Travel Guide // Brasov, ROMANIA

october 15, 2017

You may not spot Dracula in this Transylvanian cultural center, but you will find all the cute details of a small, European town: cobbled streets, traditional food, folk music, and a medieval church. Situated near Bran Castle (Dracula’s alleged home), I spent a couple of days in Brasov enjoying the mountains, drinking goblets of the dry feteasca neagra wine, and soaking in the charms of the well-preserved Old Town.

sEE // Do

  • Hike Tampa Mountain. You can take a cable car up, but it's a lovely, low-incline hike. It takes about an hour each way and the views on top are stunning. You pop off the hiking trail right next to the famous Hollywood-esque Brasov sign. Apparently there's also a restaurant up there, but I didn't do much exploring aside from checking out the view.

 

  • Strut around Old Town and snap some pics of the cute little buildings. I went in September and the cafes were lively with people. Music performers and ice cream carts await at every corner.

 

  • Stop in to the Black Church - the oldest Gothic church in Romanian, named for the dark soot that lingers on the exterior walls from a 17th century fire.

  • Spend a half day visiting Dracula’s castle in Bran. I was on the fence about going to Bran, as I was told it was super touristy and crowded. In the end I decided to go. The castle was definitely cool to see, while the town of Bran is pretty simple. There's a nice little market for souvenirs and a few restaurants. I actually didn't go inside the castle - a friend maintained that it wasn't that impressive on the inside. Also, there was a huge line. And I'm an impatient gal. Instead I trekked up to the Club Villa Bran (15 minutes from the bus station), a resort which houses a restaurant featuring gorgeous views of both the castle and the surrounding mountains.


Getting to Bran: You can take a bus from Brasov for about $1.50 from this bus station, which is about 30 minutes walk from the Old Town. The bus takes about 45-50 minutes and departs every half hour or so. You can also get an Uber, which is about $15-20 and takes 35-45 minutes.

Eat // Drink

I was incredibly satisfied with all I ingested and imbibed while in Brasov. The Transylvanians seem to be truly proud of their food and drinks. I found this unlike many other tourist destinations elsewhere in Europe, where the quality of food is often directly proportionate to your distance from major tourist attractions. In Brasov, you can enjoy a fantastic meal at an amazing price in the center of Old Town, beside the Black Church, or overlooking the city.

 

  • Terroirs Boutique du Vin is everything you want from a wine bar, minus the carte du vin (menu). The incredibly knowledgeable staff serves as the wine list, making suggestions based off your taste preferences or food pairings. Speaking of food, it's international, with quality ingredients. They have traditional cheese and charcuterie platters, but also burgers and hummus, etc.

 

  • Bistro de l'Arte has very typical and cute medieval European architecture. Come here for breakfast - I had the best eggs benedict of my life at the cost of roughly $4 usd. Their cocktail menu also looked imaginative and refreshing - not what I expected from a tavern-esque establishment in the cradle of the Carpathian Mountains.

 

  • Hof Cafe is a modern and warmly-lit coffee shop by day, turned cocktail bar after hours. Stop in for a cappuccino to start your day and come back for a cocktail after sightseeing.

 

  • Bella Muzica is the perfect place for a romantic dinner. It’s also the place to order steak - countless cuts of steaming meat wafted past my table as they cooked up on iron serving platters. Food is traditionally Romanian, with Mexican influences... neat, huh? The setting is cozy, in what reminded me of an underground wine cave. The building dates back to the 16th century.

 

  • Luther is a great place to stop in for a coffee or cocktail. I was drawn to the interesting interior, which has colorful antiquated furnishings. It’s located in the center square of Old Town.

 

  • Grab a Kürtőskalács - don’t worry if you can’t pronounce the name of this giant pastry - you will find these delish, cylindrical, spit cakes on every corner. You won’t need to look for a sign. First you’ll smell the caramelized sugar. Follow this sweet scent to one of the numerous tented wagons situated throughout Old Town.

Shop // Splurge

  • Pebs Concept is a special little lifestyle and gifty store with very thoughtful items. They carry jewelry, pins, bags, cards, and other small  merchandise.

 

  • The quaint and cozy vibe of Brasov makes it tempting to spend your days seated at a park bench engrossed in a novel. Thankfully there are several book stores in town. Librăria Humanitas has an impressive selection of books in English in a range of topics. Carturesti (sister of the gorgeous 4-level store in Bucharest) also has a selection of books in English, along with cute gifty items and knick-knacks.

 

  • Souvenir shops with traditional Romanian artifacts line the streets in Brasov and dot the markets in Bran - just make sure to talk to the shop owner and do your research to be sure your are purchasing authentic goods.


I suggest picking up some Horezu Ceramics (you can typically ensure authenticity, as these often have a signature painted on the design of the town dishes were made in)  or a hand-embroidered peasant blouse (only purchase these from a reputable shop - I noticed some near Bran castle that were imported from Mexico).

Getting There // gETTING aROUND

Brasov is accessible by the national train network. It is about a 3 hour ride from the Northern Station in Bucharest, yet the train systems can be quite confusing. I’ve had negative experiences ¾ of the time I’ve taken it (exhibit a). Another option is BlaBla Car - a rideshare service, similar to Uber, but for longer distances. Bonus: it’susually cheaper than the train!