Eastern Europe is opening up
to tourism and Romania certainly is at the top of the list for holidaymakers
looking for natural beauty, history and great value for money, holiday travel
The capital Bucharest is served by many of Europe’s airlines, and it’s worth a look for the French-influenced neo-classical architecture which earned Bucharest the title of Little Paris after World War One.
The Palace of the Parliament near Bucharest’s centre
is the second biggest building in the world, after the Pentagon.
When you arrive at Bucharest Airport, you’re likely to see scores of locals sitting out on the lawn scrutinising visitors, unlike western airports. World’s Best Holidays' tip is to head north through Transylvania to beautiful towns including Sinaia (named after Sinai in the middle east), Bran, Brasov and the beautiful Sighisoara.
Beautiful Vila Camelia in Romania
Romania is synonymous with the legend of Count Dracula
and also Communism, but it’s interesting to note that this is a very
Christian country with historical churches that are ornate and beautiful.
While some people may be nervous about driving through Transylvania because
of the Dracula connection, it’s the exact opposite. Superb countryside
where friendly locals still drive horse and cart.
Romania now has a freedom that was suppresssed during
the harsh Soviet bloc dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu from 1967 to 1989.
At the time, religion in Romania was practised in secret by 60% of Romania's
Orthodox population. Ceasescu was overthrown in a people's revolution in
1989 and shot by firing squad on Christmas Day, in what's now known as
Square in the capital Bucharest. Other interesting sights include the Romanian
Athenaeum Museum and the Peasant Museum.
It's worth arriving in Bucharest then taking the beautiful drive north through Transylvania with its historic towns before flying out of Romania in the north.
View of Transylvania from Dracula's castle
While many major international airlines fly into Bucharest
in the south, a number of airlines also fly from Romania's delightful north
direct to Europe, including Carpatair which has cheap air fares to Romania
and leaves from the beautiful northern town of Timisoara. You can also fly
out of Sibiu in the north, Cluj-Napoca or even Targu-Mures. Other
Romanian airlines are the state-owned Romanian Tarom, and also
and Wizzair with cut-price fares to Europe.
If you want a holiday full of history natural beauty and at very cheap prices, Romania is the travel destination in Europe of choice.
ROMANIA -WHERE TO GO
Less than two hours north of the Romanian capital Bucharest is the pretty little town of Sinaia, just before the start of Transylvania. Here you’ll find the famous Peles castle and the historic great church of the Sinaia monastery, built in 1843. Right next to it is the "old church" which has stood since 1695 with its beautiful painted frescoes.
The dedication to God here is tremendous, with meticulous and colourful work that’s lasted nearly 200 years. Peles castle itself has many great rooms full of history and belongings that transport you back to the days of Romania princes and princesses. The construction of the castle began in 1875 and the building was inaugurated in 1883. The castle has 160 rooms all opulently decorated. The oldchurch has a stunning priceless fresco of Judgement Day at its entry. Almost 80% of frescoes in Romania also depict judgement day.
It's also worth seeing Sinaia's casino,commissioned in 1912 by King Carol I of Romania. It's an exact replica of Monte Carlo's famous Casino Royale. For an excellent tour guide, try "Daniel Sorica" firstname.lastname@example.org.
As you drive north into the beautiful Transylvania region you’ll see
lush forests heading toward the major town of
Sinaia and only an hour north, and now becoming a major tourist attraction.
Before you get to Brasov, turn left toward the gypsy town of
Rasov and past
thatyou'll find the town of Bran, famous for Dracula’s castle that
belonged to the infamous Vlad the Impaler at one time.
Photo of Count Dracula's Castle
This impressive stone castle was built in the late 1300s
and was used as a defence against the marauding Ottoman Empire from 1438.
In 1442 Prince Vlad and his father and brother were captured by the Ottoman
Empire and thrown into prison.
When he was released, Vlad was allowed to return home to Transylvania, but quickly imposed a reign of terror to keep control of his territory.This includes the legend of impaling opponents en masse on sharpened tree trunks, to scare sometimes greater numbers of invading forces into turning back.
In more recent times Bran castle was used as the beloved residence of Queen Marie from 1920 until the overthrow of Romanian royalty by the communists in 1948.
Bran castle in Transylvania - Vlad the Impaler's bedroom
Dracula's castleis a must see experience and not at all scary. The architecture is magnificent and likePeles castle, it's one of Europe's most impressive castles.
While Romanians are reluctant to highlight the notoriety of Bran Castle as the home of Count Dracula, merchants in the markets at Bran just outside the castle are quick to sell all sorts of items that highlight the blood sucking legend of Count Dracula in Transylvania.
The atmosphere in these markets is terrific, but watch your belongings because of the occasional light-fingered gypsies.
Bran market with Dracula's castle in background
As you travel further north through Transylvania, another
must see is the historic old town of
an hour and a half past Brasov. Sighisoara was settled by the King of Hungary
in the late 1100s because of this region's natural beauty. By the 1300s
it was a favourite of European kings and is now a heritage site, full of
colourful shops and interesting cafes.
Here in Sighisoara you'll find fascinating historic sights such as the covered wooden walk way that completely encloses very old stone steps up to Sighisoara's famous old church.
Photo of Sighisoara town square
Sighisoara's landmark is the 13th century clock tower at 64 metres high, which today is a museum of history. Around the corner you'll find a bust of Vlad the Impaler, otherwise known as Count Dracula, near his birthplace. The Sighisoara citadel built by the Saxons in the 12th century is also worth seeing.
Driving north from Bucharest
is the beautiful hill town of Sinaia where the impressive Peles royal castle
and monastery is located.
Vila Camelia is undoubtedly the place to stay in Sinaia because of its history, architecture and the compelling story of its current owner, Allegra. As you arrive, you're greeted by rolling lawns and beautiful red camelias after which the Villa was named.
As you walk inside, you marvel at the grand timber staircases andtimber doors rich with ancient wood grain.
View from Vila Camelia's front door in Sinaia
Vila Camelia was built by the same architect who built
the royal Peles palace nearby. Allegra's grandfather bought this grand building
from the Royal Family's lady-in-waiting in 1937.
Allegra grew up in this "little palace" until she had to leave for Italy aged 8. The communists took herVila Cameliain 1948 after the war.
There are 22 rooms at Vila Camelia and the communists
made all the ground floor grand rooms into a boarding school for elite communist
party children. After the communists were overthrown, Allegra returned to her family's home and started asking
for it back in 1994. It took her 8 years to get it returned before she converted
the lovely old building into accommodation for everyone to enjoy. Allegra
will tell you with sincerity she's not doing it for the money, but to keep
alive the memories of her ancestors.
Romanian architecture in Vila Camelia's lounge
Good places to eat in Sinaia include Snow for delicious
Romanian food, or Tirol for Austrian fare.
Brasov is the next major town north of Sinaia where there is plentiful accommodation for day trips to notable parts of Transylvania, including Bran (Dracula's) Castle. Try "Chambers 'n Charm" Boutique Hotel, "Bella Muzica" or "Hotel Casa Wagner", dating back to 1477. All of these hotels are excellent value at under $100 a night.
Good places to eat in Brasov include "Casa Belvedere" with a great view, and Hirscher which is in a romantic setting andhas good Italian food.
As you keep driving north, make sure you make time to see beautiful old Sighisoara. Hotel Binda Bubi and Stag House are both romantic and charming, while good places to eat include Cositorarului and Vila Franka.
North of Sighisoara, you can fly out of Romania from the airport at Cluj-Napoca with Carpatair. This is a big town with plenty to see, but it's easy to get lost.
Deja Vu near Cluj-Napoca airport
We found a taxi driver to help direct us to a good value
place to stay called Deja Vu, which had something familiar about
This is a small 14 room hotel from only $29 a night including breakfast in a typical Romania hotel dining room before you fly out from the airport, which is less than 10 minutes away.
Deja Vu is a lovely old building with a very
Bohemian exterior dating back more than a hundred years. The front office
staff are very friendly and typically Romanian in creating a family atmosphere
the hotel describes as "romantic.".
Deja Vu is in a side street and offers peace and quiet in the hustle and bustle of this busy city.
Romania is a refreshing surprise
for the weary tourist looking for new sights in increasingly overcrowded
Tourism in Romania is starting to flourish , yet it still has an old world charm that makes it a new favourite among our World's Best Holidays.
There are many beautiful towns in Romania with historic sights including Peles Castle and Bran Castle, the one-time home of Prince Vlad, also known as Count Dracula.
A visit to the historic northern town of Sighisoara is
also a must.
Monasteries right through Romania are remarkable religious works of art that rank right up there with Europe's best.
Like most cities, once you leave the madness of the Romanian capital Bucharest, you're in for a natural and historic experience you'll long remember.
Office of Enterprise Rent-A-Car
Car for our
travels through beautiful Romania was provided by Enterprise Rent-a-Car.
Economical car hire with offices at Bucharest's airports and 5 major cities
For western tourists, Enterprise rent-a-car is the official owner of US car rental franchise Payless Car Rental, offering quality cars and service for English-speaking tourists arriving in Romania.