Romania is not one of those countries that normally top the lists of places to go backpacking, but after a month travelling around this beautiful part of Eastern Europe, I compiled my favourite list of places to visit in Romania as it certainly made a fantastic impression on me!
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From the beginning of my days backpacking in Romania this was a great surprise of a country. As it had all the ingredients for great adventures: beautiful places, tasty food and wonderful people!
Eastern Europe is generally a great place when travelling on a budget and Romania is not an exception, with hostels starting from around 5€ per night, proper traditional meals for about 6€ and beers for less than 1.5€, you can rest assured that your bank account will not suffer much in Romania!
Whether you like beautifully preserved old towns, postcard-like castles, stunning mountains, thriving capitals, beach parties and more, Romania will have you covered!
These are my top places to visit in Romania, I’m listing them chronologically as I visited them so you can use the list as a sort of itinerary for your own adventures:
After my travels around Israel and Palestine, I got quite a cold shock arriving to Transylvania in February, this region in central Romania is well known by many tales of vampires, but more on that later!
Sibiu is a little town with lots of medieval architecture, which makes it a perfect place to wander around without a destination in mind.
I kind of felt observed by the buildings here in Sibiu! their distinctive upper windows that resemble a pair of eyes are not unique in Eastern Europe but here is where I saw them more often. Can you see what I’m talking about? 🙂
In Sibiu I started my love affair with Covrigis, these pastries can be sweet or savoury. I particularly love the savoury cheese ones (not so much the sweet cheese ones, those are weird) and the chocolate ones! at about 0.6€ they’re a cheap but tasty snack to keep the energy going while wandering around!
In Sibiu you can spend 1 or 2 days. I stayed at the B13 Hostel which was really cheap and clean.
Hunedoara (Corvin Castle)
Less than two hours away from Sibiu, Hunedoara is not the most spectacular place to go, but I loved visiting the impressive Corvin Castle
This Gothic-Renaissance castle located in Transylvania is one of the largest in Europe. Construction began in 1446 and has been extended and renovated several times.
In 1854 a fire caused by lightning destroyed most of the wooden parts of Corvin Castle. Its current look is the result of a fanciful restoration campaign undertaken after the fire and many decades of total neglect. It has been noted that modern architects in the 19th century projected to it their own wistful interpretations of how a great Gothic castle should look… The torture chambers and prison are very creepy, but I prefer to show you just the beautiful views ?
I went to Hunedoara via a train from Sibiu to Sebes and then a short bus ride to see Alba Iulia (which was OK but you can skip it if short on time) and then a final bus from Alba Iulia to Hunedoara. It sounds like a lot of transfers but it was actually pretty easy and short trips.
Hunedoara is a place to visit for just one day as there are not many attractions to see, there are not many options for accommodation because of this reason. I stayed at Hobby Hotel and they were almost surprised to see me there ?, they didn’t speak much English but treated me fantastically well and invited me to a proper homemade traditional Romanian meal (which involves copious amounts of meat)
I spent almost a week in Cluj-Napoca and really enjoyed my time there, it’s such a cool small town with plenty of things to do and one of those places where you feel that times goes slower.
I stayed at the Zen Hostel which had a great vibe where I meet a quite few other backpackers.
Among the many things you can do you can count with disparate things such as: wandering around the historic centre, going to a surprisingly good opera for just 6€ (I’m not a connoisseur but always love live performances) to having a walk to the Hoia Baciu haunted forest.
As a day trip from Cluj-Napoca you can also visit the Salina Turda (huge salt mines) and Cheile Turzii (Turda Gorge)
Cheile turzii (Turda Gorge)
I took a bus to visit Cheile Turzii when I was staying in Cluj-Napoca. The hike around Turda Gorge is short but stunning! my day started pretty cold and grey but cleared up a bit later.
This canyon formed through the erosion of Jurassic limestone and the walls go up to 300m. This is a well-known spot for rock climbing here in Romania as well. After a flattish trail by the river there’s a short but sharp climb to a beautiful viewpoint.
I understand that in summer months you have to buy a ticket to visit but in winter it was free. There are campsites and hotels in the area in case you would like to spend the night as the buses back to Cluj-Napoca are not regular in winter.
I wrote more in detail my adventures in Turda Gorge on this blog post.
After almost a week chilling in the city of Cluj-Napoca, I made it to the birthplace of Vlad The Impaler! who inspired the fictional character of Count Dracula?
The old citadel of Sighisoara is an Unesco World Heritage Site and many of its buildings dating back to the 12th century are incredibly well preserved! It’s also the oldest citadel still inhabited in Europe.
Parts of its wall still remain in great condition. There are 9 towers along the wall. Each tower was built, maintained and defended by a craft guild (receiving names such as the butcher tower, boot maker’s tower, tailor’s tower, rope maker’s tower, etc…)
The most striking of them all is the 14th century Clock Tower which controlled the main gate and stored the city’s treasure.
I stayed just one night at the Burg Hostel which was enough as it’s not a huge place to wander. On the following day I took a train to Brasov which costs about 8€.
I stayed 4 nights in Brasov at the Centrum Hostel which had a cool vibe among fellow backpackers and was offering a great breakfast.
Yet again Brasov is another cool place to wander around but what I loved the most was that it has some trails nearby which I discovered when I hiked up to the “Hollywood” sign at the top of Tampa mountain. I wrote more about this little adventure on my post about hiking in Brasov.
They say the best views are there, but I didn’t count on the fog making an appearance. Still, the hike was pretty cool!
From Brasov I also did day trips towards Bran and Sinaia for more beautiful castles!
Bran (Dracula’s Castle)
Count Dracula is a fictional character, considered to be inspired by the 15th century brutal Transylvanian ruler Vlad The Impaler (born in Sighisoara), and back in the 1970s as a marketing strategy to bring more tourists to Romania it was decided to “sell” Bran Castle as the original Dracula’s Castle, even that geographically and architecturally does not match the book description.
I guess sometimes it’s just ok to keep the stories going and accept a little lie with the excuse of visiting places like this one!
In Bran you can also go for some fantastic hiking as there are some beautiful mountains nearby (even on foot from the castle). So this could be a place to stay for more than a day. As I was not aware of this, I just improvised a little hike after visiting the castle as I found the trailhead for the Bucegi Mountain, which is a serious trail, long, steep and with bears around!
I did just a short improvised circuit and got rewarded with awesome views. As this was late, it was getting darker and also started to rain…in some areas I was walking on ankle-deep snow so my running trainers were as good as going barefoot. Always great to improvise a little adventure! you can read all the details on how to get there on this post about visiting Dracula’s Castle.
Sinaia (Peles Castle)
Another day trip from Brasov, and it was so worth it!
Built between 1873 and 1914 for the first Romanian royal family, they didn’t spare in costs and had about 400 men working on it.
The queen wrote in her journal during the construction: “Italians were masons, Romanians were building terraces, the Gypsies were coolies. Albanians and Greeks worked in stone, Germans and Hungarians were carpenters. Turks were burning brick. Engineers were Polish and the stone carvers were Czech. The Frenchmen were drawing, the Englishmen were measuring, and so was then when you could see hundreds of national costumes and fourteen languages in which they spoke, sang, cursed and quarreled in all dialects and tones, a joyful mix of men, horses, cart oxen and domestic buffaloes”
Together we’re always better!
If you visit Sinaia in winter you can also go skiing, is not huge so don’t expect the Alps but always a plus if you like winter sports!
I spent almost a couple of weeks in the beautiful Romanian capital and didn’t get bored!
In the first half of the 20th century the city was nicknamed as Little Paris because of its elegant architecture. WWII, earthquakes and Ceauşescu’s systematisation program sadly resulted in the loss of many buildings. Still, so worth it to visit! ?
I stayed at the First Hostel and then moved to an Airbnb as it was pretty much the same price, so you can get form this that even in the capital you will not spend much money in accommodation.
In Bucharest you will find everything you expect in a capital, including trendy coffee places, a lively nightlife, museums and plenty of restaurants to choose from.
This small beach town by the Black Sea near Constanta is a really cool place to spend a weekend. I spent a night camping there with a friend and the atmosphere was fantastic if only a little bit crowded at times.
My experience backpacking in Romania
As you can see from my lines, I had a terrific time there, there are plenty of places to visit in Romania and lots of things to do and adventures waiting to happen!
I don’t tend to post much about food or even take photos, but trying local food is one of the things I love the most about travelling and in Romania there are plenty of options to choose from! Some tips on traditional Romanian food to try are:
Papanasi (traditional dessert), roasted pork knuckle, zacusca, covrigi (the savoury cheese one is a must!), mici (kebab-like meat), sarmale, lots of soups (called Ciorba) the tripe soup is the most traditional one, there’s lots of polenta used in Romanian cuisine (called mamaliga) when they mix it with cheese it’s delicious!
I hope this list of places to visit in Romania inspires you to go and visit this beautiful country! drop a comment below if you’d like to know more or if you think I missed a place!