100 reasons why you should visit Romania – Part II
Reasons to visit Romania Summary
Index of the 100 reasons to visit Romania.
51. Scărișoara Cave
Scărișoara is a glacier cave, located at 1,100 meters above sea level. Tourists can visit the 60-meter-long entrance shaft, the Great Hall, and the Church. Inside the Great Hall, there is the 18-meter-tall ice rock, the remains of an 3,500-year-old glacier, next to a pond called the Pool of Ice. Inside the Church, one can admire the more than 100 ice stalagmites hanging from the ceiling.
52. Coliboaia Cave
Not far from Scărișoara, and still in the Apuseni Mountains, you can see the oldest cave paintings in Central Europe known to man, inside Coliboaia Cave. The drawings are representations of animals, such as bears, bisons, and rhinoceros. It is believed that the paintings from Coliboaia Cave are from the Early to the Middle Upper Paleolithic. However, it is difficult to be more precise, because the people who lived there in those times would have found bears and rhinoceros to be very scarce. In addition, it is very likely that the cave representations weren’t all done at the same moment in time.
53. Meziad Cave
Meziad Cave is one of the longest caves in Romania, measuring 4.75 kilometers, over several levels. It was declared a monument of nature and was transformed into a reservation, being thoroughly researched by speleologists over time. They learned that Meziad Cave was inhabited by bears, and by Homo Sapiens. Today, it is home only to bat colonies.
Meziad’s 16-meter-tall entrance has been welcoming visitors since 1972.
54. Bears’ Cave
Another must-see when you’re visiting the Apuseni Mountains is the Bears’ Cave. Its name was given by the fact that in 1983 around 140 bear skeletons were found here, belonging to the extinct species of Ursus Spelaeus, the same species which inhabited Meziad Cave in the past.
The Bears’ Cave is formed of three galleries and the Candles Hall, Emil Racoviță Hall, and the Bones Hall.
55. The Farcu Mine Crystal Cave
Located in Pădurea Craiului Mountains, the Crystal Cave inside the Farcu Mine is the only one of its kind you can visit in Europe. There are only two crystal caves open for tourists in the world, with the other located in South Africa.
The side of the cave accessible for tourists is about 60 meters long and there one can admire the beautiful white crystals, which have grown in various shapes. Besides the crystals, there is also a very interesting mining museum.
56. Turda Salt Mine
To the North of the Apuseni Mountains,about 30 kilometers from Cluj Napoca, you can find Romania’s most visited tourist attraction: the Turda Salt Mine. Though open for tourists since 1992, it became really popular after the 2008 modernization and improvement works .
Inside its beautifully lit halls, visitors can go on a carousel or a boat ride, play bowling and mini-golf, and also enjoy concerts sometimes. It also has several halo-therapy rooms.
57. Hoia Baciu Forest
Also in Cluj Napoca’s vicinity, but in the other direction, one can go on a walk through the strange Hoia Baciu Forest. It is a beautiful sight due to its trees with leaning trunks, but it is also a place of legends. Hoia Baciu is believed to be a place where paranormal things happen, a sort of Bermuda Triangle of Romania, and many people who believe the stories are scared to venture inside.
58. Aghireș, the Blue Lagoon
Still close to Cluj Napoca, you have Romania’s Blue Lagoon, Aghireș. This beautiful pool came into being through the accumulation of rain water in the place of an old kaolin mining site. The stunning color is given by the kaolin (porcelain clay) residues.
59. The Mud Volcanoes
Another unique sight in our country are the Mud Volcanoes, located in Buzău County. Gases found up to 3,000 meters underground raise to the surface, pushing out a mixture of clay, mud, and salt water. Once above the ground, the mud dries off and builds the volcano-like cones around the eruption site. The ground is inhospitable to most flora and fauna, and the area resembles a desert.
60. The Living Fire
Close to the Mud Volcanoes, and also happening because of gases coming to the surface, is the Living Fire close to the village of Terca. The gases turn to flame thanks to sunlight or to the tourists who give them a hand with a match or a lighter in case they have extinguished. The height of the Living Fire depends on the weather and on the pressure of the underground gases.
61. The Red Ravine
Referred to as Romania’s Grand Canyon, the Red Ravine from the Alba County is an 800-meter-long wall, almost vertical. True to the nickname, the type of micro-relief encountered here is actually categorized as badlands, the same as for the Grand Canyon in South Dakota.
In Vâlcea County, you can visit the outdoor Trovants Museum. Erroneously named growing boulders or living stones, the Trovants are formed in a similar way to the stalactites and stalagmites found in caves, through the deposit of layers upon layers of sand. It takes a lot of time for big boulders to be formed, as they only grow around 5 centimeters in about 1,200 years.
63. The Woman’s Cave
The Woman’s Cave (Peștera Muierii) is an complex 7-kilometer-long cave system in Gorj County. It is the most visited cave of Romania, though tourists can only visit one of its 4 levels.
Scientists discovered here the remains of three early Modern humans. One of them was identified as a woman, hence the name of the cave.
64. Văcărești, Bucharest’s “Delta”
You’d be surprised to learn that you don’t even have to leave Bucharest, Romania’s capital city, to immerse yourself in the natural beauties our country has to offer:
In the place of an abandoned project for an accumulation lake, nature took over. Today, the area is a protected Natural Park, home to over 95 bird species, but also to small mammals like rabbits, foxes, and even otters.
65. Parks of Bucharest
You don’t have to go to the Văcărești Delta to get a breath of fresh air, as Bucharest has lots of parks in which you can go for a walk, a run, or a bike ride. The best thing is that they don’t close in the evenings, so you can have a stroll whenever you want.
66. Bellu Cemetery
The historic Bellu Cemetery (Șerban Vodă Cemetery) is unlike other in Bucharest. It has tall trees shading its alleys and beautiful monuments stand to mark the lives of those who have passed. Bellu certainly doesn’t give the eerie feeling a cemetery usually has.
It’s worth a visit to see the burial sites of renowned Romanian writers, painters, actors and important figures in history, as well.
In September, when we celebrate Bucharest’s Days, there are also concerts in this location. Nothing wild, though, don’t worry.
67. Bucharest’s Old Town
But maybe you’re into wild, so let’s skip to Bucharest’s Old Town, a place now conquered by restaurants, bars, and clubs, open until late. Or until early in the morning.
Almost all the tourists visiting Bucharest end up here. It’s the place with the most nightlife entertainment options per square meter in the capital.
68. Traditional Romanian food
Speaking of restaurants, odds are you’ll try Romanian food for the first time in the Old Town, at one of the very popular restaurants, such as Hanu’ lui Manuc (Manuc’s Inn) or Caru’ cu Bere (The Beer Wagon). While very crowded and more expensive than other options, they offer not only traditional food and drinks, but also Romanian music and dance shows, in a historic setting.
While Romanian food is more heavy than what some people are used to, it is worth a try. The Romanian cuisine is influenced by the cuisines of our neighbors from the present and our invaders from the past. I recommend you try:
- ciorbă de fasole cu afumătură în bol de pâine (smoked ham and beans sour soup, served in a bread bowl) )
- sarmale (minced meat in grapevine leaves or cabbage leaves)
- mici (spicy minced meat in the shape of sausages)
- bulz (polenta, burduf and caș — local cheeses, slices of sausages, smoked bacon, sometimes a sunny-side-up egg)
- tochitură moldovenească (dish from Moldova, with polenta and spicy bits of pork meat, usually mixed with bits of pork liver and other organs, though not always; normally served with a sunny-side-up egg)
- and, for desert, don’t skip the papanași (fried doughnuts with cheese mixed in the dough, soft on the inside, crunchy on the outside, with crème fraîche and jam on top).
69. Romanian Wine
To go with the heavy food, you should try one of our excellent wines. We have a tradition of over 3,000 years in wine-making. Our accessible prices and great products have put us on the map next to other important wine-making European countries, such as France or Italy.
Foreigners don’t fall in love only with the finished product, but also with our rich soils and productive vineyards, and end up relocating to become wine makers in Romania.
While in Romania, try tasting a Fetească Neagră (Black Maiden)wine.
70. Cărturești Carusel
I don’t know about you, but I don’t consider a trip complete unless I visit a bookshop. So while you’re in Bucharest, in the Old Town, why not stop at one of the most beautiful book shops in the world?
Inside a 19th century building, the book shop is spread on 6 levels, and has a total of 1,000 square meters. It has books in Romanian and English, games, music and movies, a tea house and tea shop, stationery, plus lots of great and quirky gift ideas.
71. The Romanian Kitsch Museum
Still in the Old Town, you will learn that Romanians have a sense of humor and they are more than capable of making fun of themselves. In a small building by Covaci Street, you get to discover all that is in poor taste about the way we lived in the past and still do, in some cases. You will laugh at Dracula, explore a small apartment from the Communist times, and learn about cocalari and pițipoance, if you don’t yet know about them.
It’s not necessarily a must-visit, but it’s fun to go here, you can dress up, touch things, take photos And it’s very small, it doesn’t take much time.
72. The Museum of the Communist Consumer
Another interesting museum is in Timișoara, the place where the revolution against the Communist regime started in 1989. The entire place is set up as a typical apartment from the Communist times, and visitors can explore in depth how people used to live back then, from what the furniture looked like to what kind of items they had in their pantry.
73. The House of the People
Back to Bucharest, we go to the House of the People or the Palace of Parliament, a huge mark left in history by Ceaușescu. The heaviest and most expensive administrative building in the world, the House of the People (Casa Poporului) is the second largest administrative building in the world, after The Pentagon.
While the building is impressive, it meant a lot of sacrifices for the Romanians. This is actually why it is called the House of the People: everybody contributed in one way or another to the raising and decorating of the establishment.
If you come for a visit to the House of the People, you should visit the National Museum of Contemporary Art, too. The Museum also has a terrace offering a beautiful view over Bucharest.
74. Unirii Boulevard
In front of the House of the People, Unirii Boulevard elongates all the way to Alba Iulia Square. Ceaușescu was also the one behind the building of this avenue, taking advantage of the large number of buildings demolished in the area by the 1977 earthquake. In addition to those, the Communist ruler demolished several others, relocating the people who had lived there all their lives before the unfortunate event.
Built to be greater than Paris’s Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Unirii Boulevard has a length of 3.5 kilometers. Recently, the fountains on this grand avenue were renovated and every weekend, in the evening, they offer a show of water and lights:
75. Calea Victoriei
A much lovelier avenue to explore is Calea Victoriei (Victory Way). When my grandparents were young, this was the place to go out in your best clothes, observe others and get noticed in return. Going for a walk on Calea Victoriei was a favorite weekend activity. While it may have lost part of its charm from back then, Calea Victoriei is still worth exploring by foot.
It unites several landmarks, and it has beautiful passageways and entrances to interior courtyards. My favorite passageway is the English Passage, though it reminds me more of Venice or Italy, in general, than of any other place.
76. The Royal Palace
On Calea Victoriei, in Revolution Square, there is The Royal Palace, housing the National Museum of Art of Romania. It is an interesting visit to explore the building, though a lot of its interior isn’t palace-like, but it’s rather more fitting for its purpose as a museum.
The National Museum of Art of Romania is the place to go to have a taste of medieval and modern Romanian Art, but also to discover the international collection of the Romanian royal family.
Nicolae Grigorescu, Theodor Aman, and Theodor Pallady are among the well-known Romanian painters whose works you can admire in the National Museum of Art of Romania.
77. Romanian Athenaeum
Not far from the Royal Palace, you can see the beautiful building of the Romanian Athenaeum (Ateneul Român). This is a concert hall and the home of the George Enescu Phillarmonic Orchestra.
Built in a combination of neoclassical and romantic styles in the year 1888, the Athenaeum is a jewel of a building. The large concert hall is circular and has this incredible fresco, the work of Costin Petrescu. The 75-meter-long and 3-meter-wide fresco depicts important moments from the history of Romania, starting with Dacia and ending with 1918, when Greater Romania was born.
It is really worth coming for a concert here, especially for the perfect acoustics of the Athenaeum. Until then, you can go on a virtual tour here.
78. Cotroceni Palace
Moving on to yet another palace in Bucharest, we go to the official residence of our Presidents, the Cotroceni Palace, which is actually the old Royal Palace.
Here, you can visit the Cotroceni National Museum, and explore a series of rooms decorated by Queen Mary, whom you may remember from the first part of this article. The Cotroceni National Museum also hosts Queen Mary’s incredible art collection.
79. Therme Bucharest
Believe it or not, there are lots of people who are coming to Bucharest not to discover the streets and old neighborhoods of Le Petit Paris, or its museums, but to go a bit outside the city and pamper themselves at Therme.
The place has 3 areas, with various things to offer. The Galaxy area is destined for families and it has lots of fun slides and an interior pool with waves for the kids to enjoy. In the Palm area, people relax in a large indoor and outdoor pool with pool bars and jacuzzi chairs and long chairs. Last, but not least, there is the Elysium area, with 6 different saunas, a Calla Lilly high-pressure cold shower, and pools with various minerals.
All the water comes from thermal springs, so it’s always warm and it’s a delight to have a drink in the hot outdoor pool in the middle of Winter.The Thermal Baths of Herculane
thermal baths of Herculane
Speaking of thermal baths, if you’re venturing out of Bucharest you should pay a visit to the spa town of Băile Herculane, in the Caraș-Severin county.
It is said that this is the place where Hercules battled the hydra, their fight shaping the gorges and other features in the surrounding scenery. It is also said that the springs in which Hercules bathed here gave him the strength to continue the battle and finish the mythical beast.
While Hercules’s visit is a legend, it’s a fact that the Roman aristocrats were attracted to this town and they turned it into a leisure center, which it remained to this day. During the communist regime, the buildings stayed luxurious and were very well maintained, but over time they went into decay. However, in recent years, the old establishments have started going under restorations and hopefully, one day, Băile Herculane will once again be as mighty as in their past.
81. Dobrogea’s fortresses
Dobrogea is the southeastern region of Romania, which has been inhabited since the Neolithic. The Persians, the Romans, the Ottomans, and several migratory peoples have at one point been through this area by the Black Sea. Nowadays, we can discover their traces through the various ruins, archaeological sites, and fortresses of Dobrogea. Capidava, Enisala, Tropeum Traiani, and Histria are among the most important of Dobrogea’s fortresses.
82. Vederoasa Lake
Also in Dobrogea and close to the city of Constanța, one can find a scenery similar the the one in the Danube Delta, at Vederoasa Lake and its surroundings. In 2007, this became a protected area, as it is home for almost 100 bird species. Most of them are migratory birds, and several of them are classified as endangered.
83. Chalk Lake
Another interesting lake to see in Dobrogea is the Chalk Lake (Lacul de Cretă), close to the wine region of Murfatlar. In a white, almost desert-like area, there is this beautiful lake with turquoise water.
Not far from Lacul de Cretă, you can visit the Basarabi-Murfatlar archaeological site, dug into a chalk hill. It is the place where you can see the first church that ever existed on Romania’s territory.
84. Vama Veche
By the Black Sea, and at the border with Bulgaria, there is the once-hippie village of Vama Veche. The preferred local seaside destination for hippies and rockers in the past, it is now a popular party destination for people of all ages, no matter the music genre they listen to.
Mathieu describes it as a festival village. Here, you have loud music playing at every bar and terrace on the sea shore, every night, from May to September. And, at dawn, the most popular place to be is Stuff, where they play Ravel’s Bolero when the sun rises up from the sea. It’s a beautiful moment, when everybody who has partied and drank all night gathers next to the sea and watches the sunrise together.
85. Wild Beaches by the Black Sea
Vama Veche has changed a lot from its beginnings as a place where people went with tents and gathered to play music on their guitars around a fire on the beach.
It can still be just you and the sea (and some others like yourself, but farther away), if you prefer to enjoy the silence of one of Romania’s remaining wild beaches. If this is your perfect scenario for being at the beach, you should go to Vadu, Corbu, Gura Portiței, Tuzla or Sulina. Be weary of the fact that the closer you are to where the Danube reaches the Black Sea (e.g. Sulina), the less clean the water will be, though.
86. Dolphins in the Black Sea
The Black Sea has three species of dolphins. However, the number of dolphins in the Black Sea is becoming smaller and smaller, with only 19,000 individuals in the territorial waters of Romania.
Even so, you can still spot them in the areas where the Black Sea’s waters are the clearest, even in crowded places like Vama Veche.
87. Anonimul International Independent Film Festival in the Danube Delta
Every August, around 5,000 film lovers travel by boat to St. George (Sfântul Gheorghe), in the Danube Delta. In this beautiful setting, where the Danube flows into the Black Sea, there is Film Village, with all the necessary amenities an attendee might need.
Projections take place in a cinema, but there is also an open-air screen, in the camping area. Guests don’t have to stay only in tents though, as there are cabins and guesthouses, as well.
88. Transilvania International Film Festival in Cluj Napoca
A more popular choice for a film festival in Romania (or Southeastern Europe) is TIFF or Transilvania International Film Festival. The festival takes place every June, in Cluj Napoca, and it gathers around 80,000 guests. They are all interested in watching approximately 250 films during about 400 screenings in cinemas, but also in unexpected, scenic surroundings, from over 50 counties. Guests also have the chance to meet their favorites from over 1,000 guests from the movie-making industry.
89. Untold Electronic Music Festival in Cluj Napoca
Another event bringing lots of tourists in Cluj Napoca is the electronic music festival, Untold. Winning the title of Best Major Festival in the 2015 European Festival Awards, the annual event takes place in August and gathers crowds of over 300,000 guests.
I haven’t been yet, but those whom I know and have attended went there not only for the music, but for the experience. Even if they weren’t fans of electronic music, they enjoyed Untold so much that they also became part of those who plan to attend this festival every year.
This is what Untold looked like in the 2018 edition and you’s see why people make it one of their summer holiday plans every year:
90. Astra Film Festival in Sibiu
Going back to the subject of international film festivals, Astra Film Festival has recently celebrated its 25th edition this year. On this occasion, the documentary film festival scheduled a week with over 40 movie-related events, in 9 locations in Sibiu.
Astra Film Festival takes place every year, in October.
91. Sibiu International Theatre Festival
While it isn’t the only international theatre festival in Romania,the one in Sibiu (Festivalul Internațional de Teatru Sibiu – FITS) is my favorite. Check this video below to get a taste of it:
Sibiu’s International Theatre Festival also celebrated its 25th edition this year. You can learn more about the history of FITS here.
92. Gărâna Jazz Festival
Every year, in July, around 10,000 music lovers gather in the mountains, to attend Gărâna Jazz Festival. Well-known bands and players entertain the public in the wonderful and simple setting.
Check out their video from the 22nd edition to know what to expect if you’re going to Gărâna Jazz Festival:
93. George Enescu Festival in Bucharest
George Enescu was a famous Romanian composer and violon player. Three years after his death, in 1958, the first edition of the classical music festival bearing his name took place. It initially took place once every three years, but in the ’80 it became less regular. After a Government decision in 2002, it was established that the festival is to take place once every two years. Hence, in uneven years, in September, the concert halls of the Romanian Athenaeum and the Radio Hall are expecting their guests.
If you wish to attend the festival, make sure you book your tickets fast.
You can listen below to George Enescu’s Romanian Rhapsody:
94. Summer Well
In the outskirts of Bucharest, in Buftea, there is Summer Well, advertised as a festival like a holiday. Held on the Știrbey Domain, it brings well-known bands and fun experiences for its guests.
Summer Well is usually scheduled for a mid-august weekend, with three evenings full of concerts. The organizers admit it themselves that it’s a festival for hipsters, and in 2014 a friend from That Thing worked on their ironic festival video:
It’s about a British guy who flies to Bucharest, explores the city a bit and then joins the fun at Summer Well.
95. Traditional Folk Festivals
There are lots of festivals around certain local foods and/or drinks, or around traditional music and dancing, all around the country. You should check out Roxana’s list of the 11 best traditional festivals in Romania, on the Culture Trip, to discover some examples.
In the photo, you can take a glimpse at the Cheese and Palincă Festival, in Rășinari, Sibiu county. The festival is about the traditional local drinks, palincă and țuică, the famous Sibiu cheese and other Romanian food, and Romanian folk dances from the Sibiu area.
96. Free cultural events
If you live or visit one of the larger cities in Romania, you can take part in lots of cultural events, for free. There are concerts, nights of the art galleries, nights of the museums, various markets, plus the usual Christmas and Easter markets.
97. Romania’s affordable
Not only are there lots of free things to do in Romania, but the most of the paid ones are affordable, even cheap to most tourists. The low cost of life makes Romania a great choice for expats. So, instead of just visiting Romania, you might also consider moving here for a while or for good.
98. The Orient Express
Of course, Romania can also be a luxury destination. Bucharest was one of the stops on the route of the Orient Express, the luxurious train connecting Paris to the East of Europe.
You can find high-quality hotels and fancy restaurants in Bucharest or the rest of the country just as easily as you can find them in other European countries.
While the original Orient Express no longer exists, but you’d like to try riding an old train, you can go on one of the narrow-gauge steam trains that still run in Romania.
The most well-known is the one in Vișeu de Sus. However, don’t expect to find the same luxury as on the Orient Express, as this one is mostly meant for carrying wood.
While it’s always a fun ride, taking the steam train on a New Year’s tour can be even more exciting.
100. Our internet speed is amazing!
Last, but not least, Romania’s got cheap high-speed Internet, connecting us to the world day after day. In 2013, Timișoara was named the city with the highest download speed in the world.
My list is done, but I am open to new ideas as honorable mentions. Just leave your suggestion in a comment or send me an email at [email protected]. If you are a travel blogger, I will also add a link to your blog.
Affordable tours to visit Romania
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