As tourists, we choose to visit certain destinations due to one, two or more things that respective place can offer to us. Usually, we are charmed by combinations of reasons, such as a country’s natural attractions and sport/adventure infrastructure, characteristic urban architecture, vivid nightlife and possibility for shopping, or picturesque rural areas, great cuisine and amazing cultural landscape, just to give some examples. From this point of view, Romania is an unusual tourist attraction, as it surprises tourists with such a wide palette of options for things to do, see and experience that any vacation here will seem too short. If you’re curious what some of the things you can do here are, I’ve prepared a list. Long. Unusually long.
- Visit Bucharest. The capital city of Romania will welcome you with impressive buildings and large boulevards, interesting museums, wide parks, a renovated historic centre with lots of cosy pubs and restaurants and an imposing Palace of the Parliament.
- Search for Dracula in Transylvania. Whether you choose to go to Sighisoara, Targoviste, Poenari or Targoviste on the footsteps of the real historical Vlad the Impaler or haunt Bram Stoker’s character in Bran Castle or Bistrita, be ready for “the adventure”.
- Sleep at a local’s place. Romanians are a welcoming people, so you will be very likely to find families ready to host you in their humble, yet picturesque homes and show you a bit of the Romanian traditions, especially in the countryside.
- Visit Brasov. Also known as the touristic capital of Romania, this beautiful Saxon city situated at the foot of a mountain will embrace you, just as it does thousands of other foreign travellers every year. Don’t forget to try the local pancakes from Brasov!
- Take a tour of the Romanian churches. You don’t have to be a fanatic religious person to admire the architecture and enjoy the atmosphere of the painted monasteries of Bucovina, the wooden churches of Maramures, the fortified churches of Transylvania or the churches from Northern Oltenia, some of which are included in the UNESCO World Heritage list.
- Explore the Carpathian Mountains. Stroll or hike in the summer and try winter sports in the cold seasons in the mountains that cover a third of Romania’s surface.
- Visit Sibiu. European Capital of Culture in 2007, Sibiu is a romantic city which has benefited, through the years, from numerous influences that turned it into a picturesque destination for Romanian and foreign tourists altogether.
- Taste the delicious Romanian cuisine. Similar to that of other countries in the Balkan’s area, the Romanian gastronomy singularizes itself through the local specialties characteristic to each of its regions.
- Bathe in the Black Sea. With almost 250 km at the Black Sea and numerous summer resorts, the Romanian coast is a perfect choice for those who need fine sand, hot sun, water sports possibilities and a lot of fun.
- Participate in a cultural festival. From May to November, there are plenty of unique cultural manifestations, ranging from medieval festivals to music concerts or theatre competitions.
- Visit Sighisoara. Birthplace of Vlad the Impaler and home to an internationally famous medieval street art festival, Sighisoara is that kind of narrow-streeted medieval town that makes you fall in love with it instantly.
- Drink tuica. Or palinca, rachiu, horinca, as people call it in different parts of the country. It’s that kind of drink that burns your throat and lifts the spirits!
- Relax in a spa resort. Mineral waters, thermal waters, mineral mud or strongly ozoned air are just some of the natural benefits that you can take advantage of in one of Romania’s numerous health spa resorts.
- Fish or watch the birds in the Danube Delta. Unspoilt natural beauty, plenty of fish and hundreds of unique species of birds is what you will find in this protected biosphere reserve.
- Learn more about royal Romania. Though the Romanian monarchy only had four kings, its traces are remarkable, especially if you visit Peles Castle in Sinaia, a Neo-Renaissance jewel.
- Visit Cluj-Napoca. The largest city in north-western Romania is an eclectic tourist destination, as it hosts a Gothic Roman-Catholic cathedral, an exquisite botanical garden, an ultra modern football stadium and one of Europe’s largest film festivals, TIFF.
- Drive at high altitude. Transfagarasan and Transalpina are some of the most beautiful high-altitude roads in the world, so try your driving skills in a wonderful setting.
- Go caving in the Carpathians. With over 12,000 caves spread around the entire surface of the Carpathian Mountains, Romania is a leading country in the field of speleology.
- Shop till you drop. With accessible prices, qualitative products and an emerging number of shopping malls and centres around the country, it will be hard to put a bridle on your shopping-mania.
- Be part of the local customs and traditions. Whether you paint an Easter egg, create a Martisor or sing carols for Christmas, you will understand more about what keeps Romanians identity intact, not to mention that you will have fun and probably feel more Romanian yourself.
- Party all day, party all night. If you are into partying, Romania’s largest cities will provide the perfect spaces, from bars and pubs to classy clubs, for you to have an incredible time.
- Visit Timisoara. The west of Romanians dominated by this city, which you’ll immediately like for its Austrian-style squares and edifices,numerous green spaces and Serbian-influenced cuisine. It has a special meaning for Romanians, as it was the city where the anti-Communist revolution started in 1989.
- Ski in one of the winter resorts. With hundreds of kilometres of slopes, numerous ski resorts and lots of snow during the winter, Romania is a great destination for winter sports’ enthusiasts. Did you know that in 2013 Brasov was the host of the European Youth Olympic Winter Festival?
- Go to a museum. There are plenty valuable museums around the country that can help you catch a glimpse of Romania’s history, culture, traditions or main figures. Many of them are currently advancing from a technological point of view by including interactive tools and QR codes in their information display systems.
- Learn a Romanian song. Lately, many of Romania’s artists have started producing songs in English, which have rapidly escalated music charts around the globe. However, try to learn one in Romanian, which will surely help you… (see next point)
- Make friends with the locals. No matter how many books about Romania you read and how many tour guides you listen to, it’s the local people that know all the best legends and tips. Don’t expect them to be 100% exact, but they will surely be more interesting and fun.
- Laugh in the cemetery! This may sound weird, but in Sapanta, Maramures, there is actually a Merry Cemetery where you are allowed to do it, taking into consideration the fact that the inscriptions on the funeral crosses are quite humorous.
- Dance Romanian dances. Don’t worry, there’s nothing easier than being in a circle, holding hands with other people and trying to do the same simple moves with your feet as the rest of the dancers. Generally called hore or sarbe, the Romanian dances are usually quite joyful, so hold hands and enjoy!
- Visit Iasi. Capital city of the north-eastern region called Moldova, Iasi is known as the place where most of Romania’s 19th century writers came from or lived in. In Copou Park you will see the linden tree under which the national poet Mihai Eminescu composed some of his best know poems.
- Bike around. As urban Romania is generally not very biking-friendly, you will better head to the countryside or to the mountains for some first-hand cyclotourism experiences, especially in the Apuseni Mountains (Western Carpathians).
- Learn to recognize the brancovenesc style. One of the most popular and representative Romanian art styles is the brancovenesc one, which dates from the 17th-18th centuries. Admire it in wonderful architectural ensembles such as Mogosoaia Palace (near Bucharest), Stavropoleos Church (in Bucharest) and Horezu Monastery (in Oltenia region).
- Drink Romanian wine. Cultivated here for thousands of years, the high-quality Romanian wine is often rewarded with international awards. Some of the most popular wine cellars are Jidvei in Transylvania, Recas in Banat, Murfatlar in Dobrogea and Segarcea in Oltenia.
- Explore the Alba Iulia citadel. Recently renovated, the Vauban-style Alba Carolina citadel in Alba Iulia now has various tourist routes that take you to the citadel’s gates, monuments and fortifications. Don’t miss the changing of the guards!
- Visit Craiova. With a modern city centre, top class cultural institutions such as Marin Sorescu National Theatre (host of an internationally famous Shakespeare festival) and one of Europe’s largest natural parks, Craiova is a not to miss destination if you’re heading to the south-western part of Romania.
- Watch a football match live. High standard stadiums such as Cluj Arena in Cluj-Napoca and National Arena in Bucharest are the venues that gather the most impressive sport events held in Romania, such as the UEFA Europa League Final.
- Go to a salt mine. Not only it’s good for your health, but you will be impressed to see how salt has been sculpted underground to create unbelievable shapes. Turda, Praid and Ocnele Mari are some of the most modern salt mines.
- Learn conversational Romanian. Buna ziua, da, nu, te rog, multumesc and cu placere will bring you many smiles and the benevolence of the locals and will probably help you get around easier.
- Go to a symphonic concert at the Romanian Athenaeum. Though getting tickets at a concert held in the country’s “symbol edifice of the national culture” might not be cheap, it will definitely give you an excellent acoustic experience.
- Visit Constanta. Largest city on the Black Sea shore and capital of Dobrogea city, Constanta is a true clash of cultures, as it exhibits Greek archaeological sites, Roman mosaics, Turkish mosques and a Genoese lighthouse. Romantics should take a walk on the waterfront, dominated by the elegant Casino, while families with kids should head to the Aquarium and Dolphinarium for some fun.
- Participate in a traditional fair. Depending on the region you’re visiting, the customs might differ, but plunge head first in any experience, be it the Girl Fair on Mount Gaina, a harvest day, the Scattering of the Sheep or a wine festival.
- Try extreme sports. Paragliding, bungee jumping and rafting activities are organized in various areas around the Carpathians. Several adventure parks have recently opened near Brasov (Parc Aventura), Bucharest (Aventura Parc) or Sovata (Adrenalin Plus Adventure Park).
- Swim in a natural salt lake. Or better said float, as the salt concentration in these lakes is so high that it prevents your body from sinking. Ocna Sibiului is the most popular area for this type of activity, as it has more than 50 natural salt lakes.
- Take part in a religious procession. On certain dates when important saints are celebrated, their remains are taken in public processions, which usually gather large crowds of believers. By joining them, you can get a sense of the importance of God for Romanians.
- Participate in a concert in Romexpo. The largest exhibition centre and arena in Bucharest, Romexpo is the place where all the major concerts take place. This year, it will host the concerts of Andrea Bocelli and Rammstein.
- Get trained in Arsenal Park. This innovative tourist complex, situated 100 km west of Sibiu, will help you better understand the notion of “discipline”. Go there for a teambuilding with your friends.
- Stroll through the national parks. Protected parks such as Rodnei, Retezat and Ceahlau open up for tourists who know how to respect the surrounding environment and its wild flora and fauna.
- Visit the Dacian fortresses. Remains of the Dacian predecessors of the Romanian people are scattered around Orastie Mountains, showing examples of ancient architecture and infrastructure.
- Meet the wisents. This threatened species, extinct in the wild, has found home in several reserves in Romania, such as those in Hateg and Vanatori Neamt. Take time to visit these incredible animals!
- Accommodate in an ice hotel. The ice hotel built in 2006 near the glacial Balea Lake in Fagaras Mountains was the first one in Eastern Europe. Don’t miss this experience if you’re in the area during the winter.
- Participate in a military parade. If you’re in Romania during certain public holidays such as the National Day (December 1st), the Unification Day (January 24th) or National Anthem Day (July 29th), get out in the streets and attend the ceremony to catch a glimpse of the Romanians’ sense of national identity.