Romania is one of those countries full of misconception, facts blurred by Eastern-European stereotypes. Transylvania, easily the country’s biggest tourism draw, is shrouded in myth and fantasy. The reality, no less fantastic, is that Romania is a remarkable country; full of warm, welcoming locals and some of the most spectacular scenery on the continent. Although it’s not the kind of country you can experience in its entirety in the span of a week, you can certainly catch some of the highlights. This Romania itinerary will take you from the buzzing capital of Bucharest through to the best of Transylvania, in one wild week.
Highlights of Romania in 7 Days
Day 1 – Bucharest
Bucharest is at a crossroads these days. Relics of the communist era and those who survived those trying years are making way for a new generation. Shopping malls, nightclubs and fine dining restaurants are popping up across the city.
Take in the complex mix of architecture, from the bland, concrete Stalinist blocks to the intricate historical buildings that gave Bucharest the nickname “Little Paris.” Fuel up at a trendy cafe and get that perfect Instagram snap at that book store. Then hop on one of the many informative walking tours before sampling some traditional Romanian cuisine in the historic Old Town.
Be sure to book tours in advance. In peak season, they tend to fill up quickly and in the slower months, they occasionally cancel if there aren’t enough participants.
For more suggestions, have a look at some of our favourite sights and activities to do in Bucharest.
Day 2 – Sinaia & Brasov: Epic Romanian Castles
Rise early and head to the Bucharest train station and purchase a ticket to Sinaia. Times are a bit sporadic, but the first train leaves at 6:05am and the last morning train leaves at 9:55am.
Once you arrive in Sinaia a couple of hours later, you can store your luggage at the train station for a small fee. Before leaving the station, purchase an ongoing ticket to Brasov for later in the afternoon. This is just a precaution, as trains can fill up.
Make your way up through the pleasant little town to the absolutely stunning Peles Castle. After touring this magnificent piece of history, be sure to stop in at the Sinaia Monastery on your way back to the train station.
More info at the Peles Castle website.
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Hop back on the train for the short trip to Brasov. Once you check into your hotel, get out and wander the streets of the old town. Do some shopping at some of the many shops in the beautiful square and visit the impressive Black Church. If you arrive in Brasov early enough, take the gondola up to the top of the famous “Hollywood” sign for some spectacular views.
Before calling it a day, sit down at one of the many wonderful restaurants. Ignoring the cliched names, two of our favourites are Dracula’s Cave and Restaurant Transylvania.
Day 3 – Bran
Another early morning, this time to visit what is likely the most famous sight in Romania: Bran Castle.
Getting from Brasov to Bran
From Autogara 2 in Brasov, take the bus from stop #2 to Bran from Brasov. Buses and shuttles leave every half hour to Bran, and cost 8 lei per person. Pay on the bus.
After a quick 45-minute ride you’ll be right in the heart of Bran, under the imposing shadow of Dracula’s Castle. Although it’s commonly referred to by this title, Bran castle has no known connection to neither real vampires nor the infamous Vlad the Impaler. Nonetheless, it’s still an awesome sight and well worth the visit.
For a tour of the castle, buy your tickets online ahead of time, this will save you from waiting in extra lines during your visit. The Bran castle entrance fee is 40 lei per person. Grab a quick bite to eat from one of the many carts near the entrance. If you need a pick-me-up, there’s a guy right near the ticket booth who makes a very potent Turkish coffee.
Following your tour, stick around and spend the night in Bran, or head back for a little more time in Brasov. Either way, be sure to grab a delicious lunch at Hanul Bran. If spending the night, head to Casa Thomas for one of the best pizzas in Romania!
For those staying in Bran, make your way back to Brasov first thing the next morning.
Day 4 – Sighisoara
From Brasov, take the train to the brilliant citadel-city of Sighisoara. The earliest train leaves at 6am, but if you’re coming in from Bran, there are later options. Travelling this route by train is an event in itself. The rolling landscape of Transylvania is such a beautiful sight.
Once in Sighisoara, you have two options. First, you can find a nice hotel and spend a full day and night exploring the colourful city. This option gives you a little more time to take it all in before catching the 6:15am train to Sibiu the next morning.
Another option is to store your luggage at the train station and only spend a few hours wandering the cobbled streets. You can still see the highlights of Sighisoara in a few short hours. Just don’t miss the 3:25pm train to Sibiu, as it’s the last one of the day.
Day 5 – Sibiu
Sibiu is a beautiful city, you can easily spend a full day getting lost in the winding roads of the centre.
Head to the main square and eat at one of the many great restaurants or cafes. Check out the bridge of lies and the postcard-perfect architecture of the walled-city. Snap a few photos of the “squinting eye” windows Sibiu is so famous for.
If you happen to be visiting in October, catch one of the independent films showcased during the Astra Film Festival. The entire main square of Sibiu comes alive for this fantastic two-day event.
For a glimpse into Romania’s past, grab a bus or taxi to the Astra National Museum Complex on the outskirts of town. This massive open-air museum gives a glimpse of traditional Romanian village life, something you’d have to travel all the way up to Maramures to experience otherwise.
For eating in Sibiu, one of the best traditional meals we had was at Sibiul Vechi.
Day 6 – Transfagarasan
Dubbed by Top Gear as the best driving road in the world, the Transfagarasan highway is a sight not to be missed. However, driving this epic road is only part of the experience.
High in the Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania, this crazy road snakes up and down one of the tallest ranges in Romania. At its highest point, is the majestic, glacier-fed Balea Lake. Views from here are some of the most remarkable in all Romania; especially if you hike the ridge above the lake.
There are several tours available from Sibiu. The most common is a bus tour of the highway that includes a gondola ride to Balea Lake. If you want to splurge a little, you can hire a private driver or even rent your own car.
The Transfagarasan can be done as a day trip from Sibiu, or you can choose to spend the night at the hotel on the lake.
Day 7 – Back to Bucharest / Fly Sibiu
For the final day of your whirlwind tour of Transylvania, it’s time to head back to Bucharest. Direct trains leave Sibiu at 4am and 7am and take about six hours. For those who want a little more time in Sibiu, the final train of the day leaves at 4:40pm.
If you’re not wanting to sit on a train for six hours, you could fly from Sibiu to Bucharest for around $50 (US). You could even fly home from Sibiu (SBZ) if you’re tight on time. Or keep exploring!
Best Time to Visit Romania
The ideal time to visit Romania would be late spring or early autumn. From mid-May to late-June, temperatures are warm and the country is in bloom. It does rain on occasion but the temperatures are perfect. Mid-August to mid-October is a fantastic time to visit as well. The scorching heat of July has passed, leaving a much more comfortable warmth behind. The autumn colours of Transylvania in late-September are absolutely spectacular.
During the winter, it can get quite cold in Romania, so it probably isn’t the ideal time to visit. However, seeing the rocky landscape and and ancient castles under a blanket of fresh snow could be a wonderful sight. Although the Transfagarasan highway closes in the winter, the gondola still operates. As well, an impressive Ice Hotel is constructed over the season, which may be reason enough to visit!