When you think of Romania, you probably think of ancient castles harbouring fanged fiends who will charm you off your feet if they get half the chance.
Or perhaps, if you are of a certain generation, you will picture the iconic football side of the early 1990s decked out in yellow, led by the brilliant Gheorghe Hagi.
A charismatic country in the Balkans, bursting with jaw-dropping castles and rugged stone churches from the Middle Ages, Romania has some of the most intriguing travel experiences of any European country; a spectacular mix of the spiritual and historical, with beautiful scenery.
If you’re planning a trip and wondering which sites you should prioritize while in the country, make sure the following three make it onto your itinerary.
Spiritual, Historical and Beautiful: Three Places to Visit in Romania
Transylvania’s Most Underrated Town
The Romanian city of Targu Mures sits in the central northern region of the country. It is home to some 130,000 people and is steeped in ancient history dating back to the 14th century.
The city lies on the river Mures, which is the second longest in the country after the Danube, and is full of brilliant attractions and historical buildings that spread out from the Fortress Church at its center.
Make sure you don’t miss the Culture Palace, Apollo Palace, the Old Prefecture, St. Michael Wooden Orthodox Church, and the Targu Mures Medieval Fortress. There are also a huge range of museums throughout town that offer great insight into the city’s history, folk art, and culture.
Targu Mures is known for being half Romanian, and half Hungarian, and enjoys the influence of both cultures. Not too many tourists make it here, so it’s a very local, authentic experience; Transylvania’s most underrated town.
If you’re after a spiritual experience, Targu Mures is also known as being home to some of Romania’s famous tarot readers. They use their skill to offer insight into your life and future, and this traditional art is available throughout the city.
If you wish to explore the spiritual side a little further during your visit, services including clairvoyant readings are available online, allowing you to access your own psychic experience wherever you are.
Image: Ruben Holthuijsen (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
Holy Trinity Cathedral
For yet another spiritual experience, make sure you pay a visit to Holy Trinity Cathedral in Sibiu. It is the seat of the Romanian Orthodox Archbishop, and is a true symbol of Romanian faith.
The Cathedral was constructed between 1902 and 1904. It is built in yellow and red brick, with spherical roofs and four towers, giving it an iconic Byzantine style appearance similar to Hagia Sofia in Istanbul. The frescoes and dome paintings were made by Octavian Smigelschi and Arthur Coulin.
This is an active place of worship, and you’ll find locals gathering here on Sundays and holidays. If you’re lucky, on the weekends you may even catch a sumptuous wedding ceremony. Christmas and Easter are great times of year to visit, as you can stop in to hear the choir sing.
Sibiu itself was founded over 800 years ago by German settlers, and the old city is surrounded by well-preserved 15th-century fortifications. It is home to some of the greatest Gothic, baroque and Renaissance architecture you’ll find in Romania.
Image: Joe Mabel [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons
Romania has become famous for being the home of Dracula, thought to be inspired by Vlad the Impaler. Novelist Bram Stoker had always loved the horror stories that his mother read to him as a child, inspiring him to create the famous novel set in Bran Castle.
This famous fortress is situated around 30 km from Brasov and is a great place to visit to learn more about the mystery of Dracula while being bordered by the beautiful Carpathian Mountains.
That said, here’s a fun fact: Bram Stoker never visited Romania!
He depicted the imaginary Dracula’s castle based upon a description of Bran Castle that was available to him in turn-of-the-century Britain. And indeed, the imaginary depiction of Dracula’s Castle is strikingly similar to Bran Castle and no other in all of Romania.
The castle was actually built as a Teutonic Knights stronghold in 1212, perched high atop a 200-foot-high rock, with imposing towers and turrets. It’s second famous (actual) resident was Romanian Queen Marie, who lived here from 1920 until she died in 1938.
The castle today is a museum dedicated to displaying art and furniture collected by Queen Marie. You can also find kitschy Dracula souvenirs being sold at the base.
You can see the interior on your own, or take a guided tour. Narrow winding stairways lead through 60 timber rooms, many connected by underground passages, which house collections of furniture, weapons and armor dating from the 14th to the 19th centuries.
OUR FAVORITE ROMANIA TRAVEL GUIDES: CLICK PHOTO ↓