Written by Tamara Todor-Nits (Classic Travel Intern, Summer 2012).
I have lived for 18 years in the beautiful city of Brasov in Romania, before I came to study in Michigan. Growing up in Eastern Europe gives you a completely different perspective of your home, than most tourists have. Because of this, I decide to share my experiences with any potential travelers to this side of Transylvania.
One of the coolest things you notice once you arrive in the city of Brasov is that you see mountains surrounding you from every direction. The city is built in a valley of the Carpathian Mountains, with well known ski-slopes, historic castles and other recreation sites in the area. During my years in Brasov, I have visited many famous attractions, as well as found my own little “secret” places, that most tourists are unaware of.
My school was in the city center, which still reflects the medieval-side of Brasov. This part of the city is mainly known for its century-old churches, parks, shopping boutiques, restaurants and coffee shops. Because the city used to be a medieval fortress, there are still parts of the old wall present right next to the river Graft in city center. Walking down this path, we can get a sense of calmness, as we reconnect with nature. Not many tourists know, that this path leads to many significant medieval ruins: as we see the wall on one side of the river, there is a hill on the other side. Once we climb that hill (there’s a path leading up, or a succession of stairs,) we reach the renovated Black Tower, which used to be one of the fortress’ four watchtowers. Close to this, a little higher up on the hill is the White Tower. The viewpoints next to the towers are visited by many couples because of its unique and romantic atmosphere and beautiful view. You can see the entire city center and some of the most historic monuments from up here: Town Square, City Hall, the first Romanian school and the famous Black Church.
As you walk down the hill, toward Town Square and the City Hall, you will run into a small hotel, with a music shop on the first floor, and a great restaurant in the basement. This is called: Bella Musica. From what I hear the hotel part is pretty nice, but I am more familiar with the restaurant. Ever since I was a little girl, this used to be the restaurant where my family celebrated most major occasions. The food has always been of good quality, and the atmosphere is excellent and different than one would expect! I have traveled a lot in my life, but I’ve never been to a restaurant quite like this one. They serve a wide variety of Romanian, Hungarian, and Mexican cuisine. Ever since early childhood, I have been fascinated by this place.
Across the street you’ll find Town Square, which always has something going on. As you walk down on the cobblestone, you will find yourself on Republicii street, with small boutiques, restaurants and bars on both sides. This street is one of the most popular ones both in the evening and during the day. No matter is you visit in the warm summer or the chilly winter, walking down the street is a must.
On the Republicii street you will find a popular coffee shop called Festival 39’. This is a magical little place, with original food and with many local events taking place. I would recommend all visitors to go in, and try one of the deserts. They will not disappoint.
When you reach the end of the Republicii street you will see the Brasov Central Park right across. This is not a huge park, but it’s a good idea to walk around, get a feel for the city. There is a children’s playground in the center of the park, and beautiful trees and gardens all around. This is one of the three main parks of the city. There is a unique park next to the main bus station (about a 5-10 minute walk from the Central Park,) which it is built on the side of a small hill. My best friend always said, when we would come here after school: “You haven’t lived until you swung on a slope!” She was right, this is an exciting and memorable experience. My personal favorite though, is the third park, located near the main train station. This one is less busy, because many people don’t know how beautiful it is after the renovations. In the middle is an Olympic sized indoor ice rink. This is the home for Brasov’s professional hockey team, Fenestela 68 Brasov. The ice rink is open to the public almost all year round.
During the winter we usually have two specifically set up outdoor rinks too: on in city center, and one in Poiana Brasov. Poiana Brasov is the most popular Romanian ski resort, surrounded by Carpathian mountains. If you are a skier and decide to visit in the winter, this is the place for you! There are slopes here from beginners to pros as well as many good quality, but pricey restaurants.
Probably the most famous international attraction near the city, besides the ski resort is Castelul Bran, also known as Dracula’s castle. Now this is a museum, exhibiting art and furniture collected by Queen Marie. This is worth visiting with a guided tour of the castle: it explains many misconceptions of the Dracula story and it gives a little insight into Romanian history. This is only a half hour drive from the city center, and an attraction you don’t want to miss.
Finally, if you visit Brasov, you probably need a place to stay. Over the years many foreigners visited my family either for business or for pleasure. However, whatever the scope of their visit was, everyone was fully satisfied with their stay at the Hotel Belvedere. This hotel has great rooms, an amazing view and one of the best restaurants in the city. Additionally, a friendly staff will make sure that you will enjoy your stay!