Whereas Cluj-Napoca had been a stepping stone into my week-long visit of Romania, it was Brasov where I really got into the swing of things. In other words, Cluj had been a taster of the large Eastern European country, and Brasov was the main course. I spent three nights in town, the longest of the other cities I visited on the trip, taking in the sights and surrounding places of the Transylvanian region.
When it comes to getting around Romania, I would say that trains are the best way to go. Granted, Romanian trains are notorious for being 1) late, 2) slow, and 3) run-down, which I admit are true from my experiences. However, they weren’t so bad, as I likened them to the TERs (transport express régional) I’ve taken in France. And especially if you pay a little more for first class, then it makes a notable difference in comfort.
I’d booked my tickets on Romania’s train website before I left for vacation, which was a huge time-saver (I’ll be honest that the website itself was a bit uneven– while there was English as an option for languages, it also didn’t quite work when it came to selecting/paying for the ticket. It worked out eventually in the end!). I opted for first class from Cluj to Brasov, since it would be a long journey, about six-and-a-half hours. As I’ve mentioned before, Romania is really inexpensive, so I only paid about 83 RON (about 17€) for the ticket!
Despite its notoriety for being late, my train at 10:15 left right on time, and I settled in for the next six, almost seven hours on my way to Brasov. As it was February when I visited, much of the landscape was covered in snow– while it looked chilly outside, I was glad that the train had heating, so that made it quite a comfortable ride. It also happened not to be a packed train, as I only shared my compartment with two other travelers. While nothing momentous happened on the way over, it was a pleasant ride nevertheless.
The train pulled into Brasov close to 17:00, and I hopped off and exited the station, catching a local bus to my hostel where I would be spending my three nights in. Even though there wasn’t much of a social atmosphere to it, I found it just right for my needs, i.e. a place to sleep and cook meals after a long day of sightseeing. It was clean with friendly reception and right in the heart of Old Town, which was easy for getting around to see the main sites. I reached my hostel in the early evening, where I checked in and, after getting some food at the grocery store, I stayed in that night to rest after a long day of travel. I would have the next two-and-a-half days to explore Brasov, along with a couple of day trips to places in the region.
Brasov (or also spelled “Brașov”) is a popular tourist draw for the country, with its compact Old Town and easy access to nearby castles (Bran, Rasnov, etc.) in the Transylvanian region. It’s absolutely charming, especially its colorful Piața Sfatului and stunning views from the Tampa cable car. I was really lucky to have visited Brasov (and Romania, in general) during good weather, and the views were so gorgeous– definitely was worth it! I only spent about half a day exploring Brasov, but since it’s such a small city, I found it to be plenty of time to see everything within a couple of hours. I visited the town after getting back from a half-day trip to Bran Castle (aka “Count Dracula’s Castle,” even if there’s no proof of that in history/folklore. Spoiler alert: it was overrated).
After a short break and late lunch in my hostel, I set out to explore Brasov properly in the afternoon. From my hostel, I headed southeast to the base of the Tampa cable car, which takes you almost 1000 meters up to the summit of Mount Tampa itself. Round-trip was about 18 RON (just under 4€), and I got stunning, clear views of Brasov from up above, along with the surrounding Southern Carpathians. I’m a fan of views everywhere, so getting the chance to do so in Brasov was a pleasure.
After taking the cable car back down, I returned to Old Town, where I crossed through Rope Street (Strada Sforii), the narrowest street in the city. It was historically-used by firemen to get from one street to the other, and it’s so narrow that one can’t even stretch one’s arms out inside! I can imagine that it’s a popular Instagram spot, for the walls that changed color every few meters and the vibrant graffiti are certainly picturesque.
Passing under the Poarta Schei (an archway for both cars and pedestrians), I looped back to the Old Town, where I enjoyed the sunny weather in the Piața Sfatului, which was bustling with locals and visitors enjoying the sun while walking around and eating outside. I also got to see the Black Church, appropriately-named due to a fire in the 17th century which left its exterior blackened by ashes.
As I’ve mentioned, I love a good view– if the ones from Mount Tampa weren’t enough, then I had to get a second round, this time at the Cetățuia de pe Strajă. Located just a bit north of the Old Town, the fortress was also to offer decent views of Brasov. The climb up wasn’t too bad, as it was just several flights of staggered stairs. The views were rather foggy when I made it to the top, but I still found them atmospheric, similar to the ones I captured in Cluj.
Making my way down, I was pretty much done visiting Brasov. I returned to my hostel and went to bed early, as I had a super-early train to catch the following day to Sibiu as a day trip (more on that later). On my last half-day in Brasov, I did go out one last time to see the last of the city before I had to catch the afternoon train to my next destination. It was just a matter of seeing Piața Sfatului once more, along with getting a nice cup of coffee at a nearby coffee shop and a *massive* order of fries with curry ketchup as my “lunch.” Soon enough, I packed up, checked out of my hostel, and caught my 14:00 train to the next stop in Romania.
Brasov was a real pleasure, probably my favorite city I based myself in during my time in Romania. Although it’s small, it has a lot of charm, and its location to other spots in the country was very convenient. Definitely a highlight of my time, and it’s definitely a place to visit while in Romania.
More adventures coming up!