If you close your eyes, can you visualize all the natural shades of green coming together to create an alpine setting perfect for a summer retreat? Imagine a place where the fresh air filling your lungs feels as if it was newly exhaled by the surrounding evergreen trees just for you.
Capture this image in your mind, place it on a perch among sloping mountain peaks and you have the darling town of Sinaia, Romania.
Sinaia has historic roots centuries-old but first took shape with the building of an Orthodox monastery in 1695. The town and the monastery are named in honor of Mount Sinai in Egypt. In the late 1800s, King Carol I fell in love with the natural beauty surrounding the monastery. He decided to build a summer residence in Sinaia known as Peles Castle.
Visit Sinaia Romania and Peles Castle and you’ll find yourself at the gateway into unspoiled and utterly romantic Transylvania.
Are you ready to board the train from Bucharest?
Grab a covrigi (see the deliciousness below) as a snack for the ride and let’s go!
Although technically still in the Wallachia region of Romania, Sinaia is an easy stop on the way from Bucharest to Brasov or as an excursion from Brasov. A CFR train from Bucharest to Sinaia takes about 1 1/2 hours and just 1 hour for journeys starting in Brasov. One-way tickets cost between $4-$10 US depending on your starting point.
You can spend as little as a 1/2 day in Sinaia or opt to stay the night to fully absorb Sinaia’s charm. If you’d like to hike through the Bucegi Mountains, add more time to your stay. You can easily spend a couple of days hiking the trails accessed from the cable car into the mountains, as well as plan multi-day hiking excursions to explore the surrounding area.
Traveling to Sinaia Soon?
If you’re stopping in Sinaia en route to Brasov or Bucharest, Hotel Caraiman, just up the steps from the train station, will hold your luggage for 10 lei ($2.50US). A fellow traveler shared the tip that Rina Hotel, also up the steps from the rail station, offers bag storage for a small fee, too.
Taxis stand at the ready outside the train station to carry visitors halfway up the hill, but the walk up to Sinaia Monastery and Peles Castle is lovely whether you use the shaded forest path or stay along the main road to see the potpourri of houses and buildings reflecting the time periods of Romania’s past.
Halfway through the walk from the train station, the forest path stops at the entrance gate to Sinaia Monastery. If you’ve taken the road, you’ll loop to the right and see signs showing the way.
Are you ready to go inside?
Access to the Monastery grounds is open Monday-Saturday from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. You’ll need to buy a ticket for 5 lei ($1.25 US) at the entrance.
Completed in 1846, the new church stands in front of you as you enter and is open to visitors.
Within the Monastery walls, circle the grounds on foot. You can also visit a small religious museum and go inside the building housing the bell tower.
Be sure to visit the old church in the back courtyard, which was completed in 1695.
The Orthodox-style walls and ceiling were recently restored.
The paintings and mosaics will capture your attention with their bright colors and detailed story scenes.
Your visit to the Sinaia Monastery won’t take much time but will leave you feeling as if you’ve discovered a special spot off-the-beaten-path. It’s just another showing Romania as a must-visit destination.
As you exit the Monastery, continue your walk to Peles Castle along the forest path. You’ll see the entrance again if you walk up from the Monastery and into a small parking area on the right. Or if you prefer, just keep walking uphill along the winding road.
It’s no secret Peles Castle is the gem of Sinaia. The castle and the grounds it sits upon are straight from the pages of a fairytale, like Sighisoara. From this vantage point, a velvety green grass directs your gaze up to the castle’s entrance while your ears take in the sounds of a small river flowing in the forest behind you.
Peles Castle is open for tours Tuesday-Sunday in summer (mid-May to mid-September) and Wednesday-Sunday in winter. Except for Wednesdays when tours begin at 11:00, the first tours begin at 9:15 a.m., with the last tours of the day starting at 4:15 p.m. You must join a guided tour in order to go inside Peles Castle.
You can choose to tour just the ground floor for 20 lei ($5.35 US) or the ground floor and the next floor up for 50 lei ($12.50 US). If it’s in your budget, choose to tour both floors. The view of the main foyer and the rooms upstairs are worth the extra bit.
Even better is having the upstairs almost entirely to yourself! When I visited, only 3 of us continued the tour. It was like having a private guide talk to you personally about the castle. I highly recommend!
You can’t take photos inside the castle unless you purchase a camera license for 32 lei ($8 US). Castle guides and employees take this seriously and patrol each room. If you want to take photos inside, buy the license in the holding room before starting your tour.
Would you like to see why Peles Castle is so special and a must while in Romania?
Don’t worry I won’t show you everything! You’ll have to visit for yourself! 😉
Peles Castle has what you’d expect for a royal residence, grandly designed rooms, luxurious tapestries and fabrics, expertly carved marble, and wood. This strikes you just as the tour begins with the staircase up to the main foyer.
The guide will tell you about the castle’s inauguration in 1883. You’ll hear about the furnishings and how Peles was the first castle in the world to be completely lit by electricity.
However, as you tour the rooms, what comes through is the humanity within the castle. It’s cozy. The genuine warmth of a real family living there has seeped into each room. The King’s love for Peles Castle is transparent. Furniture and design choices must have come from the royal’s deep connection to their summer residence and from what actually made sense from living there.
Upstairs, bedrooms are not cold chambers as you might expect to find. Rather, the King and Queen’s personal tastes are reflected in every detail. Can’t you imagine a person sleeping in that bed or reading a book in that chaise?
Having allowed yourself to get wrapped up in the fairytale of Peles Castle, you just might not want to leave. But, knowing you must, a friendly carving bids you a cheerful farewell. 🙂 Not to worry! Romania has plenty of other gems like Sibiu and Rasnov Fortress to discover!
Back outside, enjoy the views of the Carpathian Mountains in the distance just as the royal family did.
If you have the time and 20 lei to spare, stroll over to Pelisor Castle next door. Pelisor Castle was built at the turn of the 20th Century for King Carol’s nephew Ferdinand. He was next in line for the throne. Pelisor is more modest in its scale and decor, but completely worth a visit. You even get to use the door knocker to be let in!
After having spent a few hours immersed in a fairytale castle on top of a fairytale hill in Transylvania, you just might feel the urge to kick up your feet and skip back down the forest path. If you do, get a basket of fresh berries to complete your visit to Sinaia Romania and Peles Castle.
Would you like to visit Sinaia Romania and Peles Castle?
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