Romania’s capital gets a bad rap, but in fact it's dynamic, energetic and fun. It’s where still-unreconstructed communism meets unbridled capitalism; where the soporific forces of the EU meet the passions of the Balkans. Many travellers give the city just a night or two before heading off to Transylvania, but that’s clearly not enough.
Moldavia & the Bucovina Monasteries
Less visited than other parts of Romania, Moldavia rewards those intrepid enough to seek it out: from glorious medieval monasteries to rugged mountains ideal for hiking, this singular region combines natural beauty with plenty of action. Moldavia’s bucolic villages and oddly endearing towns feature some of Romania’s friendliest locals.
Crişana & Banat
Western Romania, with its geographic and cultural ties to neighbouring Hungary and Serbia and its historical links to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, enjoys an ethnic diversity that much of the rest of the country lacks. Timişoara, the regional hub, has a nationwide reputation as a beautiful and lively metropolis, and for a series of 'firsts'.
The Danube Delta & Black Sea Coast
Romania's 194km Black Sea coastline is remarkably diverse, both from an environmental and a cultural standpoint. In the north, the mighty Danube River (Râul Dunărea) empties into the sea after completing its 2800km-long journey across the continent. The river's mouth, the Danube Delta, is a largely unspoilt wetland that draws bird lovers and seekers of solitude alike.
Raw mountainscapes and a bite of Bram Stoker are the main reasons to linger in northern Transylvania, though city chic isn’t far behind. Just south of Maramureș, the region’s heart is Cluj-Napoca: Romania’s second city is criminally underrated, and chock full of bars and galleries. The challenging hiking terrain of the Apuseni Mountains ripples westward.
Bohemian cafes, music festivals and vigorous nightlife are the soul of Cluj-Napoca, Romania's second-largest city. With increasing flight links to European cities, Cluj is welcoming more and more travellers, who usually shoot off to the Apuseni Mountains, Maramureş or more popular towns in southern Transylvania.
Wallachia (Ţara Românească), the region between the Carpathians and the Danube River, admittedly lacks the must-sees of Transylvania and Moldavia. Nevertheless, it's rich in early Romanian history, particularly at the historic seats of the Wallachian princes in Curtea de Argeş and Târgovişte.
Székely Land's meadows, spa towns and occasional urban sprawl have one thing in common: their distinctly Hungarian spirit. In many places, conversation is almost entirely in the local Hungarian dialect, while signs list place names bilingually across much of Székely Land (that is, Ţara Secuilor in Romanian, Székelyföld in Hungarian).
Sibiu is awash in aristocratic elegance. Noble Saxon history emanates from every art nouveau facade and gold-embossed church. Renowned composers Strauss, Brahms and Liszt all played here during the 19th century, and Sibiu has stayed at the forefront of Romania’s cultural scene through its festivals of opera, theatre and film, as well as rock, jazz and more.
Gothic spires, medieval gateways, Soviet blocks and a huge Hollywood-style sign: Braşov’s skyline is instantly compelling. A number of medieval watchtowers still glower over the town. Between them sparkle baroque buildings and churches, while easy-going cafes line main square Piaţa Sfatului. Visible from here is forested Mt Tâmpa, sporting ‘Braşov’ in huge white letters.
Black Sea Coast & Littoral
Romania's Black Sea coast is not well known outside the country. And, indeed, the beach resorts in neighbouring Bulgaria generally offer superior facilities and better prices. That said, Romania's coast has a charm of its own, especially if you like your beaches loud and summer nights long. The two main resorts, Mamaia and Vama Veche, tend to draw different crowds.