Romania, like so many ‘Eastern Bloc countries’, is often described as a dull gray country. Unfairly if you ask me, because if you do a quick Google search you will see how many colorful cities Romania actually has. The most beautiful towns can be found in the mythical region of Transylvania. The land of the fictional Count Dracula, but also home to pretty towns like Braşov. This city is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Romania. Curious about what you can do there? In this blog post, I am sharing 10 wonderful things to do and see in Braşov.
Short background about Braşov
Braşov is part of ‘Burzenland’, a historical region in Transylvania. During the Middle Ages, this area fell under the rule of the Hungarian Kingdom. In 1211 King Andrew II struck a deal with the Teutonic Knights (Germans) and gave them unrestricted access to Burzenland. The Teutons built five castles in the region and named Braşov ‘Corona’ (= Latin name for crown). This is one of the many historical names that would follow over the centuries. The Saxons (successors of the Teutons) named the city ‘Kronstadt’. Later the names Brasco, Stephanopolis, and Stalin City followed. The German-Hungarian history resulted in the fact that up until the First World War almost 70% of the local population was Hungarian or German. The two World Wars and the policies of the Soviet Union changed this balance. Today, more than 90% of Braşov residents are Romanian.
10 things to do and see in Braşov
1. Photographing every angle of Piața Sfatului – Council Square
Piața Sfatului is where it all happens in Braşov. This central square is surrounded by a rainbow of buildings. The rule of thumb seemed to be: new building, new pastel color. Unfortunately, this square was not always a happy place. Up until the 17th century, this was the spot for public executions. Casa Sfatului, Braşov’s beautiful town hall, even housed a torture chamber.
Piața Sfatului is Braşov’s busiest place. If you want to take a picture of this beautiful square without tourists, you will need to get up early. I never really felt like it, so I accepted that my photos are full of people. It shows the reality of this place.
2. Admire the Biserica Neagră – Black Church
Biserica Neagră is the largest Gothic church in Eastern Europe. ‘Neagră’ means black, but don’t expect to find an actual black church. The name refers to a great fire in 1689. This tragic event not only destroyed the church, but it also turned most of the city center to ashes. Consequently, the walls of the church were blackened, which is the reason for the name.
Biserica Neagră is located at 2 Curtea Johannes Honterus. Entrance fee: 9 RON.
3. Wander around the historical center
Not everything in Braşov revolves about must-see sights. I recommend everyone to also take some time to enjoy the beauty of the historical city center. Slow down and wander from street to street. Piața Sfatului is usually pretty busy, but I noticed that few tourists explore the side streets and alleys. It was much quieter there.
Keep an eye on the German architecture
The long German-ruled history of Braşov is also reflected in the architecture. The buildings around Nicolae Titulesco park, and even Braşov’s Town Hall, looked pretty German to me.
4. Take a snapshot of the Hollywood letters
What does Braşov got to do with Hollywood? Nothing. The white letters on the top of Mountain Tampa in Braşov are not linked to showbiz or entertainment, but to the Soviet past. In the 50’s and 60’s Braşov was called Orasul Stalin (Stalin’s city), and the name ‘Stalin’ was written on the Mountain Tampa. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Stalin’s name was replaced by the white Braşov letters. The mountain is practically next to the center, so the letters cannot be missed. To get a closer look (+ a nice view over the city), take the cable car up from Casa Padurarului.
Funicular Mountain Tampa return ticket: 16 RON.
5. Step into a fairytale at Poarta Ecaterinei – Catherine’s Gate
Poarta Ecaterinei is one of the most fairytale-like city gates I have ever seen. This is one of the four city gates the medieval city of Braşov used to have, and it was the only gate that could be used by Romanians. Under the rule of the Saxons (Germans), Romanians were only allowed to enter the walled city on certain times, and they could only use this gate. It was even prohibited for Romanians to living within the city walls. The Germans lived inside the walls, the Romanians lived in Schei outside the walls.
Do you remember that execution square? The four corner turrets on top of the Catherine’s Gate stood symbol for the “right of the sword.” This meant that Braşov had judicial autonomy and could impose capital punishment on anyone who entered the gate.
Catherine’s Gate is located at Strada Poarta Schei, close to the Schei Gate.
6. Walk through one of the narrowest streets of Europe
Enough with the execution stories. Let’s talk about something fun. Did you know that Braşov has one of the narrowest streets in Europe? Strada Sforii (translation: rope street) is only 111 centimeters wide at its narrowest point. Why is it so narrow? This 17th-century alley was built for firefighters so they could move around the city more quickly to put out fires. At the end of this quirky street, you will find the Rope Street Museum & Café. A perfect stop for a cup of coffee!
The entrance of Strada Sforii is located at Strada Poarta Schei and Strada Cerbului.
7. Enjoy the view at the White Tower
For a good city view, you have to go to Turnul Alb (translation: White Tower). Together with Turnul Negru (translation: Black Tower), these are the last two remaining 15th-century watchtowers. Both towers offer a great view of the city center, but the White Tower seems to be the most popular. Reason: it is the closest tower to the city center. You have two options to go to the White Tower. Either you go up the very steep stairs behind Bastionul Graft, or you take a small detour through Parcul Schaeffler. It will take longer, but it is a lot less steep.
The White Tower is located close to Calea Poienii and the Black Tower is located near Prund-Schei.
8. Plan a little street art hunt
Regular visitors of my blog know that I like to hunt for street art. Fortunately, there is no shortage of this in Romania. I recommend two places in Braşov where you can check out beautiful street art:
- Strada Dupa Ziduri, the street to the right behind Bastionul Graft: quite a few murals in a street.
- Strada Fabricii, near supermarket Kaufland. I personally thought this was the most beautiful street art I saw in Braşov!
Do you have time to spare? Then use this map to find more street art.
9. Tasty vegan food at Simones
Eating out as a vegetarian or vegan in Braşov proved not that difficult at all. I opened the Happy Cow app on my phone and saw that I had at least 10 options. My favorite place to eat was Simones, but I’ve also heard good stories about Ma Cocotte. For traditional Romanian food, I went to La Ceaun.
Tip for vegans: remember the magic words ‘de post’. Romanians use this word for dishes that are free from animal products and normally eat this type of food while fasting. Use ‘de post’ to your advantage. It makes ordering food a lot easier!
Simones is located at 6 Strada Politehnicii and La Ceaun at 27 Strada Michael Weiss.
10. Day trip to Dracula’s Castle – Bran Castle
The main reason why most tourists come to Braşov is to visit Dracula’s castle. Not that Count Dracula lived here, because the man is a fictional figure. But the castle’s construction and location resemble the fictional castle from the book Dracula, written by Irish author Bram Stoker. Officially it is known as Bran Castle, because it is located in a town called Bran. Good to know: this castle is the most touristic place in all of Romania, so expect a lot of tourists and merchandise shops.
Bran Castle is located at 24 Strada General Traian Moșoiu in Bran. Entrance fee: 45 RON.
For the best Braşov experience, it is useful to know a couple of things.
- Do not go on a Monday: Mondays are the worst days to visit Braşov. The Tampa funicular and many tourist attractions in the city center will be closed. The Bran Castle is open on Mondays, but only from 12.00 – 18.00.
- Avoid July or August: summers are blisteringly hot in Romania. In addition, Braşov attracts most of its tourists during these months. This means: large crowds, fully-booked hotels, and full restaurants.
Obviously, if you are traveling during the corona crisis, the city will be less busy.
How to get to Braşov
Braşov is located in the heart of Romania and is therefore easy to reach from all sides. The train is often the best travel option.
- From Sibiu: multiple direct train options per day. Travel time: 3 – 4 hours. There are also buses, but they seem to be more expensive than the train.
- From Bucharest: multiple direct train options per day. Travel time: varies from 2.5 hours to 4 hours. There are also buses, but the trains are often better priced.
- BlaBlaCar: a great carpooling option if the train schedule doesn’t match yours. We used it a couple of times and it was always a good experience. Plus, you make new friends during the ride!
And there you have it: 10 wonderful things to do in Braşov. Have you visited this city yet?