Romania: An Overview
While Romania is still considered an off the beaten track destination by some travellers, it’s definitely a country worth making the effort for. With the stunning Carpathian mountains, mediaeval castles, abundant folk museums, and the ongoing notoriety of Transylvania in the popular imagination, there’s so many things to see and do in this historic and diverse country: and that’s before you even visit the dynamic capital of Bucharest. While these days Romania is a fairly open, safe, and friendly country, as with all overseas travel, it pays to buy your travel insurance in advance. That way, you’ll have the peace of mind that you’re covered for any eventuality.
Check out the world’s second largest building, here in the Romanian capital (the only one bigger is the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.). The Palace of Parliament was built in the fittingly Orwellian year of 1984 by notorious dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu, and it’s still unfinished. Book in advance for a tour of some of the Palace’s 3000 rooms and 330,000 square metres.
If your tastes lean more towards the sacred than the profane, however, you should check out the gorgeous Stavropoleos Church, Bucharest’s most popular attraction. When it comes to free activities, Bucharest lends itself to self-guided walking tours of its communist architecture, and when you’re tired, you can easily stop off in Herastrau Park for some people watching, or perhaps a picnic. This large municipal park, Bucharest’s finest, contains cafes and restaurants- even bars- and is the perfect place for a coffee on a sunny afternoon.
Transylvania is, understandably, the other big draw for travellers to Romania. While there are plenty of Halloween offerings for creepy castle stays in this gorgeous part of the country, we think that there’s more to the region than just Dracula. Stay at the ski resort of Poiana Braşov – you’ll be in good company as both Jude Law and Nicole Kidman have stayed here- and its gentle slopes are perfect for beginners. In the summer months, it’s also popular with hikers. As this whole region is mountainous, it’s the perfect destination for outdoorsy types who like to mix their vigorous activity with the possibility of seeing or visiting beautiful mediaeval architecture and the atmospheric castles for which the region is known.
For a real Transylvanian castle, you won’t do much better than the almost other-worldly Peleş Castle. Colonel Gaddafi, Richard Nixon and Yasser Arafat all stayed here as guests of Nicolae Ceauşescu in the 1980s. Based in the pretty town of Sinaia, the 40-minute castle tours of this opulent construction are definitely worth a go.
If you go to Braşov, take a hike up Mt Tâmpa (or the cable car, if you prefer), and enjoy a drink or a light meal at the charmingly retro communist-era dining room at the summit of the mountain. Whatever your plans for your stay in this stunning region, don’t forget your camera: the scenery is unarguably fantastic.