Fringed by the Carpathian Mountains and adorned with colourful Baroque buildings, Brasov looks like something straight out of a fairy tale.
This medieval fortress can easily be explored on foot in a day, but you might want to base yourself here if you plan to visit other historical cities and attractions in Transylvania.
Whether you want to delve into the colourful history of Transylvania or just take photos of picturesque streets, here are the best things to do in Brasov.
1. Take a walking tour of the Old Town
Founded by the Teutonic Knights in 1211 and later inhabited by the Saxons, Brasov boasts a wealth of history, culture and architecture.
If you’re only visiting Brasov for a few hours and want to see the main highlights, I highly recommend joining a walking tour with a local guide.
This 3-hour tour of Brasov offers a great immersion into the city’s history and includes stops at several landmarks, including the City Hall, the Orthodox Church and the Black Church.
2. Explore the Council Square
Located at the heart of the Old Town is Piata Sfatului, or the Council Square, which is ringed by elegant buildings with pastel facades and russet-tile roofs.
The City Hall (Casa Sfatalui) stands proudly in the middle of the square. It was built in the 13th century to serve as a meeting place for the town councillors. Nowadays, the hall houses the Brasov History Museum.
3. Hit the shops
Brasov is also a major shopping hub. The streets of the Old Town are lined with shops, cafes and eateries.
Traditional craft shops selling embroidered clothes, painted eggs, woodcarvings, hand painted pottery and exquisite lacework can be found on almost every main street leading up to the square, including the lively Strada Republicii.
4. Visit the Black Church
Brasov’s star attraction is the Black Church. This sacred building earned its nickname after a great city fire in 1689 blackened the walls of the church.
The Black Church boasts the largest church bell in Romania and an impressive 4,000-pipe organ. It also houses an extensive collection of Oriental rugs which were donated by German merchants in the 17th and 18th century.
5. Climb Mount Tampa
Brasov sits at the foot of Mount Tampa. A Hollywood-style sign bearing the city’s name has been erected on the mountain for all to see.
This forest-covered mountain is also a nature reserve. You can walk up to the top of the hill or ride a cable car to enjoy some staggering views of the Old Town.
6. Squeeze your way through Rope Street
Brasov is home to one of the narrowest streets in Europe. Strada Sforii, also known as Rope Street, is just over 100 centimetres in width and dates back to the 1600s. It was built as a quick route for firefighters.
If you want a challenge, try squeezing your way through this super narrow alley (though I wouldn’t recommend doing this after a hearty Romanian meal).
7. Indulge in a traditional Romanian meal
There’s no shortage of restaurants and cafes in Brasov. For a delicious Romanian meal, head to Sergiana. This traditional restaurant offers a vast selection of meat-based dishes, its main specialities being venison, wild boar… and pig testicles.
If you don’t feel like having a big meal, there are a few bakeries close to the square which serve freshly-baked savoury bites and sweet pastries.
8. Pop into the Synagogue
The Beth Israel Synagogue is one of the most beautiful buildings in Brasov.
Built in the late 1800s, the synagogue features a mix of Neo-Gothic and Moorish architectural styles, with a red and white facade, beautiful stained glass windows and an ornate white interior.
The synagogue is open to the public and also houses a kosher restaurant.
9. Walk along the citadel walls
If you want to walk off your heavy Romanian lunch, go for a stroll along the citadel walls. There is a nice path that runs along the medieval walls of the city, with views of several historic sites.
Start your walk at Strada Dupa Ziduri. One of the first sites you’ll come across is the Bastionul Graft, an early 16th century structure, followed by the White Tower and Black Tower (both accessible to the public).
Other must-sees while walking along Brasov’s citadel walls include the fairytale-like Catherine’s Gate and the Weavers’ Bastion, which houses an interesting museum.
10. Go on a ghost tour
If you’re spending the night in Brasov, make sure to explore the city’s historic streets after dark.
Besides hanging out in the historic centre and enjoying a drink at a local cafe, you could also go on a candelight tour of old Brasov. Delve into the Brasov’s dark past and discover the city’s little-known ghost stories and vampire myths.
11. Explore the Schei District
The Schei district is the area where Romanians lived when they were refused entry into the citadel during the Saxon rule of Brasov. This settlement outside the fortified old city offers an insight into traditional Romanian communities.
Some sites worth visiting in the Schei District include St. Nicholas Church, which has a blend of Gothic and Baroque architectural styles, and the First Romanian School Museum.
12. Take a trip to Rasnov Citadel
Located on a rocky hilltop, Rasnov was built by Teutonic Knights in the 14th century to protect Transylvanian villages from invaders.
This medieval citadel is a joy to explore – picture winding alleys, traditional buildings, and stunning views. Rasnov is only a short bus/train ride from Brasov.
13. Meet Romania’s top celebrity
Widely known as Dracula’s Castle, Bran Castle is possibly the number one attraction in Transylvania.
Bran Castle owes its fame to Bram Stoker, who was supposedly inspired by this medieval fortress when writing his world-famous novel Dracula. The castle is located just a short drive from Brasov and offers an insight into the colourful history of the region.
14. Go on a bear-watching walk
Romania is home to the largest population of brown bears in Europe. There are around 6,000 wild bears living in the Carpathian Mountains.
Over the last few years, several brown bears have been rescued from a life in captivity and now live in the Libearty Bear Sanctuary – 70 hectares of oak forest in the Carpathian Mountains. The bears are closely monitored and looked after by rangers and volunteers. The sanctuary is open to visitors.
15. Hike through the Carpathian Mountains
If you’re up for an adventure, go on a a hiking trip in Piatra Craiului National Park. This mountain range in the Southern Carpathians offers potential sightings of wild bears, wolves and lynx.
Hiking in Transylvania is also a great way to experience rural Romania, where people living in mountain villages still practise traditional farming methods.
Recommendation: While there are plenty of hotels in Brasov, I highly recommend staying in a pensiunea (guesthouse) on the city outskirts or in a nearby town if you’re travelling on a budget. One place you should definitely check out is Zarnesti, a quiet town at the entrance of Piatra Craiului National Park. Zarnesti is less than an hour’s drive from Brasov, yet it offers a break from busy tourist spots in Transylvania.
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