Visiting Romania is like visiting two very different countries. First is the city of Bucharest, a wealthy, centuries-old metropolis filled with Soviet palaces and 19th-century grandeur. Next is the countryside, where serfdom lived on through the end of the 18th century. Explore both sides of this Eastern European country and enjoy its natural delights high in the Carpathian Mountains or below on the Black Sea Coast.
Learn about Romania’s history in Bucharest. Early days are represented in religious architecture, such as the 17th-century Metropolitan Church where the Romanian Orthodox church is based. Stroll along the Calea Victoriei, the city’s central boulevard, to see many stately buildings from Bucharest’s 19th century, when it became Romania’s capital. Finally, tour the city’s ostentatious Soviet-era buildings, including the enormous Palace of the Parliament and the House of the Free Press. Nicolae Ceauşescu, the dictator who ordered their construction, gave his last speech on the city’s Revolution Square before being overthrown in 1989.
From Bucharest, travel north through the Carpathian Mountains to reach Transylvania, the country’s rural central region. View ancient castles throughout the region, the most famous of which is the spectacular Bran Castle on a hilltop outside Braşov. Tour the area’s small medieval villages such as Sighişoara, which is crowned with a 14th-century clock tower. Farther north, Southern Bucovina’s even smaller villages feature more antique delights including medieval monasteries filled with original frescoes, as in Voronet.
Both Romania’s mountains and its Black Sea Coast are natural delights. The western Carpathian Mountains feature Scărişoara Cave, with a massive underground glacier. The Black Sea Coast is lined with golden beaches and resort towns. Explore Constanta, a large coastal city, where Roman ruins stand alongside art deco palaces.
Reach Bucharest by rail or airline to begin your stay in Romania. Alternatively, arrive by a Danube River cruise. This voyage takes you through the Iron Gates, a gorge on the Serbian border that features castles and the face of an ancient Dacian king carved into rock.