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Brasov, Transylvania: Top 12 things to do for first-time visitor

Need to know

Closest airport: Sibiu International Airport (SBZ), located on national road DN1, 150 km from the city; Bucharest International Airport (OTP), located on DN 1, 154 km from the city. Brasov airport is currently under construction.
How to get there by car: DN1 from Bucharest (around 21/2 -3 h drive)
Population: 275,000
County/Area: capital of Brasov county/central Romania, Transylvania

Brasov seen from above; view over the Black Church and Council Square; photo: instagram @stefiolivia

One of Transylvania’s gems, Brasov (pronounced bra-shov) is a lively city that has it all. It is compact enough to be visited in one day, still, has a lot to offer if you’d rather linger. Rich in cafés and good places, Brasov is positioned right in the heart of the country. The architecture is mainly eclectic and looks fantastic. Lots of colourful houses, narrow cobbled alleys and medieval atmosphere are part of Brasov’s charm.

Like all medieval Transylvanian cities, you can find a fortress and some observation towers that offer amazing views over the city. Rich in vegetation, Brasov offers a splendid panoramic view from the already famous Hollywood-like sign.

Brasov is not only a charismatic and photogenic destination, but also an affordable one. Here, you can find good accommodation in the city centre or pamper your tastebuds with delicious food within a decent range of money.

You can find more info on restaurants and accommodation at the bottom of this post.

Brasov seen from the White Tower

Show contents

What to do in the area
How to get to Brasov
A bit of history/good to know
Best things in Brasov
Eating in Brasov
Where to stay

What to do in the area

The city is surrounded by lush green mountains and can be used as base for several hikes in the Carpathians. In winter, Brasov turns in the satellite around which the most famous ski resorts in the country revolve, such as Poiana Brasov, Sinaia or Predeal. The rich vegetation is home to one of Europe’s last wildlife’s, so you can pay a visit to the Bear Sanctuary from Zarnesti.

Brasov is close to Romania’s top attraction, Bran castle, aka Dracula castle, just 30 km (19 miles) away. Also in the vicinity you can find the splendid Peles Castle (Sinaia). In the area you can observe scattered fortified churches worth visiting, some of them UNESCO heritage (Prejmer, Harman, Rotbav, Cristian, Feldioara, etc).

Besides, Brasov is not too far from the capital that makes it easily accessible if you travel from Bucharest.

So, if you plan a few days in Brasov area, you can choose culture or nature, or find a combination that best suits your needs.

Black Church under snow; photo: fb nomadia travel

How to get to Brasov

Brasov has an international airport currently under construction. Most of the tourists would rather land in Bucharest, the capital, and start from there. The distance is 184 km (115 miles).

If Bucharest is the departure point for Brasov, these are the options:

  • By train: There are several options of trains, so no need to worry. You can use either CFR (Romanian Railways) or one of the private companies (Astra Transcarpatic, Softrans) which have excellent prices. The average travel time takes between 21/2 hours and 4, depending on the type of the train. The prices vary between 25 (5 euro) and 50 lei (10 euro), based on the same criteria.
  • By bus: Many people prefer the bus over the train. The time expected to travel is 31/2 hours, and the price is around 40-50 lei (10 euro).
  • By carpooling service: If you are into this type, you can join BlaBlaCar and pay around 25 lei/person (5 euro) for the ride.
  • Rent a car: it is always a good option and will prove helpful to explore the area.

If you arrive to Cluj airport and plan a travel to Brasov, you have to know that the distance is 270 km (167 miles), and it takes 4 driving hours, while from Sibiu, 140 km (87 miles) that can be done in a bit more than 2 hours.

Insider tip: I suggest you plan a trip to Transylvania and establish some base points for your trip. Make Brasov one of those along with Sibiu, Sighisoara or Cluj Napoca. You’ll not regret it, there’s lots to explore in Transylvania.

photo: fb come visit brasov

A bit of history/good to know

Brasov has a rich history. Initially called Corona (the city of the crown), it was one of the strongest fortresses in Transylvania. It was an important economic, political and trading hub since the medieval times. This happened for two reasons. First, Brasov was fortunate enough to be placed on the merchants’ way who carried goods from Middle East to Western Europe. The second reason is the cohabitation between Romanians, Hungarians and Saxons.

Transylvania was under the protection of Hungarian and Austrian-Hungarian Empire, which translates in strong influence. Besides, this region was strongly colonized by the Saxons from the 12th to the 14th centuries. The Saxons were Germanic people invited by the Hungarian kings to settle in the area to enforce their power in the region.

Coming as guests, the Saxons were granted privileges that neither the Romanians nor the Hungarians enjoyed, making Brasov a prosperous trading area. So wealthy in fact, that it constructed Bran castle offered later to Queen Marie of Romania.

Brasov was one of the seven citadels erected by the Saxons. The German and Hungarian influences were converted into different neighborhoods for each minority.

Roaming on Brasov’s streets; photo: instagram @anamariamnc

Best things to do in Brasov

These are the most important things to do in Brasov for first-time tourist:

1. Council Square (Piata Sfatului)

It is the main square in Brasov. Nowadays the heart of Brasov full of energy and good vibes, this square used to be a place that gathered traders from all over the area to sell different things.

This is the place you cannot miss in Brasov, even if you are just passing by. True, it would be difficult to miss, as almost all tourist attractions are within walking distance and start from here. Crammed with lots of restaurants and terraces, or small artisan shops, the Council Square is the place where you sit for a coffee and enjoy watching the passers-by.

In this square you’ll find Apollonia Hirscher house – the longest and largest construction in the square, built for the shoemaker’s guild. It stands tall as the ancestor of the shopping mall in Brasov. After her husband died, the wife donated a lot of money to build this huge construction.

There’s also an interesting legend: when her young daughter died, as she was very wealthy, she buried her with the best clothes and jewels, and some thieves wanted to steal her jewels, but the girl suddenly moved, and mother was so happy that she donated this huge amount of money to build the house.

Insider tip: Visit the Urban Civilization Museum right in the square. It gives you a lot of info on the Saxons, and the house itself is a jewellery.

Tip: Have a drink or coffee at one of the terraces with a view from the square and just let yourself go!

Colorful houses in the Council Square
Brasov after the rain; photo: Ana Partene
Colorful downtown

2. The Council House (Casa Sfatului)

In the centre of the square there’s a building called the Council House (Casa Sfatului). The oldest building in the square, used to be a tower, called the Trumpeter’s tower because there was a guy playing the trumpet at every fixed hour, but also he was letting people know if something wrong was going on.

This is the former city hall of Brasov and it hosts today the museum of the city. I usually consider such museums rather boring, but this one has on display some interesting facts. For instance, there are artefacts concerning the rising from Brasov (in 1987, two years before the Revolution) when people from factories planted the seeds against the communist oppression. Or, you can also observe a sports collection of the most famous Romanian sportspeople who made history at the Olympics.

Insider tip: Book a tour with Walkabout Free Tour before you start in order to understand the history of the place and know what to explore further. They are really good!

The Council House; photo: Dani Ciuca
Majestic view over the Council Square

3. Panorama from the Tampa hill (the Hollywood-like sign)

This is a mandatory thing to do if you visit for the first time. You can go up on foot by taking one of the two trails that take around one hour officially. (To be honest, it is best to dedicate a bit more time and make sure to have adequate boots.)

Or, use the cable car to do the job for you. I personally took the cable car because it was winter, and it was all slippery. This way, you’ll get up in no time and you’ll be ready to enjoy the magnificent view right from the big letters.

Insider story: It is an interesting fact that Brasov had to change its name to Stalin city for 10 years. It was part of a project that the communist party had in Eastern Europe. One member of the communist party, in order to impress the leaders, came with a brilliant idea. He suggested to cut down the trees from Tampa hill in the shape of the letters that make up the name Stalin.

Insider tip: I reckon this bird’s eye view is probably the best, but if you are short on time, you can try other observation points, like walking on Brediceanu street, or going up to one of the White or Black Towers (more about below).

Tip: Be prepared to queue for a long time if it’s summer or legal holiday. The ticket costs 10 lei (2 euro) one way and 18 lei (a little under 4 euro) there and back. The journey takes 21/2 minutes.

This is how far you can see from the top

4. The Black Church (Biserica neagra)

It has a history that goes back almost 600 years. It was built by the Saxons (the name of the German inhabitants from the area) and today is one of the most important houses of worship of the Lutheran religion.

One of the representative Gothic monuments in the area, the church was initially named Saint Mary, according to the patron saint of the city. The name it bears today is commonly known to be given after a fire that devastated Brasov in the 17th century. The church was seriously damaged and parts of it burnt down. The reconstruction took almost 100 years, and, in the process, the church got some Baroque elements.

Beautiful and proud on the outside, the interior is host to the biggest mechanical organ in the country and an impressive collection of carpets. The organ was built in Berlin and can delight visitors with its wonderful sound during traditional concerts.

If you raise your eyes up in the church, your gaze will be caught by the one of largest world collection of Anatolian carpets, most of which reached Brasov through the guilds or as donations from the inhabitants. The pulpit, together with the statues of the Evangelists are some of the oldest pieces in the church. You can also see here the old coat of arms of the city.

Tip: If possible, visit the church during a concert and become aware of the organ’s special sound!

Winter over Brasov with a view over the Black Church; photo: Ionut Dobre
Some colour next to the Black Church

5. Take a walk downtown

You cannot not like the beautifully coloured houses that spread around the Council Square. A walk on the cobbled lanes recalls old times. Every house in the area has its own story. There are plenty of restaurants here, but for a really good experience, take the narrow alleys that start from the main square! (more info on places to eat below).

As you enlarge the downtown circle, you’ll walk on Muresenilor street. Here, the pink palace talks about emperor Franz Joseph as he was accommodated there, the blue one offered shelter to the man who wrote the lyrics for the Romanian national anthem, etc.

Brasov is rich in pedestrian areas as well which shelter nice stores with candies or handmade jewellery.  

Like the entire area, Brasov has its share of fortifications. The city stood as one of the main Transylvanian citadels to fulfil the defensive role. This encircling was erected between the 14th and 17th centuries and meant to protect the city with tall walls and strong bastions on a 3 km length. Initially it included several walls, 27 towers, eight bastions, water ditches, and ponds. Of course, most of it is gone, but you can still see well-preserved sites that speak about the history of the place. Some of these are the Black Tower, the White Tower, Graft Bastion, Catherine’s Gate, the Weavers’ Bastion, all reachable within walking distance from downtown.

Beautiful houses

6. The Graft Bastion and the White Tower (Bastionul Graft si Turnul Alb)

The roots of these constructions go back deep in time. More exactly, to the 14th century when the water in excess that was crossing the streets of the medieval fortress was drifted through an artificial canal, called graft. The Graft Bastion itself was built later to connect the soldiers to the White Tower.

The White Tower is the second defence tower of Brasov, built in the late 15th century. Being the tallest tower of the kind, it got the name from the white lime that covers it. Built with the purpose of protection, the walls are constructed from brick and stone, while on the inside there are five galleries on five levels.

The tower served as an attack point for the enemy also, as from the balconies wax and stones were thrown over to the enemy. Back then, the tower was in charge of the guilds and remained so for a long time. Unfortunately, the huge fire that devastated the Black Church in 1689, hit the tower as well, so it underwent some restoration. It connected the citadel through a mobile bridge over Graft beck to the bastion with the same name. Nowadays, it hosts events.

Tip: Tourists particularly enjoy going up (as you have to climb a few stairs on Warthe hill) for the beautiful panorama. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes

The White Tower; photo: Flickr/Horia Varlan

7. The Black Tower (Turnul Negru)

In the vicinity of the White Tower, you can see one of the four observation towers of Brasov. It is called the Black Tower, although it looks almost just as white as the other. However, the name comes again from the fire that dramatically darkened its walls. The tower was supposed to shut out the enemies from the city walls, but the Black Tower played another role as well: during the 1756 plague epidemic, it served as shelter for the guardians that prevented new visitors enter the city.  

The white and black towers are close one to the other and are one of the most instagrammable area in Brasov.

Situated on a hill, visiting them will not only offer amazing views over the city, they are also a chilling opportunity that many inhabitants of Brasov enjoy. Why wouldn’t you?

8. Catherine’s Gate (Poarta Ecaterinei)

How about Catherine’s gate that looks as if it were from a Disney movie with its four turrets?

The gate was built for defensive purposes in the 16th century by the Tailors’ guild and it was the only entrance gate for the Romanians living in the neighborhood Schei. This gate played an important role because during Saxon reign, Romanians were not allowed to have property inside the fortress, plus they had to pay a toll whenever they entered the gate to sell their produce.

Like in Transylvanian towns, the nice turrets have a scary significance. They mean that the town had the right to decide on the capital punishment.

Catherine’s gate looks so pretty

9. Rope Street (Strada Sforii)

This very narrow street served as access passage for firefighters. As Romanians have always been stories and legend lovers, it was impossible not to have one about one of the narrowest streets in Eastern Europe (80 m long and from 1.11 to 1.35 m wide). It says that long time ago, lovers who didn’t have the blessing of their family used to meet on Rope Street to kiss. According to the legend, it is believed that lovers making out on Rope Street will stay together forever.

In 2018, the municipality of Brasov started a project that would turn this tiny street into a street art gallery. However, the street is full of lots of personal impressions of passers-by.

Tip: This is one of tourists’ favourite, so don’t miss out! Besides, it’s a good opportunity for a nice photo or, a personal opinion on the coloured walls!

The narrow instagrammable street; photo:

10. Beth Israel synagogue (Sinagoga Beit Israel)

It is a neological synagogue situated in the centre of Brasov, close to Rope Street. An important landmark of the Jewish community, the peaceful interior with beautiful stained-glass windows and elaborately decorated interior, the place is a pleasure to the eye. Although most of the Jewish community left the city during World War II, the synagogue still plays an important role in maintaining the Jewish community in Brasov. The complex also hosts a kosher restaurant.

Built over a century ago, the Synagogue is a mixture of Moorish elements with some Neo-Gothic and Romanesque elements. Although there’s a small entrance fee, it is worth paying a visit as it faithfully transposes the Jewish spirit. You can also find a small Holocaust Memorial.

The colorful synagogue; Fb: Beth Israel Synagogue

11. The Weavers’ Bastion (Bastionul Tesatorilor)

It is one remarkable building erected by the weavers (guild) that survived impeccably. A good place to visit, the bastion houses a museum that showcases old weapons and weavers’ products. Today it looks like a beehive due to the defence corridor inside. Its fabulous acoustic slightly turned the bastion into a concert hall. There used to be concerts and theatre plays, but with the pandemic, these events became scarcer and scarcer. Hopefully one day, the bastion shines again.

12. First Romanian school (Prima scoala romaneasca)

It is to be found in an old neighborhood of the city, called Schei ( Scheii Brasovului, the Romanian quarter). This is the place where the first lessons in Romanian were given, as well as the first books printed in Romanian. Today, you can find here a traditional classroom.

The school is in the courtyard of Saint Nicholas Orthodox church, a beautiful place. It hosts some interesting frescoes. Feel free to pay a visit!

St Nicholas Church

Eating in Brasov

This is simple as there are so many beautiful places where you can find good food. If you are ready to experiment Romanian food, Sergiana or La Ceaun are good choices. If you want to feel the taste of traditional times, you could try Am Rosenanger, the only restaurant which serves Saxon dishes.

If you settle for international or Mediterranean dishes in Brasov, you should opt for Dei Frati, Bistro de l’Arte or Mediterra. All of them are located downtown on quiet pedestrian areas and offer delicious food. Be sure to book ahead if you are planning to go for the weekend.

If vegetarian/vegan dishes are your cup of tea, try Simone.

Where to stay in Brasov

There are many options to choose from. In the centre there are pleasant guesthouses, such as Quiboo, Robi Studio or Vila Katharina. If you are looking for a hostel, Zozo Hostel is well positioned and friendly.

All in all, these are the best spots in Brasov, a peaceful, yet lively city. You’ll most likely enjoy your stay here as it has an excellent position, things to see, good places to eat and a colourful atmosphere (and houses).

Recommended by TTF:

  • One of the most beautiful cities in Romania, with lots to see and do
  • Compact enough to be visited in one day
  • Excellent positioning close to many cultural and historical attractions (fortified churches, Bran castle, Peles castle)
  • Good base for nature trips and hiking in the Carpathians.

City essentials

For public transportation access

Taxi companies
Taxis are relatively inexpensive and widely available.
Taxi +40722 165519
Taxi +40773 962989

Uber is available in Brasov.

Brasov Tourist Information Centre
(Centrul de Informare Turistica) – Downtown
Str. Prundului nr. 1

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