Top Cities to Visit in Romania

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No matter if you’re planning to visit Romania for a vacation of several days or you’re planning to relocate here, there are quite a few cities in Romania that you should visit and I have decided to create a list of those that I consider “must see” in our country: the best cities to visit in Romania.

Unfortunately, the communist spell that Romania was under for quite some time left most of our cities with completely unspectacular concrete blocks that look horrendous, relatively poor infrastructure and few more modern attractions, even though since the country joined the European Union, things have started to change a lot and many improvements were made: especially in the most popular, touristic areas of each city. The idea is that if you come to Romania waiting to be impressed by the architecture and cities, you will most likely be disappointed, but if you come with low expectations, you might actually be pleasantly surprised. There’s just one way to know for sure: just come here! And if you do, make sure that you include the cities recommended below on your “to see list”.

Bucharest

Source: grialbastrui
Source: grialbastrui

I won’t write too much about Bucharest, as there are quite a few article about it on this blog, including the complete overview – so you should check them out if you want even more details. Bucharest is, however, the capital city of Romania and the fastest growing city in the country, as well as the largest. You can see there the famous Casa Poporului, explore the city center with its charming streets and great restaurants or simply stroll around trying to find a hidden gem. The architecture itself is not very impressive but you will surely never get bored here.

Cluj Napoca

Source: Flickr
Source: Flickr

Many people consider Cluj Napoca the most charming city in the country (fighting a close battle with my next recommendation). Hosting Romania’s arts and cultural centers, the tallest church in the country and, especially in the central area, some amazing architecture and stuff to see, Cluj is really a city worth visiting if you ever come to Romania. The people living there are considered to be more laid back than those in the rest of the country, educated and with a more “western” mentality (not as in Cowboys, but Western Europe). Plus, the food there is absolutely delicious thanks to its Hungarian influences! Elegant and romantic, with fortified churches, castles and art museums, Cluj is that type of city that you risk falling in love with!

Sibiu

You can also see the famous "eye rooftops" in this photo. Source: Flickr
You can also see the famous “eye rooftops” in this photo. Source: Flickr

After being elected the Cultural Capital of Europe back in 2007, Sibiu grew in popularity among Romanians and foreigners and fortunately it managed to grow as a city too. With Gothic architecture and a cosy feeling (even though it’s a large city), Sibiu offers the Brukenthal Palace – one of the oldest museums in the world. It still has a bit of that medieval feeling alive and kicking in the areas that haven’t been touched by the communists and it is considered by many a real gem.

Brasov

Source: Flickr
Source: Flickr

One of our readers moved to Brasov recently and himself, as well as his family, loved the city so it’s tested! The central area, home of the Black Church is absolutely amazing, the surroundings are even better: as you have mountains on the sides offering breathtaking views and there’s also the famous Poiana Brasov a stone’s throw away, a resort that turns into a real winter wonderland. You can also find the Rope Street in the city – the narrowest street in the country – as well as many other attractions and great places to taste delicious food and have a great time.

Constanta

Photo from Flickr
Photo from Flickr

Although the city itself is not insanely spectacular, it still has a lot to offer. Plus, it’s right by the Black Sea, within walking distance to the country’s most popular resort, Mamaia and close to every other resort and village by the Black Sea (as well as our Bulgarian neighbors). The city managed to grow a lot in the past few years and looks a lot better than it did in the past, so you should definitely visit it during the summer – and make sure you make a day trip to Mamaia and enjoy the beaches. Or go to Vama Veche if you’re looking for a hippie-like destination.

Piatra Neamt

Source: Flickr
Source: Flickr

It’s time to start looking at cities that are not usually recommended by guides or other people, but places that are definitely worth a visit since they are indeed truly spectacular. Piatra Neamt is one of the hidden gems of the country, situated in the Moldavia region. A small city (around 80,000 people live there), Piatra Neamt is surrounded by beautiful hills and forests, also offering a breathtaking gondola lift to the nearby Cozla hill, where you can ski during the winter.

The city itself is one of the greenest in the city (“green” as in parks and green spaces) and it’s also close by to the Ceahlau and Vanatori national parks, the charming Neamt monastery and basically opens up the road for visiting some of the greatest monasteries in Romania. It’s not one of the easiest cities in Romania to get to by train or car, but it’s certainly worth all the trouble!

Alba Iulia

Photo source: Flickr
Photo source: Flickr

Just a few years ago I would’ve said that Alba Iulia is one of the worst looking cities in the country, but fortunately things have changed a lot after its entire central area and surrounding citadel ruins have been modernized and taken care of. Now it’s a real joy to visit the city and there’s a lot to please the eye! And it’s not just the renovated central area and the beautiful ruins nearby the city, but also an impressive natural park (spread over 20 hectares) where you can admire over 1,000 different species of plants and trees, enjoy the nature and realize that Romania’s not that bad!

Drobeta Turnu Severin

best cities to visit in romania 08

I am, of course, a bit biased with this recommendation, as it is my home city, but it’s definitely worth a visit for a weekend. You’ll see everything there is to see about this city in one afternoon, but you’ll be impressed: we’re talking about a city that’s clean, never crowded and quite beautiful, situated right by the Danube river. It’s also real close to Orsova – a small town that you have to visit if you get here, especially for the ride on the Danube and then go even further (just a bit) either to Baile Herculane for some refreshing thermal baths or visit the world-known Bigar waterfall.

Sighisoara

Source: Flickr
Source: Flickr

The medieval town of Sighisoara is considered one of the best preserved medieval cities/towns in Europe! The town’s center is considered an UNESCO heritage site and that’s the place where the famous medieval festival takes place every year at the end of July (the last weekend of the month). Again, unless you go there for the festival, you won’t have many things to do, but you should definitely visit it for the blast from the past – and if you’re planning a visit, make sure it’s during the festival when everything is ten times more awesome and you really think that you’ve made a trip back in time!

Most of the lists available online, as well as suggestions that you might get from people living in Romania, will usually stick to the biggest cities in the country: Bucharest, Cluj Napoca, Timisoara, Constanta, most likely followed by high rising (in popularity) Brasov and Sibiu. The truth is, as you saw above, that there’s a lot more that Romania has to offer and sometimes, staying away from the pack might result in some amazing experiences and pleasant surprises.

24 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Calin:
    I was beginning to wonder where you’d gotten to. Glad we’ve finally left the beach behind–ha, ha!
    I am glad you included Piatra Neamt. My only concern there is the risk of earthquakes, whereas your city isn’t so seismically active.
    I have some questions regarding the current terrorist events in Europe. Romania seems to be immune. Are there no ISIS wannabees leaving the Romania and going to battle? Are there no Muslim “ghetto” areas where Muslims are marginalized, and feel they have no choice but to go and fight against the “infidels”? I ask this after learning about the situation in Brussels, where the Muslims are not really fully integrated into the society.
    I have trouble understanding how anyone would better off fighting with ISIS. It’s sickening what they do to innocent people.
    So I presume there is no real heightened security in major cities, airports, and train stations. If you travelled to say, Bucharest, you don’t feel nervous? Hopefully all is well in Romania, and will remain so.
    Sorry to go off-track, but I am interested in your opinion.
    Thanks for your new post, and I trust all is well with you and your family!
    ~Teil (USA)
    p.s. KemKem Kum back–ha, ha;-)

    • Hello Teil,

      Piatra Neamt is not seismically active – the Vrancea region is known as the most active in Romania, but that’s pretty far away. Romania is pretty safe earthquake-wise, even though many voices in the past few years keep warning that a “big one” is coming.

      Regarding the other question, there are not a lot of people who believe that there’s any threat here. There is no Muslim ghetto, there are no areas where you find mostly Muslims in the country… actually there are very few Muslims overall in Romania, and those living here are regular people like everybody else. Plus, nobody would feel important harming a country like Romania – they’re focusing on the big, important ones to prove their point. So the only reasons why I feel nervous when traveling to Bucharest is that my train will once again have a big delay or that I’ll once again waste half of the day waiting for and traveling with public transportation 🙂

  2. Great to hear from you again! Yes, Romania has so many beautiful cities to offer. I think Timisoara also deserves to be on the list, but that’s just my opinion. I love even very small towns in Romania, especially the ones built by the Saxons like Biertan. Maybe it’s not your area of expertise, but I think Romania has so much to offer in the arts and in literature. I just read a book by Zamfirescu called “Viata la Tara.” It was tough going, I had to look up just about every second word in my dictionary, but it was well worth the effort. Now I’m plowing through Ibraileanu’s “Adela” which I think Nabokov ripped off for his “Lolita.” Well, sorry to get off tangent. If you or your wife know of some Romanian literary gems or want to tell us about your favorite artists and writers, don’t hesitate! I have found a site which has downloadable Romanian eBooks that are free (they are so old, the copyrights have expired). Last comment back on topic, I thoroughly enjoy walking the streets of Romania through Google Earth Streetview. Unlike Germany, which seems very paranoid, Romania has give Google free rein to put all Romanian cities and towns in Streetview. I highly recommend it.

    • Hello Stuart, I too believe that smaller towns deserve to be visited as there is a lot of hidden charm here and there. I have never been (virtually or otherwise) to Biertan, but I will surely check it out!

      Regarding the Romanian literature, I could say that I am not a huge fan of it as I am not a huge fan of classical literature. However, I can recommend – based on what friends and family consider great Romanian literature and what you enjoyed, the following: Morometii by Marin Preda, Maitrey – Mircea Eliade, Descult – Zaharia Stancu and Camil Petrescu’s books.

      PS: I also love to explore cities with Streetview. I consider it one of the best things technology can offer.

  3. Keep telling us more. Your insight is invaluable. I will only be in Bucharest and Timisoara this spring but this is good information for future trips and virtual exploration!!

  4. I already knew l would like Bucharest and Brasov, but now l have to add Cluj and Sibiu to it. They look great from the images. There are no flights from Seville to Romania, but l recently discovered that Wizz Air flies there from Malaga, so it has come back on my radar, even though it looks like we are filled up once again till October, but we will get there at some point.. :-). Great post.

    • I’m happy to hear that I managed to add some more cities to your list and I can only hope that you will enjoy them if you manage to get here. I personally believe that the best time to visit Romania is during the summer (if we don’t have the green grass and trees, then all the grey concrete buildings make everything look more sad)… but then again there are surely better places to visit during the summer :))

      I know that there are no direct planes to Seville, but Malaga is indeed an option and there are other cities in Spain that offer flights to Bucharest, so you could surely find something!

  5. Hey Calin,

    I will be in Drobeta Turnu-Severin this Sunday 24th April until the following weekend.

    Could you point me in the right direction, please, for seeing Baia Herculane and Orsova (I’m up for a boat ride!)? Also is the waterfall near Drobeta or near Baia Herculane?

    As well, do you know anything about gyms I could use for either a weekly membership or a pay as you go basis? Or failing that, any hotels that have a gym available with weights, etc.?

    Looking forward to seeing your part of Romania!

    Cheers,

    Mark

    • Hello, Mark! Seems that Chiajna gave you the perfect opportunity with their schedule to stay for one week here 🙂 This weekend is the city’s celebration so if you arrive early in the morning, you might still catch a bit of that as well.

      Regarding the nearby towns, I am not 100% sure that there are any tours to them from Drobeta, but both are a very short bus/train ride away. I know for sure that Herculane has tours in Orsova, including surroundings and boat trip (if not, it’s still very easy to set up a boat trip visit when you get there, as there are people waiting for customers). The Bigar waterfall is relatively close to Orsova.

      There are a few gyms available here so it all depends on where you will be staying. If it’s OK with you, we can talk via email – either send me one using the Contact Me page that’s on the light blue bar at the top of the website, or I can send you an e-mail – just let me know if that would be OK.

      • Hi Calin, yes, and it falls during my 2-week holiday from work which is perfect. So I’ll see the great Chiajna play both in Timisoara and Craiova and also get to see Pandurii vs. Dinamo for good measure!

        Sounds like the easiest thing to do is go to Orsova and organise all the fun from there…..

        Yes you can email me, please do!

        I will be staying at the Hotel Continental for one day and then at the Traian for 4 days, though I may change my booking if it is easiest to use a hotel gym at one of the other hotels.

  6. Calin:
    Greetings! Isn’t it time to dust off the keyboard and provide your pining public with the next installment of “The Life and Times of C, Wife, and Little Son Romanian”? We all await with bated breath!;-)
    So, the missile defense system located in your country is officially “open for business.” I know “Vladey the P” and his pals in Russia are none too happy.
    What do the Romanians think about this? Are they nervous, or happy, or what?
    I suspect since your country seems so “chill” and “laid-back,” there’s not too much controversy. (Certainly a welcome counter to the US, where absolutely everything and everything is subject to strong opinions! Witness the “bathroom issue.” I mean we are making a major to-do out of whether Caitlyn Jenner, or Chaz Bono must use the men’s room and ladies’ room, respectively (as their birth gender reflects) or vice versa as is their gender identity. [I believe they should be allowed to use the restroom of the sex they identify as.]).
    And, we have Trump running as the “Celebrity Apprentice-in-Chief” of the United States. (Will Kanye and Kim run in 2020???) Personally, I prefer “Bernie” to shake things up here. Hillary and her “Billygoat” make me retch. They both reek of the stench of the cesspool of the corrupt political morass they’ve wallowed in for so many years!
    I don’t blame your “Brasov buddies” from beating feet the hell out of the USA!
    Well, I hope all is well with you. Seriously, I do hope you won’t let your blog go moribund. There’s too much of Romania left to share.
    Thanks!
    ~Teil (USA)

    • Hello Teil,

      It’s been some time since I last updated this blog and I should write a bit more about the cities here indeed, but I am in a kind of a writer’s block regarding new things to write about 🙂 And we’re also preparing for a month-long stay in Budapest at the end of May and we’ve been a little busy preparing for it.

      Regarding the defense system, I honestly had no idea that it just went live, hahaha. I am no longer watching TV for a while now (unless it’s cartoons) but I am sure that most Romanians didn’t put this high on their important things list. There were discussions when this was first announced, but it all burned off since. Facebook friends shared no opinions or news, so I believe that the people here no longer care that much about the potential effects on the country.

      • Hi Calin;
        I remember you said you were impressed by Budapest, when you vacationed there last year.
        It was on my short list where to retire, but trying to learn Hungarian just seems so daunting. Still, cost of living-wise it’s in the same area as Romania–isn’t it?
        A whole month–that should be quite an experience! Will you let your apartment out to rent to earn some Lei do defray your vacation costs?
        Maybe you’ll move to Hungary, and become “C the Hungarian”?
        I hope you’ll enjoy your time in Hungary!
        Best,
        ~Teil (USA)

        • Hello Teil,

          Yes, I think that Hungarian is about the same as Romania in terms of cost of living. We won’t be renting the apartment for the month mostly because we wouldn’t feel comfortable leaving all our belongings there and I also doubt I will become C the Hungarian mostly because of the language. But yes, Budapest was really nice and hopefully after this month it will rank high on my list as well.

        • Hi Calin,

          I hope you are enjoying your time in Budapest! Although you had been there before, it’s a bit different than what you’re used to eh? I have a question about Alba Iulia…I was glad to see that you mentioned it here as another city to check out, and found it interesting that you used to think it was one of the ugliest towns, so imagine my surprise to think it now as one of the most beautiful..especially for a relatively small city. Wow, it must have been through a lot of changes! Can you offer any more information about it specifically? Beyond just visiting, would this place be worth considering for an expat to retire to? Any insights would be appreciated. So far Romania is my first choice as a country, and Brasov is my top choice as a city to live. Again, hope you and your family are enjoying your time in Budapest and you are having success there as a digital nomad!Regards, JC

  7. Thank you, JC! I will make sure to put Alba Iulia on the shortlist and write about it soon. But to answer your question – yes, I believe it would be a great city to retire to as well.

  8. …thanks so much Calin!…I really appreciate it! It appears to be about 4 hours by car or bus/train from Brasov, so checking it out when I get there shouldn’t be a problem. I also look forward to hearing all about Budapest, but even though I think it’s too big a city for me to want to live in, visiting is definitely something I’d like to do! Thanks again! Best Regards, JC

  9. For when we visit in Romania, how can a traveler from the US use their cell phones? I have an old Iphone 4 that we can take. But we have monthly contract phones in the US as they are much cheaper to use. Not sure how all of this would work in Romania. Please help.

    • I am sure you could easily use your US cell phones, although Roaming fees might be high (you should check this with your carrier). Alternately, you could buy a sim card here in Romania which would cost as low as 3 Euros and use it instead. Finally, you could take advantage of the high speed internet and numerous free WiFi locales and call back home via the Internet using Skype, Facetime or anything like that. If you’re planning to move here – so not just a visit – then you should know that a decent monthly contract for mobile phones would be as low as 6 Euros per month for unlimited minutes and text messages and 500 MBs of internet – that’s surely cheaper than in the US!

  10. Hi Calin,
    Good points, but beyond just buying a sim card in Romania, how do the actual phone prices compare for something comparable to a Samsung Galaxy or iphone 6 in Romania ? If I can get a comparable price there to the U.S., then instead of upgrading here, I’ll just hold onto mine until I leave and give mine to my cousin, and just get a new one when I get over there. Thanks!

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