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Brasov, Romania is the gateway into Transylvania. After coming from Bucharest, the pace of life noticeably slows. The air cools. There’s a relaxed, romantic feel as you wander through Brasov’s narrow cobblestone streets. The 13th-century city transports you back in time with an unassuming tangible authenticity.
Brasov is not pretending to be a medieval city. It actually is. Brasov is one of Romania’s most visited cities and for good reason. It’s situated in a Transylvanian sweet spot, making it an ideal base for at least part of your Transylvania itinerary. However, with plenty of things to do in Brasov Romania, it’s best to begin here.
12 Terrific Things to Do in Brasov Romania
1. Start in the Piata Sfatului, Council Square.
This is the heart of Brasov’s medieval historic center. The arc-shaped “square” and its ornate rainbow of building facades will have you wondering where to look first. The clock tower from the 13th-century Town Hall chimes, momentarily drowning out the murmur of chatter and clinking glasses from the nearby cafes. The air feels pleasantly warm. The Piata Sfatului is the perfect place to grab a bench seat and people-watch.
The square gives no hints about its dark past as a place of public trials and executions during the Middle Ages. In the years of Communist rule, the Council Square was used as a parking lot to discourage city-dwellers from congregating and socializing. In the Piata Sfatului today, you’re as apt to see local children chasing pigeons as you are visitors capturing Brasov’s scenes of daily life with their cameras.
2. Tour the Biserica Neagra, Black Church.
The Black Church sits just off the main square in Brasov. It’s the largest Gothic church in Eastern Europe. As you can see, the Black Church is not black in color. It earned the name after a fire in 1689 burned the church and the walls darkened from smoke.
The church’s interior is not as striking as other Cathedrals in Europe, but the gothic architecture combined with the collection of Anatolian Carpets adorning the walls reflects the geography and history of medieval Brasov positioned at a cultural crossroads. These influences from the Ottoman Empire, the Kingdom of Hungary, and the Saxons distinctly blend east and west.
3. Hike to or ride the cable car up to Tampa Mountain.
From your first moments in Brasov, you’re likely to notice the Hollywood-like “BRASOV” sign perched high above the city on Tampa Mountain. Take the cable car or follow one of two hiking paths to the top. If you hike, plan on an hour’s walk up. When you get there, walk the short path to the big white letters bearing the city’s name. The walk is not difficult, but there are enough rocks underfoot along the way to warrant wearing comfortable shoes. At the end, next to the “V” in Brasov is a viewing platform for a gorgeous birds-eye view of Brasov.
4. Stroll along Brasov’s historic streets.
Cobblestone streets flank away from Brasov’s Piata Sfatului forming a dedicated pedestrian zone. The streets are lined with lively cafes, busy shops, and sweet-smelling carts selling delicious kurtoskalacs (see below). Spend time admiring the medieval architecture. The best time for photos is the morning, as the small crowded streets are filled well into the night.
Remember to look up and notice the artistic details hiding in plain sight. When you’re ready, sit at an outdoor cafe and soak up the ambiance surrounding you.
5. Join a Free Walking Tour.
Every night between April and September at 6 p.m. a free walking tour by Walkabout sets off from the fountain in the main square. (Check their website for tours between October and March.) Look for the person holding or wearing something orange. The tour lasts for 2 1/2-3 hours and walks through the historical Saxon center and out past the old fortified walls into the Schei District. The guide was personable and told stories and jokes to captivate us as she explained the history of Brasov.
I highly recommend this tour for new arrivals who want to get their bearings and learn some fascinating history. If you arrive in Brasov in the afternoon, after a stop in Sinaia to see Peles Castle as I did, the 6 p.m. tour is perfectly timed. This free Brasov walking tour by Walkabout ranks as one of the top free walking tours I’ve ever done.
Traveling to Brasov soon?
6. Visit both the Black and White Towers.
On the opposite side of Brasov’s mountaintop sign, you’ll find a walkway behind the city’s old wall fortifications. Here you’ll discover both the White Tower and the Black Tower. In terms of architecture, the White Tower, built in 1494, retains more of its historic charm. The Black Tower (also not black..but called that after a bolt of lightning struck it.) was recently renovated to include a glass roof. Both towers have wooden staircases to climb for city views.
7. Search for one of the narrowest streets in Europe.
Strada Sforii or String Street is 53 inches at its widest point and just 44 inches at its most narrow point. Once you find Strada Sforii, you might wonder how it passes as a street when it looks more like a passageway! Historically, firemen used it to quickly get between Brasov’s tightly packed houses.
8. Admire Catherine’s Gate and Brasov’s fortified medieval walls.
Catherine’s Gate is the last standing original medieval gate. It was constructed in 1559 and prominently displays the Brasov coat of arms. The Saxons adorned gates such as this with 4 small turret towers in each corner.
Visitors who passed through the gate understood the turrets to mean they were under the rule of the Town Council who had the authority to hand down a death sentence. As with the citadel of Sighisoara nearby, parts of Brasov’s fortified walls also remain and date back nearly 600 years! Follow the pathways around the outer edges of the city for a closer look.
9. Go beyond the Saxon gates to explore the Schei District.
Between the 13th-17th centuries, the ruling Saxons did not allow Romanians to live within Brasov’s fortified walls. Similar to the Lower Town in Sibiu, settlements formed just outside the city center and evolved into their own communities. To understand more about Romania’s culture, walk through the neighborhood streets in the Schei District. It’s a history lesson in and of itself when you compare what you see to Brasov’s historic Saxon center.
Pro Tip: Sibiu is my Romanian love! So, if you don’t have enough time for a longer visit, plan a Sibiu day trip from Brasov. You’ll stop at a fortress from the Middle Ages, as well as have guided and independent time in wonderful Sibiu.
Visit the beautiful Saint Nicholas Orthodox Church just off Piata Unirii. Wonder over the mysterious time capsule stored in the slender tower spire which was discovered, opened by the priests and returned to its place in the spire. Within the church grounds, you can also visit the first Romanian school. In the 1500s, the first books in the Romanian language were printed here and, today, a museum contains thousands of valuable books, including the oldest Bible in Romanian.
10. Feast on a Kurtos Kalacs.
Have you eaten a trdelnik in Prague? The Romanian relative of the sweet cylinder cake roasted on a spit and sold from street carts is called Kurtoskalacs. You must have (at least) 1 while you’re in Brasov.
I bet you’re wondering what’s the big deal if other countries in the region like the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia have the same sweet treat. The Romanian Kurtoskalacs stands out for its size. It’s tremendous! Brush away any guilt over such an indulgence. When in Romania, do as the Romanians do.
11. Take a day excursion to Rasnov Fortress.
Located just a short distance from Brasov’s historic center, you’ll find the 14th-century Rasnov Fortress. The Saxons built upon an already existing structure 650 feet up above the town of Rasnov. The fortress was perfectly positioned to protect against invasions from nomadic European and Asian tribes.
The fortress was recently restored and is the best preserved historic landmark of its kind in Romania. For the 2.5-3 lei admission price (less than 1 dollar!), you’ll see the fortifications, an old school, stone houses hundreds of years old, and sweeping views of the countryside. On the summer day I visited, there were only a handful of visitors! Yet another sign you need to visit Romania before everyone else realizes they should, too!
12. Extend your visit and head into the Carpathian Mountains.
Brasov is surrounded by a rural countryside complete with tiny villages speckled among the rolling hills, tall mountain peaks, and green forests. The landscape is unspoiled and perfect for multi-day hiking adventures. Should you come upon any people, they’ll likely appear to be from a different time as they cut fields of grass by hand with a scythe and employ centuries-old farming practices. You’re guaranteed to have gorgeous views, pristine nature, and unmatched tranquility. Even spending 1 day in the Carpathian Mountains is a great opportunity to appreciate the untouched landscapes just beyond Brasov.
How to Get to Brasov:
You can easily reach Brasov by train from Bucharest and other points in Transylvania. The roughly 2 1/2 hour ride from Bucharest can be easily broken up with a stop in Sinaia to see the fairytale Peles Castle. Upon arrival at Brasov’s train station, taxis wait to bring you within the fortified walls and to Brasov’s historic center. If you need more information about Romania’s train system, visit Seat61.
Where to Stay in Brasov:
You’ll want to stay as close to the Piata Sfatului as possible. From there, you can easily access all the things to do in Brasov. I stayed in Kronhaus Bed and Breakfast. Kronhaus is perfectly located just off the main pedestrian district and just a 5-minute walk to the Piata Sfatului. The house has a home-like openness where guests chat with one another and are free to take snacks and beverages from the bar area. Check current prices in Brasov or book now.
Are you planning travel to Brasov Romania? Have you already visited? What did I miss?
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