A visit to Romania should definitely include a stop in the medieval city of Brasov, one of the most popular highlights of Transylvania. Check out a complete Brasov city guide that will help you organize your trip to Romania and answer many questions: How to reach Brasov? Things to do in Brasov? Where and what to eat in Brasov? Where to sleep? And finally, are the surroundings of Brasov worth exploring?
How to reach Brasov?
It’s easy to reach Brasov even though it does not have an airport. It is located in the southern part of Transylvania, not too far from Bucharest, Romania’s capital city. From Bucharest’s Gara de Nord train station, trains are leaving for Brasov almost every hour. The ride lasts around 2 1/2 hours, and a ticket costs around 10 Euros.
Of course, there is also the possibility of taking a bus or renting a car. The cost will be higher in this case, and the ride might last longer if you are traveling during the high season, during weekends, and on official holidays.
Things to do in Brasov
Once you arrive in Brasov, you can say that you are officially in Transylvania. You will certainly feel like you are not in Romania anymore and that you have entered another country. Do not worry! We get this feeling all the time when we are going to Brasov or any other city in Transylvania. This place is very different from Bucharest, especially in terms of architectural style and even the people.
A short history of Brasov medieval city
Transylvania represents a historical region of Romania that was under Austro-Hungarian occupation for almost 1000 years. The Saxons and the Szeklers, a Hungarian minority, founded many settlements that are now some of the most beautiful cities in Romania. And Brasov is one of these places.
Founded at the beginning of the 13th century by the Saxons and located at the crossroads between Orient and Occident, Brasov developed as a trade city with the German name “Kronstad,” which means “City of the Crown.”
Despite the rapid industrialization of the city by the Communists in the second half of the 20th century, the medieval center survived in remarkable conditions. So, the main attraction of Brasov is its old town that boasts beautiful houses built in typical German architectural style. These houses surround Council Square, which is still the main venue for the city's most important events. The Christmas Market is organized here every late November until Christmas, but also traditional markets and fairs can be visited here during weekends.
Check out the most popular things to do in Brasov and a list of museums you must-see during your stay in the city:
1. Visit the Council Tower
Located right in the center of the Council Square, it is one of the symbols of Brasov. It is a medieval building that now houses the Local History Museum. Note that the facade has a bas-relief of the city’s coat of arms (a tree trunk with 13 roots and a crown on the top).
2. Visit the Black Church
It can be very easily seen from Council Square and is the most important landmark of Brasov. It is a former Catholic church dedicated to Saint Mary, now Lutheran and one of the largest places of worship in Eastern Europe. The name “Black Church” comes from the fact that during the siege of the Habsburgs in 1689, a terrible fire blackened the walls of the church and left 3,000 victims. Stroll around the church and then enter to visit its interior as well. (There is a fee of 9 lei per person, cash only in RON, the Romanian currency). Inside you will notice the old decorated benches that belonged to the guilds in town. They used to mark their seats in the Church with specific paintings.
There is also a collection of 119 Anatolian rugs – a gift from the Saxon merchants who bought them either during their travels or from the Turkish soldiers fighting the Habsburgs. These carpets now hang on the walls and the inner balconies of the church, thus greatly improving the acoustics. That’s why organ concerts have become a tradition here, especially the summer concerts every Tuesday.
3. Walk along the Rope Street
Do not miss this strange street which is only a five-minute walk northeast from the Black Church. With a width between 111 and 135 cm, it is said to be one of the narrowest streets in Europe. It was built as a shortcut for the firemen to ease their access in town in case of fire. Have a walk along with it and, as you continue, your steps will reach yet another important place:
4. Visit the bastions and the walls of the fortification
Since the 15th century, the city has been protected by walls. Small portions are still preserved with the remains of seven bastions, of which the most important is the Bastion of the Weavers. Tall and round, built in the 16th century by the Weavers’ guild, the bastion still preserves the covered wooden platforms where people took refuge during past sieges. A small museum sketches the history of Brasov, and there is a mosaic of the medieval city and its fortifications.
5. Climb to the Black Tower and the White Tower
They are located on the opposite side of the citadel and also worth visiting. Note that you need to climb some steep stairs to reach them, but the climb is worth it if you think about the beautiful panoramic view you will have once you are up there.
6. See Schei Gate and Saint Catherine’s Gate
These gates represent the access points to the citadel. Schei gate was used to divide the Saxon city of German speakers from the periphery of the ethnic Romanians in the village of Schei. Romanians wishing to enter Brasov could only do it on certain days of the week and were required to pay a fee.
7. Stroll around in Schei District
This is where the ethnic Romanian communities lived in past centuries and a nice place for an easy walk. You can stop and visit Saint Nicolas Church, a typical Orthodox church and the first Romanian School.
8. Take the cable car on Tampa Mountain
It is one of the highlights of Brasov, not only for travelers but also for the locals. The mountain represents the perfect background for this historic city. Take the cable car (located next to the Weavers’ Bastion) to get to the top, 360 m above the city.
You can also get there on foot as there is a separate track that goes from the city all the way to the top of the mountain. From there, you can enjoy a breathtaking view of all of the old parts of Brasov and its red, medieval roofs.
9. Walk along Republicii Boulevard
And let’s not forget about Republicii Boulevard, a pedestrian artery that starts from Council Square and is lined with bakeries and grocery stores in beautiful 18th-19th century buildings.
10. Try the local food in Brasov best restaurants
When it comes to food, Brasov offers many options to eat really well and try some traditional Romanian food. It is difficult to mention all of them, but we can try to give you some tips.
For instance, Bella Muzica restaurant, located right across the Council Square, is probably one of the best places to try the Shepherd’s Bulz or the local Gulas (this last one is not Romanian; many Hungarian minorities live in Brasov and nearby and this is their typical dish. At Bella Muzica restaurant you can be served the best gulas in town). The restaurant is part of a boutique hotel with the same name.
Also, consider “La Gaura Dulce” Restaurant where you can try the traditional Sarmale dish (meat rolled in cabbage leaves and served with polenta and sour cream) or “La Ceaun” restaurant where you can taste some of the best traditional soups in town.
Besides traditional food, there are many Italian restaurants and small places where you can interact with the locals and see how they cook. Most of the restaurants are located in Council Square or within walking distance from there. Also, during weekends, Christmas Market and official holidays, in the Main Square there are fairs where you can eat traditional foods and sweets made by the locals. We highly recommend trying them whenever the opportunity arises.
11. Stay at the best hotels in Brasov
When it comes to accommodation in Brasov, you need to know that you will certainly find something for your needs no matter what type of traveler you may be. First of all, it is preferable to find something close to Main Square so that you are closer to the city's main attractions.
Small boutique hotels are located in old and picturesque houses like the 3-star Bella Muzica Hotel, 3-star Casa Albert Hotel, or the 3-star Casa Wagner Hotel. You can also try the 4-star Curtea Brasoveana Hotel located in the Schei district, which offers really spacious rooms. Renting an apartment from the locals is also an option, and on Airbnb, you will find many offers. Of course, you can also stay in a standard chain hotel like the 4-star Ramada Brasov Hotel.
You could also consider the small towns and villages around Brasov, like Bran, Rasnov, Pestera, and Magura. These are very picturesque places that will also give you the chance to explore the charming countryside close to Brasov. In this case, a car would be necessary.
As you can see, there are many types of places to stay overnight in Brasov.
12. Tours from Brasov. What to visit around Brasov?
After visiting Brasov, you should certainly explore its surroundings. From this perspective, the city enjoys a great position, being a great starting point to explore the surrounding region. See below some of the best places to visit close to Brasov:
We will start with “la crème de la crème”, as the French say. Peles Castle is the former summer residence of the first royal couple of Romania (King Carol I and his wife, Queen Elisabeth). It is considered to be one of the most beautiful castles in Europe.
Built-in German Neo-Renaissance style with a sumptuous and elegant interior, Peles Castle impresses its visitors from their very first step. Enjoy a walk in the royal gardens and visit the castle's interior (ground floor, with an optional tour of the royal apartments). Read more about this exquisite place on our travel blog here.
It represents the most visited museum in Romania. It’s understandable when we tell you that this castle gained its fame most of all after being tied to Dracula's legend.
It is a medieval castle built in the last part of the 14th century, at the border between Wallachia (a former medieval country, now a historical region in Southern Romania) and Transylvania (the central part of present-day Romania).
The Saxons built it from Brasov and, after the 1920s, was offered as a gift to the second queen of Romania, Queen Marie. She renovated the castle very beautifully, and it soon became her “fairy tale castle” while she also provided for the nearby villagers.
After the fall of the Communist regime, possession of the castle was returned to Queen Marie’s successors, and it is now a private museum.
Zarnesti LiBearty Reserve
It’s the place where you realize how fragile nature can be. Part of WWF networks, LiBearty is a natural reserve where bears from zoos or circuses are brought and taken care of. Not only brown bears but also wolves.
It is important to visit this center in the morning as visits are organized with a dedicated tour guide each hour, starting at 09:00 am but ending for the day at 12:00 noon.
Harman and Prejmer fortified churches.
Several kilometers north of Brasov, you’ll find the Saxon villages of Harman and Prejmer. In each of these villages, peasant households with tiled roofs are lined up with their street fronts, giving the impression that a lot of oxen is prepared to pull their carriages.
The local fortified churches are the main attraction in the area, Prejmer being included on the UNESCO heritage list.
At Harman, the rounded defense walls of the fortress protect a 12th-century church, now predominantly Gothic. The locals built the 12-meter high walls in the 15th century to resist violent attacks from the Austrians or Turks. Those were hard times, and people were constantly afraid. The four towers surrounding the bell tower show that the inhabitants of Harman had the right to decide the death penalty.
On the other hand, the walls of the Prejmer fortress are even more impressive. They were built in three stages between the 15th and 18th centuries. The interior walls are fitted with sleeping rooms and galleries designed to offer shelter for the entire community during a siege. The simple Gothic altar, inspired by churches from the Rhine region, must have been an oasis of tranquility in the midst of terror.
The city of Rasnov is only 16 km from Brasov. Besides the numerous streets with picturesque medieval houses, this city will delight you with its extraordinary fortress perched on a hill. Built by the Teutonic knights in 1215, the fortress rises on a rock 150 m above the city.
The fortress has been transformed into a cheerful tourist attraction and the ideal place to admire a panorama of the Carpathian Mountains. In 2003, some scenes from the film “Cold Mountain” were filmed nearby.
Sighisoara medieval citadel
Speaking of UNESCO Heritage sites…. Situated at the top of a rock, the romantic city of Sighisoara, with its intact defense walls, is one of the most beautiful in Transylvania. The “like a fairy tale” expression, indeed, can best describe it. Once inside the fortress, you feel as if you are back in time.
Sighisoara is one of the few medieval citadels in Europe that is still inhabited. Here, time seems to have stood still, and visitors feel like they are on a journey back when knights and fair ladies used to fall in love before dating, and freedom was the priceless treasure of the community. You will learn the story of the citadel, see the well-preserved walls and towers, and admire the medieval houses lining the old narrow streets.
Highlights of the citadel include the house where it is said that Vlad the Impaler (known as Dracula) was born, the Clock Tower (from the top of which you can take beautiful panoramic pictures with the citadel), the Covered Stairs, and the Evangelical Church.
The Saxon villages of Transylvania
After Sighisoara and on the way back to Brasov, you should make a short detour to the rural area of Transylvania.
There is simply nothing purer and more authentic than the Saxon villages of Transylvania. Surrounded by gentle hills, these villages represent, by their simplicity, the key steps of your journey. Read more about these picturesque settlements and their fortified churches in this article.
Sibiu medieval city
If you have more time at your disposal, you should definitely pay a visit to the medieval city of Sibiu.
Located in the very heart of Transylvania, the town was declared the European Capital of Culture in 2007.
Sibiu's small but well preserved old town (The Small Square, The Large Square, Huet Square) attracts visitors from all over the world. Also, there are so many festivals and traditional fairs that will make your visit even more exciting.
Do not miss our article with Sibiu's complete city guide here if you want to read more about this lovely city.
Brasov is only a small part of what Transylvania has to offer, and it represents a great starting point to explore this legendary land. Do not miss the articles suggested above, and we promise we will get back to you with some more interesting stories and useful tips about things to do in Brasov or for your tour to Transylvania.