List of the top things to do in Transylvania
Looking for a list of incredible things to do in Transylvania? Our friends at True Romania Tours can help you.
What is the first word that crosses your mind when you think about Transylvania? Chances are it’s Dracula – the legend of the scary vampire has its roots in the Romanian city. You may also think about high mountains, the spectacular Transfagarasan road, or cities charged with history.
To fully understand this region, let’s first of all look at its name: in Latin, Transylvania translates to “beyond the forest”. That is true – Transylvania is like a fortress, but instead of high walls it is protected by the Carpathian Mountains. Similar to a fortress, it is surrounded by mystery and legends. Traces of which can be seen in the breathtaking landscapes, the imposing landmarks and the stories of local people.
Due to Transylvania being named the ‘Best region to visit in 2016’ by Lonely Planet it has become a very popular destination among tourists. Here’s a list of the top places to visit and things to do in Transylvania:
Top of the list of things to do in Transylvania. Also known as Dracula’s castle, although the castle itself was never used as setting for the development of Bram Stoker’s novel. It was associated, however, with Vlad the Impaler, ruler of Wallachia and inspiration for the Dracula character.
Bran Castle was actually built in the 14th century, with the purpose of protecting the area against invaders and now belongs to descendants of the royal family. It awes visitors from the moment it is spotted, perched on top of rocks and surrounded by a dense forest. The interior decorations, although sparse, are beautiful and manage to bring to life the long-forgotten atmosphere of medieval times.
Peleș Castle is considered by many as Romania’s most beautiful castle, and one of Europe’s finest examples of Neo-Renaissance architecture. This should come as no surprise, given the fact that it is the former residence of the Romanian Royal family. The construction of Peleș Castle started at the end of the 19th century and apart from the main building, two other monuments were built: the smaller Pelisor Castle and the Foisor Hunting Lodge.
Peleș Castle has approximately 160 rooms, all artfully decorated, with splendid, elegant pieces of furniture, crystal chandeliers, spiral staircases carved in wood and a remarkable collection of books, weapons and paintings. The main attractions are the Theatre Room, the Hall of Honor, which has a mobile glass ceiling and the Royal Library, featuring a collection of rare books and, as any Royal palace, a secret door that leads to a passageway inside the castle.
Brasov is a medieval citadel surrounded by mountains. Brasov is usually the base camp of all those who wish to visit Bran Castle and Peleș Castle, to hike in Romania’s highest mountains, to ride on “the best road in the world”, according to Top Gear– the Transfagarasan – or to enjoy skiing during winter.
Apart from all opportunities near Brasov, the city in itself is wonderful. It is home to Romania’s largest Gothic church – the famous Black Church, that although it is far from black, it was given its name after a fire broke out in 1689 and burnt most of the building. The main square of the city, Piata Sfatului, is also a major point of interest for tourists, with its charming cafes and tall medieval tower. Wandering the city is one of the top things to do in Transylvania.
Another attraction on the list of places to visit in Transylvania is the city of Sibiu, named European Capital of Culture in 2007. Since then, the number of tourists that chose to visit this place has greatly increased, due to the rehabilitation that the city went under.
Sibiu is a flawless example of medieval architecture, with beautiful squares, narrow streets and imposing towers. The bohemian atmosphere can be felt in every corner of the city, from the art nouveau facades of the buildings to the numerous cafes opened in hidden cellars.
The landmarks of Sibiu are the Bridge of Lies (the legend says that if you tell a lie upon it, it will crack), the Brukenthal Palace, the St Mary’s Evangelical Church and the ASTRA Museum of Traditional Folk Civilization. The old town and the Huet Square are also worth a visit.
Set in the heart of Transylvania, Cluj-Napoca is a place where visitors can catch a glimpse of the country’s past, coupled with a vibrant city life, a mix of cultures and intriguing architecture. It is a perfect destination for those who want to take part in cultural events and music festivals, to enjoy a relaxing afternoon in a bohemian café or to do some shopping.
For those fascinated by Romania’s history and architecture, Cluj has a lot to offer – the old St. Michael’s Church in the Union Square, the Teleki and Banffy Palaces, the Franciscan Monastery, the Mirror Street and the Ethnography Museum of Transylvania.
One of Europe’s best preserved medieval citadels, Sighisoara is also part of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. It is the kind of spot you’d want to get lost into, with its tiny, cobbled streets, houses painted in a myriad of colors and a prevalent atmosphere of peacefulness and wonder.
Stunning views of the town can be seen from the Clock Tower, along with the fortified walls of the citadel.
You can also visit craft shops and learn about Transylvanian Saxons’ traditions. See the Church on the Hill, the Scholar’s Stairway and the Vlad Dracul House, supposedly the house in which Vlad the Impaler grew up.
The medieval fortified churches of Transylvania
The medieval fortified churches are the last recommendation of the top 7 places to visit and things to do in Transylvania. There are over 150 villages with fortified churches and 7 of them, best preserved, were included in the list of World Heritage Sites of UNESCO: Biertan, Calnic, Prejmer, Viscri, Darjiu, Saschiz and Valea Viilor.
They were built by German Saxons in the 13th-16th centuries after the Mongol and Ottoman invasions in order to offer protection to the people. As the church was the most important symbol of a village, they built massive fortifications around it. Apart from visiting what’s left of the fortifications, you can also witness how people in this area live and learn their stories.
For more information on other amazing things to do in Romania or if you are interested in booking a trip, please visit True Romania Tours.
Daria is a travel consultant at True Romania Tours, a tour operator specialized in offering private, tailor-made tours of Romania. They help you discover the most authentic places in the country while interacting with locals and learning about Romanian traditions.
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Do you have any tips for traveling to Transylvania? Any other amazing things to do in Transylvania? Let us know in the comments below.