The beautiful Transylvania region of central Romania is bordered by the Carpathian mountains to its east and south and the Apuseni mountains to its west.
This area has a rich history full of medieval towns and villages, Gothic castles, fortified churches—and even some vampire legends!
Here are some places to visit in Transylvania, along with some Transylvania attractions:
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Originally just named Napoca, the city of Cluj-Napoca is the second biggest city in Romania but the largest city in Transylvania. In Piata Unirii (Union Square) you can find the Gothic-style Church of St. Michael, built in the 15th century and the statue of Matthias Corvinus, the 15th-century king.
The 18th-century Baroque-style ‘Banffy Palace’ is located here, and today this is home to the Cluj National Art Museum, housing historical weaponry, sculptures, and Romanian art collections.
Other museums of interest are the Transylvania History Museum, showcasing the history of Transylvania from Paleolithic times to the present, the Ethnographic Museum of Transylvania, showcasing the traditional history of folk art and the Pharmacy History Collection, located in Casa Hintz, showcasing old pharmacy instruments.
This city is home to six state universities, as well as private universities, so the city is vibrant and full of life, with plenty of restaurants and bars.
Founded in 1211 by the Teutonic Knights, Brasov is home to architecture from the Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance periods and is the most visited city in Transylvania, largely due to its distance from Bran Castle (also known as Dracula’s castle).
The location of the Black Church, which is the largest Gothic church in Romania. It is also home to the lively Council Square, where you can find lots of restaurants and museums.
The pretty medieval city of Sibiu is located in Transylvania between Cluj-Napoca and Brasov in central Romania. Sibiu was listed in 2007 as the European Capital of Culture.
This small town consists of old painted houses along hilly cobbled streets, with an unusual feature. Many of the old houses look like they have eyes on the roof, as they contain small windows, giving the appearance of the buildings watching you.
The main area of the historical town is the small square – Piata Mica, with a tourist information centre, pubs and restaurants. The two sides of the square are connected by the ‘Bridge of Lies’, which, along with the main square, was where all sorts of punishments were carried out in medieval times.
You can get a good view of the main square from The Council Tower which houses some exhibitions all about Sibiu. This tower was once used as a prison and dates back to the 13th century. However, the best view of the old town is from the Lutheran Cathedral which dates back to the 14th century.
There is a large square – Piata Mare, which is used for concerts and festivals nowadays, whereas this was also used as a place for punishments in the past.
On this side of the town, you will find the Holy Trinity Catholic Church, the Reformed Church, and The Holy Trinity Cathedral as well as the National Museum of Sibiu. Potter’s Tower, was part of the defensive city walls. You will be able to see all of these in a day’s visit, as Sibiu is relatively small but it is an interesting town. The ASTRA Museum is located in Sibiu as well.
This medieval walled old town forms a triangle with Sibiu and Brasov. Sighisoara’s medieval fortress is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and with its cobbled streets and colourful buildings, it is one of the most beautiful towns in Transylvania.
In the main square, you can visit the Clock Tower and see the old torture chamber with exhibits of medieval torture devices.
Alternatively, you can walk along the fortified defensive wall to view the remains of the towers and bastions left standing. You might also wish to climb the staircase up to the church and the cemetery on the hill.
ASTRA Museum Sibiu
Located in the Dumbrava Sibiuli nature reserve, this museum is based on the ‘living museum’ idea and is one of the largest open-air ethnographic museum complexes, consisting of four museums in Europe showcasing traditional folklore and methods.
Throughout the year, traditional folk festivals, craft workshops, and cooking demonstrations are held depicting the traditional methods of old.
You can view waterwheels and windmills and eat food from the traditional onsite restaurant to really help immerse you back in history.
This is the most well-known road in Romania after being featured in an episode of BBC’s Top Gear in 2009.
Over 150 kilometres and 2042 meters at the highest point, this hairpin bend road, cuts through the high Carpathian mountains and the Fagaras massif, connecting the regions of Wallachia and Transylvania.
The official name is DN7c or Drumul National 7C and is open to cars during the months of June to October.
This glacial lake is an incredible natural wonder. It was formed when a glacier eroded part of the Fagaras mountains before melting, creating a lake 2,034 meters in altitude up the mountains, with a depth of 11 meters.
It can be reached via the Transfargarasan highway during the summer and during the remaining months, via a cable car, accessible from the ‘Balea Cascada’ chalet.
The lake is not suitable for swimming in as the temperature is cold all year round. It does attract tourists and locals in the winter months for ice climbing, skiing and snowboarding and lots of hiking trails will lead to the top of the mountain.
Turda Salt Mine
Located a couple of miles from the town of Cluj, you will find one of Europe’s oldest salt mines, the Salina Turda, which stopped being used as a mining site in 1932. This mine is now home to a unique amusement park that covers a 27-mile square area, with depths of 120 meters below the surface.
Featuring a bowling alley, and a 20-metre Ferris wheel, there is even a small lake (Theresa Mine Lake) where you can take boats out and row your way around this impressive chasm, and view the stalagmite formations.
There is also a spa and wellness centre, a Museum of Contemporary art, and an amphitheatre with 180 heated seats, which hosts all different shows, plus billiards, table tennis, and mini golf to name a few.
Bran Castle is most infamous for its association with being known as Count Dracula’s castle.
Unfortunately, there is no evidence that Bram Stoker (who wrote Dracula) knew anything about Bran castle and there is only a small association with the 15th century Wallachian Prince, Vlad the Impaler, who was known as Dracula.
In 1920 the castle was offered as a gift to Queen Marie by the people of Bran, who made this her favourite residence.
Corvin Castle (also known as Hunyadi or Hunedoara castle) has a Gothic-style architecture and is one of the largest castles in Europe. Located in Hunedoara in southwestern Transylvania, it sits amidst the Zlasti River.
The dramatic entrance to this stunning castle is via the drawbridge and some of it is interesting features are the 30-meter-deep well and the bear pit.
Located in Argeș County on the Transfagarsan road, this castle sits atop a mountain at a height of more than 800 metres, making it one of the most impenetrable castles in Transylvania.
It could only be reached via 1480 stone steps. However, its location also made it susceptible to landslides, which did occur in 1888, causing some of the castle to fall into the river beneath.
It was once ruled by Vlad the Impaler as one of his fortresses. Currently, the Argeș County Museum maintains it.
Peles Castle is one of Europe’s most beautiful castles. It was built in the late 19th century and exemplifies German Renaissance architecture, with 160 rooms.
It is located in Sinaia, in the neighbouring Wallachia area. It used to be the summer residence of the Romanian royal family between 1883 and 1947. You can only visit Peles Castle on a guided tour.
Sighisoara Citadel is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The medieval old town feels like you have stepped back in time, within the once strong fortifications vehicles are restricted and therefore walking the cobbled streets feels somewhat special.
In the Carpathian mountains, Rasnov Citadel sits atop a hilltop. This fortress was created especially to withstand extended periods of safety and refuge for the villagers, eventually becoming more of an established village, containing a chapel, school, and residential homes.
It was invaded many times but surrendered just once in 1612 when the enemy found the entrance where fresh water was brought in. After this, a well was dug within the walls so this would not happen again. Today the fortress is a museum.
Rupea is one of the most well-preserved imposing fortresses between Brasov and Sighisoara, with its bright red roof. It would have been a sanctuary to the Saxon community living within these walls—safe from invaders outside.
There are around 150 fortified churches remaining in Transylvanian villages, 7 of these Saxon villages are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage site.
They were seen as places of safety during troubled times, so in order for them to be a better stronghold, they were fortified with defensive walls to further add protection.
Biertan is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage site and is one of the seven Saxon villages. Located in Sibiu County, this Gothic-style church, from the 15th century, is a splendid example of fortified architecture—one so impenetrable that invading armies were unable to overtake it.
This fortified church has a special door, containing 15 bolts that could all be opened or locked with one key and was a feat of engineering at the time, allowing the inhabitants to secure the church swiftly.
There was also a prison tower, where warring married couples hoping to divorce, were made to stay in this small space and share everything until they sorted out their differences. Only one couple, over the centuries this took place, went on to get divorced.
Viscri is a fortified church in one of the Saxon villages and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Located in Brasov County, this white, fortified church is today a Lutheran church.
This charming village makes you feel like you have stepped back in time as the pace is much slower and more rural, with no paved roads and chickens roaming freely.
Prejmer fortified church is located in Brasov county and is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage site. This fortification was the most easterly village founded by the Saxons, therefore needed to be as protected as it could be.
The walls of the fortifications are 5 m thick and 12 m tall with holes near the top, allowing hot tar to be thrown onto the advancing enemy.
Poiana Brasov Skiing
Poiana Brasov is the number one ski destination in Romania. Located in the Carpathian mountains, this ski resort offers excellent value for money compared to other European ski resorts. The resort offers a vertical descent of 2543 feet, along with 5.4 miles of cross-country skiing trails.
Taste some traditional food
Traditional Romanian food has been influenced by the cuisines of neighbouring Balkan countries, Turkey, Austria, Hungary and Moldova.
A meal is likely to be started in Transylvania with a shot of ‘palinka’, which is a 45% proof brandy, which is traditionally made from plums.
Polenta, sweet and sour soups containing lots of vegetables, pork and beef are just a few examples of traditional dishes.
Sarmale are stuffed cabbage rolls that are Turkish in origin but are considered a national dish in Romania.
They contain rice, along with pork minced meat (sometimes pork and beef are used) and some herbs and vegetables, before being wrapped in cabbage leaves (pickled cabbage leaves can be used as well).
They are slowly cooked in pots for hours to make them soft. Traditionally served with polenta and sour cream.
Mititei or Mici as they are also known (meaning ‘small ones’) are one of the most popular dishes in Romania.
They are made into a sausage shape (there is no casing) using ground meat (pork, beef or lamb) with black pepper, garlic and plenty of other spices, before being grilled on a barbeque, which also adds flavour.
They are traditionally served with mustard and bread. Associated with holidays and outdoor grilling, they are great with a cold beer.
These are doughnuts that have either been fried or boiled and unlike most other doughnuts, these are then filled with soft white cheese or alternatively cottage cheese before being topped with a fruit compote (preferably blueberry) and some sour cream, with a small doughnut added on top.
If you are into vampire legends, and medieval castles with turrets and towers, then Transylvania offers a wealth of history and Gothic architecture for you to explore.
All are set amongst some stunning scenery of hardwood forests, mountains, and meadows of wildflowers. You may even spot some wolves or brown bears on your visit to Transylvania.
Recommended tours in Transylvania
- DRACULA WEEKEND – Bran Castle, Peles Castle, Brasov City, Rasnov Citadel
- Small-Group Brown Bear-Watching Experience from Brasov
- Curly Tour – Day trip from Cluj
- Small-Group Tour Sighisoara, Rupea Fortress and Viscri Day Trip from Brasov
- Small-Group Day trip Transfagarasan road and Poienari Fortress from Brasov
- Ski / Snowboard Lessons on the Slopes of Poiana Brasov
- Bran Castle Skip-The-Line Guided Tour
- Small-Group Day Trip in Romanian Authentic Mountain Villages from Brasov
- Exclusive Tour: Corvin Castle, Alba Iulia and traditional villages from Sibiu
- Sighisoara and Viscri Private Full-Day Tour from Brasov