Romania Road Trip: Discovering Eastern Europe’s Hidden Gem

Bran Castle in Romania

Romania, often overshadowed by its European counterparts, is an underrated treasure waiting to be explored. With its rich history, scenic landscapes, and a blend of cultures, this Eastern European gem offers a road trip experience unlike any other for the intrepid traveller looking for a unique experience. So pack your bags, fuel up the car, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey through the heart of rural Romania!

Note: Now that Romania is in the process of joining the Schengen Area, it’s one of the ETIAS countries that you may need pre-authorization to visit from 2024!

Start at Bucharest – A City of Contrasts

First up on your trip will be Bucharest, which deserves a couple of days of your time before you set off on your epic road trip. Romania’s capital city is an eclectic mix of old-world charm and modern-day culture, with plenty of historic sites and 21st-century amenities to enjoy. This is a city that has bags of heritage everywhere you turn yet still manages to embrace the present day while looking firmly to the future. It’s an intoxicating blend, which makes a visit here even more special.

Palace of the Parliament in Bucharest, Romania
Palace of the Parliament in Bucharest

Begin your sightseeing at the imposing Palace of Parliament, which is the second-largest administrative building in the world. Then head the Therme Bucuresti for a sauna and a soak in the mineral-rich waters. Finish your explorations with a wander through the cobbled streets of the old town, which are bursting with history, bars, and quaint cafes.

How to get to Bucharest: Most international into Romania land in the capital, Bucharest. This makes the city the perfect starting point for your Romanian road trip.

Sinaia and Peleș Castle – The Royal Hideaway

Next up is a foray into the countryside, for some quintessential Romanian sights and experiences. This is the Romania you’ve been looking for, so be sure to keep that camera handy! Tucked away up in the Romanian Carpathian Mountains, Sinaia is home to the stunning Peleș Castle. Dubbed one of the most beautiful fortresses in Europe, the Neo-Renaissance architecture and idyllic backdrop of Peles Castle are just made for photos. It possibly even tops the enchanting Predjama Castle in Slovenia when it comes to spectacular settings.

Peles Castle in Romania
Peles Castle

Travelling from Bucharest to Sinaia: It takes just two hours to drive to Sinaia from Bucharest via the A1 and DN1.

Brașov & Bran Castle – The Realm of Dracula

Head onwards to Brașov, which is one of the most famous locations for visitors to explore in Romania. The Baroque architecture, medieval streets and Gothic turrets of Brasov make this a picturesque stop on what is already a very beautiful journey. If you only see one place in the country, make sure it’s Brasov!

Brasov in Romania

Not far from Brasov, you’ll find the legendary Bran Castle. It’s known by many as Dracula’s Castle, thanks to its resemblance to the fortress depicted in Bram Stoker’s novels. While Dracula is entirely fictional, it’s easy to see how this could be the haunt of vampires. The mystery and myths surrounding the castle make it a must-see for anyone visiting the area.

Travelling from Sinaia to Brașov: It’s a straight-forward 50-minute drive between the two towns on the DN1.

Sibiu – A Cultural Discovery

Nestled in the heart of Transylvania, Sibiu exudes a unique charm. It was the European Capital of Culture in 2007 and remains a cultural hub to this day. As you wander the cobbled streets, you’ll come across its iconic Council Tower offering panoramic views of the city, and the Brukenthal National Museum, which houses an impressive collection of art and artifacts.

Travelling from Brașov to Sibiu: It’s a straight 2.5-hour journey via DN1 to reach Sibiu.

Cluj-Napoca – A Modern yet Historical Hub

Known for its universities and vibrant nightlife, Cluj-Napoca is where history meets the youthful energy of today. Admire the Gothic-style St. Michael’s Church, and for a relaxing evening, spend time at Union Square with its many cafes and eateries.

St Michaels Church in Cluj-Napoca, Romania
St Michaels Church in Cluj-Napoca

Travelling from Sibiu to Cluj-Napoca: It’s around a 3-hour drive on the DN7C and DN1.

Maramureș – Dive into Tradition

Immerse yourself in the traditions of Romania in Maramureș county, renowned for its wooden churches and lush green landscapes. Don’t miss the “Merry Cemetery” in Săpânța, where colourful tombstones narrate tales of the dead with a hint of humour.

Travelling from Cluj-Napoca to Maramureș: It takes about 3 hours to drive to Maramures via the DN1C and DN18.

Timișoara – The Little Vienna

Often referred to as “Little Vienna” because of its Austro-Hungarian architecture, Timișoara is much more than just a pretty, historic settlement. It’s also a city of revolution, being the birthplace of the 1989 Romanian Revolution that led to the fall of the Communist regime.

Cathedral in Timisoara, Romania
Cathedral in Timisoara

As you explore, make your way to Piața Unirii, a vibrant space surrounded by colourful baroque buildings and the stunning St. George’s Cathedral. Art enthusiasts will appreciate the Museum of Art, housed in a Baroque palace and showcasing Romanian and European works. The city is also known for its festivals, with everything from jazz and theatre to film and street food on the cards.

Travelling from Maramureș to Timișoara: It’s a scenic 5-hour drive via DN18 and DN68A.

End your Trip at Corvin Castle – A Gothic Masterpiece

One of the largest castles in Europe and a monument of Gothic architecture, Corvin Castle, also known as Hunyadi Castle, is a must-visit landmark in Romania. Perched on a rock in Hunedoara, the castle is steeped in history and legends, including tales of Vlad the Impaler’s imprisonment. You can explore the dramatic towers, check out the drawbridge, and admire the medieval art in the interior rooms. There’s also a dungeon to discover if you’re feeling brave – here, you’ll enjoy terrifying tales about the infamous residents from your guide.

Travelling from Timișoara to Corvin Castle: The castle is about a 2.5-hour drive from Timișoara. Start on E70, then pick up the DN68, followed by DN7, and you’ll reach Hunedoara. The castle is well-signposted from the city centre.

A road trip through Romania is a journey through time, landscapes, and cultures. From the vibrant streets of Bucharest to the traditional charm of Maramureș, Romania promises memories that will last a lifetime. If you’re ready for an adventure like no other, it’s time to hit the road!

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