Most travelers who actually visit Romania only see the capital, which is a shame because there is so much to see in the rest of the country. For visitors fascinated by legends and folklore, Brasov is the perfect place, since it is where one of the greatest iconic horror characters lived. There are many places and landmarks to discovered around the Romanian countryside, so here are the spots we recommend to first-time travelers.
The Peles Castle, located in Sinaia (about 44 km from Brasov), is our top choice. The castle is considered one of the most well-preserved in all of Europe, housing over a hundred and sixty rooms. Many of the interior and exterior decorations are wooden, adding both warmth and depth to the building. Though located in a rather unknown country of Europe, Peles is a fantastic structure to behold. It also happens to house one of the most valuable painting collections in Europe, with nearly two thousand pieces of art.But what sets it apart from other castles is the fact that every single room is decorated in an entirely different style than the next -Italian Renaissance, Gothic, German Baroque and French Rococo, Moor, and the list goes on and on.
Bran Castle is a Romanian national landmark filled with history. It also was the inspiration for the dwelling of the famous literary character, Count Dracula.
Romanians have taken the legend of the Count under their wing and hold yearlong events honoring Dracula and local myths. These events range from live musical performances, family fairytale fairs, and of course a Halloween event. What parents should know about Bran Castle is that the castle does not include purposefully scary places. As a result, the castle is entirely family friendly to visit. Just recently, the castle held a storyteller’s fair for children where employees dressed in medieval costumes, played games, performed, and retold folkloric stories to visitors.
If travelers have had their fill of castles, then we recommend taking a lovely day trip to the city of Sibiu. Sibiu is a multicultural city that honors and unifies the different cultures ethnicities living there. Those interested in Romanian myths should visit the Liar’s Bridge. Liar’s Bridge connects the lower and upper parts of the medieval city. The urban legend has it that if someone sits on the bridge and tells a lie, the bridge will collapse.
Another site to see is the Council Tower, one of the most famous monuments in Romania. The tower was used to defend the entrance gate into the second precinct. Those interested in religious history should see the Holy Trinity Cathedral, built in the early 1900s in a Byzantine style. The murals and stained glass work are breathtaking and comparable to those found in the main European capitals.
Visitors fascinated with the legend of Dracula should take a day trip to the quaint city of Sighisoara. The city claims to maintain the home where Vlad the Impaler (thought to be the original Dracula) was born. Besides Vlad the Impaler’s house, guests can also venture to the Clock Tower. Here, they can see the entire city of Sighisoara from the top, or explore the Torture and Weapons Museum. There are some churches worth checking out in Sighisoara. One is the Monastery Church, significant as the only church in the area without a bell. The Saxon builders thought that one bell (the one in the nearby Church on a Hill) would be enough for the entire small city.
For the history buffs, we suggest visiting the Rasnov Fortress. Teutonic Knights built Rasnov Fortress as part of a defense system against the Tartars. As a result of the constant onslaught of attacks, Rasnov became more of a dwelling property than a fortress. The fortress, an integral part of Romanian history, is an interesting structure to explore. One can reach the fort via car or by trekking up the steep hill, which might be somewhat unpleasant on hot days.
Zarnesti Bear Sanctuary
Bound to please the entire family is a visit to the Zarnesti Bear Sanctuary. Founded by Cristina Lapis, the sanctuary is located in the Carpathian Mountains and covers over seventy hectares (roughly 173 acres) of oak and hazel forest. It is an interesting and inspirational place to visit. Guests can watch Romanian bears in their natural habitat and learn about the illegal and abusive exploitation of native bears. Potential visitors should call the Romanian Bear Sanctuary office based in Brasov and verify hours of operation. The sanctuary offers group visits, but it is best to call ahead to ensure a spot. This is because the sanctuary is a small place and cannot accommodate many people at once.
Autism Travel Tips:
- Families traveling to Romania, especially to the area around Brasov, should remember that it might not be comparable to a Westernized country or setting. Hence, packing daily necessities that your child with autism needs should be a priority.
- For Peles castle, be aware that there are lots of stairs and parents need to prepare kids for the fact that they cannot touch many of the exhibits.
- While visiting Bran Castle, travelers need to be aware that it is a little hike to get to the castle itself, so dining down at the mini-mall restaurant setting and bringing bottled water is a good idea.
- For Bran Castle, you may want to get an organized tour to hear the stories, depending on your child’s age. Some of the rooms are not that enjoyable for the younger kids.
- To reach the top of Bran Castle, there is an area that visitors have to climb a narrow staircase in the dark, which might frighten some younger kids.
- Sighisoara might be a good place for older kids and history buffs, but younger kids might find it less entertaining. Be aware that, since this is the Romanian countryside, some of the roads are unpaved and parents might want to sit and pack an extra set of clothes in case their kids step in mud.
- We do not recommend Rasnov Fortress for younger children who might not understand its historical and military significance. Getting up to the fortress is quite a hike, and many rooms in the fort are either wholly or partially destroyed, which the younger kid might find boring.
- Be sure to wear closed-toe shoes because of the rough terrain in Rasnov Fortress.
- Do prepare your child how to behave safely around bears in Zarnesti. Though not in direct contact, your child with autism needs to respect their space and not throw any food or objects at the bears. They also cannot stray from the path on which the sanctuary guides lead visitors.
- The tours in Zarnesti are on the hour, so there might be a bit of a wait for which parents need to prepare their kids.