If this your first time in Brasov, you are in for a real treat. Located in the southern part of Transylvania – Romania’s most visited region – Brasov has the reputation for being one of the country’s most picturesque cities. Surrounded by green mountains, Brasov has everything you need for a perfect vacation: gorgeous scenery, medieval charm, great restaurants and plenty of things to do to keep you entertained.
Compared to the bustling capital city of Bucharest, Brasov may seem a little slow paced. But I actually like that. The atmosphere is more laid back and relaxed and the air is definitely much cooler.
A Brief History of Brasov, Romania
Settled along one of the oldest trade routes between Wallachia, Moldavia, and Transylvania, the city of Brasov has always attracted the eye of conquerers.
Archeological evidence shows that the land around Brasov has been inhabited since the Neolithic age. Over the centuries this region has been invaded by many tribes. One of these tribes were the Magyars, the ancestors of the Hungarians who later settled in Transylvania.
In 1211 the Teutonic Knights erected here a settlement which was first mentioned in documents as Brașov only in 1251. The town was the centre of a Saxon colony who was trading weapons, metalwork and wax.
The Saxons settlers began building fortified churches and citadels all throughout Transylvania. In fact, the German name of Transylvania is Siebenbürgen, which means “The Seven Citadels”. These seven citadels were: Brasov (Kronstadt), Bistrita (Bistritz), Cluj (Klausenburg), Medias (Mediasch), Sebes (Mühlbach), Sibiu (Hermannstadt) and Sighişoara (Schassburg).
Best Things to Do in Brasov
Brasov is a lovely city, full of history, legends and traditions. It’s easy to visit and it’s beautiful year round, even in winter when it becomes a skiers’ Mecca for the Romanians.
Also, because of its location Brasov is a perfect base for exploring some parts of Transylvania. So in the this post I’ll give you a tour of the best things to in Brasov, as well some day trip ideas for places to visit around the city.
Start Your Tour in the Council Square (Piata Sfatului)
The best place to start your tour of Brasov is in Piata Sfatului (Council Square), which is right in the heart of the historic center. Here is where you’ll get a taste of the city’s beautiful architectural styles. Brasov is glowing with Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance architecture and nowhere is that more evident that in this square.
Popular between tourists and locals alike, Piata Sfatului has always been the place where all the action is. Everybody seems to gravitate towards it. The square is lined with cafés, bars and restaurants, so it’s nice to stop here for a coffee or a beer.
Back in the Middle Ages Piata Sfatului was a public execution ground, but also the place for weekly markets. While the public executions are a matter of the past, the markets tradition continues to this day. Every year in December, the square becomes a winter fairytale when they light the Tree and set up the Christmas market here.
The City Council Building (Casa Sfatului)
In the centre of the Council Square stands the building of the City Council (Casa Sfatului). In medieval times this was the place where the town councillors met and where all important decision were made. Above the entrance, on the façade, you can see the city of Brasov coat of arms.
The Council Building is topped by the Trumpeter’s Tower which houses the oldest bell in Brasov. The original bell dating back to 1520 was destroyed and and a new one replaced it in 1690.
The tower’s clock is also very old, but not the oldest in town (the one on the Black Church dates back to 1516). However, this clock has a very interesting story.
Back in 1690 when Brasov was occupied by the Habsburgs, the clock was on the verge of destruction. The story says that an Austrian commander who lived right across from the City Council building, in the Emperor’s House, complained that the loud noise of the clock was stressing out his parrot.
He ordered the clock removed, but the citizens opposed it vehemently. To punish them, he then ordered all the garbage to be collected in the Council Square until the sound of the clock was stopped. The incident almost started a war, but in the end the clock survived!
Walk Along Rope Street (Strada Sforii)
Between Cerbului and Poarta Schei streets in Brasov lies the narrowest street in Romania. The rope-like street, which is only 1.35 meters wide, was recently restored to look exactly like it did 300 years ago, when it was built.
The street was built as a passage between Schei Gate and the Council Square. It was also a convenience for firefighters who had to reach behind the buildings.
The narrow alley has always been a great attraction for Brasov visitors, but especially for young lovers who come here to kiss in intimacy. The legend has it that those who kiss on Sforii Street are destined to stay together all their lives. So what are you waiting for?
Wander Through the Streets the Old Town
One of the most romantic things to do in Brasov is wander through the streets of the Old Town. The place is small but it has plenty to see and do. Lovely cobblestone lanes and back alleys with lots of shops, cafés and restaurants.
The city offers a free walking tour that will take you to most of the attractions listed in this post. The tour is also good if you want to find out more about the city. There is a unique story behind almost every building in town, so you’ll hear a lot of stories!
The guided tour leaves every day at 3 pm from the fountain in the Council Square (Piața Sfatului) in the Old Town. If you want to find out more, you should check their website.
Visit the Black Church (Biserica Neagrā)
The Black Church (Biserica Neagrā) is the symbol of Brasov and the congregation of the Romanian Evangelical Church. The Gothic style church is one of the city’s most visited attractions and definitely one of the most beautiful churches in Romania. Its imposing structure and grandiose nave will surely impress you.
Built by the Saxons in the 14th century, the church’s initial name was the Great Church. But after a devastating fire that turned it black in the 17 century the church became known as the Black Church.
Inside, there’s a gigantic 4,000 pipe organ that sounds majestic. There are recitals here three times a week, so check the schedule if you want to hear its sound. Also, don’t miss the gorgeous Anatolian rugs draped across the pews.
Step Inside Saint Nicholas Church (Biserica Sf. Nicolae)
Perhaps lesser known than the bigger Black Church, Sf. Nicolae Church is certainly an attraction in its own right. This is more than just a church. It’s a complex that includes the Orthodox Cathedral, a museum and it’s also the site of the first Romanian School in Brasov, which was established in 1583.
The church architecture is also very interesting. The structure was built in the Gothic style, but the interior underwent various transformations that include Baroque elements. The church is full of symbols and has many interesting frescos and paintings said to contain messages about the Apocalypse.
St. Nicholas Church dates back to 1292 and is located in the district of Schei, just about 1 km west from the Council Square.
Stroll Through Ekaterina’s Gate
Eaterina’s Gate (Poarta Ecaterinei) is an old gate which was part of the southern wall that once surrounded the city. The wall disappeared, but you can still see the gate which is really beautiful.
The gate’s name comes from a monastery that once stood nearby. On the façade you can see Brasov’s coat of arms: a crown on an oak tree trunk and roots.
The gate has four small turrets symbolizing the fact that the town had judicial autonomy and the “right of sword” (ius gladii), which was the right to decide on capital punishment.
Visit the Neolog Synagogue
The strikingly beautiful brick building of the Jewish Synagogue will surely catch your eye, as you walk through the streets of Brasov. The Neolog Synagogue, as it is also known, dates back to 1898. The original building was destroyed twice over the years, only to be restored more beautifully every time.
The entrance faces a tiny courtyard near Brasov’s central square, so if you find it open don’t hesitate to step inside. This one of Brasov’s attractions that shouldn’t be missed. The grandeur of this temple will take your breath away!
The Jewish population in this area has a very interesting history. The first influx of Jews took place in 1826, after a law was passed allowing them to move into Brasov.
At the time the city was run by guilds, so newcomers’ professions had to be non-competing with those already in existence. As a results, many Jews were denied entry into Brasov. But by the end of the 19th century a small Jewish community was already formed in the city and that’s when the first Synagogue was built.
During WWII the Nazis destroyed the the pipe organ and the stained glass and desecrated the temple turning it into a warehouse. In 1947 there were nearly 6,000 Jews in Brasov, but after 1960s they began moving to Israel and United States. Today there are only 300 Jews left in the city and they struggle to keep their traditions alive.
Discover Brasov’s Old City Ramparts (Bastionul Graft)
During the Middle Ages the Saxons built a quadrilateral shaped wall around what is today the historic center of Brasov. The original wall boasted eight bastions and 28 towers, which were named after the guilds of craftsmen who guarded them. Today, only a few of those bastions still stand, but they are in a pretty good shape.
The best place to see the old city walls is on Strada Dupa Ziduri (the Street Behind the Walls). As you wander their length, you’ll find plenty of eye-catching structures, including the place where you can climb to the White Tower. If you continue you’ll also see the Weaver’s Bastion, which houses a museum dedicated to the city’s history.
Climb Up the White Tower (Turnul Alb)
Located up high on Warthe Hill, the White Tower (Turnul Alb) keeps watch over the city of Brasov. Turnul Alb was a defensive bastion which protected the west side of town in medieval times. Its name comes from the white appearance of the tower which is plastered in white.
The upper part is equipped with ramparts and on the side walls you can see some gutters from where stones were being thrown over the attackers. The entrance to the tower is at a considerable high height, so the access was possible only by tall leaders.
The White Tower sits directly above the Graft Bastion, but it’s currently closed. However, you can still see it upclose if you are willing to climb up the steep set of stairs leading to it.
Take the Cable Car Up to Tâmpa Mountain
One of the most relaxing things to do in Brasov is take the cable car up to Tâmpa Mountain, at an elevation of 960 meters. Most of the mountain is declared a natural reserve due to the many species of birds, animals and plants that grow in this area.
If you are in good shape and have more time for exploration, you can also hike up to Tâmpa Mountain. And if you are lucky, you might even spot a bear on this hike. Just a short hike from the top of the cable car station will take you to the place where you get the best view of Brasov and the surrounding area.
Things to Do Around Brasov
Brasov is the perfect home base for exploring Transylvania. If you have more than just one day in Brasov, you should try to take a few day trips and visit Tâmpa Mountain and two of Romania’s most beautiful castles, which are located within a very short distance from the city.
Explore Bran Castle (a.k.a. Dracula’s Castle)
For most people, Bran Castle will evoke one name only: Dracula, the bloodthirsty character from Transylvania, inspired by Vlad III (most commonly known as Vlad the Impaler), the cruel ruler of Wallachia.
Although Vlad the Impaler’s real castle was in fact at Poenari, truth is that Bram Stoker’s story brought a lot of fame and glory to Bran Castle. Today, Transylvania is not so much known for it spectacular scenic beauty or its medieval towns, as it is for being the home of Dracula.
Visit the Prejmer Fortified Church
Built by the Teutonic Knights in 1212-1213, Prejmer is the largest fortified church in southeastern Europe. Unlike the fortified church of Biertan, which sits up on a knoll, Prejmer is located right in the middle of the village on a flat terrain.
The oval-shaped courtyard is protected by 40-feet high / 12-feet thick defensive walls. Around the walls is an 18-feet deep water ditch. During its 500 years of existence, the fortress was besieged 50 times, but was captured only once.
Tour of the Fortress of Râsnov
Just 22 km away from Brasov lies one of the best preserved fortresses in Romania: the Fortress of Râsnov. This fortification belonged to the Teutonic Knights who were brought here to defend the Southeastern border of Transylvania from the Cumans and the Pechenegs.
The old fortification underwent a lot of restoration and the remains look quite impressive now, so you it’s definitely worth visiting. There is also a museum within the fortress where you can see some interesting artifacts.
Take a Day Trip to the Cistercian Abbey of Cârța
One of the oldest and most beautiful Gothic monuments from Romania I the Cistercian Abbey of Cârța, located about 100 km away from Brasov. The little that is left of the 12th century monastery is impressive enough to justify a full day trip.
The abbey was destroyed in great part by the Mongol invasion of 1241. However, it was King Matthias Corvinus who closed it down in 1474, expropriating all its properties.
The Abbey of Cârța managed to survive the centuries even if only partially. The largest part that still stands is the choir, which was transformed today into an evangelical church. The former space of the nave is used as a war cemetery.
Where to Stay in Brasov, Romania
The best hotel in town is Aro Palace, located in the historic center. This is a 5-star accommodation overlooking the Tâmpa Mountain. The hotel features a wellness center and a beautiful restaurant on the top floor which serves both European and Romanian cuisine. By the Western European or American standards the prices are really cheap. We paid below $100/night in full season.
Another beautiful hotel in Brasov is Kronwell Hotel located in the business district, near a train station. This is a 4-star hotel featuring a big indoor pool and a spa. The rooms are beautifully furnished and really luxurious.
Safrano Palace is another good choice for accommodations in Brasov. This is a 3-star hotel that features very nicely decorated rooms overlooking Piata Sfatului (Council Square). The location couldn’t be any better, right in the middle of the Old Town.
Interesting Facts About Brasov, Romania
One of the things that may draw your attention in Brasov’s is the iconic Brasov sign, reminiscent of the Hollywood sign, in Los Angeles. You can easily reach the sign by taking a hiking trail up to Tâmpa mountain, or by taking the cable car.
Another interesting fact is that Brasov is a city of many names. Initially, the city was know under its Latin name of Corona. Later on, the Saxons changed its name to Krondstat (in German). The Hungarians called it Brasso, which is is the closest variation to the city’s current name – Brasov.
But the most embarrassing name the city has ever had was Orasul Stalin (Stalin City.) According to the communist propaganda, the love for Stalin had to be boundless. As a result, on August 23, 1950 the name of the town was changed “in honor of the great genius of working humanity, Joseph Stalin.”
So determined were the propaganda agents on making the city’s new name known, that they ordered a large number of trees on Tampa mountain cut down, so that the name could become visible from far away. Fortunately, the madness lasted only 10 years, after