Mention Romania to someone and quite likely you’ll get a blank stare or a news sound bite like: it’s the former home of Nicolea Ceausescu, brutal communist dictator, Ceausescu and wife Elena executed Christmas Day 1989, stray dogs roaming the streets of Bucharest and Bridget Bardot’s feigned attempt to save them and then there’s the gypsies. That is very unfortunate as this is not what Romania is all about. Today’s Romania is a wonderful country inhabited by a great people who have worked diligently to recover from the oppressive years. When President Clinton made his historic visit in 1997, hundreds of thousands of cheering Romanians took to the streets in jubilation that someone from the West had acknowledged them! I was there and I’ve never experienced such collective euphoria and a sense of hope for the future! Their desire to move towards a democratic state after years of a communist dictatorship was overwhelming. Despite numerous challenges and the global economic setbacks, optimism still reigns in Romania.
So let me take you on a brief tour. When you visit, you’ll encounter a country in transition. The vast areas of sprawled vineyards, tremendous historical heritage and breathtaking countryside scenery are just some of the features of the most romantic places in Romania. Whether you want to spend your romantic getaway on a secluded beach, explore life in a lovely attic room in a medieval town, or immerse into one of the many remote mountain areas among villagers, this lively Balkan country has it all!
Bucharest, The Small Paris Of The East
The first place you are likely to visit when you reach Romania is the capital city of Bucharest. At one time, it was compared to Paris, due to its many historic buildings with the unique blend of influences from France and Ottoman Empire. This is a city of contrasts inviting you to sip from the buzzing cup of diversity.
Nothing compares to Lipscani, Bucharest’s old town and also the liveliest entertainment district. Lipscani Street gets its name from the many traders who came here during the 18th century to sell pottery brought from Leipzig, which was one of the largest trading spots in Europe. I encourage you to spend time with the locals. You’ll discover that a large portion of the Romanian population is young, well read, intelligent, educated, multi-lingual, ambitious and hard-working. I worked in telecom in many countries and never before had I witnessed employees literally memorize multiple handset manuals so that they could assist their customers! And by the way, they know a great deal more about your world and the west than you do about theirs!
Back to our tour. You will feel the romance in the air on all the picturesque streets with small hidden boutiques, cafes, charming old houses, and luscious bakery shop windows. You can watch a cool video about Lipscani at here.
If you happen to pass by a common gate in the city, would you assume it was once a lively summer garden during the Interwar years? Or, if you see an old seemingly abandoned house, would it cross your mind that it actually hosts a buzzing club with the hottest music mixes? This is the type of contrasts you’d be experiencing here and not a dull moment!
Another must-see is Cismigiu Park, the oldest and most romantic park in Bucharest, located right in the heart of the city. Or have a beer at “Caru cu bere” (The Beer Chariot), a living legend and one of the oldest beerhouses in Bucharest. Located on the famous Stavropoleos Street, the place has its own history, from the superb architecture, to the mural paintings, the stained glasses and the carved cross-beams, all reminding of the early 20th century’s exuberance.
A little up north from Bucharest is Brasov, an amazing city surrounded by the natural beauty of the Tampa Mountains. Brasov is the perfect combination of medieval town and remote mountain resort, where you can enjoy your romantic getaway at any time of year. As a side note, don’t be surprised that along any major road, you might encounter horse drawn carts competing with vehicular traffic! And yes they do drive fast and aggressively as all Europeans but they are very good at sharing the road! As I said, it’s a country in transition and much is influenced by the practical needs to move about even within limited financial resources.
From Brasov you can easily get to the highly popular Poiana Brasov mountain resort, or visit the picturesque castles and fortresses at Rasnov and Bran. Here is a quick video taken from Piata Sfatului (The Council Square) in Brasov.
Explore The Carpathians
For the more adventurous, you can rent a car and head up into the Carpathians and explore the magnificent fairytale scenery. You will discover hundreds of great spots among the defiles and waterfalls, so make sure that your camera is fully charged!
Visit amazing medieval towns, Gothic structures, eccentric citadels and colored houses all across Transylvania, Romania’s central historical region, all surrounded by the epic green landscape.
Maramures, The Land Of Wooden Churches
Located in the northern part of the country, Maramures is one of the most strikingly beautiful areas of Romania. Most travelers feel as if time stood still here, and can explore life as it’s been hundreds of years ago.
The beauty of the area has impressed Nick Maes (journalist at “The Daily Mail“) so much that he even wrote an article titled “Romantic Romania“, saying that visiting Romania was like a time travel to the past (in a good way, of course).
The Danube Delta, A Natural Paradise
The Danube Delta is more than just the perfect place to hide from the world; it’s paradise albeit on a budget. The tourism industry is making strides but you need to understand that outer regions are still poor by comparison and the service industry is evolving. If you accept that this is not the Waldorf in New York, you will enjoy the trip immensely and you won’t have paid New York prices! A natural habitat for more than 300 species of birds and fish and oaks and water lilies, the Danube Delta is boasting with the thrills of romance as you watch the night lights reflected in the water or the late evening boats floating on the canals.
A great way to explore this whimsical land is going on a 1-day cruise from Tulcea to Sulina while relaxing, enjoying the local food and strolling on the smaller channels. A spot not to be missed: Gura Portitei, a picturesque fishermen’s village in the Danube Delta.
The only European fortified town that is still inhabited, Sighisoara is a must-see for all the romantic travelers. Sighisoara’s citadel with its beautiful churches and medieval architecture was considered a shelter for the lovers who wanted to hide from the public eye and hide in the narrow streets with lively colored houses.
Each part of the city throws you back in a time when princesses and cavaliers wandered the streets of the fortress in a lively bustle. A great place to visit is the Clock Tower, a 64m high tower built during the 13th century, which also houses the town’s History Museum. But wherever you choose to take your sweetheart, you will find ancient traditions and local customs that are still unspoiled by modern civilization. The staggering beauty of the country and its privileged location at the heart of the European continent makes it a wonderful choice to spend a romantic holiday and even your honeymoon! And lastly, I want to reiterate that the Romanian people are most welcoming and engaging. At the same time they are very inquisitive about your origins and eager to ensure that you truly enjoy and embrace their beautiful country!
Karla Stephens-Tolstoy, Tokii CEO & Founder
A business and brand maverick, skilled in building start-ups and building brand management teams in North America, Asia and Europe.