Fact: Transylvania has been voted the best region in the world to visit in 2016, by the prestigious Lonely Planet! So now you can take my word for granted when I say how lovely a trip to Romania can be! What if I told you that you can cover the main beauties on Transylvania in one week only? So, if you trust Lonely Planet and love road tripping, here's a great idea for you - a one week road trip you will never forget!
Lying in the center of Romania, Transylvania is definitely the standard-bearer of Romanian tourism. Despite being worldwide known for the Dracula myth, this marvelous region has much more to offer: an amazing medieval legacy, an occidental look for the main cities, endless relaxation opportunities and the friendliest people in Romania!
As far as I’m concerned, I always love touring in Transylvania. In order for you to feel the atmosphere, you have to visit the main cities and their surroundings, and I think you can easily do this during one of the best 1-week vacations you have ever planned! Of course this is not enough to cover all the landmarks of this area, but if you enjoy road tripping like I do, the following should give you a taste of what’s to be seen here:
The best way to reach Transylvania from abroad is via Cluj International Airport. I would assume you arrive somewhere around noon, and there is plenty of time to rent a car and drive towards Sibiu - the heart & soul of Transylvania. On your road, you can:
* enter Turda Salt Mine – the coolest underground place in the world (Business Insider), a salt museum and an amusement park, suitable for both children and adults;
* admire the amazing scenery offered by Cheile Turzii (Turda Gorge);
* have a stroll in Alba Iulia city center, around Alba Carolina Citadel, where Romanians have twice fulfilled their dreams of unification (1599 and 1918);
* finish your day with a nice romantic walk on Strada Cetatii (Fortress Street) in Sibiu, where you will be amazed by the old, beautiful colored houses on one side, as well as the towers of the fortress still standing tall today.
The former European cultural capital in 2007, Sibiu should be a top priority on any tourist agenda when planning a trip to Romania. Sibiu is the living proof of Transylvania's medieval architecture, and in the same time is a vibrant, modern city that proudly carries its German heritage. It is undoubtedly comparable with any landmark of Europe, being listed as the 8th most idyllic place in the world (Forbes Magazine). The atmosphere in Sibiu is truly amazing, and its main attractions will surely convince you:
* Piata Mare (Great Square) - the most important place of the city, where outdoor cultural activities are held and any tourist can admire the essential architecture Sibiu has to offer;
* Brukenthal Museum - the oldest in the country and one of the first opened in Europe;
* Turnul Sfatului (Council Tower) - Sibiu's iconic symbol and the tallest site, offering a 360 lovely panorama over the city and the Fagaras Mountains in the background;
* Piata Mica (Little Square) - former home of Sibiu's best craftsmen and the starting point for a wonderful network of small, narrow streets;
* Podul Minciunilor (Bridge of Lies) - Romania's first iron bridge. According to the legend, the bridge should move when someone lies and break when the lie is too big. It is also said that merchants who cheated their customers were publicly humiliated under the bridge;
* The Evangelical Cathedral - another opportunity to climb on the roof of Sibiu, this time on a much complicated, challenging way up;
* The Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral - the 2nd largest of the country, inspired by the famous Hagia Sophia from Istanbul;
* Pasajul Scarilor (Stairs' Passage) - connecting the Upper Town described above to the Lower Town - where more crafts used to be developed.
Before leaving Sibiu, you might also pay a 3-hour visit to ASTRA Museum of Traditional Folk Civilization – the 2nd largest open-air museum in the world. It is the best place in Romania to understand life and customs all around the country, since the museum will reveal over 300 typical buildings from every part of Romania.
About midway between Sibiu and Brasov, the city of Fagaras houses one of the biggest fortresses in Europe and the 2nd most beautiful castle in the world after Neuschwanstein Germany (Huffington Post). Inside Fagaras Citadel, you will find a very appreciated ethnographic museum.
Upon arriving in Brasov, you have some time left to enjoy a nice evening walk on the pedestrian Republicii Street, to find some restaurants, bars or shopping gallerias.
Maybe the most beautiful ancient city in Romania, Brasov has always been considered the one and only place where Transylvania, Moldavia and Wallachia meet. This marvelous city is surrounded by mountains and it is recognized as the best place in Romania where one can enjoy our medieval history. You will mostly explore it by foot, so grab some comfortable shoes and prepare for a unique city in the whole world!
* Visit The Black Church – the largest Gothic church in South Eastern Europe and Brasov’s main landmark;
* Start a walking tour from Piata Sfatului (Council Square) - one of the most beautiful squares in Romania, built in German medieval style;
* Enjoy the medieval streets from just outside Republicii Street, which will lead you towards further lovely places to explore; pass through Yekaterina Gate and Poarta Schei towards Unirii Square;
* Enter into the First Romanian School for a genuine history lesson, courtesy of the amazing local guide;
* Climb Mount Tampa for an astonishing view upon the city and surrounding mountains;
* Walk, walk, walk – this time along the old fortress walls, on the streets back to the old town and on the Rope Street (the narrowest street in Europe);
* And if you love adventure, this is the time to enjoy it - you can balance so much walking with some fun in the Aventura Parc.
This is one of my favorite roads to drive on in Romania! Landscapes are amazing and visiting opportunities are everywhere, the most relevant being Rupea and Saschiz fortresses. When managing your time, keep in mind you will need at least 4 hours to discover Sighisoara – one of Europe’s best preserved medieval towns and maybe the most charming city of Romania! Walking through the small hilly center will give you the impression of actually being in an outdoor museum, where you will have the chance to admire:
* The Clock Tower standing tall over the city, together with no fewer than eight other towers built and dedicated to different arts and crafts;
* The Torture Room inside the Clock Tower, where you will see some incredible torture instruments used during Middle Age;
* The Vlad Dracul House - the place where the famous prince of Wallachia inspiring the Dracula myth was born (nowadays housing a restaurant and the Weapons Collection) ;
* The Church of the Dominican Monastery - the sole remains from a former monastic complex;
* Scara Scolarilor (The Scholars' Stairs) - 175-stairs passage covered with wood, connecting the city with the main church and high school;
* The Church on the Hill - a former Catholic turned into a Lutheran Church, located high up on the School Hill.
You spent the night in the city of roses, one of the most beautiful cities in the entire country and my personal favorite! One day is surely not enough to explore this small yet fabulous city, but will certainly give you a taste of what this area has to offer. Here’s what you don’t want to miss:
* Piata Trandafirilor (Roses Square) - a place for you to admire the main architectural styles of the city and to start any walking tour discovering Targu Mures;
* The Palace of Culture – unique for its fascinating colors, the art collection and the grandiose library;
* The Orthodox Cathedral - the biggest in the whole Transylvania;
* The Medieval Fortress with its 7 bastions and the Reformed Church within - the oldest building of the city;
* Racokzi Stairway - a unique modern sight containing 70 stairs to climb, recently painted in a digital, street-art manner;
* The Zoo - take the marvelous, Barcelona-look-alike road towards the Cornesti Plateau, where you can admire great views upon the city as well as visit the most interesting zoo of the country;
* And if you have some time left and lucky enough to enjoy a sunny summer day, spend some hours in the Weekend water park – one of the most tourist-oriented in Romania!
Cluj-Napoca is your final stop and home of the International airport which will lead you back home. It is also the most developed metropolis in Transylvania, being often referred to as the Silicon Valley of Europe. Its glamour resides from the vibrant urban life, great educational and working opportunities, famous cultural festivals, as well as a great atmosphere in the heart of the city:
* Start from Piata Unirii (Union Square) right in the heart of the city, by glancing at the equestrian statue of Matthias Corvinus and visiting the St Michael’s Church – the tallest church tower in Romania;
* Lose yourself in the small streets around the Union Square for some great inner courts, old houses and isolated Churches; find the Iuliu Maniu Street to be astonished by the symmetrical buildings on both sides;
* Wander around the Museum Square for visiting the Transylvania History Museum, the Obelisk of the City and the Franciscan Monastery;
* Relax in the Botanical Garden or in the Central Park for some break from the rush of the city;
* Have a dinner with a nice view up on the Transylvania Hotel, after climbing the Fortress Hill, by stairs, starting from the center of the city;
* Taste the wild nightlife of Cluj by choosing one of the bars or clubs offering a wide range of music styles. Thus you will attend a great party to remember for ages, which will surely convince you again how nice and friendly Romanian people are!
And this is it - the end of your one week road trip through Transylvania! I always feel home when I am north of the Carpathian Mountains, and I think I have already proven this statement in my personal top attractions of Romania: over 50% of my favorite 50 landmarks are located here. In addition to this, you have to know about myself that I’ve spent my college years surrounded by numerous people originating from Transylvania. I had enough time to better understand their style and to get even more attracted to this fabulous region.
So I doi hope you find this useful, and looking forward to know if you had a similar road trip through Transylvania!
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