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December 2018, Brașov – Romania
It’s 8 AM on a frozen Friday morning. We’re on holiday and tomorrow is the 1st of December, the national day of Romania. Still under the blanket, one eye closed and half dreaming, I can already picture a cozy day spent in bed, watching movies, with coffee aroma spreading all over the kitchen.
Oh nooo…that lazy weekend will have to wait. We’re going castle hunting in Transylvania!
Since picturesque Brașov is strategically placed on the edge of Transylvania region, it is the perfect base camp for a short getaway from Bucharest.
Get ready to save lots of pinpoints on the map. Here are the top day trips you can start from Brașov, Romania.
Cheia, Prahova County
Not that I spent my childhood and all my summer holidays here and i might be subjective, but Cheia is a beautiful place to make a stop on your way to Brașov. It’s a not-so-crowded mountain resort, often overlooked by tourists, where you can go hiking or just have a walk in the woods. Have a look around and take a gulp of fresh air: Ciucaş Mountain with its 1954 m peak and Zăganu Mountain surround the area.
1 day packed itinerary in Brașov
Looking for a parking place in the heart of Brașov is quite a challenge, but we find a spot to squeeze the car and immediately go exploring.
Make your way up to Straja hill Fortress (Cetățuia de pe Strajă), where you’ll have a first panoramical view of the city.
Cross the Council Square (Piața Sfatului), pass by the Black Church and climb to the White Tower.
Walk on one of the narrowest streets in Europe, Strada Sforii, initially used as an access-route by firefighters.
Enter through Catherine’s Gate (Poarta Ecaterinei).
Then walk some more, and you’re on the grounds of the 16th-century church of St. Nicholas, place of the First Romanian School!
If there is still some energy left, take the cable car up on mount Tâmpa to end the evening in style.
By the end of the day, all we want is a warm place and food. Lots of food. 🙂
Bran: Bran Castle, Brașov County
On the second day, a trip from Brașov to Bran seems like a good reason to put the car into action.
Bran is a mountain village in the southern Transylvania, popular for its medieval castle. Maybe you heard of Dracula? There it is, the Castle resembling to Dracula’s home in Bram Stoker’s novel.
The novel tells the story of a vampire count’s attempt to move from Transylvania to England so that he may find new blood and spread the undead curse. He is named Dracula in the book. The only similarity with Romania is that there was once a Romanian ruler in the 15th century, infamous for his cruelty, named Vlad Dracul. Vlad used to punish his enemies by impaling them. But what’s the connection with Dracula? You guessed right, none. Historians firmly believe that Vlad Dracul never set foot in Bran Castle, and Bram Stoker never visited Romania.
Built on the site of a Teutonic Knights stronghold dating from 1212, the castle was first documented in an act issued by Louis I of Hungary in 1377, giving the Saxons of Kronstadt the privilege to build the Citadel.
Queen Marie of Romania restored it after receiving it from the residents of Brașov County in the 1920s.
The queen really managed to turn the austere fortress into a genuine royal court, as you’ll see when you visit the Bran Castle.
Fairytale place – found. Christmas mood – on! 🙂
Râșnov: Râșnov Citadel, Brașov County
Still on the road, we head straight to Râșnov.
The Citadel is considered to be built between 1211 and 1225, during the rule of the Teutonic Knights in Burzenland, as part of a defence system for the Transylvanian villages exposed to invasions. People of Râșnov and the nearby villages turned the fortification into their long-term place of residence in times of danger.
As we get to the top of the hill, from the highest point of the Citadel, we are amazed by the most beautiful mountain scenery we’ve seen in a while.
Prejmer: Prejmer Fortified Church, Brașov County
What do you know, when we arrive in Prejmer it seems we’re the only people here, except for the locals. Few tourists know about the Fortified Church, declared UNESCO World Heritage Site for a good reason. We take a coffee to go, and have the whole grounds by ourselves for exploring.
The church was founded by the Germanic Teutonic Knights, and then was eventually taken over by the Transylvanian Saxon community and finished in 1240. The 270 rooms could offer shelter to more than 1500 villagers in case of attack.
Sinaia: Peleș & Pelișor Castles, Prahova County
We cannot return to Bucharest without a short stop in Sinaia. The enchantment of Peleș Castle is simply too strong to resist.
Commissioned by King Carol I in 1873 and completed in 1883, the new-Renaissance style castle served as the summer residence of the royal family until 1947. Its 160 rooms are adorned with the finest examples of European art, Murano crystal chandeliers, German stained-glass windows and Cordoba leather-covered walls. The Pelișor castle, part of the Peleș complex, was also designed to function as a royal residence. It’s the place where the royal offspring spent their childhood.
Off we go. After such a castle hunt, that cozy day at home seems like a promise for tomorrow.
Food recommendations in Brașov
- La Birou Bistro & Jamaica Pub for breakfast
- La Ceaun for lunch and dinner
Happy travels and stay safe!