Nestled at the heart of the Carpathian Mountains in Romania is Brasov, a fantastic city to visit on its own merit and to use as a base for exploring the wider Transylvania region.
While a lot of cities around Europe have a medieval vibe with cobbled streets, pastel-coloured houses and castles, Brasov is an authentic medieval city with gothic churches and fortified Saxon city walls. And yes, it still has those cobbled streets and multi-coloured, charming buildings.
It’s the 7th largest city in Romania, far smaller than the capital city of Bucharest, making Brasov seem small but there are lots of things to do in Brasov and nearby.
The main attraction is the famous Bran Castle in Transylvania, the inspiration behind Dracula’s castle in the classic novel by Bram Stoker, which is an easy day trip from Brasov. And within Brasov itself, you cannot miss visiting Black Castle and the views from Tampa mountain.
Brasov is a great choice for an alternative city break and a worthy addition to any big Eastern European trip.
This ultimate travel guide to Brasov will show you all the most beautiful places in Brasov, what to expect when visiting, where to stay in Brasov and things to do in Brasov which will help you in planning a trip to Brasov Romania.
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How to get to Brasov
Brasov doesn’t have its own airport so international travellers will either fly into Bucharest or Sibiu International Airports, which are connected to cities all over Europe and the Middle East through airlines like Ryanair and Wizz Air.
Both airports are over two hours’ drive from Brasov but take twice the time via trains, so booking a private airport transfer might be a better option for some travellers.
For travellers on a budget, the minibuses or ‘Maxi Taxi’ are a cheaper alternative to private transfers from the airports to Brasov. They leave every half an hour from Bucharest to Brasov and are the most popular, cost-effective way for visitors to reach Brasov.
Brasov has a main train station and the Romanian rail network has greatly improved in recent years. InterCity trains are the fastest and most comfortable and you can even catch an overnight train from Budapest straight to Brasov.
What to expect in Brasov
Brasov is a friendly and safe city to visit though you might notice tourist police at some of the major attractions in Brasov and like any city, be aware of pick pocketers.
The main language is Romanian but a surprising number of people, particularly young people, speak English well. In smaller Romanian towns, there will be fewer English-speakers, but you shouldn’t have a problem communicating in a touristed city like Brasov.
Romania is in the European Union and is currently in the process of joining the Schengen area but isn’t a member yet, so do check your visa requirements.
The local currency is the Romanian Leu and unlike a lot of other European countries, tipping isn’t just welcomed but expected in restaurants. Service charges aren’t usually included in the bill and a 5-10% tip is the general guideline. Brasov is a bit pricey by Romanian standards, but still budget friendly.
How to get around Brasov
The city centre is beautiful with lots to look at, so you’ll be walking around Brasov between all the main sites as much as possible. However, Brasov is quite spread out so you may need to use public transport to get around Brasov at some point during your trip.
Luckily, the bus network in Brasov is fantastic and cheap though there are no night buses in Brasov so make sure you’re not stranded miles away from your hotel after 23:30 on weekdays and 22:30 on weekends!
You can buy bus tickets from machines at most bus stops or nearby supermarkets and kiosks with a ‘RAT’ sign and there is a bus ticket machine in Brasov train station. Make sure to validate your tickets before hopping on the bus.
The most useful bus lines are line 4, 51 and 50 which all travel to one of the main squares in Brasov.
The best time to visit Brasov
Winter is a very picturesque time to visit Brasov and the wider Transylvanian region due to the almost guaranteed snowfall that will cover the Carpathian Mountains. Brasov is a mountain resort town and there are plenty of winter sports activities you can do in the area like snowshoeing and skiing.
But if you’re not a fan of the cold (or the heat!) then April is perfect as temperatures will be very mild and the mountains will be out in full bloom, but you’ll be visiting before heavy rainfall period over summer from May-August when the weather is warmer but can be very wet.
April is also an ideal month for animal trekking in the Carpathian Mountains where you may spot lynx, bears or wolves.
Likewise, September-October is a great time to visit Brasov and of course, Transylvania has many Halloween-themed events during October so expect accommodation prices to reflect this.
Things to do in Brasov
Brasov’s Biserica Neagra or Black Church is the largest Gothic church in Eastern Europe and one of the top things to do in Brasov and should be included on any free walking tour of Brasov.
It’s a beautiful, imposing church that is actually not black but has an orange roof with grey brick walls which is in keeping with most of the other buildings in Brasov’s Old Town.
It’s named the Black Church because a fire broke out in 1689 and tainted the interior with smoke. It’s representative of all the influences in Brasov over the centuries from the Ottoman Empire to the Saxons.
Piata Sfatului, which is otherwise known as the council square, looks more like a triangle than a square. It’s such a charming, pretty square with rainbow patchwork buildings and it’s no surprise that many visitors choose to sit in one of the cafes to admire the area for as long as possible.
The Casa Sfatului (also known as the Council House or Town Hall) is a 13th-century building that sits in the middle of the square with a clock tower that still chimes every hour.
Piata Sfatului is where you can find the Brasov Market at Christmas where the entire square is filled with wooden huts selling festive treats and gifts.
You can’t visit Brasov without checking out the Schei district! It’s a real-life time machine back to the 17th-century when the Saxons lived within the city fortress and the Romanians were forced to live outside the walls.
The houses are very reminiscent of the era with red-tiled roofs, decorative iron door knockers and narrow, curving streets.
St Nicholas Church, the Romanian Orthodox Church in the district, is home to many old and valuable Romanian books including the oldest bible in the Romanian language.
As alluded to in the previous activity, Brasov is a fortified medieval city with fortress walls which usually means there is a city gate.
Catherine’s Gate is really something special – it’s the last medieval gate still standing, and it looks so quirky and intact with tall turrets and curved walls, you can imagine a gate just like it in a theme park.
The Saxons built the gate almost five hundred years ago with the Brasov coat of arms in the centre of the gate.
Brasov is almost completely encircled in the Carpathian Mountains and Tampa mountain is practically on the city’s doorstep.
Interestingly, Tampa mountain has a Hollywood-like sign with ‘BRASOV’ visible from the city where you can either hop on a cable car or take the roughly one-hour hike up to the viewing platform that sits just to the left of the sign.
It’s the best place to witness an incredible view of the entire city including the Black Church and Council Square.
Somewhere you wouldn’t normally want to walk through on a dark night is String Street or Strada Sforii, one of the narrowest streets in Europe.
It looks more like an alley than a legitimate street as it only measures between 53-44 inches at different parts of the street and the majority is undercover.
String Street is very close to the trails up Tampa mountain, so it’s conveniently located and completely free to see one of the quirkiest attractions in Brasov.
Black and White Towers
An alternative option for fantastic views is to visit the Black and White Towers, situated on a path behind Brasov’s old fortified city walls.
There are steps up to both towers so they’re a lot easier to reach than Tampa mountain. While the white tower resembles the design and era of Catherine’s Gate, the black tower is more modern with a glass roof and, like the Black Church, also isn’t black!
Poiana Brasov Ski Resort
If you are visiting Brasov during the winter months, you can easily reach the Poiana Brasov ski resort in the Postavaru mountains just outside of Brasov.
There are 12 runs and trails on the mountain for you to go skiing or snowboarding as well as tubing, luging, ice skating, snowshoeing and several other snow activities.
You can travel to Poiana Brasov ski resort by bus from Brasov itself and just spend a day there or split your time in Brasov between the two places, though accommodation will be much more expensive within the ski resort itself.
What to eat in Brasov
The food in Brasov, and Romania, in general, is usually inexpensive and it’s not difficult to find family-run restaurants serving traditional Romanian food at an affordable price.
Traditional Romanian food is pretty much what you would expect of an Eastern European country: unpretentious and hearty with lots of soups and broths, huge cuts of meat, with pickled vegetables like cabbage.
One of the best restaurants in Brasov for authentic Romanian cuisine is La Ceaun with a menu featuring potato and ham soup, lamb stew and cabbage rolls.
Restaurant Sergiana offers similar foodie fare with homemade sausages and beef soup but has more choice for vegetarians and caters to international visitors with wait staff dressed in authentic Romanian dress.
Brasov also has plenty of exceptional Mediterranean and Italian restaurants and lots of cafes if you start to get bored of eating soups and stews! The Italian food scene is particularly strong in Brasov.
Where to stay in Brasov
Budget – Since Brasov can be a bit pricier than other parts of Romania, you can still stick to a budget by staying in low-cost accommodation and there are some great hostels in Brasov. Downton Hostel is just as the name suggests, really well-located in the heart of the city.
It’s a modern, cosy hostel with beautiful wooden furniture. Centrum House Hostel is another good choice if you want to get involved in Brasov’s party scene as it’s close to all the bars and clubs and there’s even a bar in the hotel.
Mid-range – For less than €50 a night, you can stay in Bella Muzica which is mere steps away from the Black Church and Council Square. This affordable hotel has a homely, tavern feel with exposed brick walls and dark wood furnishings.
If you’re driving into Brasov or want a resort/lodge style hotel, right at the base of Tampa mountain is Hotel Kolping which offers big, fuss-free rooms with lovely mountain views.
Luxury – Villa Katharina is a 4-star hotel which is well under €100 per night and has luxurious touches like chandeliers and free-standing copper baths with quirky artwork.
Alternatively, the Kronwell Brasov Hotel is the complete opposite with modern, minimalist design and an indoor pool.
Tours to do in Brasov
Old Town Walking Tour
A walking tour of Brasov Old Town is the perfect way to learn about the history of the city and see all the highlights, especially if you’re short on time.
A local, knowledgeable guide will take you through Brasov’s past from the middle ages to the present day, stopping off at main attractions like the Black Church, St Nicholas Church in the Schei district and Piata Sfatului.
Evening Candlelight Tour
Or if you’ve had a busy day snowshoeing at the Poiana Brasov ski resort and want to explore Brasov at night, then you can!
Join this evening candlelight tour after the tourist crowds have dispersed and you can discover a different side to Brasov. Plus, the tour ends in a pub, so you and you have the chance to make new friends with travellers visiting Brasov.
A cycling tour is an ideal way to explore Brasov Old Town and the wider city because Brasov is a very cycling-friendly city, but you might not want to hire bikes because there aren’t a lot of racks where you can store a bike while you sightsee.
Ride out onto the nearby mountain trails as well as city streets to see as much of Brasov as possible and the tour also includes lunch.
Day trips from Brasov
Visiting Dracula’s spiritual home of Bran Castle is often the main reason why travellers visit Transylvania and stay in Brasov in the first place, it’s a can’t-miss!
This highly rated day trip covers Bran Castle as well as Peles Castle and Rasnov Fortress which are two other amazing castles in the region. You’ll also enjoy the breath-taking views as you drive through the Carpathian Mountains – it’s a day you won’t forget in a hurry!
Viscri and Sighisoara
Brasov might be a fortified city, but it’s the fortified churches in the Transylvania region that have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
If you want to explore more medieval villages and fortresses dating back to the 14th-century, then this Sighisoara, Rupea Fortress and Viscri Fortified Church day trip is perfect for you. History and culture lovers will adore how well the churches and villages have been preserved.
Canyoning in Transylvania
Transylvania might be filled with castles and fortresses, but it’s also a beautiful mountainous region with lots of outdoor activities on offer.
If you like being active on your travels then you will enjoy this canyoning day trip, no matter your skill level as the terrain is mainly flat so you can bring the whole family.
Visit the Seven Ladders Canyon, the Rasnoavei Gorge and Zarnesti Gorge and get your oxygen flowing while enjoying the epic surroundings.
Recommended tours in Brasov
- Bran Castle and Rasnov Fortress Tour from Brasov with Optional Peles Castle Visit
- Small-Group Brown Bear-Watching Experience from Brasov
- Small-Group Tour Sighisoara, Rupea Fortress and Viscri Day Trip from Brasov
- Small-Group Day trip Transfagarasan road and Poienari Fortress from Brasov
- Fortified Churches – Bran Castle – Rasnov Fortress Tour from Brasov
- Brasov Old Town Small-Group Walking Tour
- Small-Group Day Trip in Romanian Authentic Mountain Villages from Brasov
- Day Hike in Carpathian Mountains for all levels in five areas
- Transfagarasan Highway: Full-Day Private Guided Tour
- Horseback Riding Tour In Brasov – Ride Horses Through Fields, Forests And Hills