This month we are exploring Romania one of the most up and coming tourist destinations in Europe, set in a landscape of mountains, forests, fertile plains and rivers. Our journey takes us from Brașov to Baia Mare.
Located in central Romania in the Carpathian Mountains we begin in Brașov. This photogenic city is quaint and colourful with pastel-coloured streets and houses and offers an abundance of things to do and see.A good starting point is to head for Tâmpa Mountain and the massive Hollywood-style sign spelling Brașov in white letters. You can either walk/hike which takes about an hour or take the Tâmpa Cable Car to the top where you will be treated to superb views of Brașov.
You can’t visit Brașov without visiting the Gothic-style Black Church (Biserica Neagra) overlooking Council Square. This magnificent building got its name after a huge fire in 1689 blackened the walls of the church. Not far away you will find Rope Street (Strada Sforii) one of the narrowest streets in Europe at approximately four feet wide. This street was initially used as an access route for local firefighters.
Another must is Bran Castle or commonly known as “Dracula’s Castle” situated in nearby Bran. Built in the 13th century you can view this beautiful historic castle on your own or take a guided tour. You will get a flavour and the history of Bram’s Dracula, and wander around the many floors and secret passages. The surrounding ground are also worth checking out.
Other highlights include Catherine’s Gate, a fairy-tale tower built in 1559 as the principle entrance into the walled medieval city and St. Nicholas Church situated in the Schei district with its wonderful architecture. And don’t forget to explore Brașov’s historic cobblestone streets with cafes, shops and surrounding architecture.
As we leave Brașov towards Miercurea Ciuc the journey traces the Olt River and takes us on a scenic route past Sfântu Gheorghe between the Baraolt and Bodoc Mountain ranges and onto Miercurea Ciuc in Székely Land in eastern Transylvania.
Miercurea Ciuc attractions include Mikó Castle with a museum devoted to Székely heritage, Csiki Sör Brewery where you can learn the secrets of Miercurea Ciuc’s beloved local beer, and The Broken Tower (Turnul Spart) built in the middle ages.
As we continue onto Târgu Mureș, on the Mureș river, Romania’s 16th largest city has a mix of both Romanian and Hungarian cultures. The city’s central Square of the Roses (Piata Trandafirilor) is a good point to explore many of the beautiful buildings, cafes and restaurants.
Top attractions include the unique Palace of Culture (Palatul Culturii), with stunning stained glass windows and ornate interior. It is home to local museums, the Târgu Mureș Philharmonic, the county library, the art nouveau Prefecture Building with its 192 foot high spire, once a watchtower over the town and the Ethnographic Museum with collections of traditional costumes, crafts, wood, ceramics, and contemporary items. The Medieval Fortress offers a taste of the local history and culture set in a relaxing park area with restaurants and bars. Inside the walls is The Fortress Church, the oldest surviving church in Târgu Mureș
Cluj-Napoca is the second largest city in Romania, after Bucureşti. Located in the Someșul Mic river valley, this vibrant city has lots to offer everyone including culture, wonderful history and a great atmosphere.
There are three main squares in the city centre – Mihai Viteazul, Avram Iancu, and the largest Unirii Square, all full of historic buildings, shops and restaurants. Around Unirii Square you will find St. Michael’s Church, the second largest church in Transylvania with its beautiful gothic architecture. The church tower is 80 metres high and offers amazing views over the city. Also in the square you will find Banffy Palace in baroque style and home to the Cluj National Art Museum with exhibits from Romanian artists and is one of the most important museums in the country.
One of the must-see attractions, is the Botanical Garden, with examples of gardens from different parts of the world, including a Rose garden, a Japanese garden and Roman gardens with over 10,000 plant varieties.
Other attractions include the Ethnographic Park and Museum, an open-air museum with rural Romanian scenes. Fortress Hill offers amazing views of the city and the surrounding landscape or spend an enjoyable evening at the National Theatre or the Cluj National Opera.
On the final leg of our Romanian journey we reach Baia Mare situated in the Săsar River valley, surrounded by mountains and rolling hills. Baia Mare has a history for mining gold, silver and other metals.
Head to the main town sqaure (Piaţa Libertăţii) with its 16th and 17th century buildings with bars and cafes. Towering above the square is the 40-metre high Gothic-style watchtower, Stephen’s Tower. It offers spectacular panoramic views of the city and nearby villages.
Enjoy a visit to the Baia Mare Planetarium with an artificial sky including the Sun, planets, moons, thousands of stars and artistic representation of constellations through digital media. Other activities include dome demonstrations, exhibitions, astronomical observations, and film screenings.
Another popular attraction is the Mineralogy Museum that displays beautiful minerals extracted from the region. There are two floors to explore along with a movie presentation.
Nearby excursions include the Turda Salt Mines one of the oldest salt mines in the world and the unique wooden churches of Maramures in Șurdești and Plopiș.