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Romania Travel Guide

Updated on February 4, 2013
Peles Castle, Sinaia, Romania
Peles Castle, Sinaia, Romania

Romania is the biggest Balkan country, often described as “a Latin island in a sea of Slavs”. This territory was influenced by several empires – Roman, Ottoman, Austrian-Hungarian and Russian. Even though the present Bucharest has an appearance of “steel and concrete”, it was once called “the Little Paris”, and if you look carefully you find some vestiges from that period. In the European Union context (Romania joined it in 2007), the contrast between the urban and rural areas is astounding – since the capital city is filled with energy and world-renowned trademark shops, somewhere in a field, the villagers harvest the grass and the hay and they practice agriculture with the same tools as one hundred years ago. 

The Carpathians represent almost a third of Romania’s territory and a natural border that separates Transylvania from the other two provinces – Moldova and Muntenia. Along the centuries, these three areas were claimed by invaders coming from all over the world, but now they represent the state of Romania, a nation that has been united less than a hundred years ago. 

Transylvania has always been a reason for pride and disputes – ruled largely by Hungarians and the Saxons that came to their aid, in this region, along with the medieval villages and the fortified churches, there are the most popular tourist destinations, in the Carpathian foothills. Muntenia represents the heart of Romania, where the capital city of Bucharest is located. Moldova, of which Basarabia was part of, had gained its independence in the middle of the 14th century. The region is famous for its frescoes churches and monasteries, and the woodsy landscape contains villages where time seems to have stood still and the folkloric traditions have been preserved until today. 

A truly famous region for its scenic villages is the Maramures, located north of Transylvania. Here the sublime landscape houses wooden churches and a life style in harmony with the centuries’ old traditions and customs. In the western part of the country you’ll find Crisana and Banat, former strongholds of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. Dobrogea holds the Black Sea seaside, where the profit-based tourism has made so much damages that the number of visitors has went down to a half of what it once was, most of the Romanians preferring to spend their seaside holidays in Croatia. A way to save this area is the Danube Delta, a unique ecosystem, which represents a lovely destination.

Caraiman Peak, Romania
Caraiman Peak, Romania

Romania Tourist Attractions

  • In the capital city, Bucharest, you can see the second biggest building in the world (after the Pentagon) – the House of Parliament. 
  • Wander on some of the most important streets in Bucharest – Calea Victoriei (the Victory Path), where the Vernescu House is located, the Magheru, Carol I, Calea Mosilor, Calea Dorobantilor boulevards and Kiseleff street. 
  • Near Bucharest, places of interest are Mogosoaia, Buftea and Heresti, with old buildings and the monasteries in Snagov, Cernica, Pasarea, Caldarusani and Tiganesti. 
  • Visit the Constanta port, founded in the 6th century BC, as well as the archeological sites from Histria, Tomis and Callatis. 
  • Unleash your imagination in the Bran Castle, the legendary shelter of the medieval king Vlad Tepes, who inspired Bram Stoker in writing the novel “Dracula”. 
  • Visit Sibiu, the main city of the Transylvanian Saxons. You can visit a large part of its walls and 40 towers, and also the beautiful houses painted in red, blue and green. 
  • Visit the walled churches made by the Saxons. An example is the Biertan Church, above the Biertan village, which is enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 
  • Take a tour of the monasteries in Bucovina and Moldova – Voronet, Sucevita, Moldovita, Humor. These churches, enlisted as World Heritage Sites, contain frescoes and you can visit them all in just one day. 
  • Discover the water sports or relax on the Black Sea seaside, in resorts like Eforie Nord, Eforie Sud, Constanta, Costinesti, Mamaia, Mangalia, Jupiter, Navodari, Olimp, Saturn, Techirghiol, Venus and Aurora. 
  • Rediscover your youth in the spa resorts, salty water and mud at the lake Techirgiol, Baile Felix or Baile Herculane. 
  • The Carpathians offer well-known destinations, like Poiana Brasov and Sibiu, with excellent ski slopes. You can go bobsleighing in Semenic and Sinaia. 
  • Relax on the edge of a mountain lake in Fagaras or Retezat or explore some of the 10.000 caves, of which many are located in Apuseni, Bihor and Mehedinti. 
  • Take a cruise on the Danube. You have the opportunity to see over 300 species of birds, foxes, otters, wild cats and boars. 
  • Try the wines, the wooden churches and the traditional customs in the Maramures villages – Budesti, Sirbi and Calinesti.

Romanian Cuisine

The Romanian cuisine is a main element of attraction for the tourists, but also the thing that the Romanian abroad linger the most. With rich taste and strong flavors, the Romanian culinary habits have influences from the nations they were in contact with, but also many specific dishes. A main dish is the polenta, often consumed instead of bread. 

Most Romanians associate the holidays like Christmas and Easter with different sorts of food. On Christmas the pig is slaughtered and many dishes are prepared from its meat, carefully using each organ – sausages, black pudding and roast. The cake is a sweet that’s always present in every holiday and it’s prepared in many different assortments and with various stuffing. Just like for Christmas the typical animal is the pig, for Easter it’s the lamb, and as a dessert, the housewives cook “pasca” (a kind of cake). And also, always present are the Easter eggs, decorated in various colors and Christian or secular motifs. 

Romania is a good producer of various assortments of national wines, like the Feteasca or Grasa de Cotnari, but also international wines, like Riesling and Merlot. The specific spirit is the “tuica”, also called “palinca” or “rachiu”, depending on the region of the country you are in.

Sighisoara, Romania
Sighisoara, Romania

Romanian History

Romania’s present territory was inhabited by Dacians since the 6th century BC. These ancestors formed the state of Dacia, which developed and flourished during the king’s Decebal rule (87-106). Dacia was conquered by the Romans in 106, this victory considered to be very important, since Rome erected a column in its memory. Between 106 and 271, Dacia was a Roman province, but then the Romans retreated, leaving the country to the Goth invaders. After the Goths left in 375 and the Huns in the 6th century, there had been a powerful Slav influence. 

In 1601 Mihai Viteazul succeeded in uniting all the Romanians under a single leadership for a short period of time. In the next 300 years, the Romanian principalities were under Ottoman rule. With help from Russia, Romania gained more freedom and established a new constitution, in 1829. In 1881 Romania became a monarchy and the king Carol I ruled over the country until his death in 1914. 

Romania fought by the Allies side in the First World War. After the Austrian-Hungarian Empire was defeated, the provinces of Transylvania, Banat and Bucovina were given back to Romania in 1918, this act representing the union of the majority of the country’s territories for the first time in history. In the beginning of the Second World War Romania allied with the Nazis, but turned on the Allies’ side in 1944, when the Russians entered the country. In 1965 Romania officially became a communist nation, with Nicolae Ceausescu as its president. In the communism years, the citizens’ life standard declined drastically and the economy was lamentable administrated. Over 500.000 Romanians exiled into the Western Europe, United States, Israel and other places in the world. 

In December 1989 the Securitate forces started shooting in the people that were demonstrating in Timisoara. The state of emergency was declared, but the protests spread all over the country. Ceausescu was captured by the army, trialed by an ad-hoc tribunal and executed for genocide. The first president of the democratic Romania was a former communist, Ion Iliescu, and in 1995 the first non-communist president was elected, Emil Constantinescu. Romania joined NATO in 2004 and it was accepted in the European Union in January 2007.


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