Romania isn’t an obvious choice for a road trip in Europe. In fact, most tourists who make it to the country just fly in and out of Bucharest. While Bucharest is indeed ideal for a city break, the country has so much more to offer. An offbeat road trip in Romania will take you through some of its most gorgeous historical villages, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the iconic Dracula’s Castle, scenic roads, and Romania’s hinterland. Read on for more.
Booking accommodation for your roadtrip in Romania: Tips
As you know we love going off the beaten path. We often find ourselves in obscure cottages in the middle of nowhere. But Romania is not the place for it! We would not suggest booking accommodation in extremely offbeat places in Romania. That’s because it is hard to find supermarkets, petrol pumps, or even small shops in such areas. Moreover locals don’t speak much English and are not used to having tourists in these areas. So we’d suggest sticking to the slightly larger towns and cities while booking accommodation in Romania. We’ve penned down all our suggestions in the guide below but as a rule of thumb, we’d suggest staying in downtown Bucharest, Sighisoara, Rasnov, and Targu Mures on this road trip of Romania.
Best time to go on a roadtrip in Romania
Summer months are ideal for this road trip. Anytime between the months of June and September work best as the scenery is at its best during that time of the year. This is not to say you cannot visit outside of those months – we went to Romania during March/April and despite mixed weather (sunny days, snowy spells, and rain), we had a great time there.
Renting a car for your roadtrip in Romania
It is easy to rent a car for your roadtrip in Romania. We’d suggest comparing prices first on Economy Bookings and then picking the best deal you get. You can rent it when you first fly into the airport at Bucharest or you can pick it on Day 4 after you’ve explored Bucharest as you don’t need a car to explore the city at all.
Getting into Bucharest
If you don’t rent a car on Day #1, then you can take a cab from the airport to the city centre.
You can figure out your itinerary on getting to a place but it is always important to read up about the best ways of getting from the airport to your hotel in advance because you could save a bunch of money and get settled into a new country quicker this way. The best way to get from Bucharest International Airport to the city is to call an Uber. In fact, pre-paid cabs at Bucharest Airport cost almost thrice as much as calling an Uber to the airport. So make sure you have the app downloaded before you get there.
Days 1-4 Explore Bucharest
Accommodation in Budapest
If you’re in Bucharest just for 2-3 days, we’d suggest picking a comfortable and central hotel such as Europa Royale Bucharest. If you are there in the city for longer than 3 days or need accommodation with free parking, then we’d suggest renting an apartment on AirBnB. We rented an apartment near Cimsigiu Garden and loved our time there as it was away from the hustle bustle of the centre yet at walking distance from most sights, restaurants, supermarkets, and cafes.
Things to see and do in Bucharest
There is no shortage of things to do in Bucharest but here’s a few of our favourites:
- Start by walking around the cobble-stoned alleys of Old Centre (Lipscani) and Revolution Square
- Walk around Cimsigiu Park – we were lucky to visit when it was snowing and it was a beautiful sight. The park is amazing in spring and summer as well.
- The golden onion-shaped domes of St Nicolas Orthodox Church are a perfect introduction to Romania’s fraught history
- Pasagul Victoria has a ceiling full of umbrellas which make for the perfect photograph
- Pasagul Villacrose and Pasajul Macca have several quaint eateries – think Parisian cafés & restaurants
- Stavreopoleos monastery is a bit of a hidden gem but it’s old-world charm makes it seductive to curious travellers!
- Unirea shopping centre is perfect if you want to shop your hearts out in Bucharest. It has all the high-street stores you could possibly want
- If you’re a fan of speciality coffee, you’re in luck. Bucharest has some amazing cafés. Check out Origo coffee, Bandit coffee (It’s the shop with no name and panda signage), Beans and Dots coffee
- Love hip brunch spots? Check out The Urbanists, Frudisiac, and Lawyal brunch and cafe
Day 4: Visit Peles Castle and drive to Sighisoara
It’s time to pick up your rental car and set off on your road trip of Romania. Do remember that it is almost impossible to find big supermarkets outside of large towns, so stock up on snacks and any other edibles you might need before leaving Bucharest.
Almost as soon as you drive out of Bucharest, you will feel like you’ve stepped back in time. On day 4, drive to Sighisoara via Ploesti & Sinai. Make sure you stop to visit Peles Castle . The scenic Neo-Renaissance castle, surrounded by Carpathian Mountains, tends to get crowded during peak season, but it’s definitely worth a visit.
As you start nearing Sighisoara, colourful buildings will start cropping up. Park your car and get ready to fall in love with the it’s gorgeous medieval centre.
Day 5 Explore Sighisoara
Sighisoara is one of the gems of the historic region of Transylvania. It’s medieval fortified city is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most charming cities you’ll see on your roadtrip in Romania. It boasts of a lot of history, pastel-coloured houses, and a magnificent clock tower. Make sure you walk around the centre and also climb to the top of the clock tower for a bird’s eye view of the region. You should also climb a hundred odd steps up to the top of the hill from where you get an amazing view of the entire medieval city
Accommodation in Sighisoara
Imagine staying right next to the Colosseum in Rome! That’s how we felt when we found a charming hotel, actually located inside the medieval fortified city of Sighisoara, literally steps away from the clock tower. Fronius Residence is a quaint boutique hotel in a historical building. It offers a great view of brighly-coloured houses and cobbled streets of Sighisoara. But the medieval house is equipped with modern and luxurious facilities. There are just a few rooms here but the emphasis is on quality. Expect huge comfortable beds, luxurious toiletries, and spacious bathrooms. The best part is the incredible rustic breakfast that boasts of homemade cakes, dips, and freshly-squeezed juices. Try the local apple juice at Fronius Residence and book the room overlooking the watch tower, even though it’s the one that gets sold out first. Highly recommend this one!
You won’t be allowed to park your car in the fortified part but there is a manned car park at the bottom of the hill where you can park your car for EUR 1.5 for 24 hours.
Days 6-7 Take day trips to Biertan & Lake Balea
After a relaxing day in Sighisoara, it’s time to explore the region around it. Drive down to the neighbouring Biertan for some great views of the mountains and the church. If you’re in the mood for a longer day trip, drive down to Lake Balea (weather and roads permitting – check before you to drive). Once you’re there, take the cable car up. Stunning views of the lake and surrounding mountains are almost guaranteed.
Days 8-10 Brasov & Dracula’s Castle
It’s time to leave Sighisoara and drive onto your next accommodation. The next stop is usually Brasov for most tourists. However we would suggest avoiding Brasov (too touristy) and the skiing village of Azuga (too out of the way and deserted out of ski-season). Instead find a nice apartment in Rasnov and stay there instead. Once you’re all settled in, make sure you do the following
- Drive to the gorgeous monastery in Busteni for a drive. And if you want to work up an appetite, just hike to the monastery instead.
- Drive to Dracula’s Castle i.e. Bran castle. Besides the legends associated with it, the castle boasts of incredible scenery. Want a tip? If you want an amazing view of the castle of free, just drive to Vila bran’s restaurant for a beer or coffee and enjoy the free view of Bran Castle from there.
- Spend a day in Brasov. Hop on the cable car for a stunning view of the city. Take the rest of the day to walk around the Old Town’s cobbled alleys. The central square has a variety of chain restaurants and local eateries, so you’ll never be far from a good meal. It is easy to spend the entire day sightseeing and dining in Brasov.
- Drive to the hilltop church at Rasnov – it’s a great spot for taking photos.
Days 10-11 Drive The Transfagarasan Highway
On your way back to Bucharest, drive through the famous Transfagarasan Highway – it is one of the most scenic roads in the world. Unfortunately parts of the highway were snowed under when we visited in April. But if it’s open, we would definitely recommend stop at Balea Waterfall, Vidraru Dam, and Poienari Castle. You could drive the 150km stretch in one day but we’d recommend spending at least a couple of days in the area. If you have an extra day, try to drive to the The Transalpine Pass as well. Scenic views and spectacular panoramas await you.