Brasov is Transylvania’s most enchanting city, with a medieval heart packed with spectacular architecture. It is also the perfect springboard into the untamed wildernesses of the Carpathian Mountains and Piatra Craiului National Park.
Day 1: Discover the city
Get the lay of the land with a walking tour of the gorgeous Gothic-cum-Baroque city center, its landmark church of Biserica Neagră (Black Church) and the lovely expanse of Piata Sfatului, the focus of city life since medieval times dominated by the imposing Old Town Hall, now the city’s history museum. Lunch on sarmale (vine leaves stuffed with mince) in one of Brasov’s many bohemian cafés. In the afternoon wander around the once-fortified walls and bastions of the old town and then head for the Schei district outside the city walls to visit the Orthodox church of St Nicholas and the First Romanian School, now a tiny museum.
Day 2: Explore medieval Transylvania
Discover the truth behind the legends of Transylvania with a visit to Bran Castle, the mythical home of Count Dracula, built in 1377 and perched high on an escarpment to protect an important trading route between the Ottoman Empire (present-day Turkey) and Western Europe. Today it is a photogenic jumble of medieval courtyards and half-timbered halls topped with red-tiled turrets and sloping roofs. Nearby is Rasnov, a typically Transylvanian fortified hilltop citadel built in the early 13th century to withstand invasion from the east; its courtyards, lanes and towers are all open for exploration.
Day 3: Venture into the wilds
Either: drive the extraordinary Transfagarasan Highway switchbacks and tunnels through the Carpathian Mountains for one of the top 10 driving experiences in the world (it’s open June through October), or take a guided walk into Piatra Craiului National Park for the rare chance to spot brown bears in their natural habitat, as well as red deer, wild boar and occasionally elusive lynx. On the final evening, take the cable car up Tampa Mountain for views over Brasov’s old town.