Located in the famous Transylvania, at the foot of Tampa Mountain, Brasov is a historic city of great beauty that will instantly bring you thrills of joy. Incontestable proof of this fact is the big number of foreign tourists who choose to visit it year after year. Moreover, according to some recent statistics, Brasov is the most visited city in Romania. But for those of you who haven’t yet managed to get here, I thought of writing this complete guide of the city, based on my last visit here, in late October.
Brasov was founded by the Teutonic Knights in 1211, so it can easily be considered an old settlement. Fortunately, we can still enjoy the medieval architecture, which is very well preserved even nowadays. Narrow cobblestone streets, colorful little house and charming red roofs, all these elements harmoniously combine the charm of Brasov.
How to get to Brasov:
There are several ways to get here, but any means of transport you choose, it is quite easy to find the way to the city. It can be reached by train or by car from almost every city in Romania. We chose to go by car from my hometown, Ramnicu-Valcea and we arrived in about 4 hours. Considering that we crossed the Rucar Pass, located between the Bucegi and Piatra Craiului Mountains, the road was incredibly beautiful, with stunning scenery. I always try to choose the scenic route and it went out very well this time. I managed to capture spectacular autumn views, with strung houses and large meadows. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
What to see & do in Brasov
Piata Sfatului / The Council Square
The Council Square is the main attraction of the city and is definitely the first place where you will want to get when visiting the city located in central Romania. Although in the past, during the Middle Ages, was a place for public trials and executions, now the atmosphere here is completely different and friendly. Whether you choose to drink your coffee at a terrace, observe people or just admire the gorgeous colorful architecture of the pastel buildings, Piata Sfatului is a great place to walk around and spend an enjoyable time. Also, it’s a great place for taking some awesome pictures for you Instagram.
The symbolic building that stands out the most in the Council Square is actually the former City Hall, nowadays, turned into the History Museum but it also represents the kilometer 0 of the city, from where all distances are measured.
The Black Church
Although its color is far from black, the church was named like this due to the Great Fire of 1689. After the unfortunate event, much of the city buildings were destroyed because they were made of wood. As a consequence of the fire, the exterior walls of the church acquired a dark, almost black color, so the name remained The Black Church. Originally called Saint Mary Church, today is one of the most important pieces of architecture in Brasov and Romania, but at the same time the largest Gothic church in the country, with 65 meters in height. However, the records held by the impressive architectural piece do not end here.
The Black Church contains the largest collection of Oriental carpets in Europe (over 110), excepting Turkey, and also Romania’s biggest bell, which weighs about 6 tons. In fact, you can see all these with your own eyes because the church can be visited. I didn’t because of time constraints, but for those who want, you can find all the necessary information here.
Pass the Schei Gate, beyond the realm fortress, and head to the old Romanian district of Brasov. In the past, when Transylvania had been dominated by Hungarians and Germans, Romanians were not allowed to own houses within the fortress, but they had the right to sell their produce in the old town. The only place they could pass through, inside the city, was Catherine’s Gate, but, regardless, they had to pay a toll, each time.
Today, Schei District is a nice and peaceful neighborhood, with cute houses, wooden gates, and narrow, elegant streets. In this charming neighborhood of Brasov are located Saint Nicholas Church, the First Romanian School, the Union Square and one of the most prestigious schools in Romania, Andrei Saguna National College. You can get a terrific view of the Schei District from the top of Tampa Mountain.
As I stated earlier, it was the only access point for the Romanians, within the fortress. The architecture is unique in the world, having four towers arranged in a square shape, at the top. The gate is very old, was built in 1559 and restored several times later, but kept its original appearance until nowadays.
Saint Nicholas Church
Saint Nicholas Church is a very important monument for Schei District, considering that the whole settlement was built depending on it. The church is indeed a very beautiful one, originally built in Gothic style and later underwent Baroque changes.
First Romanian School
Admittedly, I had no clue that in Brasov it was the first Romanian School. I learned this while I was preparing my travel itinerary. It is extremely easy to get here since it is situated right next to the St. Nicholas Church. Officially, the school was first opened in 1495, but the building was rebuilt in 1760. Today, the school building is turned into a museum and you can visit for a price of 10 lei/person. Here, were written the first textbook, the first Bible, the first grammar, the first dictionary and generally the first documents related to the Romanian language.
The interior is also very interesting. Besides the old and very old books, you can even see the look of an ordinary old classroom, with benches, feathers used for writing, and, in a room on the next floor, the first press, ever used for printing books. This huge machine only printed 39 volumes. In other words, I felt teleported into the past and I really loved the whole experience.
This is definitely the Champs-Elysees of Brasov. Restaurants, cafes, bars, pubs and clothing boutiques, all waiting for you to pass their threshold. The atmosphere is very pleasant both during the day and evening. Unfortunately, we had some pretty cold days, and as a result, there weren’t too many people sitting outside on the terraces. Nonetheless, many of them were strolling the streets, while holding their cups, filled with hot tea and coffee. All the buildings on Republicii Street kept their original architecture, so it is a perfect place to walk around and admire everything around you.
Now let’s talk about another street, totally different from Republicii Street. It’s about Rope Street or Strada Sforii, considered the narrowest street in Romania and the 3rd in Europe, following Spreuerhofstraße, in Germany, and Parliament Street, in England. Although it has no address on it, which is essential to be considered street in Romania, the name remained because the street was found on old maps of the city, dating from the 17th century.
The width of the famous streets has a big connection with the devastating fire of 1689. It is said that it was built to fit exactly a firefighter holding two buckets of water. For a better understanding, you should know that the width varies between 111 and 135 cm and has a total length of 80 m. The street is painted in three pastel colors and is definitely a must-see place when you are in Brasov. If you don’t manage to find it, ask a local. In Brasov is almost impossible to find someone who doesn’t know where is the Rope Street.
Climb Tampa Mountain for the best view of Brasov
Probably my favorite part, when visiting a city, is to find a place where I can climb, and admire the view from above. That was the case in Brasov, which features a cable car that climbs up to the top of Mount Tampa. The climbing cost 16 lei, round trip and takes about 2 minutes. It’s so nice to see how the city is becoming smaller and smaller, at a higher altitude. If you have time and the weather is on your side, you can hike it for free, but obviously, it lasts much longer, about 1 hour and a half until you reach the top, or you can hike one way and descend by cable car for 10 lei.
At the top, there are several observation points, and I visited 3 of them. On the last one, I had a breathtaking view of the Schei District. The panorama is simply beautiful and is a perfect place to make gorgeous Instagramable pictures. As you already know from my previous travels, I always have the chance to see a married couple wherever I go, and it seems the same thing happened up here. Two young people decided to take their wedding pictures on top of the mountain, and I was their witness. I also climbed behind the letters that make up the word Brasov, in a Hollywoodish style, and I realized that they are really big … probably a few meters height for each letter.
In my opinion, you can’t visit Brasov without coming here. However, I don’t recommend this activity on a cloudy day. You’ll have a perfect view, only if visiting in a serene day, just when the sun is shining over the city.
Day trip to Dracula Castle
If we talk about Transylvania, then we necessarily have to mention Dracula Castle/ Bran Castle. Being located just an hour’s drive from Brasov, it would be a shame not to see it when you’re in the area. I won’t get into details about Count Dracula right now because I will write a separate article dedicated to the legendary Bran Castle, but I do want to say a few words about the visiting hours and the fee entrance.
The castle can be visited every day at a price of 35 lei / adult. However, there are discounts for children, seniors, and adults. The advantage when visiting Bran, comparatively to Peles Castle in Sinaia, is that you can take as many pictures and videos as you want, without paying any extra fee or tax. So, make sure you have enough battery to your phone or camera because you’ll have infinite occasions for a perfect shot.
The White Tower and the Black Tower
Both were built between 1460 and 1494, and both were part of the old city of Brasov. Today, you can visit them, especially if you wish to have a different observation point of the city, being strategically placed on the opposite side of Brasov’s mountain top sign. I chose Tampa for a perfect view, but I also managed to capture the White Tower in the picture below. It can be seen on the hill behind the buildings of the Council Square.
Bastions and Walls
They are the most obvious evidence of the ancient fortresses that surrounded the city. Fortunately, some of them remained very well preserved until today. On the way to the cable car at the foot of Tampa, for example, you can see Bastionul Tesatorilor together with some of the defensive walls.
Where to stay
Situated very close to all main tourist attractions in Brasov, this seems to be the ideal accommodation for a stay of two or more days. We have been given a pretty small room, but cozy, with new furniture, private bathroom, and very nice details. The host is a very welcoming and communicative old lady. The house is located on Postavarului Street, just steps from the Council Square. We had a hydro massage shower, free wifi, a mini fridge and a TV in the room. I warmly recommend this accommodation, it’s the perfect place to live in when visiting the city. The price is also very budget friendly, starting at only 120 lei / night, depending on the chosen days. The only drawback is that you have to pay for parking. For reservations and additional information, you can check on booking.com.
Where to eat
Pizza Roma is located in the Council Square and overlooks it. The menu is quite rich, but we opted for a Pizza with chicken and Pizza Calzone. We paid 22 lei for each.
Come Back is also located in the Council Square, next to Pizza Roma. Besides the free wifi, here we had a small breakfast before climbing Mount Tampa. Specifically, we had butter and cheese croissants, and two cappuccinos named Leonardo Dark and Leonardo White. They also have an outdoor terrace, so if the weather is permissive, as it was in our case, it’s the perfect location for a refreshing morning with a great view.
Hmmm …the famous LUCA bagels. Why do I say famous? Because they are everywhere in Bucharest and I’m glad they came to Brasov also. They are delicious, and they can be the perfect snack, when you don’t want to sit at a table but, instead, you opt for exploring the colorful charming streets. I recommend the ones filled with chocolate. They are divine!
- It would be better to search for accommodation in the old center. Almost all the sights and points of interest are there, so you have no reason to lose time and money on transportation.
- If you arrive by car in Brasov, you really need to have coins with you because of the parking machines that only work with coins. Otherwise, there is a payment option via SMS. For an hour you have to pay 1.5 lei; for 24 hours 12 lei. Parking is free between 8 pm and 8 am.
- If time is limited, I suggest you climb Tampa Mountain by cable car. You will reach the top in 2 minutes. Add 10 minutes for the hike to the observation points.
- For a better orientation, drag an eye on the maps located throughout the city. They contain useful indications.
- You must walk in the evening in the old downtown. The atmosphere is very pleasant and you will have the chance to see the city name, lit up on the mountain.