Image credit: fusion-of-horizons
If you’ve binged on Bucharest and feel like you need a break, feast your eyes on our picks for Romanian day trips, just a short drive from the capital. Buckle up, and head Beyond Bucharest.
This charming palace, situated only a short hop and a skip from bustling Bucharest, is a perfect short trip for those looking for a moment of calm away from the capital For architecture, nature and history fans alike, there’s something here for everyone, as long as you have chilling out high on your agenda. Built in a Romanian Renaissance style, the palace has stood for over 300 years, so inevitably has a rich and varied history. Check out the museum and gallery to give you plenty to ponder on your stroll around the landscaped gardens.
Caught somewhere between Venetian and an almost Japanese architectural style, the quiet palace grounds can feel like a throwback to simpler times. There’s a lake to sit by and contemplate life, or a chapel if that’s more to your liking. Just try to avoid unwittingly stumbling into the background of a particularly important photo; the palace gardens are a popular stop off point for newly wedded couples looking for that perfect snap of their big day.
There can be no question that King Carol I of Romania had sound architectural taste. There can be no other explanation for just how impressive this fairy tale castle came to be. Well, that and the architect, Johannes Schultz. Commissioned in the early 1870s and situated on a sloping mountainside, this most regal of Romanian abodes is pure Disney. If any building could be described as looking ‘romantic’, we think we’ve found it.
King Carol I obviously held it in great esteem. He’s quoted as referring to his castle-cum-palace as the ‘cradle of the dynasty, the cradle of the nation’. Quite the grandiose claim, but when his namesake Carol II was born in the palace in 1893, the prophecy looked to be coming true. Indeed, it’s still owned by Michael I of Romania, and leased to the Romanian government. With 170 rooms including 30 ballrooms, collections of arms and armour, oriental rugs and a museum on site, there’s plenty to see and explore – take one of the guided tours and learn all about the history of this majesty in the mountains.
2 hours 5 minutes
Chilled out, bohemian and thoroughly laid back, Brasov is the perfect place to idle away a day in central Romania. With a pleasant mix of old Transylvania and the more modern trappings of life, it’s packed with things to do and see both in the city and nearby. Churches, fortresses and castles, which seem to pepper the country liberally, are abundant in the area, while the city’s popularity with tourists means you won’t have to walk too far before chancing on a restaurant well worth your attention.
Brasov also caters for those with an interest in more active pursuits, or perhaps those who have taken advantage of the restaurants and bars the city has to offer. Skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer are recommended, with the view from Tâmpa Mountain that overlooks the city a treat for those willing to undertake the trek. From up on high, you can ponder the place that gave birth to the Romanian national anthem, Deșteaptă-te, române! (Awaken thee, Romanian!) Fortifying stuff.
2 hours 55 minutes
Say what you like about the merits of Top Gear, but its former presenter Jeremy Clarkson knows a good road when he sees one. Famously calling the Transfăgărășan the ‘best road in the world’ back in 2009, the route that twists and turns over 50 miles through challenging terrain is an absolute driver’s delight, and often a test of your skill too. Known in some circles as ‘Ceaușescu’s Folly’, it was built to allow quick military access across the mountains, and while often compared in style and scope to the Stelvio Pass in Italy, where that particular stretch of road seems to blend into the landscape, the Transfăgărășan simply blasts its way through, up, down and around its chosen location.
Often, we’ll highlight or direct you towards a specific place, town or city but here, the journey is its own reward. A road to be driven with care and consideration, this isn’t a cruise down Route 66 or a tear along the autobahn – sitting behind a shepherd guiding his flock to pastures new isn’t a rare occurrence, but your patience will pay off. After all, slowing to a leisurely pace will allow you and your fellow travellers the chance to take in the sheer natural beauty of the Carpathian’s. Snow, sun, winding roads and wildlife combine to stunning effect along this remarkable Romanian road.
2 hours 45 minutes
Located by the Black Sea, where Romania boasts over 150 miles of coastline, Constanta is the oldest city in Romania to still be populated. Founded around 600 BC, it’s instantly clear why civilisations decided there would be worse places to call home. With warm, dry summers, relatively cool winters, gentle sea breezes and a coastline that was key to commerce, opportunities to live life and enjoy it abounded.
Depending on whether you want a quiet time or to enjoy some hustle and bustle, July and August are the obvious months to visit, when the resort is at its most populous. It’s a classic summer paradise, with long, lazy days on the beautiful white sands (which are rare for this area of the world) and potentially even longer nights, with the resorts coming alive under cover of darkness. The abandoned old casino that sits on the promenade gleams white in the sunshine, and is well worth a visit. Whilst not in the prime condition of yesteryear, it still radiates charm. Photographers note; its classic art nouveau stylings offer those wielding cameras some picture-perfect opportunities.
2 hours 25 minutes