Brasov is undoubtedly the most popular city in Transylvania. With an amazing old town, fantastic parks, and a lively cultural scene, it would be easy to spend all of your time simply taking in the city. While this would be a perfectly enjoyable way to spend a few days, take our advice and do what we did – add a couple extra days to your stay and get out and see what else the region has to offer.
As you would expect in a bustling city like Brasov, easy and frequent public transport abounds and makes getting to some of the surrounding gems very easy. We met up with our friends Talon and Tigger from 1dad1kid and, after they took time out to give us a great intro to the sights and tastes of the city, set off to see a couple of Romania’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Castelul Peleș is one of the most visited sites in all of Romania, and one of the most beautiful castles in all of Europe. Built by King Carol I in the beautiful mountain town of Sinaia, the castle is set in an absolutely stunning location. Set in a small clearing in a forest, the castle feels like a true retreat from the hustle and bustle of nearby Brasov or Bucharest.
The castle (it’s really a palace – it’s just called a castle) is truly a work of art. Although we were unable to go inside as it is closed in November, we were absolutely stunned by the exterior of the building. Inaugurated in 1883 and built in a neo-rennaisance style, the exterior is a combination of ornate woodwork and beautifully sculpted stone. To top it all off, an exquisitely maintained garden complete with an an amazing number of statues greets visitors in front of the castle. If that’s not enough for you, right next door is Pelisor Castle (again, not really a castle, but more of a royal chateau), another gorgeous building complete with coloured tile roof.
We took the train from Brasov – probably the easiest option. Prices and times differ depending on the type of train (from 53 mins and 22 RON for an ICN train to 71 mins and 10 RON on a Regio train), and the ride is very scenic. There are a number of other interesting buildings and parks in Sinaia, more than enough to keep you busy for the day. For more info on the Peles Castle, you can check out their website.
Prejmer Fortified Church
Fortified churches can be found throughout both Romania and the rest of Eastern Europe, but one of the best preserved examples can be found just 16 kilometers from Brasov in the small city of Prejmer. This particular fortified church, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was originally built by the Teutonic Knights in the early 13th and is a true engineering marvel.
With walls reaching 40 feet in height and 10 feet in thickness, and enough food and accommodation to proved the villagers safe refuge for weeks, the site is truly amazing to experience. Attacked over 50 times and only overrun once, the fortified church provided safety for the villagers in a very tumultuous period. At the center is the Early Gothic Church of the Holy Cross, built in the traditional shape of a cross. The church itself is very simple inside, but a stunning triptych behind the altar dating back to 1450 is still present.
It was an interesting experience to poke our heads in the different rooms built into the walls and imagine families huddled up inside while the church was under attack.
The easiest option to get to Prejmer is via train. Both state-run and independent trains run to Prejmer and tickets cost about 7 RON. The ride takes approximately 20 minutes. From the station take a right and head down the main street – a 10 minute walk will take you to the church.
Perhaps the most well-known daytrip from Brasov is a trip to Rasnov Citadel. Located just 16km from Brasov, Rasnov is a rapidly growing small town with a number of sites. The most obvious and well-know of these is Rasnov Citadel. Perched high up on the mountaintop, the Citadel is an imposing site. Originally constructed in the early 13th century, the Citadel has provided sanctuary for many different generations of people from the vicinity and was conquered only once (ironically by the same person, Gabriel Bathory, that conquered Prejmer).
It is a long hike up to the actual Citadel itself, made a bit easier by a tractor-pulled train that takes you a bit of the way. The Citadel is actually in fairly good shape considering its age, and much reconstruction has taken place. Many buildings are intact and it’s great fun to walk (and climb) around the site. The views from the top are breathtaking, especially at sunset!
Again, we took the train to Rasnov. This is the easiest option as the bus doesn’t leave from Brasov’s main station. THe train is run by an independent train company and the schedule can be found here. Tickets cost 4 RON and the ride takes just over 20 minutes. The ticket counter immediately on your left as you enter the Brasov station is the one you want to go to!