Travellers following the Transylvanian vampire trail may be quietly disappointed by amiable Bistriţa. Spangled with pastel-coloured Renaissance buildings and whitewashed churches, the town bears little resemblance to the Bistritz (its German name) described in Bram Stoker's Dracula. In the novel, Jonathan Harker stays in Bistriţa before heading to the Count's lair in Borgo (Bârgău) Pass, despite locals' anguished warnings of the horrors ahead.

Modern Bistriţa has barely a garlic-clutching villager in sight. Cobbled streets lined with cafes radiate from its Gothic centrepiece, the 14th-century Evangelical Church. Several well-preserved Renaissance buildings attest to its history of Saxon merchants and renowned silversmiths. It's a relaxing place to stay before pressing on to Lake Colibiţa or the forbidding Bârgău Valley.