Brasov is easily one of the most beautiful cities in Romania, and it’s ideally located only 2 hours away from Bucharest. While it would also make for a perfect day trip outside of Bucharest, there are plenty of things to do in Brasov that will keep you here for longer.
While I would always stop in Sinaia, in the past few years I discovered Brasov and have fallen in love with the city and its vibe. No matter how often I go back there, I never get bored. I like testing out new hotels with pretty views, trying restaurants, and cafes, but also simply walking along the colorful cobbler stone streets.
Even a longer stay in Brasov would be a good idea since from there you can go on so many day trips and explore castles, citadels, nature, and much more.
But if you only have 2 or 3 days in the city and don’t know what to do in Brasov, here is my complete guide!
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How to get to Brasov
Getting to Brasov is easy from Bucharest, no matter if you choose to rent a car and drive there, get a private transfer, or go there by train.
By car, take the highway to Ploiesti, and from there drive on DN1 on Prahova Valley all the way to Brasov. The driving time is around 2.5 hours, depending on the day of the week and traffic. If you can, I strongly suggest going during the week and avoiding Fridays and Saturdays as much as possible.
My go-to car rental company is always Discover Cars. It is a great aggregator that will help you find and book the best option for renting a car during your trip, helping you save up to 70% on your car rental. They have a pretty good cancellation policy that would give you options in case your flight or travel plans change. You will most probably need a car to get to most of these places, especially if you want to keep a schedule. Get your best offers here!
If you don’t feel comfortable about driving in Romania (it can be a bit hectic), then book a private transfer from Bucharest to Brasov and back. You will get your private driver at an affordable rate, and you won’t have to worry about itinerary, finding a parking space, and everything in between. See more here!
If you would rather go there by train, I encourage you to book your tickets in advance. There are 2 private companies that operate trains from Bucharest to Brasov at very affordable prices.
RegioTrans and Softrans are your go-to companies for fast, affordable, and comfortable trains. You can buy the ticket at the train station, or you can get it online (advisable especially during the peak season or during weekends). The train ride takes roughly 2 hours, and a one-way ticket costs less than 10 EUR.
If you don’t have too much time on your hands, you can always go on an organized day tour from Bucharest to Brasov. It’s a full-day tour, you don’t have to worry about getting there, you will have a guide to help you choose the best things to do, but you will also have some free time to explore.
How to get around Brasov
The city, especially its old part, is relatively small so you will find it easy to simply walk around. However, from the train station or if you want to go to Poiana Brasov, you will want to use the public transportation system.
Taxies are available around town and come at affordable prices, but the city buses link some of the most important parts of the city. You can buy a ticket from the ticket kiosk in front of the train station, or in some of the bus stops.
Bus number 4 will take you from the train station to the Old Town, and the price for a one-way ticket is 2.5 RON.
Where to stay in Brasov
As previously mentioned, in the past 2-3 years I went back to Brasov as often as I could and I have tried and tested a few of its most beautiful hotels.
I love hotels with a good location, beautiful interior, and comfortable rooms, but also a terrace or a balcony with a view. And Brasov has a few great hotel options I would always recommend and go back to.
SCHUSTER Boarding House
Conveniently set in the heart of Brasov’s Old Town, this boutique hotel will place you steps away from the popular “Rope Street”. I loved the interior design, the comfortable beds, the small windows offering a glimpse of Tampa Mountain, and also the handmade cookies set on our beds at check-in.
The hotel’s lobby and reception are nice as well, but the rooftop terrace is its most impressive feature. From here, you can get a 360-degree view of Brasov and its surrounding mountains. On certain days, they organize yoga or pilates classes on the rooftop, and they also have a SPA offering massage.
The Upper House
Set at the foot of Tampa Mountain, The Upper House is another small boutique hotel in Brasov. They have different rooms you can choose from, but I strongly encourage you to book the room with the balcony and city view.
You can walk to the city center, and the cable car is minutes away. The breakfast was delicious (but it is not buffet-style) and the rooms have a nice and cozy interior design.
The Pines Boutique Villa
Set a bit further away from the city center, at this hotel you will feel like you are set inside the forest, yet within walking distance to everything you need and want.
The interior design is extremely instagrammable, and you will be close to Poiana Brasov as well. Here you will also find a terrace with a panoramic view, but you can also rent bikes and explore nature.
A short history of Brasov
Many associate Transylvania with Bram Stoker’s famous vampire novel, but the region’s actual history is equally fascinating (and, at times, even bloodier than fiction). Nowhere is the past more present than in the city of Brasov.
By the 12th century, the kings of Hungary—the rulers of Transylvania at the time—realized that in order to catch up with the Western European realms, they had to develop the sparsely populated lands of Transylvania. For this reason, they invited German merchants, craftsmen, and farmers to settle in what became known as the Burzenland. Moreover, in 1211, King Andrew II granted Burzenland to the German crusading order of the Teutonic Knights to defend the kingdom’s borders. Although the Teutons were evicted in 1225 due to their plans to carve out an independent Teutonic realm for themselves (as they later did in the Baltic region and parts of Poland), the city of Kronstadt (The Crown City), founded by them, continued to grow and prosper.
Over the centuries, Kronstadt became one of the leading centers of the Transylvanian Saxons, being run by the local German burgers autonomously, with little interference from the Hungarian kings or Transylvanian princes.
In addition to the German-speaking majority, the city was home to a significant Romanian and Hungarian minority, among others, who called it Brasov or Brasso after the Barsa river.
In the mid-15th century, the Transylvanian Saxons got involved in a power struggle between the Wallachian princes, the rulers of a medieval principality in what is today southern Romania. Unfortunately for the burgers of Brasov, they supported a rival of Vlad the Impaler, also known as Dracula (Little Dragon from the Latin Draco). Following the day’s practices, Vlad pillaged the Burzenland, terrorizing the Saxon inhabitants. To gather support from the lords of Germany, the leaders of Brasov printed a propaganda document depicting Vlad as a blood-thirsty monster, disseminating the image that inspired Bram Stoker’s story centuries later.
In the aftermath of World War I, Transylvania joined the Kingdom of Romania, and Brasov flourished as an economic and cultural center. Given its prosperity and central geographical location within the newly enlarged Kingdom of Romania, the king and some Transylvanian personalities suggested relocating the capital from Bucharest to Brasov.
Unfortunately, at the end of World War II, many of the Transylvanian Saxons were forcibly deported to Siberia and other far-flung corners of the USSR. To add insult to injury, the Romanian communist authorities renamed the city, calling it Stalingrad (Orasul Stalin), and developed it into a major industrial center to mirror its Soviet counterpart. While the town reverted to its Romanian name of Brasov in 1960, the few Saxons that returned from captivity eventually immigrated to West Germany in the 80s and early 90s. Today, only a fraction of the once numerous population of Transylvanian Saxons remain.
Over the last decades, since Romania became democratic and joined the EU, Brasov went through an economic and cultural revival, most of its historic buildings renovated and ready to transpose its visitors to a time when Germans called Burzenland their ancestral home.
What to do in Brasov: the best things to see in Brasov
If you have decided to give Brasov a chance, and you have 2 or more days to explore the old Saxon town, here are some of the best things to do in Brasov.
The Black Church
Maybe one of the most well-known attractions in Brasov, the Black Church sits at the center of the Old Town and is one of the most important gothic-style churches in Romania.
Originally built as a Roman Catholic Church in the 14th century, the impressive gothic-style building became the center of Lutheran worship after the Protestant Reformation. The initial workers were of Bulgarian origin, and their descendants stayed on to form the basis of the later Bulgarian community in Brasov.
After it was damaged by fire in 1689, the local leaders brought in master masons from the Prussian city of Danzig (today Gdansk, Poland) to repair it. They added a series of baroque-style elements to the church.
Contrary to popular belief, the dark appearance of the church is not the result of the 1689 fire, but it occurred in the 19th century due to air pollution. Thus, the name Black Church appeared in historical documents only in the last century or so.
Book your ticket for “Brasov by Night + Black Church Fast Track” and save on a guided walking tour + fast track tickets to the Black Church!
Commissioned by the Tailors’ Guild in 1559, Catherine’s Gate is Brasov’s only surviving medieval gate. It is named after the ancient Monastery of St. Catherine, the one around which the later city of Kronstadt was built.
The four corner turrets of the gate, seen in other Transylvanian cities as well, symbolize the town’s autonomy and its right to decide on capital punishment (the so-called Right of the Sword).
At present, the gate hosts a museum.
The Council Square
One of the iconic places of Brasov, the Council Square, was used as a market and meeting place as early as 1354. During medieval times, the square hosted merchants from all over the region and beyond, bustling with goods from far away lands—exotic oriental silks and spices, tools and machinery from the Holy Roman Empire, and wine from Italy.
The plaza also hosted most of the significant public events of the time, including executions and witch trials. One particularly humiliating punishment based on today’s standards was putting someone into the pillory. The offender’s head and hands were secured into a wooden frame so they would stand in the public square for hours or days while being tormented by their fellow citizens. They were spat on, thrown rotten vegetables at, or had been verbally reprimanded for their crimes.
Today’s visitors could rest in one of the elegant coffee shops while admiring the 18th and 19th-century architecture surrounding the plaza.
The Weaver’s Bastion
Commissioned by the Weaver’s Guild, the bastion is one of the original guard towers to survive to this day. Apart from its imposing exterior, the tower hosts a small but interesting museum. It contains several medieval guns, impressive weapons decorated with Arabic symbols used by the Turks against the Christian defenders, and a series of old photographs of other guard towers demolished since.
But the most impressive exhibit is a large maquette of the city of Brasov as it looked in the year 1600 made for the 1896 Millenium Exhibition in Budapest, celebrating 1000 years since the Hungarians migrated to Pannonia. When the former communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu saw the maquette in 1964, he asked for the addition of the Schei district as it had been in 1850.
The Small Fortress (Cetatuia)
North of the city center and its defensive walls, the burgers built a smaller fortress to guard against incoming invaders on Martin’s Hill (Martinsberg in German, Dealul Strajii / Guardian’s Hill in Romanian).
In 1699, when the Treaty of Karlowitz took the autonomous Transylvania from the Ottoman Empire and awarded it to the Austrians, the inhabitants of Brasov rebelled. The Protestant Transylvanian Saxons were more comfortable under the religiously tolerant Turks than the militantly Roman Catholic Austrians. As a result, the Austrians defeated the rebellion, executed the Saxon leaders, and confiscated the Small Fortress, using it to garrison Imperial troops.
A century later, the Austrians offered to sell the fortress back to the city of Brasov, but the burgers weren’t interested. So the Habsburgs used it to hold prisoners of war during the Russian-Austrian-Turkish war of 1787-1792.
During the 1848 Revolution, a group of Hungarian revolutionaries led by a Polish officer, Jan Szydlowski, were besieged in the fortress by the Rusian army called in by the Austrians to restore order. Having not been involved in the revolutionary struggle, the citizens of Brasov gathered in front of the city’s defensive walls to gawk at the battle unfolding at the Small Fortress. The fun was not to last as a stray cannon projectile hit next to the gathered spectators.
The Small Fortress can be visited by tourists every day from 09.00 to 19.00.
The Neolog Synagogue
The first documented Jewish inhabitants settled in Brasov in 1807 with approval from the City Council. However, they could be employed only in workplaces undesired by the Saxons.
In the following century, the Jewish community has grown from a few hundred inhabitants to over 6000 by 1940.
Although there were no mass deportations of Jews from Brasov during the Second World War, many immigrated to Israel after the war concluded.
In 1877 the community split into Orthodox Jews and Neolog Jews, each of the factions building its own synagogue. Thus, the Neolog Synagogue was built in 1899-1901 in the Mudejar style originating from Moorish Spain.
The Neolog Synagogue is used as a place of worship to this day and was added to the historical monuments list in 2015.
The White Tower and the Black Tower
Built-in the second half of the 15th century, the White Tower used to be the highest observation point in the city of Brasov.
The White Tower’s sister building, the Black Tower, was erected during the same period, and it was one of the four defensive towers of Brasov.
Both monuments can be visited as they each host a small museum.
The Rope Street
The 3rd narrowest street in Europe, this 80 meters long street has a width that varies between 1.11 m and 1.35 m.
The street was first mentioned in a document dating from the 17th century, and it was initially built as a shortcut for firemen.
Today, Rope Street is one of the most popular attractions in Brasov, and one shouldn’t miss it.
Go for a stroll at the foot of Tampa Mountain
No matter the season, this is a nice place for a stroll in nature. You will be close to the city but in nature.
Along the way, you will admire some of the old citadel’s towers, and the city from above, but you will find also the starting point for a few hikes, and also the Tampa cable car.
The mountain with the Hollywood-like sign, guarding the city of Brasov, will offer you also one of the best views in the city.
The cable car will take you to the top in less than 10 minutes, weather allowing it. From there, walk for 5 minutes to 2 of the best viewpoints.
The First Romanian School Museum
Hosted inside the St. Nicholas Church, the museum showcases relics of the Romanian language, from its first printing press to the first bible written in Romanian.
Day trips from Brasov
When you choose to stay in Brasov, you will have plenty of things to do outside of the city as well. The city is the perfect starting point for many of the Transylvanian beauties, from medieval citadel towns, castles, and nature reserves, to some of the other cities that were once part of the Zieben Burgers.
A short drive from Brasov, the Rasnov Fortress is a medieval fortification built by the Teutonic Knights in the early 13th century. Although the village at the foot of the fortress was raised several times by Tatar, Turkish and Wallachian armies, the citadel was conquered only once, in 1612 by the armies of the Transylvanian Prince, Gabriel Bathory.
According to the legend, during one particularly long siege by the Turkish armies, two Muslim prisoners were promised their freedom if they could dig water well within the walls of Rasnov Fortress. It took the unfortunate couple 17 years to excavate the 143 meters deep well but, untrue to their words, the defenders executed the Turkish prisoners nonetheless. The infamous well can still be seen today in the center of the remains of Rasnov Fortress.
Link it together with Bran Castle (Dracula’s Castle) and you have the perfect day trip.
Known in popular culture as “Dracula’s Castle,” the medieval fortress from Bran inspired the Holywoodian depictions of Count Dracula’s residence. Despite the 20th-century narrative, Bram Stoker never visited and probably wasn’t even aware of its existence.
Nonetheless, built by the Brasov Saxons to guard their southern border, Bran Castle would have been a highly sought-after piece of real estate in the eyes of any self-respecting vampire.
As it turns out, its engaging architectural style appealed to more gentle souls as well—during the 1920s, Bran Castle was the favorite residence of Marie, the last Queen of Romania.
Pestera and Magura are some of the most picturesque natural areas in the Carpathian Mountains. These areas have kept their uniqueness and traditional vibe, and they will inspire peace and tranquility.
Another famous Saxon town from Transylvania is Sighisoara, a two-hour drive from Brasov. Its medieval fortified city is a UNESCO World Heritage site worth a day trip or even an overnight stay.
What makes it unique in the region is that it is still a live city— people reside and work in the ancient buildings to this day.
Go on a day trip to Sibiu – Sibiu, or Hermannstadt as its Saxon founders called it, was one of the leading Transylvanian cities together with Kronstadt (Brasov).
Its city center is a UNESCO World Heritage site showcasing Transylvanian Saxon architecture. In recognition of its beautiful old town and vibrant socio-cultural life, Sibiu was designated the European Capital of Culture in 2007. The food is also good, so in 2019 Sibiu was named a European Region of Gastronomy.
As for its people, the EU leaders had the chance to sample the local’s hospitality during the 2019 EU Leader’s Summit—the images of Chancellor Merkel and Commission President Junker being unexpectedly hugged by passersby in Sibiu’s main square made global news at the time.
Read more about the Sibiu Christmas Market and see why the city is so popular
Where to eat in Brasov
Even for us, traveling to the mountains means eating some traditional Romanian food. And Brasov has plenty of restaurants offering Transylvanian dishes, cooked in a traditional way.
Don’t say no to a portion of papanasi, gulyas, or bulz – you will love it!
Here are a few of my favorite restaurants in Brasov:
- Sergiana Restaurant in Council’s Square
- La Ceaun Restaurant
- Ursul Carpatin (Carpathian Bear) Restaurant
- Sub Tampa Restaurant
If you want a good coffee in the morning, with pleasant surroundings and ambiance, my go-to place is the CH9 Specialty Coffee right next to the Black Church. Next door, you will find a nice souvenir shop with plenty of handmade products.
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