From a backpacker’s perspective, Brasov might be the best city in Romania. It’s got a great balance between a lively big city and a cozy small town. The historic city center is one of Romania’s most beautiful, highlighted by a gorgeous cathedral and a bustling plaza. With a central location in a surprisingly big country, Brasov makes for an excellent home base for the adventurous traveler. From here, you can make day trips to castles, mountains, and more. Brasov belongs on any traveler’s itinerary, but as a backpacker, it is an especially great place.
Brasov is budget-friendly and has some of the best hostels in Romania. There are enough things to do in Brasov to keep you busy for a few days, as well as a plethora of day trips to choose from. Brasov also has a lively nightlife scene for my fellow party lovers. The city is a short bus ride away from Romania’s most popular tourist destination, Dracula’s Castle, as well as plenty of hiking opportunities in the nearby mountains. If you only go to one place in Romania, I reckon it should be Brasov.
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How To Get To Brasov
Trains are the main form of inter-city transportation in Romania. From Bucharest, it takes about three hours to get to Brasov by train. The ticket should cost around $15. Trains leave around every hour, and are pretty punctual for the most part. They are slow, which was sometimes frustrating after the high-speed trains of Italy. But hey, when you can get all the way across the country for $20, who am I to complain? With Brasov being a big city, you should have no issue getting to and from there.
I’m not too sure about buses, but there are at least two bus stations in Brasov so I assume buses are an option too. However, if there are trains available, I’ll choose trains any day.
Oh, and before you go, make sure to have good travel insurance handy whenever you’re out adventuring. I use SafetyWing to keep me covered throughout my travels for as low as $40 a month.
Where To Stay in Brasov
Brasov was surprisingly big and spread out. While it was easy to enjoy oneself in Brasov, it was definitely difficult picking a hostel. They all looked amazing. Eventually, I settled for one outside the city center and closer to the train and bus stations to allow me for more day trips and quick getaways.
The hostel I chose was Zozo Hostel, and it truly did feel like an oasis in the middle of a bustling city. The setup feels more like a cabin in the woods as opposed to a hostel in a big city. Zozo Hostel is one of the most beautiful and well-designed hostels I’ve ever stayed at. There is only one dorm room, located at the top floor in what was once the attic. However, the way the owner, Zoran, repurposed the attic should be applauded. It is beautiful what he did with it.
All the beds are on the floor, but each one feels like your own private little space. Each bed has curtains, a locker, a lamp, and outlets. There is also some space on the side to dump all your stuff so the small room doesn’t get too cluttered. Zozo Hostel has a big outdoor space with hammocks, a common kitchen, and a beautiful common area and library. They also have free breakfast, and even though he says it’s from 8-9 AM, he’d usually have saved me a plate for when I’d roll out of bed at 11 AM. Hey, that post-Untold Festival comedown was a killer. There are also private rooms at Zozo Hostel. I didn’t go into them but they are these big cool-looking barrel things in the backyard.
The only qualm one would have with Zozo Hostel is that it is pretty far from the city center. The walk takes about thirty minutes, but Ubers are usually around $2-3, so it’s not that big of a deal. The train station is about 10 minutes away, and there’s a Carrefour Supermarket on the corner. Overall, the location didn’t bother me because I like going back to a hostel to chill out after a full day of adventures.
If you want to stay closer to the city center, I’ve heard great things about Jugendstube Hostel and Centrum House Hostel.
The Best Things To Do in Brasov
Bran Castle, often referred to as Dracula’s Castle, is arguably Romania’s most popular tourist attraction. It actually doesn’t have any proven ties to Dracula or Vlad Tepes, the real-life person that Dracula was loosely based off of. However, people love a good story, and Bran Castle in Transylvania offers just that. It’s definitely worth a visit while you’re in Brasov, but I do think it is a bit of an over-hyped tourist trap. It only costs about $10 to enter the castle and castle grounds, although you’ll find there really isn’t much on Dracula. It’s more of a museum that holds things and recreates rooms of the people that lived in Bran Castle throughout the years.
To get to Bran Castle, you can take a bus from Brasov to Bran for about $2. You’ll have to go the Autogara 2 bus station and catch the hourly bus to Bran. The ride takes about 40 minutes and the bus will drop you off right in front of Bran Castle. There’s not much else to do in Bran, so don’t plan on spending the whole day here. The town of Bran mostly revolves around Bran Castle, and the area is mostly just vendors selling souvenirs.
If you want to couple a day trip to Bran Castle with another adventure, then a stop at Rasnov Fortress might be for you. You’ll be on the same bus to get to Bran, but you’ll get off a little earlier at Rasnov. From here, you can work your way up to the fortress on the hill, dating back to the 13th century. There’s also a tacky Hollywood-esque sign right next to it, but at least you’ll know where you’re going.
The Historic City Center
Brasov’s historic city center is one of the most beautiful in Romania. It is clean, colorful, and well-preserved. Here, you’ll find restaurants, nightlife, shopping, and some beautiful buildings like churches and museums. Let your feet take you wandering and you’ll find something to fill your time. Outside of the historic city center, Brasov feels like your typical modern city, so I’d recommend staying in the historic city center as a traveler.
If you want a hike without having to stray too far from Brasov, you’ll want to check out Tampa Mountain. You can also take a cable for about $5, but I’d recommend stretching your legs and going for the hike. Up here, you’ll get a stunning view of Brasov from the Brasov-lywood sign.
About an hour south of Brasov by train, you can get to Busteni. This beautiful mountain town is home to beautiful views and a lot of hiking. If you love the great outdoors, then Busteni is the day trip for you.
Sinaia and Peles Castle
Just a little further south of Busteni is the town of Sinaia. This is one of the most beautiful villages in Romania. Seriously, for how small Sinaia was, it had a lot of stunning buildings. None were more beautiful than Peles Castle. It costs $10 to enter, which I didn’t pay because I was out of cash. Even seeing it from the outside was worth the day trip, though. Along with Peles Castle, you can check out another castle nearby, although it was much less eye-catching. Once you drop back down to Sinaia town, you can walk through the central park for some beautiful scenery. There’s also a monastery nearby that is popular among tourists. Have a meal in town before catching the train back to Brasov, and you’ve got yourself a chill little day trip.
Seven Ladders Canyon
This is a hike through a canyon close to Brasov. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to do this hike although my friends spoke very highly of it. Here’s a pretty thorough guide to the Seven Ladders Canyon hike, a diverse adventure that features canyons, waterfalls, and lots of beautiful scenery. Make sure to have some good travel insurance like SafetyWing handy before going on any hikes, though.
Romania is a country filled with beautiful towns and stunning destinations. Yet, Brasov stands out above the rest as the premier destination in Romania. Make sure not to exclude this beautiful city from your Eastern European itinerary.
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