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Greetings, Internet Stranger! and welcome to the best things to do in Brasov Romania! Have you ever wanted to step inside a vampire novel? Wear a gown of white or a dramatic cape and become one with the creatures of the night? Then Brasov, Romania is for you! After all, it is just by the former castle of Vlad Tepes, the inspiration for Dracula.
Most tourists who visit Romania in search of the vampire will spend at least a night or two in the Transylvanian city of Brasov. I enjoyed my time in Brasov itself, but the vast majority of visitors to that city are not there to check out the fire-blackened Saxon church, one dollar ice cream, and violinists playing theme songs from a PBS documentary. No, they are there to visit the nearby Bran Castle, aka Dracula’s Castle.
Bran Castle is absolutely a highlight of any trip to Romania, but there are many other wonderful things to do in Brasov so don’t ignore the city just to go gallivanting with bloodsuckers. Join me for 24 hours in Brasov and we will see that Brasov and Bran Castle go together much better than vampires and garlic.
24 Hours: Things to do in Brasov
Where To Stay?
Brasov is a decent-sized Romanian city, and it’s a very popular tourist attraction because of its proximity to the “Dracula Castle”. So you have quite a few hotel options here. I strongly recommend the Casa Wagner. It is both affordable and located right on the main square. Also there’s a delicious breakfast spread included every morning, so you can start your 24 hours in Brasov with meat and cheese like a proper Romanian. (They have more Western options as well.)
Click here for a great deal on this hotel. And if you’d rather explore other fantastic hotel options in Brasov, click here. With so many options to choose from, I’m sure you’ll find something in your price range. (Even if you’re undead and don’t need to sleep.)
24 Hours: Things to do in Brasov
What to Pack?
Brasov is hot in the summer, and we’ll probably be waiting outside for the bus with no shade, so don’t forget the sunscreen. My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply. And as a solo traveler, I can actually use it myself on my own back. I just put it in my purse and re-apply throughout the day. Plus if a vampire attacks you, taunt it with the sunscreen. That should work.
You’ll also need comfy sandals for all the walking we’re going to do in Brasov and around the Dracula Castle. I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes. Plus I hear pink repels vampires.
Finally, if you’re not from Romania, you need a universal adapter if you’re going to plug in electronics. European electrical outlets don’t work with American plugs. I suggest the NEWVANGA travel adapter. It’s usable with any electrical outlet in the world, so you won’t need to keep buying new adapters. I always carry two with me, just in case something happens to one, like a vampire bites it.
24 Hours: Things to do in Brasov
Morning and Afternoon: Explore Brasov
Approximately Top 5: Best Things to Do in Brasov
1) Take the bus to Bran Castle
The best way for a non-driver to get to Dracula’s Castle from Brasov is to take a bus departing from the austerely named Bus Station No. 2. The buses leave once every half-hour on weekdays and once every hour on weekends. This doesn’t make sense to me because you’d think more people would want to go on weekends, but this is probably why I am not Chief of Romanian Buses. You can find the most up-to-date info on getting to Bran Castle on the official website here.
The only problem I had was figuring out how to get to the bus station, which I knew was 3.5 km away from my hotel. At this point in my life, I didn’t have GPS that worked internationally, so that was no help. I just figured that I would start walking and eventually I would find the station.
Word to the wise, this was a horrible idea. 3.5 km is about 2 miles. This isn’t that long, unless you have absolutely no idea where you are going. I wandered around in the brutal Romanian sun feeling as if I was about to pass out at any moment. I began to suspect that I was secretly a vampire and the sun was turning me to dust. However, once I arrived at the station, it was easy to locate the bus to Bran and I soon forgot my woes.
24 Hour Tip
You can always just ask the driver which bus goes to Bran if you are not sure. Remember that in Romanian da means yes and nu means no. I paid one dollar for the ticket. This was precisely the same amount I paid for a snack of dough filled with sweet cheese that I purchased from a vendor at the bus station. Never forget that all Romanian snacks are just carbs filled with cheese.
The whole trip is a painless 45 minutes, but I think anything would have seemed painless after the lost two hours I spent baking on the streets of Brasov.
2) Do a little shopping outside Bran Castle
Because the Castle is such a popular tourist attraction, there is a swarm of tchotchke salespeople outside hawking their wares. I did not buy anything except for a can of a Brazilian soda called Guarana Antarctica, and that’s only because I was so surprised to see it in Romania. But you might want to buy a little souvenir here. Just don’t expect it to be made locally.
24 hour tip
Check the Bran Castle website for the most up-to-date info on hours and price of admission here. In the high season the last admission is usually at 6, which gives you plenty of time. I suggest getting the audioguide too, if you are a solo traveler who likes to learn things.
3) Explore Bran Castle
According to the Bran Castle website, this place became known as Dracula’s Castle because it is the only castle in Transylvania that fits the description of Dracula’s abode in Bram Stoker’s novel. I want to know whose job it was to go around and classify all the castles of Transylvania according to whether or not they resembled the description in a horror novel. Anyway, apparently the historical model for Dracula, Vlad Tepes, was kept prisoner at Bran Castle for a couple of months by the King of Hungary, but it was never Vlad’s actual castle.
But far be it from me to let the truth get in the way of a good legend. It’s very disrespectful to go to a vampire’s home and act like vampires aren’t real. Dracula’s Castle it is called, and it is Dracula’s Castle that everyone wants to see. So just give them your money, and let’s go inside. It’s Dracula hunting time!
Once your attendant takes your admission fee, you can enter the Castle and explore it at your leisure. The castle is pretty crowded, so those around you and their elbows will probably encourage you to move along quickly. Nevertheless, even with all the peer pressure, I did manage to collect several interesting photos for your enjoyment.
I really don’t know why there is a quote from It’s a Wonderful Life in Dracula’s Castle. Is Clarence the angel secretly a vampire? After all, we only see his character at night…
Romania is a very young country, about 100 years younger than the United States. It used to be three separate areas: Moldavia, Wallachia, and Transylvania. Bran is in Transylvania, which used to be part of Hungary, but Vlad Tepes was actually a prince of Wallachia, so that sort of explains why he would be kept prisoner in Bran Castle.
Old Vlad apparently got a bad reputation in Transylvania because he burned parts of it to the ground and murdered hundreds of locals without the benefit of due process. Locals are very sensitive about things like that.
4) Check out the instruments of torture
You simply can’t say you’ve seen all the best things to do in Brasov without seeing all the various medieval weapons and torture devices, right? After all, if you weren’t into that sort of thing, why would you bother coming down here in the first place, Internet Stranger? There’s no need to play coy with me.
Voila! Now you can say that you’ve seen Dracula’s Castle. If your friends try to tell you that vampires aren’t real, just tell them you have a sudden craving for a rare steak and then laugh maniacally before turning into a bat. That will show them!
5) Attend a concert at the Black Church
We’ve already had a full day at Bran Castle, but our Best things to do in Brasov guide isn’t even close to being done. After exiting the Dracula Castle, just take the one dollar bus back to Brasov. It leaves from the same place that you arrived, only on the other side of the street. We want to get back in time to see the evening concert at the Black Church.
This house of worship is not called the Black Church because something horrible happened here, but rather because this 15th-century beaut was sadly blackened in a conflagration. Actually, that is a terrible thing that happened at the church, so strike what I said initially.
I was surprised to learn that this was a German Lutheran church. Actually I did not know that there were Germans in Romania. I feel that Romania doesn’t get enough credit for being a multicultural nation. It’s actually possible that Romania doesn’t get enough credit for anything, except vampires. MWAHAHAHAHAHA!
Anyway, you are in for a special treat this evening because not only will you get to look at a Gothic church that had been partially burned, you will also get to hear an extremely inexpensive Bach concert. Apparently the Black Church frequently gives budget Bach and other priced-to-move classical music concerts, so be sure to see what’s on during your time exploring the best things to do in Brasov.
24 Hours: Things to do in Brasov
Evening: Dinner at Bistro del Arte
No guide to the best things to do in Brasov is complete without dinner. Bistro del Arte is a cute little bistro just a few blocks off the main square in Brasov. (As a side note, aren’t bistros by definition cute and little? Is it possible to have a severe, over-sized bistro? This is the problem with travel writing, too many cliches.)
Anyway, musicians often come here in the evening to serenade the diners. Children of the night, listen to them! What music they make! MWAHAHAHA!
I suggest ordering the mamaliga cu ragu (Romanian polenta with meat sauce) and chocolate torte with ice cream. Remember, a torte is not a tart put together by a pastry chef who can’t spell, it is a very thin layer cake. You really can’t leave Romania without eating mamaliga; it’s the national dish. You’ll feel at one with centuries of Romanian peasants warning stupid Englishmen to not stay at the Dracula castle when you eat it.
The most memorable thing about the evening was the violin player and his accordionist buddy. (I’m making assumptions; they didn’t say they were friends.) Their musical choices seemed split between presumably Romanian music that I didn’t know and American standards.
At one point in the evening, they played “Ashokan Farewell”, aka the Ken Burns Civil War music. I realized that I had been on the road for almost a month. Suddenly I felt very homesick for the United States. This was the first, but not the last time I would cry in a restaurant.
Further Reading: Things to do in Brasov
Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Brasov now? Then let me give some suggestions for further reading about the best things to do in Brasov. I always get good advice from Lonely Planet’s guide to Romania. They divide the guide into sections by region, which is very helpful.
If you’re visiting Brasov, I assume you’ve read the classic Dracula. But why not go beyond the obvious? How about diving deep into vampire lore and legend with The Penguin Book of Vampire Stories? You’ll read everything from the first vampire story to more contemporary classics. MWAHAHAHAHA!
And if you’d like to learn about the historical basis for Dracula stories, check out the excellent nonfiction book In Search of Dracula. I read this for the first time in my Comparative Vampire Literature class that I took in college. That’s…not a joke.
Note: Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours in Brasov. If you have extra time, try spending 24 hours in Sinaia as well.