There are few places in Europe whose global image is so intrinsically linked with a work of fiction as Romania and Dracula. Look beyond the blood-sucking saga to discover a history-laden country, filled with charming mediaeval towns, unspoilt natural landscapes and intriguing sights.
This is where the sway of the Mediterranean meets Central Europe and blends with the exotic East. From the Danube to Dracula's castle, there is history at every turn.
The tree-lined boulevards and wonderful late 19th century architecture once earned the Romanian capital of Bucharest the nickname ‘Paris on the Danube’ - there is even a Triumphal Arch and boulevard, longer than the Champs Elysees! Prince Vlad Tepes (a.k.a. Vlad the Impaler) founded Bucharest and you can see the ruins of his 15th century Old Court Palace and Church, as well as President Nicolae Ceausescu's colossal 6000 room Parliament House, the world's second largest administrative building after the Pentagon. Also visit the Church of St Stavropoleos, a jewel of Romanian Orthodox artistic expression. If you’re interested in arts, visit the magnificent neo-classical Opera House, where you can enjoy enchanting Romanian opera or ballet, or marvel at the house’s opulent interior.
North of Bucharest lies the alpine resort of Sinaia, where you can visit the fairy-tale Peles Castle, one of the most impressive palaces in Europe, or meet the monks of the Sinia Monastery. Further in the mountains, guarding the old Transylvanian border you’ll find Bran Castle, housing a museum outlining the history of the Romanian Royal Family. Don’t miss the fortified city of Brasov, resplendent with gothic, baroque and renaissance architecture. Sighisoara, is a perfectly intact medieval gem, full of ancient cobbled streets, ornate churches, colourful old buildings and birthplace of the ubiquitous, impaling Prince Vlad.
A great way to spend a lazy day in Bucharest is at the open-air Village Museum in Herastrau Park, a vivid and fascinating exhibition of Romanian country life, art and architecture. For those feeling more energetic, a climb up the Clock Tower in Sighisoura is an absolute must! It will cost you next to nothing and the views over the red-tiled roofs of the Old Town are amazing.