Romania is a country rich in history. Since it joined the European Union in 2007, the government has invested heavily in tourism. Featuring ancient ruins, castles, and monuments, Romania is the ideal destination for history buffs.
No Romanian vacation would be complete without visiting at least one of these castles! Made famous by Bram Stoker's novel, Vlad the Impaler once ruled Transylvania. Quite a few castles--such as Poenari, Bran, and Corvin--brag that Vlad the Impaler spent time under their roofs, but these gorgeous structures all merit a visit based on their beauty alone. While you're exploring these Dracula destinations, don't forget the myriad of vampire tours available to book.
Each headstone in this Săpânţa cemetery features a whimsical painting of the deceased. Local artist Stan Ioan Pătraş memorialized each person by carving irreverent, poetic epitaphs into the gravestones, thus creating Merry Cemetery. Admission is free, but since the epitaphs are written in a local dialect, you're advised to pick up "The Crosses of Sapanta," which translates each headstone and provides context for the paintings.
Opened in 1910, this casino on the shores of the Black Sea is a stunning pinnacle of the Art Noveau movement. Unfortunately, upkeep on this magnificent building proved too burdensome, and the government closed it in 1990. However, it's still available for particularly brave urban spelunkers to dive into. Much of the art remains, though visitors are advised to be careful, as this building is not being maintained.
The tall, twisted trees of Hoia-Baciu look like they were taken straight from a storybook, especially when shrouded by moss and morning mist. Stories of ghostly encounters, faerie kidnappings, and even alien visitations swirl around this forest, giving it the reputation of the 'most haunted forest in Europe.' Daytime tours are available, with night tours for the especially brave.
Just outside the village of Sinca Veche, this cave-temple is estimated to be over seven thousand years old. Believers of all types have lived here, and sharp-eyed visitors can pick out not only crosses but a Star of David and even a yin-yang carved into the walls. The complex features nine rooms, two of which are chapels illuminated by holes carved into the ceiling. While you're there, take a drink of water from a nearby spring.
Built by wealthy Greek bankers in 1903, the building was seized by the Communist government in the 1950s and turned into a general store. After the revolution, the descendants of the original banking family reclaimed the building, and transformed it into one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world. Books of all types fill the 10,000 beautifully-illuminated square feet, and the teahouse on the top floor allows you to relax with your new purchases.
Estimated to have been built sometime in the 13th century, many believe the Church of St. Nicholas in Densus was built atop a much older pagan site of worship. Murals painted in the 15th century have since been restored to their former beauty. Admission is free, but the church is still an active place of worship and visitors are asked to be respectful.
One of the largest salt mines in Europe, Salina Praid began to enjoy a unique reputation in the 1960s as a center for speleotherapy: therapy involving salt. Some believe breathing salt air can alleviate the symptoms of conditions such as bronchiolitis. Come here for a day trip, or book a longer stay and enjoy the cafes, wine gallery, and ecumenical salt chapel.
Two of Romania's communist leaders, including the infamous Nicholas Ceaucescu, were imprisoned at Doftana Penitentiary before coming to power. During the Communist regime, the prison was a political pilgrimage spot and propaganda center. Today, it is wholly abandoned, a relic of several bygone eras. No tours are conducted, and no one maintains the site, so visitors are urged to wear proper gear and step with caution while here.
Every spring, Transylvania hosts an international film festival. The festival lasts a full week and features independent and up-and-coming filmmakers from all over Europe. The films are screened in cinemas across the regional capital of Cluj, and admission is usually no more expensive than the cost of a movie ticket. If you plan to attend, download the official phone app to help you navigate movie times, purchase tickets, and leave reviews.
Every July, the town of Sighisoara takes full advantage of its well-preserved medieval architecture and hosts a weekend-long festival. Actors dress up in period-appropriate garb and demonstrate traditional dance and sword-fighting styles, while visitors can sample food of the era. If you can't make Sighisoara, medieval festivals are held across the country in summer and autumn. And if you want to go back even farther in time, visit the Roman festival each spring, which celebrates Roman influence on the area.
In the heart of Bucharest, this park commemorates those who lost their lives during Romania's struggle for independence. The square itself was where the riot began which spelled the end of Ceaucescu's regime, and features several sculptures of those events. The square is always open, and visitors are asked to stay respectful of history when visiting.
Protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the delta is over 3,000 square miles of canals, fishing villages, and verdant plant and animal life. Take a boat down one of the charming canals, or go birdwatching and see if you can spot one of the 300 native species. It's highly recommended you hire a guide with enough local knowledge to show you around and point out all the really cool spots.