Beyond the bats in the Dracula-inspiring Romanian city of Brasov
Transylvania evokes powerful images of vampires and Gothic castles, yet few visitors actually make it to the region to spend time among its real-life mountainous landscapes and medieval cities, chief among them the picturesque Brasov, surrounded on three sides by peaks.
Established by Teutonic Knights in the 13th century, Brasov has plenty to offer visitors, from old fortifications, city walls and watchtowers to churches, hiking trails and traditional food, not to mention a nearby bear reservation and Bran Castle, one of Romania’s main tourist attractions and billed as Dracula’s Castle (though the 13th-century Vlad the Impaler, on whom Dracula is loosely based, had little interaction with the place).
For centuries, the city was dominated by its German inhabitants, who called the city Kronstadt, the “City of the Crown”. Even today, it retains aspects of this German culture, which blends intriguingly with Romanian influences among its winding alleys and ancient buildings.
A comfortable bed
It would be difficult to get more central than Bella Muzica (www.bellamuzica.ro; 0040 268 477 956), an ornate hotel located in a 400-year-old building right on the main square in the city. Doubles cost from €60 (Dh233) per night, including taxes.
Nearby, Casa Albert (www.casa-albert.ro; 0040 722 886 054), a more modernist boutique hotel just off the pedestrianised Strada Republicii, boasts a handful of stylised rooms. Doubles cost from €55 (Dh214) per night, including taxes.
If you’re seeking additional pampering, head to the four-star Kronwell (www.kronwell.com; 0040 368 730 800), with its plush spa and wellness centre. Rooms cost from €85 (Dh331) per night, including taxes.
Find your feet
Brasov is easy to explore on foot, just be prepared to get lost among the many winding lanes. Start at the tourist office in Council Square (Piata Sfatului), swing by the Black Church, one of the largest Gothic churches in south-east Europe, then down Strada Republicii, with its many outside terraces and attractive architecture. Five minutes’ walk from Strada Republicii, you’ll find Rope Street (Strada Sforii), the narrowest street in Europe, at just 1.3 metres wide.
If you want a bird’s-eye view of the city, take the cable car up to Panoramic Tampa, the peak overlooking the city. Alternatively, follow the winding footpath up to the summit, which takes about an hour to walk.
Meet the locals
Most evenings, locals and visitors alike congregate in Council Square, at the heart of Brasov’s old town, or stroll around the pedestrian lanes in the centre. Council Square also hosts regular outdoor events, including photo exhibitions, weekend craft fairs, Christmas markets and concerts.
Book a table
Brasov has plenty of small restaurants in which to try traditional Romanian food. If you’re looking for somewhere more atmospheric and don’t mind a bit of a wait, head to Sergiana (sergianagrup.ro; 0040 268 419 775), which offers hearty Romanian staples for a reasonable price. Try the beef loin with tarragon, or the deer steak in wild-berry sauce with rice. Main courses start from 25 Romanian lei (Dh22).
Alternatively, pop in to Festival 39 (www.festival39.com; 0040 743 339 909), a lively city-centre restaurant with jazz performances and an impressive international menu. Try the duck breast with aniseed sauce and baked pineapple (48 lei [Dh42]), or the salmon tagliatelle with orange (28 lei [Dh25]).
For a light snack, La Ceaun (www.mancarelaceaun.ro; 0040 371 197 147) is a cosy restaurant just off the main pedestrian street that offers homemade soups and savoury pies (starting from 9 lei [Dh8]). The menu changes daily, so you’ll have to see what they have on offer when you go.
Brasov isn’t exactly a shopper’s city, but Strada Republicii offers the best options for high fashion, ski-wear and local specialities, including traditional snacks and other foodstuffs. Take a stroll to the indoor produce market on Strada Nicolae Balcescu to check out fresh local cheeses and meats.
What to avoid
Brasov is a laid-back, safe place, so about the worst that’s likely to happen to you is getting ripped off by a taxi driver with a dodgy meter.
Thirty minutes’ drive from the city is the supposed real-life inspiration for Dracula’s Gothic castle in Bram Stoker’s novel. Bran Castle, the former residence of Romanian royalty, is a stunning medieval castle that’s seemingly built out of the rock face, and a must-see for anyone visiting Romania.
Flydubai (www.flydubai.com) flies from Dubai to Bucharest from Dh1,850 return, including taxes. The flight time is five hours. The Romanian airline Tarom (www.tarom.ro) has twice-weekly flights from Dubai to Bucharest from Dh1,520 return, including taxes. Private car transfers from Otopeni Airport in Bucharest to Brasov (www.otopenitransfers.eu) cost from €105 (Dh408) for a three-person vehicle, and take about two hours and 40 minutes.
Follow us @TravelNational
Follow us on Facebook for discussions, entertainment, reviews, wellness and news.
Updated: April 16, 2015 04:00 AM