Last Updated on 27th December 2018 by Sophie Nadeau
As our train snaked its way through the Transylvanian landscape, misty mountains loomed overhead. The night was falling swiftly and the air was growing cooler by the minute. We’d left behind the sunny, flat landscape of Wallachia (home to Bucharest), and were on our way to Brasov, a city in the very heart of Transylvania. Here are the very best things to do in Brasov:
I must admit that when I first booked my trip to Brasov, I was purely thinking of the excursion I would take to Bran the following day. I was imagining what Dracula’s Castle would be like and if it would match up to my expectations, though plenty of people warned me that it wouldn’t (spoiler alert: Bran Castle is amazing!).
However, the city of Brasov itself is a place that surprised and enchanted me in equal measure. And it definitely made me wish I’d booked to spend a little longer in this Transylvanian city. So much so, that Brasov is easily one of the most underrated cities in Europe!
Snap a photo of the Brasov Sign
One of the most amusing things we saw during our time in the city, was the ‘Brasov’ sign, made Hollywood Style. This sign sits at the top of the Tampa mountain, towering above the city and can be seen from all over the place. Nearby Rasnov fortress (around twenty minutes by bus), also has a similar sign saying ‘Rasnov’ which can be spied from miles around.
Take the cable car to Tampa Mountain
And while we’re on the subject of Tampa Mountain, way up high, above the charming rooftops of Brasov city, you’ll see the tree-covered mountain. While in the winter this peak is covered in snow, when we visited in mid-autumn, the mountain was covered in pretty autumnal leaves. In the summer months, the cable car offers lush views of the forest and city of Brasov below…
Visit the Biserica Neagră
The large and church in the very centre of the town square is one of Brasov’s most famous attractions and is the largest Gothic church in Eastern Europe. This fact in itself makes it well worth a closer look. Inside the ecclesiastical building, you’ll find high ceilings and Turkish carpets donning the walls of the 14th-century church.
Wander down the narrowest street in Eastern Europe (Strada Sforii)
Of all the best things to do in Brasov, is the attraction I was least expecting to find. For here in Brasov, a few minutes walk from the Council Square, you’ll find the narrowest street in all of Eastern Europe, and one of the narrowest streets in Europe as a whole!
Known locally as the Strada Sforii (literally translated from Romanian as ‘rope street’), this narrow lane measures 53 inches at its widest point, and 44 inches at its narrowest. Mentioned in documents as early as the 17th-century, it’s thought that firemen once used the narrow lane as a corridor to reach parts of the city faster.
Visit the historic centre (and wander around the old town)
Of all the best things to do in Brasov, wandering around the town and seeing where your feet will take you is the easiest way to get to know the city. Admire the architecture and stroll around the vibrant buildings (just make sure you bring your camera along with you!)
For the most part, we were content to wander around Brasov, allowing our feet to take us where we pleased as we let the city reveal itself to us. We were in no rush and even enjoyed a cool glass of white wine overlooking the main town square, Piata Sfatului.
Explore the Piata Sfatului (Council Square)
The main square is where much of the historic places of interest in Brasov are focused and you can find many of Brasov’s iconic attractions here. The town hall, lying in the very middle of the arc-shaped square, dates from the 13th Century and many of the other buildings around have equally rich histories.
From the scene you see today, you would have no clue as to the much more violent past of the Council Square. During the middle ages, this square was used for public trials and executions. Now, the cobbled square and pretty façades are popular among tourists, particularly during the summer months when the city truly comes to life- a far cry from the square’s past.
Visit the White Tower and the Black Tower
Just a short walk up from the old town, you’ll find the both the White Tower and the Black Tower. Set along the ancient city fortifications, which date all the way back to medieval times, you can climb the wooden staircases in both these towers to get incredible views over the city.
Take part in a free walking tour
Throughout Bucharest, Brasov, and other Romanian cities, the organisation ‘Walkabout Free Tours‘ run small walking group tours on a daily basis. Although I sadly didn’t have the opportunity to take part in the Brasov tour (which runs at 15:00 on a daily basis- come rain or shine!)
I joined several of the companies walking tours in Bucharest. I found the walking tours to be one of the best ways to get a feel for the city, as well as learn about local culture and oodles of history. While the tours themselves are free, donations are always appreciated.
Explore the medieval fortifications
One of the best ways to get a feel for Brasov is by circling it via following the medieval fortifications that surround the ancient part of the city. In many cases, parts of the wall date back 600 years and so you’re guaranteed to see at least a little history if you choose to walk along the fortifications!
Highlights of walking around the wall include The Ekaterina Gate (The last standing medieval gate. Constructed in 1559, it displays the Brasov coat of arms and was once one of the only ways to enter Brasov.), and the Brasov citadel Bastions. Of the original eight bastions, only three survive today. Predominantly built in the 15th-Century, these bastions were used for storage in peacetime, and as bastions when the city was at war.
Visit the first Romanian school
Just a short walk from Piata Unirii, you’ll find the first Romanian school. Built in the church grounds of the Saint Nicholas Orthodox church in the district of Schei, the school was opened in the late 1400s. Today, the site is home to a museum containing treasures such as the first Romanian printing press and the first Romanian bible.
Explore (and eat at) Brasov Fortress
Just outside the city centre, on its on little leafy hill, you’ll find Brasov fortress. A defensive building was first built on the hill in 1524 and then subsequently added to throughout the centuries. The fortress has seen various uses throughout its existence, including use as a prison, as a royal residence and as a means of defending Brasov. Today, Brasov fortress contains a restaurant where you can eat and admire the view over the Transylvanian rooftops.
Take a day trip to Bran Castle
Of course, Brasov’s prime location in the heart of Transylvania means that you can easily reach many destinations from here; Rasnov fortress, Peles Castle and Viscri (a fortified church built by the Saxons) are just a few places that spring to mind.
But, by far, the most famous of all day trips from Brasov has got to be Bran Castle, one of the best castles in Europe. Its association with Dracula and impressive nature mean that is is now the most visited site in all of Romania. If possible, head here in the morning during mid-week to avoid the crowds!
Where to stay in Brasov
Although you can visit Brasov as a day trip from the Romanian capital of Bucharest, the city is the kind of place that reveals itself to you over time. And besides, if you want to take day trips to Bran Castle (the Bram Stoker Fort), as well as Rasnov Fortress, and Peles castle (where A Christmas Prince was filmed), then you’ll need several days. Here are the best places to stay in Brasov (based on online reviews and location):
Casa Wagner: One of the best-reviewed accommodations that Brasov has to offer can be found in the form of three-star Casa Wagner. Located in the very heart of the city, a stone’s throw away from some of Brasov’s best attractions, some rooms even offer balconies. Check prices and availability here.
Arce 35 Boutique Hotel: If you’re looking for a place to stay in Brasov with a touch of luxury, then this guest house can be found just steps away from the narrowest street in Eastern Europe, Strada Sforii. Each room comes equipped with a desk, TV, and continental breakfast is served on a daily basis. Check prices and availability here.