, hence the connection. The castle reached worldwide fame when it was featured in the 1992 Hollywood movie Dracula.
But the castle is more than the commercial hype around it. It’s a very well-preserved fortification from medieval times and there’s been a lot of effort put in restoring it and keeping the rooms in the original state. So if you’re not expecting to find vampires, you should definitely visit this tourist attraction. You’ll travel back to medieval times!
2. The Council Square in Brasov Old Town
The Council Square in Old Town Brasov is a must-see when visiting Transylvania. The Council House is the most important building here and it was built in 1420. This square has lots of history and if you’re going to ask locals about the stories of this place, some can really give you goosebumps. This is where public announcements, executions, protests and community decisions were made throughout centuries.
Medieval buildings in different architectural styles are all over the main square with German, Baroque and Gothic influences. It has a picturesque pedestrian street – Republic Street – which is a perfect place to have a coffee, rest on a bench and watch local life.
The impressive Black Church, named because of its blackened walls due to a massive fire it survived, is nearby. It’s so huge you really can’t miss it! And if you like panoramic views, one of the best things to do in Brasov is to take the cable car up on Tampa Hill to the Hollywood-style Brasov sign which overlooks the city, Transylvania and the impressive Carpathian Mountains.
3. The underground amusement park in Turda Salt Mine
Turda Salt Mine in Turda is the largest salt mine museum in the world and something you won’t find anywhere else! Formed more than 13 million years ago, it was a major salt supplier for about 2000 years, until it started being used as a bomb shelter during WW II and for cheese storage.
With its 112 meters depth and huge grottos it later got converted into a tourist attraction with the help of impressive and artistic light installations. And did you know that breathing salty air is therapeutic and has many health benefits?
Be prepared: when you enter this spectacular salt mine, you’ll feel like venturing in a Sci-Fi movie setting. Unsurprisingly, in 2013, you would find this place in Business Insider’s top “25 hidden gems around the world that are worth the trek”.
Today, this is the only place in the world where you can go on an underground panoramic Ferris wheel trip. Billiards, mini-gold, playground for children, handball, football, and more activities are also on the table. Taking a boat ride in a subterranean lake? Sure, you can do it too!
4. The Gothic Corvin Castle
Corvin Castle, also known as Hunyadi Castle, is one of the most impressive fortresses in Europe, and the most spectacular Gothic structure in Romania. Used initially as a prison and a military fortress, it served many purposes throughout time, being representative of Romanian history. It went through a 40 years restoration process and today, it is one of the best-preserved gothic Renaissance Castles in Europe.
Unlike other castles you have seen, this one was built strategically on a rock, atop a cliff above a river, to help the military leaders see the enemies better. If you’re going to visit it, expect to feel shivers down your spine as you peek through its defense towers and wall battlements.
Corvin Castle is imposing even from a distance, with high towers, bastions, balconies with stone carvings, a large courtyard and a once-functional mobile bridge controlled with ropes. Just like you see in historic movies!
It has torture rooms, a bear pit in which enemies are said to have been thrown and mulled by animals, and a fountain – wherein the mystery surrounding the castle. According to a legend, three Turkish prisoners were promised freedom if they reached water, but they weren’t released once they did. No wonder the Huffington Post ranked it the second most frightening castle worldwide!
5. Bohemian Sibiu
Sibiu, a fortified medieval town in the heart of Transylvania, is one of the most representative Romanian cities and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The contrasting architecture here reminds visitors of two important periods in Romanian history – the communist era and the interbellum period.
Built by Saxon who settled in the region in the 13th century to protect it from foreign invaders, their influence on the city are easily noticeable. From the layout of the streets, its impressive main squares in the Old Town area and architecture. For instance, Sibiu is nicknamed “the City with Eyes.” What’s the catch? The roofs of the houses have eyebrow dormers, and have become one of the most famous symbols of the city.
The best starting point to wander around this city is the Grand Square. With an impressive ensemble of squares and buildings over 500 years old, expect to be taken back in time by the charming historical setting.
The must-see attractions in the city are the Brukenthal Museum, the Park under the Alders stretching over 22 acres, the Council tower – one of the most important landmarks in Sibiu, and the Synagogue – a neo gothic rectangular building resembling a basilica.
6. Transfagarasan Highway
Transfagarasan Road also known as “the road to the clouds” needs no introduction. Top Gear proclaimed this road to be the best driving road in the world. And later, it was ranked in the top “50 Most Scenic Drives in the World” by the global travel site Big 7 Travel.
The road crosses the mighty Fagaras Mountains, the highest in Romania, reaches altitudes of 2,242 m and offers spectacular views of Transylvania. The impressive natural landscapes impress all visitors and some famous movies were filmed here like Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, and Wild Carpathia.
If you want to hit the high spots, several popular stops along the way are the Balea Waterfall – the highest step-waterfall in Romania, and Balea Lake – a glacier that eroded the mountains, where you can also have lunch at the nearby restaurant with a nice view of this serene, peaceful lake.
7. The Medieval Sighisoara Citadel
Sighisoara Citadel is a famous UNESCO site in Romania and undoubtedly one of the most impressive hidden gems in Europe. Sighisoara is the only inhabited medieval fortress in Southeast Europe, so can you imagine how interesting it must be for the locals to live in a fortified citadel?
Getting lost on the streets of the citadel while learning about its history and the role it played in Transylvania is one of the best ways to discover Romania. The colorful houses are well preserved and you’ll find lots of restaurants and cozy cafes in their courtyards. Then go up in the 600 years old Clock Tower to get beautiful views of the area and imagine what it was like to defend the citadel.
As you can see, there is no shortage of inspiring places to visit in Transylvania. And the best thing about it is that it isn’t exactly one of the most popular tourist regions in Europe so you can wander around freely without bumping into crowds of visitors. So, ready to plan your trip to Romania?