Best places to visit in Romania

Located in southeastern Europe, Romania is mostly known for its massive Carpathian Mountains and the region of Transylvania. Visitors are currently discovering that Romania has much more to offer – Roman cities that are over 2,000 years old such as Alba Iulia, villages where time has stopped like Maramures, ancient forts, beautiful old cities full of baroque architecture like Oradea, posh seaside resorts like Constanta, hundreds of churches, monasteries, and synagogues as well as some of the most beautiful parks in Europe. Photo: Balate Dorin/Fotolia


»Bucharest

Bucharest


Bucharest, Romania’s capital and commercial and cultural center, is located in southern Romania. The old city is reinventing itself again after surviving earthquakes, two wars, and communism. The city center is dominated by the massive Palatul Parlamentului government building, a monument to Nicolae Ceausescu’s megalomania. The historic Lipscani district is now known for its lively nightlife scene thriving around the precious yet tiny Eastern Orthodox Stavropoleos Church and the 15th-century Curtea Veche Palace. Catch a concert of the Romanian George Enescu Philharmonic at the Romanian Athenaeum. Stroll through the lovely Calea Victoriei street to see elegant belle époque monuments and buildings. Shady walnut tree-lined Soseaua Kiseleff will surprise you with Bucharest’s version of Paris's Arc de Triomphe. Enjoy fresh air and green spaces of the Herastrau Park and learn about Romanian history at the open-air Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum. 25 Best Places to Visit in Romania - Photo: CCat82/Fotolia

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»Alba Iulia

Alba Iulia


Alba Iulia was a capital in the Roman Empire more than 2,000 years ago as well as a medieval capital of Transylvania and the place where the modern state of Romania was born. Located on the Transylvanian plateau on the River Mures near the Apuseni Mountains, it is the oldest and probably the most beautiful city in Romania. Stroll along the tree-lined wide streets of the massive star-shaped 18th-century Habsburg citadel, visit ornate the Roman Catholic cathedral, the oldest in Transylvania, the Batthyaneum Library with 60,000 rare documents, and the Orthodox Cathedral of the Reunification, where the first king of the unified Romania was crowned. Learn about the rich history of Alba Iulia at the National Museum of Unification at the beautiful 18th-century Union Hall. Just outside the city are two large national parks –the Apuseni and Retezat. 25 Best Places to Visit in Romania - Photo: tony4urban/Fotolia

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»Apuseni National Park

Apuseni National Park


Apuseni Nature Park is located in western Romania in the Apuseni Mountains, but also includes parts of the Bihor and Vladeasa Mountains. The park was created to protect unique Romanian cave fauna and is famous for its caves, which have revealed traces of prehistoric man and ice-age animals as well as populations of rare bats. The park is richly forested, with spruce at higher altitudes and beech lower down, and the interesting landforms present in the park are due to the limestone rocks that underlie most of it. There are fascinating sculptured ridges, vanishing underground rivers, and beautiful caves with delicate natural decorations. The park is a heaven for hikers and cavers, but be prepared for some serious work; there are no nice trails or and signposts. 25 Best Places to Visit in Romania - Photo: Tomasz Wozniak/Fotolia

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»Arad

Arad

Located on the bank of the Mure? River in western Romania, Arad is one of the Romania’s most prosperous cities, a busy industrial center and major transportation hub. It is also a lively university town and is home to two major universities, an old Romanian Orthodox Theological Seminary, a music conservatory, and a teachers’ training school. Arad was established in the 11th century and was a major trading post in the 16th century during the Turkish occupation. The heart of the city is the beautiful, wide, tree-lined Bulevardul Revolutiei, accompanied by fascinating examples of architecture in a mix of styles, such as the huge, bright white 19th-century City Hall Palace, the 1911 Palace of Culture, the neo-Gothic Red Church, the domed Roman Catholic church and the neoclassical State Theatre. In the old town west of Piata Avram Iancu is a large open-air market as well as a beautiful baroque orthodox cathedral and the old water tower, which has been converted into a museum. Check out the star-shaped Vauban-style fortress and the Old Jewish Quarter with its rich history. 25 Best Places to Visit in Romania - Photo: Rechitan Sorin/Fotolia

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»Bacau

Bacau


Located in eastern Romania in the Moldavia province at the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains near the confluence of the Siret and Bistri?a and rivers, Bacau is a modern city with a rich past that dates back to the 4th century. Visit the impressive Magura Ocnei Monument, dedicated to the Romanian soldiers who died in the WWI, located on the Magura Hill. Learn about the local culture at the George Bacovia Memorial House. The beautiful 19th-century castle of the Stirbei’ family will give you a glimpse of the life of local nobility at that time. Catch a concert at the Rosetti Tescanu – George Enescu Cultural Center. The Saint Barbara Church is small but lovely and is located in a huge Trotus Salt Mine. Just outside Bacau is beautiful Slanic Gorge and Waterfall and the healing spa at the Slanic Moldova Mineral Springs. 25 Best Places to Visit in Romania - Photo: Balate Dorin/Fotolia

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»Baia Mare

Baia Mare


Located in northwestern Romania on the Sasar River, Baia Mare is an ancient mining town and a key Romanian mining center, extracting silver, gold, and other metals for the last 2,000 years. The town has an old yet beautifully preserved main square known as Piata Libertatii, with the oldest house dating back to 1440. The house used to be a part of the castle belonging to a Transylvanian prince, Iancu de Hunedoara. The Casa Elizabeta, named for the prince’s wife, is used to host art exhibits. The stately Gothic watchtower, Stephen’s Tower, from the same period stands 120 feet tall on the same square. On another 15th-century square, Piata Izvoarelor, is the Butcher’s Tower, part of the medieval 15th-century fortifications, as well as an open-air market. The Baia Mare History and Archaeology Museum, located in the magnificent 18th-century baroque treasury building, features exhibits on the town’s mining history. 25 Best Places to Visit in Romania - Photo: salajean/Fotolia

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»Baile Herculane

Baile Herculane


Baile Herculane is a small Romanian town in the valley of the Cerna River, between the Mehedinti and the Cerna Mountains, a few kilometers from the city of Drobeta Turnu Severin. The town is famous for its 16 thermal springs, each with different mineral content, known for their healing powers long before Romans – there are traces of human habitation in the nearby caves from the Paleolithic era. According to a local legend, the divine Roman hero Hercules came to rest and heal in its waters – there is even a plaque with the inscription Ad Aquas Herculis Sacras from 153 A.D. The Roman aristocracy loved Baile Herculane, as did the rich and nobles of later centuries. The Nicolae Cena Museum tells the story of the city history, while the city’s historical center is full of beautiful buildings from various eras, such as the imperial pavilions and the railway station from 1878. Today’s Baile Herculane has a range of spas and hotels for modern health tourists. Not far from the city is large Valea Cernei National Park, with great hiking trails and beautiful landscapes. 25 Best Places to Visit in Romania - Photo: czamfir/Fotolia

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»Bran

Bran


The fairytale Bran fortress, perched high on the rocky bluff, has fired the imagination for centuries and is believed by the thousands of tourists who visit it today to be the bloody lair of Vlad Tepes, or Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for the infamous Count Dracula. History portrays Vlad more as the protector of Vallachia, but that does not prevent souvenir sellers from taking advantage of gullible tourists. The castle is ominously shadowed by the Bucegi Mountains and the Piatra Craiului massif. There is a nice museum with historic artifacts inside the castle and there are numerous guided tours. The castle was originally built by the Teutonic Order in the 13th century, destroyed by Moguls in 1242, rebuilt in stone in 1377 and completely restored by Queen Marie in 1922. There are five picturesque villages in the surrounding hills as well as lovely hiking and climbing trails for those not afraid of bumping into some Vlad’s vampire relatives. 25 Best Places to Visit in Romania - Photo: joyt/Fotolia

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»Brasov

Brasov


Bra?ov is a small, picturesque Romanian city in the Transylvania region, surrounded on all sides by the massive Carpathian Mountains. In the heart of the city are the remnants of the medieval Saxon walls and the stately Gothic Black Church, surrounded by lively cafes. The charming old cobblestoned streets are lined with ornate baroque buildings and the spacious Piata Sfatului square is home to the history museum Casa Sfatului, once a town hall. The best way to explore the city is aboard a double-decker bus, which passes by all the main sites. Just outside the city are a brown bear sanctuary and the imposing church of Prejmer. 25 Best Places to Visit in Romania - Photo: rh2010/Fotolia

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»Bucegi Natural Park

Bucegi Natural Park


Located in the Bucegi Mountains in south-central Romania, the 125-square-mile Bucegi Natural Park protects a mountainous landscape of canyons, caves, sinkholes, waterfalls, valleys, meadows, and forests. In the heart of the park is Prahova Valley, a popular weekend destination for the residents of Bucharest. There are a number of ski resorts as well as an excellent network of 39 hiking trails. Lalomita Cave, located at 5,020 feet, has a small 16th-century monastery at its entrance. The park is home to a diverse plant and animal world, with the protected edelweiss and white ivy. Hikers can often spot ravens, capercaillie, and Alpine newt as well as the endangered wolf and yellow-bellied toad. 25 Best Places to Visit in Romania - Photo: Emi Cristea/Fotolia

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»Cluj-Napoca

Cluj-Napoca


Located in western Romania in the province of Transylvania, Cluj-Napoca is one of the country’s most vibrant cultural, economic, and educational centers. With six universities and a number of private schools, Cluj is also a lively college town with a long history. It was originally established by the Dacians in the 2nd century A.D. before being taken over by the Romans in 124 A.D., when it became one of the most important urban centers of the Roman Empire. The city’s main square is surrounded by lovely examples of 18th and 19th-century architecture, posh shops, and popular restaurants, and is dominated by the magnificent 15th-century Gothic St. Michael's Church. Nearby is the 18th-century baroque Banffy Palace, home to the Art Museum. You can learn about the area’s history at the Ethnographic Museum of Transylvania, with an interesting open-air display of local folk architecture. If you can, catch a concert at the Cluj Philharmonic. Outside the city are seven massive walled citadels built by the Saxons of Transylvania. 25 Best Places to Visit in Romania - Photo: Lucian Milasan/Fotolia

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»Constanta

Constanta


Located in southeastern Romania on the Black Sea coast, Constanta is the country’s most important and largest port city on the Black Sea. It is also one of the most popular seaside resort towns. It is one of the longest populated cities in the country, with a 2,000-year-old history. The best place to learn more about the past is at the National History and Archaeology Museum. Next to the museum, in the port area, is a display of Roman mosaic tiled floors from the 4th century A.D. The Great Mahmudiye Mosque, also nearby, has an enormous Persian rug and a tall minaret that overlooks the city. On the outskirts of the city is a 7-km-long beach with a number of more or less luxurious resorts. The local Archeology Park and the nearby casino are worth visiting. 25 Best Places to Visit in Romania - Photo: elephotos/Fotolia

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»Craiova

Craiova


Located on the banks of the river Jiu in central Oltenia province, Craiova is a university town and a regional commercial and transport center. It was originally established as Pelendava, first a Dacian and later a Roman stronghold. Its strategic location has made Craiova an important city throughout history, as evidenced by its architecture and museums as well as the large number of churches. The 15th-century Church of Cosuna Monastery is the oldest building in Craiova. The Madona Dudu Church is famous for the beautiful murals painted by the famous Romanian painter Gheorghe Tattarescu. The Oltenia Museum in Baniei House is the oldest non-religious structure in Craiova and is a great place to learn about the region’s history. The Art Museum in Craiova is located in the neoclassic Dinu Mihail Palace from 1900 and contains six early sculptures by the internationally renowned sculptor Constantin Brancusi. 25 Best Places to Visit in Romania - Photo: Marius M. Grecu/Fotolia

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»Danube Delta

Danube Delta


From a cool spring in the Black Forest of Germany to the vast delta where it meets the Black Sea, the Danube River travels slowly for 1,788 miles through nine countries and four capital cities. Its delta is the best preserved and the second largest in Europe, 2,200 square miles of canals, rivers, marshes, tranquil lakes, and beds of reeds. There are 28 villages in the delta with 15,000 inhabitants. There are also 5,500 species of flora and fauna, making the Danube Delta one of the most biologically diverse in the world. About 300 bird species live here, among them white tailed eagles, cormorants, glossy ibises, white pelicans, Dalmatian pelicans, about 60 percent of the world's pygmy cormorants, and 50 percent of red-breasted geese. There are numerous guided boat trips through the delta, taking bird watchers and nature enthusiasts on a tour of the habitat. There are also several ancient Greek and Roman settlements in the area that are worth visiting. 25 Best Places to Visit in Romania - Photo: brszattila/Fotolia

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»Iasi

Iasi


Iasi is located in northeastern Romania on the banks of the Bahlui River and is a lively university city close the border with Moldova. The biggest city in the province of Moldavia, Iasi is sometimes called “the city of the hundred churches.” The presence of a large number of students gives the city a cultured, intellectual vibe – modern bars and cafes are bursting with chatter and life. The city center is dominated by the huge St. Paraschiva Metropolitan Cathedral, a large 19th-century Renaissance Orthodox church. Nearby is the Three Hierarchs Monastery, decorated with delicate Moorish stone carvings. Behind it are the beautifully landscaped Palas Park’s gardens, with the Palace of Culture located in the well-preserved neo-Gothic building. 25 Best Places to Visit in Romania - Photo: Balate Dorin/Fotolia

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»Maramures

Maramures


Visiting the Maramures region in northwestern Romanian is like entering a live fairytale, the Romania of folk stories, medieval, colorful, and ancient. The rolling green pastures in the Mara and Iza Valleys are surrounded by rich, old forests and dotted with quaint villages dominated by old wooden churches with shingled roofs and tall spires. Villagers are wearing the same traditional costumes their Dacian ancestors once wore centuries ago. There is living art everywhere – in the elaborately carved gates, windows, and eaves, in the colorful woven carpets, and in the richly embroidered dresses. Traditional motifs of twisted rope and the sun appear in all the carvings and are symbols of continuity and life. Of all the well-preserved villages, the most fascinating are Sesesti and Poienile Izei, where the massive carved gates and wall paintings are the most outstanding. Eight of Maramures’ churches are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. 25 Best Places to Visit in Romania - Photo: Emi Cristea/Fotolia

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»Neamt County

Neamt County


Neamt County is located in the central-eastern part of Romania in the Eastern Carpathian Mountains. It is a region of wonderful parks, ancient forts, and beautifully decorated monasteries and churches. The foreboding Neamt Fortress is a medieval fort built in the 1400s, home to an excellent museum featuring artifacts on life in the 15th Century. Ion Creanga Memorial House, the birthplace of famous Romanian storyteller Ion Creanga, is a fine example of traditional Romanian architecture. The Neamt Monastery is a 14th-century monastery, the oldest monastery in the country. The Agapia Monastery has an excellent collection of art by Nicolae Grigorescu, one of Romania's most famous painters. Ceahlau Natural Park has seven well-maintained hiking trails that lead to the Duruitoarea Waterfall. An interesting spot to visit is Dragos Voda, a bison reserve. 25 Best Places to Visit in Romania - Photo: Anna ART/Fotolia

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»Oradea

Oradea


Oradea is one of the wealthiest cities in Romania, the capital of Bihor County, and an important economic, cultural, and social center not only today but even since the Roman times. Spread along the shores of the Crisu Repede River, only 8 km from the Hungarian border, Oradea enjoys the best of both worlds, a charming mix of both Romanian and Hungarian cultures, full of romantic baroque ornate architecture left over from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Oradea University is one of the biggest in Eastern Europe. Oradea has more than 100 religious buildings of all denominations, including three synagogues, the largest Eastern European Baptist Church, and the Church of the Moon with an astronomical clock showing the phases of the moon. Just outside of the city is Baile Felix, a spa with a number of thermal springs and modern medical centers. 25 Best Places to Visit in Romania - Photo: Bogdan Mihai/Fotolia

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»Pitesti

Pitesti


Pite?ti is a city in south-central Romania on the Arge? River, the capital of Arge? County, and an important industrial center. Petesti is home to the Arpechim oil refinery and the Automobile Dacia marketing center. It is also a lively college town as it is home to two major universities. Inhabited since prehistoric times, Pitesti has an elegant central square dominated by the ornate art gallery and the imposing city hall building. Nearby is the early 20th-century Saint Nicholas Church. Visitors can learn more about the regional history at the Muzeului Judekean Arges, which also contains the Str. Armand Calinescu Planetarium and an art gallery. Meadow Park Argesului is a lovely space for a stroll along the Arges River. 25 Best Places to Visit in Romania - Photo: vio0orel/Fotolia

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»Ploiesti

Ploiesti


Ploiesti is the main city in the Wallachia region, about 56 km from Bucharest. Ploiesti is Romania's oil production center, with an oil-refining industry that has existed since 1857. The first large refinery in the world opened at Ploie?ti in 1856 and the city flourished as a trade and manufacturing center in the 17th and 18th centuries and much of the beautiful downtown architecture dates from that period: the Nicolae Simache Clock Museum, the former Creditul Prahovei, St. John the Baptist Cathedral, the Ghi?a Stoenescu House, and the Radu Stanian House. There are several lovely museums in the city such as the Ion Luca Caragiale Museum, the Clock Museum, and the modern Muzeul Judetean de Stiintele Naturii, or Prahova County Museum of Natural Sciences. 25 Best Places to Visit in Romania - Photo: Florin/Fotolia

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»Sibiu

Sibiu


An elegant medieval Transylvanian town on the Cibin river, Sibiu is the center of Romanian cultural life, and has been for centuries. It was the richest and largest of the seven walled towns German settlers built in the 12th century. Powerful trade guilds that ruled the town ensured their protection by building the massive fortifications as well as the grand buildings that today amaze visitors to Sibiu's Old Town. Parts of the medieval city wall now guard the charming historic area, with narrow streets and ornate 17th-century buildings that open into huge orderly squares dominated by the ornate facades of old churches. In the 19th century, Sibiu was one of the centers of European culture, where such greats as Brahms, Strauss, and Liszt came to perform. The Great Square in the upper town is dominated by the imposing Roman Catholic church and the Brukenthal Palace, home to one of the best art collections in Romania. The Council Tower, in the Little Town, offers great views of the town. Huet Square is a site of the Evangelical Cathedral. 25 Best Places to Visit in Romania - Photo: dudlajzov/Fotolia

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»Targu Mures

Targu Mures


Targu Mures is an ancient market town in central Romania that has traces of a human presence since prehistoric times. It has been regional cultural center since the 16th century and its first school was opened in 1492. In 1786 the first printing shop started working and in 1802 Count Teleki Samuel, then chancellor of Transylvania, founded the documentary library, which still exists under his name. Today the city center is dominated by the huge Piata Trandafirilor (Roses Square), surrounded by modern sidewalk cafes, restaurants, old churches, and important monuments. At the south side of the square is the 20th-century Culture Palace known for its beautiful stained glass and home some to several major museums. One of the city landmarks is the 19th-century baroque Apollo Palace, now home to the Targu Mures Art School. The former prefecture seat was built in 1711 and now has artists’ workshops. The beautiful 17th-century baroque Palffy House is now home to the Music School of the University of Theatrical Arts. 25 Best Places to Visit in Romania - Photo: Ionut David/Fotolia

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»Timisoara

Timisoara


Timi?oara is the economic, social, and cultural center of western Romania. The city was built in the 13th century on the site of Castrum Regium Themes, an ancient Roman fortress. The city was destroyed by the Tatars in the 13th century, conquered by the Ottomans in 1552, and taken over by the Austrians in 1718. Turks, Germans, Austrians, and neighboring Serbs all left their traces, making Timisoara diverse, lively, and full of character, with elegant squares, diverse neighborhoods and lush parks. In the heart of the city is the beautiful Victory Square with the towering Romanian Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral, built in 1936, with a mosaic red tiled roof. Nearby is the Memorial Museum of the 1989 Revolution, offering information about the revolution in Timisoara that brought down the Ceausescu regime. Also in the city center is the elegant 18th-century Habsburg-era Piata Unirii, with the imposing Roman Catholic and Serbian Orthodox cathedrals and lovely, old pastel-hued houses surrounding the square. 25 Best Places to Visit in Romania - Photo: goce risteski/Fotolia

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»Turda

Turda


Turda is a city in Romania in the region of Transylvania, in Cluj County, on the banks of the Aries River. It has been inhabited by humans since the Middle Paleolithic, some 60,000 years ago. Dacians and Romans built their cities on the same site, mostly due to the nearby salt mines, which have been mined since prehistory. For this reason, visiting the mine is very much like visiting a museum of the history of salt mining. The mine is currently used as a tourist attraction and is not mined. The Turda History Museum has large number of exhibits about the history of the region. The nearby Durgau lakes are formed at the old mining site and are a popular tourist destination. There are sandy beaches, pontoons, showers, and other amenities. Other sights worth visiting are the Turda Gorge on the River Hasdate, the Turenilor Gorge Caves, the ruins of a 2,000-year-old Roman camp, and the 15th-century Calvinist Reformed Church, the oldest preserved structure in Turda. 25 Best Places to Visit in Romania - Photo: Bogdan Mihai/Fotolia

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»Vatra Dornei

Vatra Dornei


Vatra Dornei is a city in northeastern Romania in the historic Bukovina region, located in a valley in the Eastern Carpathian Mountains. The presence of rich mineral springs was known to the locals since mid-18th century, but the city was developed as a spa resort in the 19th century. The town is surrounded by beautiful forested hills, which become great ski slopes in the winter and are pleasant hiking destination in the warmer months. The resort is surrounded by a large park. It also has a popular casino and two museums: The Museum of Natural Sciences and Wildlife and the Ethnographic Museum, both located in the town hall. 25 Best Places to Visit in Romania - Photo: frimufilms/Fotolia

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25 Best Places to Visit in Romania