No matter if you’re planning to visit Romania for a vacation or you want to move here for good, there are quite a few cities in Romania that should be considered must visit. I have decided to create a list of those that I consider “must see” in our country: the best cities to visit in Romania. And, of course, I’m sharing it with you below.
Unfortunately, the communist spell that Romania was under until 1989 has left most of our cities with completely unspectacular concrete apartment buildings that look horrendous, but also with a relatively poor infrastructure and few more modern attractions, even though things have improved dramatically since Romania joined the European Union.
What I am trying to say is that if you come to Romania hoping to be impressed by the architecture and the cities themselves, you will most likely be disappointed – unless you really like looking at apartment buildings from the communist times…
On the other hand, if you come with lower expectations, you might actually be pleasantly surprised as there are still some hidden gems – either entire cities that have escaped the communist “destroy and rebuild” trend or parts of cities that still maintain their old school charm.
The truth is that most of the larger cities have that “old town” area – usually the city center, where you can still find a bit of charm and things are getting even better lately, with renovations turning nearly derelict buildings into eye candy.
And if you you want to know for sure if you’ll like them or not, there’s just one way to do it: come visit the country! Those who did it definitely liked what they saw – but do have in mind that it’s a rough diamond here and not a fully polished one!
If you still don’t know exactly where to start your adventure or which are the best cities in Romania that you should visit, I’m here to help. Here are my top picks, which I am sure you will thoroughly enjoy:
I won’t write too much about Bucharest, as there are quite a few article about it on this blog, including the complete overview of the city – so you should check it out if you want even more details.
I will say that Bucharest is Romania’s capital and one of the most developed cities in the country, as well as the largest. You can see there the famous Casa Poporului, explore the Old Town with its charming streets and great restaurants or simply stroll around trying to find a hidden gem that’s off the beaten path.
The architecture itself is not very impressive in most cases, but you will surely never get bored here, especially since recent and pretty much chaotic development over the recent years offers some amazing views, like an ultra modern high tech building with a German-inspired, beautiful old building to one side and a completely ignored, almost ruined house to the other…
We can say that Bucharest is a city of contrasts, one where anybody can find something to love or hate. And if you need more advice about it, here are the top 10 things to see in the city.
Many people consider Cluj Napoca the most charming city in the country (fighting a close battle with my next recommendation), so you know you’re up for a treat when you visit!
Hosting Romania’s arts and cultural centers, the tallest church in the country and, especially in the central area, some amazing buildings and attractions, 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, more 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 and recent developments have really improved the already vast offering in all areas.
Elegant and romantic, with fortified churches, castles and art museums, Cluj is that type of city that you risk falling in love with! I wrote more about it here, so make sure to check that article as well to get a better understanding of Romania’s gem.
A gem that is becoming more and more expensive to live in, following its recent developments – rental prices are going up, but fortunately at a similar pace with the city itself which is growing each day.
After being elected the Cultural Capital of Europe back in 2007, Sibiu grew in popularity among Romanians and foreigners and fortunately managed to improve a lot as a city too, being now one of the most beautiful in the country and still offering that old school charm that everybody prefers instead of the communist apartment blocks.
With Gothic architecture and a cosy feeling (even though it’s a large city), Sibiu offers some impressive attractions like the Brukenthal Palace – one of the oldest museums in the world.
As I said, 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 the most beautiful city in Romania (probably those who don’t consider Cluj to be the one). Either way, it’s definitely worth visiting so make sure to put it on your list!
One of our readers moved to Brasov a while ago and himself, as well as his family, love the city so chances are that you will really enjoy it too!
The central area, home of the Black Church, is absolutely amazing, while the surroundings are even better: you have mountains on the sides offering breathtaking views.
There’s also the famous Poiana Brasov just a stone’s throw away, a resort that turns into a real winter wonderland and comes as an added bonus when visiting the city.
You can also find the Rope Street in Brasov – the narrowest street in the country (and one of the narrowest in the world) – as well as many other attractions, including great places to taste delicious food and/or enjoy your time. Check out the best pubs in Brasov here.
Although the city itself is not insanely spectacular, it still has a lot to offer thanks to its close proximity to the sea, including one of the best beaches in Romania.
The city is 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 with their set of beaches and attractions) with quick connections by car, bus or train.
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, even though it’s the most crowded time of the year.
Things will look even better as some of the most important buildings – like the one you can see in the photo above entering a restoration period.
I have to admit that I wasn’t really a big fan of Timisoara until recently and in my first draft of this article, I didn’t include it on the list.
But just like all the cities in Romania, Timisoara has grown and improved tremendously – as I found out during a visit to the city back in 2019.
The central area is absolutely beautiful, most of it rennovated and in a great shape, with historical buildings catching your eye, with beautiful parks and an amazing river going right through the city.
This is where the Romanian revolution in 1989 began, the one that overthrew Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and gave birth to democratic Romania… and some of the buildings in the central area still have the bullet holes from those dark times.
It’s time to start looking at cities that are not usually recommended by travel guides you can find online, but places that are definitely worth a visit since they are indeed truly spectacular. Piatra Neamt is one of the hidden gems in the country, situated in the Moldavia region.
A smaller 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 of getting there! This also makes it a gem that’s not particularly spoiled by tourism yet and as Romanian as it gets.
Just a few years ago, I would’ve said that Alba Iulia is one of the ugliest cities in the country, but fortunately things have changed a lot after its entire central area and surrounding citadel ruins have been modernized with EU funding. And the city kept improving ever since!
So now it’s a real joy to visit Alba Iulia 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 bad at all.
This is also a smaller city, but of great historical importance, since it is here where the modern Romania was born, following the grand meeting on December 1st, 1918 after which Transylvania joined the then-called Kingdom of Romania, together with other regions of the country.
As a result, it is Alba Iulia where the largest celebrations take place on the country’s National Day (December 1st) so you’re up for a major treat if you visit during that time.
Drobeta Turnu Severin
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 at least.
You’ll see everything there is to see about this city in one day, most likely, 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 really 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.
The city itself is one of major historical value, as it is here where the Romans built their bridge across the Danube back in the 100s, and the place where their armies marched in the area, basically giving birth to the Romanian nation.
You can still visit part of the bridge (called Trajan’s bridge, based on the Roman emperor that built it), as well as parts of the Roman fortress that was built here back in the first century (as well as a medieval fortress, overlooking the Danube).
In other words, a really really charming city that has a lot to offer and is definitely off the beaten path.
We complete the list of the best cities to visit in Romania with the medieval town of Sighisoara, which 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 beaten track might come with some pleasant surprises.
So even though I perfectly agree with visiting the larger cities first as that’s where the action is (and usually these are the most improved in recent years), you should still consider some other options.