I decided to plan a trip to Transylvania on a hunch. A photo online with a cobblestone lane and colorful houses grabbed my attention and looked nothing like the images in my mind of a place where the legend of Dracula began. Romania sits in plain view in Europe yet hasn’t captured the full attention of travelers planning European trips. For this reason and all of the incredible sights and experiences Romania has to offer, there’s no better time to plan a trip to Transylvania.
How to Plan a Trip to Transylvania Romania
The itinerary ideas in this guide can be done in as quick as a week if you move at a good pace and you stick with the towns and their main sights. If you’d like to plan day trips to see Bran Castle or to hike into the mountains, 10 days or more will really allow you to enjoy your surroundings and take in the charm that is Transylvania.
If you’re still deciding where to travel in Europe, find out why you should visit Romania. Otherwise, pack your bags and let’s journey into Romania’s Transylvanian countryside.
Sinaia and Peles Castle
Sinaia is the gateway into Transylvania. It’s a quick and easy train ride from Bucharest and a popular stop because of the fairy tale Peles Castle. King Carol I fell in love with the natural beauty surrounding the tiny village of Sinaia and its historic monastery. He had Peles Castle built as a summer residence for him and his family. The result is an elegant castle with the coziness of a family home.
It’s possible to stop in Sinaia to see the monastery and Peles Castle en route from Bucharest to Brasov in the same day. Visitors staying longer can ride the cable car and hike into the Bucegi Mountains. No matter how much time you plan to spend in Transylvania, save time to visit Peles Castle. It’s a can’t miss!
For more detailed information about Sinaia and Peles Castle, check out:
Where to Stay:
The Ioana Hotel is a beloved upscale hotel in Sinaia and Vila Retezat is equally as loved, but more budget-friendly. Both hotels have won Travelers’ Choice Awards for 2017 and are conveniently located near Peles Castle and the Sinia Monastery.
Visitors to Peles Castle are taken through the castle on a guided tour. If you have the budget, opt to also see the upstairs. Only a handful of people buy tickets for this, but it’s a chance to really talk with the guide and get an insiders’ look at the Castle.
Brasov is one of Romania’s most visited cities and for good reason. Its ideal location within Transylvania makes it a great base to discover the area. Start in Brasov because of its neatly preserved medieval center and all the things to do in Brasov. Brasov sits at a cultural crossroads because of its geographic location. The Saxons to the west and the Ottoman Empire to the east left historical marks on Brasov’s churches and architecture.
Begin your visit in Brasov with a free walking tour. The tour will orient you and give a great overview of the life for the Saxons within the over 600-year-old fortification walls and the Romanians who lived just beyond the city gates.
Read more about the top things to do in Brasov with this guide:
Where to Stay:
I stayed at the Kronhaus Guest House. There is a large common area where guests can enjoy snacks and drinks while getting to know each other. Kronhaus is located just 5 minutes walking from the Piata Sfatului, Brasov’s main square. You’ll want to stay in and around this area for easy access to the Brasov’s sights, restaurants, and nightlife.
Day-tripping from Brasov is quite common. Rasnov Fortress and Bran Castle in convenient reach from Brasov whether you’re traveling with a guide or independently. It also makes logistical sense to begin a multi-day Carpathian Mountain hiking excursion from Brasov.
Sighisoara was built by the Saxons during the 12th-century. It’s one of 7 citadel cities in Romania and has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Climb the Clock Tower and make your way up to the Church on the Hill. But, be sure to spend time just wandering the cobblestone streets and gushing over the brightly colored houses and medieval charm.
Transylvania’s Dracula legend is loosely based on a man named Vlad the Impaler, who was born in a small house just next to the historic clock tower. Luckily, despite a few shops in the village center selling Dracula teeth and garlic-shaped magnets, Sighisoara shines for the well-preserved historical gem it is.
Plan your visit to Sighisoara with this detailed guide:
Where to Stay:
Look to stay within the Citadel to have easy pedestrian access throughout the medieval village. I stayed at the gorgeous Fronius Boutique Residence. (It was my only lodging splurge in Romania!) The historic hotel sits along the main street in the heart of Sighisoara’s Citadel. The rooms have vaulted ceilings, antique furniture, and a quaint outdoor garden where guests can enjoy breakfast.
Most visitors come for just the day. Stay the night if you can spare the time in your itinerary. From late afternoon through the following morning, you’ll feel as if you have the village all to yourself.
Sibiu is known for its wide open squares, worry-free ambiance, historical roots, colorful Lower Town, and of course, its houses with eyes. The city has grown since being founded in the 12-century but its Cathedrals and stone wall defenses remain intact. In 2008, Sibiu was named the 8th most idyllic place to live in Europe by Forbes and it’s easy to see why. From the birds-eye views to the colorful buildings in beautiful decay, Sibiu will absolutely steal your heart.
Sibiu is also surrounded by Romania’s unspoiled countryside. Set aside time to cycle into the hills or explore nearby villages and, in the process, experience Romania’s authentic agricultural lifestyle.
Read more about this Transylvanian gem you won’t want to leave:
Where to Stay:
Plan to stay in Sibiu’s historical center in and around Piata Mare and Piata Mica. You’ll find many of Sibiu’s sights, restaurants, and shops within easy walking distance. I had a great stay at Pensiunea Chic just 2 minutes from the Lutheran Cathedral. The rooms were basic but super comfortable and included air conditioning. Breakfast is in the outdoor courtyard while taking in the Cathedral views overhead.
Sibiu is host to many festivals and cultural and sporting events. Be sure to check Sibiu’s calendar of events to see what’s happening when you plan to visit.
How to Get to Transylvania
Transylvania is easily accessed by car or by train. From Bucharest, direct and local trains run to all of the towns listed above. When possible, book tickets for direct trains. Not only will you arrive quicker, the trains are a bit newer and are likely to be more comfortable with better seating and air conditioning. Local trains, while perhaps a bit warmer and more cramped, offer an up close look at daily life in the countryside.
Check the Romanian train website for schedules and tickets. If you know your schedule and the tickets are available for purchase, buy and print your tickets online. In the smaller towns and villages, it may be slightly more challenging to find a train station agent who speaks English.
If you finish your Transylvanian trip in Sibiu, take the overnight train to Budapest to extend your travels and/or for better international airport access.
So, would you like to visit Romania? Which spot in Transylvania is a must for you?
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