Romania — Explore the Carpathian Garden!

Marked by towering medieval castles and ancient fortified churches, Romania has no shortage of jaw-dropping architecture. It’s also home to some of the most dramatic landscapes on the planet, including the Carpathian Mountains, and the Danube River. If you’re looking for a country rich in history and full of outdoor adventure, then look no further than Romania. Known for its castles, fortified stone churches, monasteries, and beautiful medieval towns like Brasov and Sighişoara, the mysterious and alluring country of Romania is guaranteed to captivate you. Although many people link this relatively untouched destination to Transylvania and Dracula, there are so many more things to do in Romania.

“Where monsters come to get away from it all.” Peter Baynham and Robert Smigel in Hotel Transylvania

Bucharest is an awesome city — Grand and elegant and pulsating with style. It’s a very affordable European city, the food is delicious, and the people are absolutely lovely. Bucharest is known to some as “Little Paris”, and you’ll quickly see why. This city mixes renaissance palaces and gardens to provide something for everyone. When you are in Bucharest, you can feel the vibrant energy of the city, and when you visit the Transylvanian towns you feel like you have stepped back in time. We were in Bucharest for work, which gave us an opportunity to explore this amazing city, and also some of Romania! Before we get into the details, here are a few pictures of this beautiful country!

What to see?

  • Old Town Bucharest — The Old Town is located in the center of Bucharest, Romania and is known for its nightlife. The Old Town in Bucharest is a beautiful place to visit. The architecture is wonderful, there are many ancient buildings to see with lots of shops and restaurants worth visiting while in Bucharest. You can walk into the Old Town from just about anywhere in central Bucharest. Bucharest Old Town has  many good bars and clubs, restaurants, friendly people and it’s the perfect place to make beautiful memories. Also, you can enjoy a variety of high-end restaurants, coffee shops, and lounges, especially better in warm weather at more than decent prices. During the night you can have a lot of fun in a pub, a club or simply wandering through the streets.
  • Tour the Peleş Castle — This castle is an exceptional example of Neo-Renaissance architecture that was constructed for King Carol I in the 1870s as a getaway spot, and it is lavishly decorated. This beautiful castle serves as a great reminder of the luxurious lives these rulers enjoyed. Over 40 years, dozens of builders, artists and wood-carvers brought Peleş Castle into existence. Inside the castle you’ll find it decorated with ornate stonework, sculpted wood, and stained-glass windows, brass lamps, walls inlaid with mother-of-pearl, Murano glass, Biblical scenes, armour for men and their horses and so much more. The castle gives you a glimpse into the distinguished life of the royal couple.
  • Tour Dracula’s Castle aka Bran Castle — This was the place where Vlad the Impaler once dwelled. The town of Bran is located about 10km west of Braşov. Here you can find Bran Castle commonly known as Dracula’s Castle. The Romanian castle resembles what Bram Stoker’s described in his novel novel Dracula. In real life, it served to guard the border between Transylvania and Wallachia. The Dracula angle clearly serves as a good marketing hook for tourism in Romania, and it’s admittedly quite fun. You can walk the rooms dedicated to Transylvania’s most famous count, see Queen Marie’s Tea House, and ride a glass elevator to experience “Dracula’s escape route.” It’s cheesy and very touristy, but also super fun!
  • Visit the small medieval town of Brașov in Romania — Brasov is a small medieval town near the Bran castle in Transylvania and has an amazing array of cobblestone streets and many colorful buildings. This small historical city is an ideal starting point for a trip in Romania, as it’s centrally located and has lots to see. Brașov immediately draws you in with its medieval charm. Its old town rests between two forest-clad mountains, forming a wonderful green backdrop as you peek through its cobbled streets and alleys. Atop one of these mountains sits a Hollywood-like ‘BRASOV’ sign. The center of the town has lively streets filled with trendy cafes and cute shops. We saw the Black Church, which is popular in Romania for its remarkable organ concerts and spent time walking around the council square that was filled with lots of people and restaurants.
  • Day trip to Bulgaria The Bulgarian border is about 1 hour from Bucharest by road, so we decided to go on a day trip to Bulgaria. This 12-hour excursion started with a drive to the foothills of the Balkan Mountains. We spent the morning discovering the picturesque and impressive medieval settlement of Veliko Tarnovo. This was the medieval capital of Bulgaria and is home of the Tsaravets Fortress, the strongest Bulgarian fortification of the Middle Ages. The Tsaravets fortress is one of many Bulgarian castles built on top of the tallest hill and provides amazing views of the historic town, which is nicknamed “City of the Tsars”. The city is the former capital of the Bulgarian empire and is located on the banks of Yantra River. We also visited St. Dimitrie Basarbovski Monastery, situated in the valley of Rusenski Lom river, near the village of Basarbovo. This is the only active monastery in Bulgaria that’s carved into a cliff, and still inhabited today. It’s a monolithic church, chapel and monastery carved out of solid rock!

What to eat?

In Romania, food isn’t served merely to temper hunger and delight the palate but to teach visitors something about a culture they may not know well. At the confluence of Southeastern Europe, bordered by the Black Sea and blessed by the beautiful Carpathian Mountains, Romania takes advantage of its abundant seasonal ingredients in showstopping dishes. With a strong focus on tradition and a culinary inheritance influenced by neighboring countries, Romania’s gastronomy reflects its multiculturalism while striving to hit its own chord. During our visit, we picked a few of the top 10 restaurants in Bucharest, and they were all impressive. Fine dining in Romania is very inexpensive compared to the rest of Europe, so we recommend you to try a nice restaurant every day of your trip, you won’t be disappointed.

  • the ARTIST Restaurant — Bucharest has some of the best restaurants we’ve been to so far… “the ARTIST” restaurant is on the 50 Best Discovery list as well as the best restaurants in Romania, and serves up some of the prettiest plates I’ve seen with unique flavors and textures, and the food was super innovative. Poised along the historic Calea Victoriei, this grand, elegantly designed 19th-century villa sets the tone for fine dining. It’s the brainchild of award-winning Paul Oppenkamp, whose long-standing menu is one of Romanian roots with international branches. If you’re looking for a unique dining experience in Bucharest, this is it. With a modern and elegant ambiance and a cuisine defined as playful, vibrant, inspired and innovative, The Artist is the perfect choice!
  • Caju by Joseph Hadad — Located on a picturesque street behind the Romanian Athenaeum, this brasserie will immediately charm you with its tasteful interior design and excellent food. If you like seafood, homemade pasta and beautifully-plated dishes, Caju is known for presenting both tasty and Instagrammable food, together with some fabulous cocktails. They also have a nice terrace, perfect for warm days and romantic dates. We visited this restaurant twice during our visit. It is that good! We highly recommend this restaurant if you are in Bucharest!
  • Caru’ cu Bere —  This restaurant looked impressive architecturally with wood panels, stained-glass windows & a patio with more than 15k reviews just on google, and surrounded by beautiful buildings in Old town Bucharest! This restaurant offers traditional Romanian cuisine in a formidable setting.
  • Chocolat — Chocolat is a delicious store that serves scrumptious macaroons, cakes, eclairs, ice cream, and so much more. This store was literally steps away from our hotel in Bucharest, and it was the last stop pretty much every night. Some of the most beautiful desserts can be found at Chocolat!
  • Aubergine restaurant in Old Town Bucharest — This is a charming fusion restaurant in Old Town Bucharest that serves up plates with a modern twist on Middle Eastern (Lebanese and Mediterranean) and European cuisine. They also serve a lot of vegetarian and vegan dishes, so this would be ideal for a night when you are strolling down the streets of the old town.

Too often overlooked by the masses, Romania will open your eyes to its incredible natural beauty and deep-rooted traditional culture. We weren’t really sure what was in store for us, but Romania far exceeded our expectations. Romania’s medieval towns are far more colourful, lively, and romantic than you may have imagined, especially in the northwestern region of Transylvania. Romania’s architecture is simply delightful. The blend of different styles — and the historical German, Hungarian, and Byzantine influences — left us totally charmed.

“Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” — Gustave Flaubert

Romania used to be far off the beaten path, but in the recent years, the country’s tourism has picked up significantly. Its charming historic cities with cobblestone streets and medieval architecture are both affordable and rarely crowded. It is one of those destinations that you truly need to experience for yourself. If you have plans to travel in Romania, you are in for a treat. So let your next adventure take you to this amazing country…

And remember… Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer!