Surrounded by the southern Carpathian mountains and nestled in the heart of Transylvania, Brasov is the place where Romanians go when they want a holiday. Yes the main street could be considered quite ‘touristy’, with bars and restaurants as far as the eye can see. But you will find a nice mix of locals and foreigners in this historic little town. Summer or Winter – Brasov has something to offer everyone.
We were there for a couple of very rainy days to explore this beautiful part of Romania – so here’s our guide to Things to do in Brasov (when it’s a little bit wet).
There’s always time for food – especially an extended lunch with a few local wines if it’s wet outside. Romanian food is quite similar throughout the country, but each place likes to put it’s own personal flair on these traditional favourites.
Romanian dishes you must try:
Minced meat with rice, wrapped in either pickled cabbage leaves or vine leaves, it’s often served with a few slices of ham or bacon and a nice big helping of polenta
Grilled minced meat rolls which in Romanian means “small ones”. You can’t visit Romania without trying these – the Romanians will never forgive you!
and Papanasi – ohhhhh how I love papanasi
We visited Hanul Domnesc – which is actually out of town a little – but taxis are cheap and it’s worth a few dollars because their set lunch of 3 courses works out at about $5USD (20 lei) and you pretty much can’t go wrong no matter what you order!
These are the traditional foods of Romania, but if you happen to go out for a few too many drinks one night and find yourself a bit hungover – then make sure you visit Ando’s to ease your hangover woes.
Ando’s was recommended to us by fellow travel blogger Rose from The Brave Dame, and she did not steer us wrong. Because how could a chicken schnitzel burger possibly be a bad thing? I’m not one for chicken schnitzel normally, but I have to admit, whatever they do to make it yum – they do it very well!
Fun – Mind Puzzle
Trapped in a room. No obvious way to escape. You need to use all of your brain power to solve the puzzles and get out before the timer runs out.
Yes it’s an escape room – and we love them! Look up “things to do” in any city in Europe on trip advisor and escape rooms are usually the top activities listed. We are not the only fans of escape rooms – the craze is sweeping the world.
In Brasov, we went along to Mind Puzzle – and with a team of 4 we managed to escape just in the nick of time. Phew! With that clock ticking you can really feel the pressure to escape and you only have 60 minutes! But we were successful – this time. We have been told that shortly after we visited Mind Puzzle they did a complete change over of games. So I guess we will just have to go back again and see if we can still emerge triumphantly.
Visiting Romania – Things to do in Brasov (on a not so rainy day)
If you are in Brasov there is one site you MUST visit – the famous Bran Castle, also known as Dracula’s Castle.
The legend of Dracula may be a work of fiction but did you know that the foundations of the story are based on real people and places from Transylvania, Romania.
Bran castle was built in 1377 and operated as a fortress overseeing the toll road that led in and out of Transylvania’s interior. Transylvania is naturally bordered by the Carpathian mountains. This was one of the main defenses they had against repeated invasion attempts by the Ottomans back in the day.
The Word “Dracula” actually translates to “Son of the Devil”. This was a nickname that was attributed to Vlad the Impaler, an all-round nasty fellow and one time guest of Bran castle. Yes, that’s right, even though it’s “Dracula’s castle”, it’s not actually a place where the guy actually lived or anything. When Bram Stoker wrote Dracula he (Stoker) had never even been to Bran castle – he just chose it for his book.
Although the castle might not be what you expect from the book, it’s still a “must see” in Romania. If you are a bit of lover of history and a good tale then you will love Bran Castle – but even more so you will LOVE Peles castle. Peles castle is a bit further away from Brasov, but many tour companies offer both castles on their tours.
I instantly fell in love with Peles castle, and even now it’s my favourite castle in Europe.
Close to the Transylvanian border, Peleș was a summer retreat for the first king of Romania, who happened to be from Germany. The wooded foothills of the Southern Carpathian mountains provided (and still do) a respite from the aggressive summer heat of the capital, Bucharest.
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In 1873 the construction of Peleș castle began. And King Carol I built a modernised and elegant castle in the town of Sinaia, and what’s even more impressive is the fact that he didn’t take a single dollar or Romanian lei from any of the locals in order to build it. It all came from his own pocket. And this place was decked out! Peles was the first European castle to have central heating, electricity and a vacuuming system!
We only took the basic 45 minute tour when we were there, but If I had known how much I would love love love this castle – I would have taken the full castle tour. A tour which goes for around 2 and half hours, but I’ve heard is totally worth it! I just wanted to spend the entire day wandering from stunning room to stunning room, taking in all the history and design.
If you know your European history you might be wondering how this stunning castle managed to survive during the communist reign of Romania, without being pillaged and ruined like so many other buildings during that time – it’s quite a funny story actually (as told to us by our tour guide). Turns out that the communist leader and his family did want to take up residency in Peles castle, but the locals told him the timber was infested with Serpula Lacrymans, and the idea of catching a deadly disease spread by this fungi made them change their minds. And thus the castle remained intact!
Visiting Romania, and in particular, the area of Transylvania is such an amazing and informative experience. The locals are friendly, the scenery is breathtaking and the history is mesmerizing. We can’t wait until we can go back and explore more!
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