Are you looking for the best things to do in Transylvania? This endlessly fascinating destination is one of my favourite places to visit in the Balkans.
It’s known globally as a land of bloodsucking vampires and howling wolves – but there’s so much real history and charm to this region of central Romania that goes far beyond fictional fairy tale stories.
Transylvania is one of the three major historical regions of Romania. It’s located in the centre of the country, bounded on the east and south by its natural borders – the Carpathian Mountains. I love the people of Transylvania – they are very warm and welcoming.
People of Transylvania are well known for their calmness and hospitality. Transylvania’s multi-ethnic heritage, including Germans and Hungarians, can be observed in the folk costumes, architecture, music and cuisine.
I love the traditions and I also love the fact that Transylvania is home to some of Europe’s best-preserved medieval towns.
I was born and raised in Bucharest, the capital city of Romania located around 270 kilometres away from Transylvania. My love for travel began about 15 years ago when I embarked on my first trip abroad.
It was a two week road trip through Europe. I got the chance to see Croatia, Italy, France, Switzerland, Austria and Hungary. It was absolutely amazing!
From that year, I wanted to travel more and more and so I started planning 3-4 trips per year. In 2018 I left my job to travel and sustain these trips with sponsored travel partnerships.
Highlights of my Travels through Transylvania
The most recent trip I had to Transylvania was last November. I visited Bran Castle, Sibiu, Peleș Castle, Sighișoara, Alba Iulia and also a small part of the Apuseni Mountains.
I love to visit the old towns with their beautiful architecture, old churches, fortresses and castles. The landscapes are another massive drawcard to the region of Transylvania too.
I think the colorful Sighișoara Citadel will always stay in my heart as my favourite place in Transylvania. With over 100 buildings inhabited as historical monuments, nine existing defense towers and churches – Sighisoara Citadel is often called “the Pearl of Transylvania”.
5 Best Things To Do in Transylvania
1. Visit Peleș Castle: The Finest Castle in Romania
Peleș Castle is a Neo-Renaissance castle in the Carpathian Mountains, in Sinaia, Prahova County (about 14 miles south but not technically in Transylvania). It was built between 1873 and 1914 and is an integral part of the vast architectural ensemble created by King Carol.
This ensemble also includes Pelișor Castle, Foișor Castle, House of Knights, Guard House and Șipot Villa.
The castle is arguably one of the most beautiful castles in the world. It’s more of a palace than a castle with many visitors comparing it with the Neushwanstein Castle in Bavaria. There’s even dramatic scenery in the backdrop which makes it even more special.
Once inside the castle you will be gobsmacked at the beauty of this place. The interior is a mix of rich wood, stained glass windows, chandeliers, ivory scultpures, fine porcelain and walls covered with Cordoba leather.
Peleș Castle was built in a German Renaissance style with elements belonging to the Italian Renaissance, Gothic and French Rococo style.
2. Explore the Remarkable Râșnov Citadel
Râșnov Citadel is a fortified ensemble located on a rocky hilltop in the Carpathian Mountains. Located at 650m altitude above the town of Râșnov in Brașov county, it is one of the best preserved fortified assemblies in Transylvania.
The fortress was built in the 13th century as part of a defence strategy for the villages of Transylavania who were fighting outside invaders.
When you arrive at Râșnov, the first thing you’ll notice is the town’s name in white letter perched on top of the hill almost reminiscent of the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles.
The orange rooftops and stone facades of the fortress emerge out of a lush green forest. It’s such an incredible little place to explore.
3. Experience the Medieval Town of Sibiu in Transylvania
Sibiu, also known as Hermannstadt by its German name, is one of the most famous cities in Romania – both from a tourist, cultural and economic point of view. It’s located in the southern part of Transylvania, on the Cibin river, very close to the geographical center of Romania.
The main appeal of this city is the Germanic architecture which permeates the streets. This style of architecture was the legacy of 12th century Saxon settlers. The remains of medieval walls, towers, palaces and churches can all still be seen and experienced today in Sibiu.
Sibiu was named the Cultural European Capital in 2007 and its home to some amazing sites such as the Big Square, Huet Square, the Small Square, Liar’s Bridge and Goldsmiths’ Square.
4. Wander the Cobbled Lanes of Sighișoara Citadel
Sighișoara Citadel is included on the UNESCO Heritage List as the only inhabited medieval city-fortress town. Walking the streets is like a fairy-tale experience as you get carried back in time through the narrow winding cobbled lanes.
The citadel has experienced a lot over the ages – such as invasions, fires, witch trials, etc. – so there is always a story to be told here.
The main attractions can be found within the confines of the old city walls. I recommend visiting The Historic Centre which has charming alleyways, buildings, squares, churches, stone towers, and many fantastic places to enjoy a meal or drink.
5. Tour the Star-Shaped Citadel of Alba lulia
Here you can find a unique historical and medieval ambiance. Alba lulia is a place of monumental historical significance, associated with the Great Union of 1918 and the coronation of the kings Ferdinand I and Mary, the first monarchs of Greater Romania.
Its ancient medieval center, the Alba Carolina fortress, encloses between its walls several centuries old attractions laden with history – including the beautiful Saint Michael’s Cathedral.
One amazing thing to experience in Alba lulia is the Guard Change of the Citadel which only began in 2009. Every year the guards are dressed in uniforms specific to the XVIII century and tourists are welcomed to the gates of the Citadel. It’s a pretty cool ceremony.
The Delicious Food of Transylvania
Since I am not a huge gourmand, I am not the best person to recommend the local dishes. However, I assure you that you will have plenty of delicious food, dishes and cuisine to try while you visit Transylvania.
The traditional cuisine is actually a mix of dishes and cooking techniques borrowed from different cultures, such as Hungarian, German, Turkish and Slavic, transformed and prepared with local herbs and spices.
Some of the best local foods include: Telemea de Ibanesti and Brânză de burduf cheese, varză a la Cluj (sour cabbage, minced meat and rice), salam de Sibiu (cured, smoked pork sausage), Vargabeles (noodle cheese pie with raisins) and many more delicious options!
Tips for your Visit to Transylvania
When it comes to transport, Transylvania is best explored by car. I suggest you rent a car for at least a week in this region and explore the untouched medieval towns and the beautiful Carpathian Mountains.
Experiencing these incredible landscapes and towns by car will make your vacation that much more enjoyable.
If you plan on going to Transylvania during Easter or Christmas time, you will have the chance to see old customs and traditions (which were passed down from generation to generation). The local people dress up in their best traditional clothes and celebrate the festive seasons.
Thanks for reading my guide on the best things to do in Transylvania! I hope you get the chance to visit this beautiful region of Romania one day.