Why Brasov should be top of your list – Backpacking Romania

Why Brasov should be top of your list – Backpacking Romania

Why should you go to Brasov? – It’s in Transylvania, full of historical attractions, near Bran Castle (aka Dracula’s Castle), Rasnov Fortress, Peles Castle, and it’s surrounded by fortified churches. There’s also great hiking and tons of places to eat and drink.

I only had 3 days in Brasov which isn’t enough time to do everything I listed above. I had to skip Peles Castle and the fortified churches. This post only covers – what to do in Brasov, Bran Castle, Rasnov Fortress, Mt Tampa and where to eat and drink.

An important thing to note before you go:

*Most things are closed on a Monday, including – Peles Castle and the black church*

So look up opening times before you go anywhere in Brasov, especially on Mondays.

 

Getting there

 

I travelled from Bucharest to Brasov by train. It took just over 2.5 hours and the trains run regularly. The train station was a 30 minute walk from Brasov’s city centre so I took an Uber to my hostel. I found it common in Romania to have the main train station outside the city centre.

I stayed at Kismet Dao Hostel, I’d recommend this place to anyone on a budget. Friendly atmosphere and they had a big dog.

 

Hostel dog
Hostel dog

 

What to do in Brasov

 

Free walking tour

 

There’s a free walking tour in Brasov everyday at 6pm and 10:30am on the weekends. It’s a great introduction to the city.

The tour starts in Council Square. It’s the main square, lively and vibrant and full of people and cafes.

 

Council Square
Council Square
Council Square
Council Square

 

Black Church

 

Next to Council Square is the large looming Black Church (Biserica Neagra). It costs 10 RON to enter and is closed on Mondays.

It got its name when the ‘Great Fire’ destroyed most of the town in 1689 and caused the walls of the church to blacken.

I didn’t get the chance to visit inside. The organ concerts are highly reviewed and if that’s your thing, they’re at 6pm on Tuesday but only during the summer months (June to September).

 

 Black Church (Biserica Neagra)
Black Church (Biserica Neagra)
 Black Church (Biserica Neagra)
Black Church (Biserica Neagra)

 

Sf. Nicolae (St Nicholas)

 

A 10 minute walk from the city centre, in the Schei neighbourhood, is St Nicolas Church. The outside is beautiful with bright murals. Inside it’s more plain and you can’t take photos, which I always think is a shame.

Next door to this colourful 13th Century Romanian Orthodox Church is Romania’s first school. Here you can see the original tools they used for printing and for a fee you can get a guided tour.

 

Sf. Nicolae (St Nicholas)
Colourful murals
Sf. Nicolae (St Nicholas)
Sf. Nicolae (St Nicholas)

 

Strada Sforii

 

Sure, it’s just a small passage way, but when it’s called the third narrowest street in Europe, it sounds a whole lot more special. It was initially built for firemen to squeeze through in medieval times.

As it’s near the city centre, it’s not out of your way to visit if you want a photo.

 

Rope Street - Strada Sforii
Rope Street – Strada Sforii
Rope Street - Strada Sforii
Rope Street – Strada Sforii

 

Bran Castle and Rasnov Fortress

 

There are different ways to get to Bran Castle and if you’re going to Bran you’ll want to do Rasnov Fortress and maybe Peles Castle too. Ways to get there:

1) Organised tour. Most hotels and hostels can organise this for you.

2) Hire a driver. There’s plenty of people offering to drive tourists to all three sites. They typically charge €25 per person and require a minimum of 3 people.

3) Use public transport and do it yourself.

I went with option 3. It was the cheapest and I wanted flexibility. I visited Bran Castle and Rasnov Fortress as they are on the same bus line and easy to do together. I didn’t have time to do Peles Castle as you need to get the train there from Brasov. The benefit of an organised tour or having a driver is that you can visit all 3 in one day.

 

Bran Castle

 

To catch the bus to Bran you need to go to Autogara 2 (not the main Brasov bus station). It cost 7 RON and took 45 minutes to get there. As it was a Sunday the bus only came every hour, but it comes every half hour on weekdays.

This bus stops at Rasnov on the way.

 

Bus to Bran via Rasnov
Bus to Bran via Rasnov

 

The stop for Bran is obvious as you enter a lively town full of Dracula merchandise.

 

Souvenir stands at Bran
Souvenir stands at Bran
Walk through the stalls to reach Bran castle entrance
More Souvenir stalls

 

Walk through the stalls to reach Bran castle’s entrance. The castle looks really impressive and it stands out above the town.

 

Bran Castle from below is stunning
Bran Castle from afar is stunning
Up close to Bran Castle
Up close to Bran Castle
Cross under the Bran castle - not related to Dracula
Cross under the Bran castle – not related to Dracula

 

It cost 35 RON to enter. I got there at 10:30am and it wasn’t very busy and I didn’t have to queue. But when I left at noon it was packed. Below is a photo of the entrance at 10:30 (left) and noon (right).

 

Entrance at 10:30 (left) and noon (right)
Entrance at 10:30 (left) and noon (right)

 

Inside the castle is nothing special and the doorways and ceilings are very low. It’s not how you would imagine Dracula’s castle, especially if you’ve seen Bram Stoker’s Dracula film. Maybe I was hoping to see a few cobwebs and coffins…

If you want to understand more of how “Dracula” came to be, see my blog post on Sighisoara, the birthplace of Dracula (sort of).

 

Inside Bran castle
Inside Bran castle
Bear skin rug - real or not real?
Bear skin rug – real or not real?

 

It began to get really crowded inside the castle. As there’s a one way system it’s difficult to turn back if you’ve missed something. Many people are put off by the crowds but once there I think it’s worth battling them in order to see inside due to it being “Dracula’s Castle”. Even though Vlad the Impaler, who inspired Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula never actually lived here, he might have stayed in Bran castle when he visited his favourite mistress.

 

So many people Bran Castle
So many people
The only narrow passage way
Narrow passage way between floors
The bedroom
The bedroom – no coffin
The courtyard Bran Castle
The courtyard

 

Rasnov Fortress

 

I headed to the bus stop to get the bus back to Rasnov. The bus was due every hour on a Sunday but it was 40 minutes late (or 20  minutes early?). It cost 4 RON to Rasnov. The stop for Rasnov isn’t as clear as Bran so either ask the driver to let you know or check Google Maps. Romanian SIM cards are very cheap, see my post on Craiova for details.

The town of Rasnov is quiet and pretty. The fortress is above the city with the Rasnov sign underneath. You have to walk through the town to reach the bottom of the steep hill.

 

Rasnov - The fortress lies on the hill overlooking the town
Rasnov – The fortress lies on the hill overlooking the town

 

In order to get to the top you can walk up (15 to 20 minutes) or take the cable car. I opted for the cable car as it was only 4 RON for a return trip.

By the entrance to the cable car there are restaurants where you can grab a beer and a pizza. Romanians really love their Italian restaurants.

 

Beer in one of the Italian restaurants by the cable car entrance
Beer in one of the Italian restaurants by the cable car entrance
Cable car to Rasnov fortress
Cable car to Rasnov fortress
Cable car to Rasnov fortress
Cable car to Rasnov fortress

Once you get to the top there’s a path up hill to the outside of the fortress. The fortress was constructed in 1225. It has been restored and kept in a good condition.

 

Rasnov fortress
Rasnov fortress
Rasnov walls
Rasnov walls
12 RON entrance fee
12 RON entrance fee

Inside there are lots of stalls selling souvenirs which makes it feel touristy but you can still see the old dwellings people lived in. When there were attacks on the nearby villages, the people would flock to Rasnov to seek sanctuary in the fortress. It’s obvious why this place offered protection – it’s location on a high hill, surrounded by thick forest.

There are lots of areas to walk around, you can go into the stone houses and gaze out the tiny windows, look down the 146 metres well they dug to provide water or walk to the highest point of the fortress where the flag is.

 

View out the window Rasnov
View out of the window
Old buildings Rasnov
Old buildings
Me at the highest point
Me at the highest point

 

Rasnov is definitely worth visiting. It’s well preserved and there’s lots to see. Plus it only costs 12 RON (about 2.60 Euro) to enter.

If you’re going by bus then visiting Bran and Rasnov in the same trip is a good idea as they are both on the same bus route. I preferred Rasnov Fortress to Bran Castle as it was less crowded and I had more freedom to choose which route I wanted to take.

 

Hiking to the Brasov sign

 

I hiked up Tampa Mountain to the Brasov sign on Monday. Because so much is closed on Mondays this is one of the few things to do. It’s a great walk and the higher you go the better the views. The view from the top (955 metres) is incredible.

 

Mt Tampa and the Brasov sign
Mt Tampa and the Brasov sign

 

The hike starts outside the main citadel walls. There is a cable car you can take if you don’t want to walk up. The path is very winding like a snake (as shown in the map below) but if you’re really hardcore you can take steeper paths to cut bits out and go a more direct route. I followed the main path, it took 45 minutes to walk up and it was medium difficulty.

 

Map of Brasov and hiking trail to Mt Tampa
Map of Brasov and hiking trail to Mt Tampa
Start of the hike
Start of the hike
Sign warning of foxes and bears (I only saw a mouse on my way up)
Sign warning of foxes and bears (I only saw a mouse on my way up)
Steep and slippery in parts
Steep and slippery in parts

 

I’d advise walking up and getting the cable car down (16 RON) as the path is full of white stones and pebbles which makes skidding easy. The cable car closes at 4pm so if you go up for the sunset you’ll have to walk down in the dark which I wouldn’t recommend unless you’re a confident hiker.

 

Cable car to the top of Mt Tampa
Cable car to the top of Mt Tampa

 

At the top there’s a small bar but the seating area doesn’t have a view. If you want to have a beer while enjoying the view then you have to take some cans up with you. Next to the bar was the biggest dog I’d ever seen.

 

Behind the Brasov sign
Behind the Brasov sign
Pano of Brasov
Pano of Brasov
Me looking over the Brasov
Me looking over the city
Big dog
Big dog

 

Food and where to eat

 

Traditional Transylvanian dishes to try:

Mititei – grilled ground meat rolls made from a mixture of lamb, beef and pork.

White bean soup (Ciorba de fasole) with smoked meat – often served in a bread bowl.

Cabbage Rolls (Sarmale) – typically stuffed with minced meat, dill and onion. 

Ciucas

 

Probably the most popular restaurant in Brasov, Ciucas is a brewery pub with its own beer. For 9 RON you can buy a whole litre.

Ciucas easy drinking beer
Ciucas easy drinking beer

They have a large food menu but they’re known for their Mititei. Their Mititei is extra long so I recommend you only order two, even that was a bit too much for me. It comes with mustard and chips or polenta.

3 Mititei is too much!
3 Mititei is too much!

It’s really busy here and the service is extremely slow. This means you have more time to drink beer! But not great if you’re hungry.

I give it 2/5 due to the slow service.

La Ceaun (The Cauldron)

This was recommended to me as “the soup restaurant”. I headed here to try their white bean soup with smoked pork. I found they do more than just soups and have all the classic dishes including beef goulash.

La Ceaun aka the soup restaurant
La Ceaun aka the soup restaurant

From the name – The Cauldron – I’m guessing all the food is already cooked as the service is very quick.

White bean soup in a bread bowl is so yummy.

White bean soup in a bread bowl
White bean soup in a bread bowl

5/5 my favourite restaurant in Brasov. Fast service, cheap prices and delicious food.

Restaurant Sergiana

 

Restaurant Sergiana
Restaurant Sergiana

I decided to try an upmarket restaurant and headed to Sergiana. It’s located in a basement which is a good escape from the July heat. Here I had the cabbage rolls. The main thing I noticed was how much they tasted of dill. It was a little over powering.

Pickled cabbage rolls and polenta
Pickled cabbage rolls and polenta

Sergiana had a nice ambiance and the house red wine tasted great. But the meat dishes we ordered were over cooked and dry. I’ve noticed that Romanian food isn’t big on sauces.

Inside Restaurant Sergiana
Inside Restaurant Sergiana
The house red wine is so good
The house red wine is so good

3/5 for the wine.

Kürtös Kalács

Honourable mention must be given to the Kürtös Kalács wagon by Council Square.

Kürtös Kalács wagon
Kürtös Kalács wagon

Kürtös Kalács are cinnamon flavoured doughy desserts. They’re bigger than my arm. The wagon also sold popcorn.

Kürtös
Kürtös
The size of my arm
The size of my arm

4/5 because you get so much for 10 RON.

 

Overall

 

Brasov is my favourite city in Romania (out of Craiova, Bucharest, Sighișoara, Sibiu and Cluj Napoca).

It has lots to do inside the city and plenty to see on day trips. The city offers free walking tours, interesting churches and narrow streets. Bran Castle, Rasnov Fortress and Peles Castle are all accessible by public transport. Unfortunately I missed Peles Castle as it’s closed on Monday and Tuesday. But Bran Castle looks really impressive from the outside and Rasnov Fortress is good value.

Mt Tampa is a great hour hike and offers amazing views. There are many restaurants in Brasov when you can have a drink and try the traditional Transylvanian food.

Overall, it has everything that a perfect trip needs and must be added to any visit to Romania.

One Reply to “Why Brasov should be top of your list – Backpacking Romania”

  1. Hey Fran,
    thank you for your really helpful article. I’m going to Romania in September and currently planning my trip. Your articles help a lot and have a nice writing style. Thanks for all the information.

    Greetings from Berlin,
    Julian

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