Braşov is one of the main tourist destinations for foreigner tourists and it is very easy to understand why.
Its medieval atmosphere, with old and stunning buildings, its cobblestone streets, its quiet and hidden alleys are among the most important reasons that make Braşov so desirable. The famous Black Church, the largest church between Vienna and Istanbul, as it is described by many travel guides, can be considered another reason. If you take into consideration the fact that Braşov is surrounded by the green and steep slopes of the Postavaru Mountain which offers great views over the entire city and beyond, then you can see why this city entices its travelers. Tired and hungry? Then you could enjoy some of the best restaurants in the country serving Romanian, Hungarian and international cuisine. To all of these add its close proximity to other famous landmarks of Romania such as Bran Castle, known as “Dracula’s Castle,” the Rasnov fortress, or the unique Prejmer fortified church.
The location of Braşov
Braşov is protected by a curve in the Carpathian Mountains, probably the main reason that the Germans chose this particular place. It is located in south-eastern Transylvania, about 170km (105mi) north of Bucharest – about 3 hours of driving. Brasov is also a good base for day trips: Sibiu lies just 145km (90mi) west of Braşov, and Sighişoara, a famous UNESCO site, is located even closer – just 120km (75mi).
The history of Brasov
Although a Romanian population had been living there for a long time, the history of the city starts in the 13th century when Andrew II of Hungary gave the Teutonic Knights the right to colonize the area. After some disagreements with the Hungarian king, the knights were forced to leave and their place was taken by German colonists. The year 1234 is given as the date of the city’s founding, and its first name was Corona, followed by Brassó (Hungarian) and Kronstadt (German). In the centuries that followed, Braşov became an important trade center, being located on an important route between west and east and also because of its trade with the provinces of Wallachia and Moldavia. This gave them the power to build one of the largest citadels in all of Transylvania. The year 1689 marks the great fire that destroyed a large part of the medieval citadel, including the famous Black Church, and for years the town remained in ruins.
The early 20th century brought the Great War, which for Braşov ultimately meant the unification of Romania. Unfortunately, WWII brought about the end of German culture in Transylvania as the German minority was either negatively affected by the horrors of war or left the country during the Communist era. Braşov today is an important economical, industrial and tourist center of Romania.
Although the medieval town of Braşov is not very large, there are still many sights to be seen in this beautiful area. Its medieval atmosphere strikes you immediately. Take advantage of the old streets and roam in the old parts of the city. Observe the medieval architecture, the different styles of the German houses, and the details of each architectural element. Go beyond the town and enjoy a walking tour in nature as Braşov offers many options.
The main tourist attraction of Braşov is by far the Black Church, which practically outlines the history of the town. Built in about 100 years and at the request of the priest Thomas Sander, the Black Church is the most impressive Gothic religious building in the city. Built first as a Catholic church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the Black Church became the first Evangelical site in Transylvania. The Protestant Reformation was introduced by Johannes Honterus, a great humanist who lived in the 16th century and whose statue can be admired today, rıght next to the building. The church was given its present name in 1689 when a great fire destroyed much of the town, killing some 300 inhabitants. The church was severely damaged by the fire and its exterior walls remained black after this tragic event, hence the name. Today, the Black Church boasts a magnificent organ of almost 4000 pipes, a baptismal font dating back to 1472, a beautiful altar and pulpit, some interesting paintings, and the heaviest bell in Romania, weighing 6 tons. But the most valuable objects by far are the Turkish carpets which constitute the second largest Anatolian carpet collection in the world. Organ concerts have been played there since the 1950s.
The Council Square (Piaţa Sfatului) of Braşov is a great place to relax while admiring the surrounding buildings and the passers-by. At first it was just a market place, later becoming the center of the medieval town. The building of the former Town Hall is the main attraction of the square. Built in 1420 by the Furriers Guild, it is the oldest building in Brasov and has been used as a watch tower, as the Town Hall, and even as a prison. Stradă Republicii (Republic Street) is the main pedestrian thoroughfare of Braşov, and stretches from the Piaţa Sfatului (Council Square) to Bulevardul Eroilor (Heros’ Boulevard). In summer, this traffic-free alley becomes a long terrace with its center designated for tables and chairs where visitors can enjoy delicious meals and drinks.
Braşov was once protected by a powerful wall which encircled the entire medieval citadel. The most famous towers are the Black and the White Towers. The Graft Bastion makes the connection to the White Tower. All these towers were under the surveillance of different Guilds. The Black and White Towers, today part of the History Museum, offer a nice view over the old town. Right below, one can see the Alley Behind the Walls, a quiet and green alley in summertime. The beautiful Catherine’s Gate is the only original gate to remain from medieval times. Next to it one can see the Wallachian Gate, built in the 18th century.
Don’t miss one of the most peculiar streets of Braşov. Known as the Rope-makers Street, this narrow alley was cut in order to ease the traffic of the firefighters in case of emergencies. Today it is one of the most photographed attractions of Braşov.
One of the best attractions of Braşov is the cable car because it takes you all the way to the top of Mount Tâmpa. From here you can enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view over the entire citadel, the new city, and beyond.
The old section of the Romanian neighborhood, known as the Schei quarter, also offers some interesting spots such as the Saint Nicholas Church and the roadside shrines.
Accommodation in Brasov
When it comes to accommodations, Braşov has plenty to offer, from 5-star hotels to quaint little guest houses. But my favorite places are those that can be considered tourist attractions by themselves, those places that emphasize the local atmosphere and the history of Braşov. In random order I would start with the chic Bella Muzica Hotel 3* which can be found right on Council Square. The clean and neat rooms, albeit somewhat small, are nicely decorated in an old fashion. For larger rooms, it is better to book an apartment. Another great location would be the Classic Inn 3*. Decorated with great taste and care, this place offers stylish rooms and a good restaurant. The famous Cape Verdean singer Cesaria Evora was among their visitors. The Curtea Braşoveana Hotel 4* is a good accommodation located in the old Romanian part of the medieval town. The quiet neighborhood, the courtyard, and the large rooms make this place a good choice, although perhaps a little more care could be paid to some details. If you want to have a good view of the old town from your window, then the Kolping Hotel 3* is the right choice for you. Although it is quite simple, the rooms are large and clean. Their best service is the breakfast, with delicious dishes waiting for you every morning. You might find the price to be attractive as well. If you are looking for stylish hotels with all modern facilities, then the Aro Palace Hotel 5* or the Ambient Hotel 4* are the ones for you.
Restaurants in Braşov
Braşov has so many restaurants and bars that it would be impossible to mention all of them. I’ll stick to just a few of them. The Bella Muzica Restaurant is, in my opinion, one of the best restaurants in Braşov. It offers in a nice atmosphere Romanian, Hungarian and international cuisine. The food is excellent and the staff well trained. Try the Hungarian goulash and the local lemonade. Sergiana is a traditional restaurant offering tasty Romanian dishes in a nicely decorated cellar. The Sirul Vami Restaurant is an elegant location more suitable for those who like to be treated in a more special way. The food is very good as well as the service, and it is located on Stradă Mureşenilor. The Serbian’s Den (Taverna Sarbului) is a Serbian-owned chain offering, of course, Serbian dishes. It is located on the main pedestrian alley, Stradă Republicii. The summers are a great opportunity to eat out on a terrace located either in the main square or on one of the pedestrian alleys.
Sport Activities in and around Braşov
As it is located in a mountain area, Braşov is perfect for active travelers. The old town is surrounded by Mount Tâmpa, and instead of taking the cable car, you could hike all the way to the top – it shouldn’t take more than 45 minutes to an hour. If you think it’s too much, you could take the cable car up and then walk down. From Braşov you can also enjoy mountain biking as there are several suitable roads and trails. And you could go toward the impressive Solomon’s Rocks and then all the way to the famous mountain resort of Poiana Braşov.
In the new part of Braşov you can find the Adventure Park. This would be a perfect destination especially for the families with children. Climb up in the trees and pretend you are Tarzan.
In summertime, starting June 1st, you can relax in a swimming pool at the Aqua Park. As for the winter, there is no doubt the Poiana Braşov, the most important ski destination in Romania, is the main attraction. In order to reach the resort you must take the #20 bus. Buy the ticket from the kiosk located in the station and don’t forget to mention that you want a ticket for Poiana Braşov. Once on the bus, you must validate the ticket – otherwise you risk a fine. Or take a cab and you will arrive there in 20 minutes.
Braşov is a great tourist destination whether you are Romanian or a foreign tourist. It offers a wide range of cultural and sport activities, hotels, restaurants and bars. Its proximity to other famous landmarks in Romania makes it even more desirable. Definitely you will leave it saying “I Love Braşov”.About the author: Daniel Gheorghita is an experienced Romanian licensed tour guide living in Bucharest and manager of Covinnus Travel. He is very passionate about photography, hiking and biking. His motto is "Life must be fun". That's why his hobbies are part of the daily work.