Romania’s entry into the European Union in 2007 certainly put the country on the map in terms of tourism as the rest of Europe started to learn about the many diverse attractions the country has to offer. For summer holidays the Black Sea resorts such as Mamaia grew in popularity whilst winter tourism rocketed as skiers began heading for the Romanian mountains. The Carpathian Mountains welcomed outdoor types from all over the continent and the medieval towns of Transylvania saw record numbers of visitors to this fabled region of enormous cultural wealth.
Lying in the heart of the Southern Carpathians, Brasov is one of these towns which can attract visitors all year round thanks to its historic beauty and due to its proximity to the slopes of the country’s top ski resort at Poiana Brasov. Other noteworthy towns within easy reach of Brasov include Sibiu which is a former European Capital of Culture and the amazing UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sighisoara where you will find a perfectly preserved 15th century town. One of the attractions of Sighisoara is the house where Vlad Draculea was born inspiring the creation of the fictional character of Count Dracula in Bram Stoker’s 1897 horror story.
The story of Count Dracula tells of the vampire’s desire to spread the curse of the undead by moving from his castle in Transylvania to England and has led to countless interpretations on television and in the cinema ever since. Thanks to popular imagination the sight synonymous with Transylvania nowadays is Bran Castle which for generations has been known as ‘Dracula’s Castle’ (even though the author never visited Romania). This national monument lies some 30km south-west of Brasov and is the country’s most visited tourist attraction.
Getting to Brasov
The town of Brasov is an ideal base from which to discover this area of Central Romania. It lies approximately 180km to the north of Bucharest and is well connected to the country’s capital. Visitors to the country mostly arrive at Henri Coanda International Airport which lies northwest of Bucharest. The airport is well served by a large number of European airlines including budget operators Ryanair, Blue Air and Wizz Air as well as the Romanian airline TAROM who offer flights from all over the continent.
The most convenient way to travel to Brasov from Bucharest Airport is to pre-book a shuttle transfer before travelling. The 155km drive avoids the worst of the city traffic and takes less than 2½ hours. If you’d prefer to travel by public transport then you can head into Bucharest on the express bus from the airport which stops at ‘Bucuresti Nord’ train station. From here there are frequent trains which run to Brasov. The train station in Brasov is about 3km outside the town centre but is connected by a local bus service.
Short Breaks to Brasov
On any tourist trip to Transylvania you’re bound to visit Bran Castle and really should try to get to Sibiu and Sighisoara. But Brasov itself is home to a wealth of attractions in its own right and is a fine base from which to discover this fascinating region. Central to the old town is the historic Piata Sfatului (Council Square) which is where legend has it that the Pied Piper of Hamlin led the children. The square is surrounded by beautifully preserved medieval buildings including the Old Town Hall, the Merchant’s House and the Orthodox Cathedral. Looking down on the main square is Romania’s main Gothic church, the Biserica Neagra (Black Church), which dates back to 1477 and is named as such due to the damage it suffered after the Great Fire of 1689.
There’s a cable car that travels 400m to the top of Tâmpa Mountain which stands right in the centre of Brasov. The journey only takes about 3 minutes but is well worth it for the great views it offers of the old town and beyond. The mountain is a nature reserve with some rare flora and fauna including birds, butterflies and even bears. A selection of walking paths are also available providing access to Brasov’s former citadel and the Weaver’s tower.
Where to Stay in Brasov
Bella Muzica (Piata Sfatului 19): For sheer convenience and charm this 3-star hotel right in the old town centre takes some beating. The property is housed in a building which is more than 400 years old yet its tasteful conversion into a boutique hotel has successfully maintained its original character.
Kronwell Hotel (Garii Bvd, 7): In contrast the 4-star Kronwell is a very modern hotel which offers exceptional quality at very reasonable rates. It is located just outside the centre near the train station. It’s worth staying there for the spa alone!
Hotel Golden Time (99 Calea Bucuresti): If you don’t mind being a short distance (5 minutes by taxi) outside the town centre then this 4-star place is well worth considering. It has large, modern rooms and a fantastic Lebanese restaurant on site.
Winter in Brasov
Once the summer tourists have gone home the town remains lively as it serves as a centre for winter sports and activities most notably skiing at the Poiana Brasov resort. This resort stands at 1020m and is surrounded by four mountains, the highest of which is Bucegi at 2,505m. It lies just 12km by road from Brasov and is well served by frequent shuttle buses which are provided by many hotels in Brasov. The resort is not only popular with Romanians but also attracts a sizeable number of skiers all over Central Europe. The resort has already hosted the European Youth Olympic Winter Festival and has recently placed a bid to host the 2020 Winter Youth Olympics. Typically the ski season lasts from mid-November until mid-March although snow can fall earlier than that. Most of the slopes are well equipped with snow cannons.