Europe Romania 10 Things You Should Know Before Visiting Transylvania

10 Things You Should Know Before Visiting Transylvania


Few places are as famous yet unknown as Transylvania, a central region in the Eastern European country of Romania. People seem to think of it as a spooky fictional place full of Gothic horror, rather than a real place with real people (and zero vampires). It’s possible to not only visit Transylvania, but also fall in love with it. If we’ve piqued your curiosity, check out these Transylvania travel tips to prepare for a visit to this mysterious destination.

It’s Hard to Pin Transylvania on a Map

Before we get into our travel tips for visiting Transylvania, it’d probably help for you to know a bit more about the place itself. For instance, you’d have a hard time finding Transylvania on a map, even a map of Romania. That’s because Transylvania is a historical region, not actually an official region of Romania today.

This means that the borders of Transylvania aren’t exactly clear-cut. While some parts have been considered Transylvanian ever since the times when the region had a governor or prince, parts of Romania to the north and west are only sometimes included. So, depending on who you’re talking to and what you’re talking about, cities like Oradea and Timișoara could be considered part of Transylvania.

Don’t Expect Vampires

Thanks to movies and pop culture, most people immediately associate Transylvania with vampires. However, there was very little association between the region and vampires until 1897, when Irish author Bram Stoker published his novel Dracula. In the book, Dracula is a vampire from Transylvania. As the story grew in popularity, vampires and Transylvania became forever linked.

Transylvania’s other connection to this story is the character’s name, which was borrowed from a real person, Vlad Dracula. Better known as Vlad the Impaler, he was a prince of nearby Wallachia with a brutal reputation. 

While no sites in Romania are actually linked to the fictional Dracula, there are many related to Vlad the Impaler. He was born in the town of Sighișoara, was allegedly held prisoner in Corvin Castle, and lived in Poenari Castle. But the most famous place associated with the Dracula legend is Bran Castle. Though often called “Dracula’s Castle,” Bran Castle historically has nothing to do with the man or the legend. It’s just a picturesque Transylvanian castle that somewhat fits the description in the novel.

Time Your Visit Strategically 

As with any destination, one of the most important things to figure out is when to visit Transylvania. Naturally, the answer depends on what you plan to do there. Summer is generally a good time to visit, as Romania isn’t overburdened with tourists yet and doesn’t get incredibly hot.

For more balanced sightseeing and hiking weather, though, consider autumn or late spring. If you like fall foliage, you’ll love the endless forests of Transylvania in autumn. Winter isn’t ideal for sightseeing, as Romania gets quite cold up near the mountains, but it’s great if you plan on skiing or are curious about the local Christmas markets. 

Visit Some Pretty Cities

Among the many things to see and do in Transylvania, visiting the region’s cities is a must. So much of the region is made up of mountains and countryside, yet the simplest way to get to know Transylvania is through its cities.

The most obvious place to start is Cluj-Napoca, the region’s largest city and unofficial capital. While it has historic sites, such as St. Michael’s Church and sections of medieval wall, Cluj is a fun and modern city. Then there’s Brașov, one of the best places to visit in Europe. This historic city in the mountains has a terrific atmosphere, attracting a lot of visitors who want to ski and snowboard nearby.

Smaller cities include Sibiu, Alba Iulia, Sighișoara,and Târgu Mureș, each with its own attractions and charms. Most are well worth a day or two of exploring, especially when you take into account surrounding attractions . . .

Go Castle Hunting

Certainly one of the biggest selling points of travel to Transylvania is all the incredible castles, which easily compete with castles in Germany and France in terms of both beauty and history. What’s more, you’ll find that they’re far less overrun with tourists than Western European castles. These are sights you don’t want to miss on your first trip to Transylvania.

We’ve already mentioned a couple connections to Vlad the Impaler, namely Bran Castle and Corvin Castle. Sitting atop a forested hill on the edge of the Carpathian Mountains, Bran Castle is quite an atmospheric medieval castle. Be sure to take all the hidden staircases throughout the castle, even though they can be disorienting.

Corvin Castle, meanwhile, is just plain magnificent. Also known as Hunyadi Castle, this beautiful Gothic fortress looks like it belongs in Disneyland rather than just outside the small city of Hunedoara. While its classic view is from across the elevated bridge, make sure to go inside and wander its stone hallways.

Another one you can’t overlook is Peleș Castle, originally built as a glamorous summer retreat for the Romanian royal family. In fact, this neo-Renaissance castle wouldn’t look out of place in the Bavarian Alps. As impressive as it is on the outside, the woodwork interior and furnishings are even more opulent, so don’t skip going inside!

Beware of Bears When Hiking

One of the more popular activities in Transylvania is hiking in and around the Carpathian Mountains. Some outdoorsy types actually come here solely to hike – and with amazing rock formations like the Sphinx in the Bucegi Natural Park, it’s easy to understand why.

You can find plenty of hiking trails in the thick forest that covers these mountains. However, be extremely careful – not because of vampires, werewolves, or other legendary monsters, but because of very real bears. Romania is said to have around 6,000 brown bears – roughly half of Europe’s brown bear population – in its hills and mountains, and much of this area is in Transylvania.

Before hiking, find out whether bears are likely to be in the area and what to do if you encounter one. This is probably the most crucial safety tip for traveling to Transylvania, because bear attacks do happen. You don’t even need to be that remote for this to be a concern, with bears living on Mount Tâmpa just above Brașov.

That said, bear-watching is an increasingly popular activity, especially in the Piatra Craiului Mountains. If you’re interested, just go with a professionally guided group for safety.

Plan How You’ll Get Around

A common concern for visiting a new region is how to get around there. One of the most important travel tips for Transylvania is to plan out your destinations carefully before committing to public transportation, as Transylvania’s network has its limits.

Trains in Romania are generally OK, but you might encounter delays due to work on the rail infrastructure. The buses (both coaches and minibuses) tend to be more reliable, with about the same cost and journey time, though this depends on the route. As for flying, while there are cheap flights between major cities in Romania, Transylvania isn’t large enough to offer affordable flights between its cities.

Unfortunately, because of the terrain and how small some of the destinations are, driving yourself is generally the best way to get around Transylvania. It’s really the only way to access the more remote places, such as Biertan and its immense fortified church.

Recommendation: For the best car rental prices, check out This aggregation site searches and displays prices and availability from hundreds of companies, helping you find the best possible car for your budget.

Driving also allows you to experience what Top Gear once dubbed the “best road in the world,” the Transfăgărășan Highway. This long, curvy road stretches up into the Carpathian Mountains with plenty of switchbacks. Once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with superb views. However, this road is only open in summer, when it’s clear of snow.

Find a Central City Base

When planning a trip to Transylvania, you can easily come up with a long list of places to visit, but many of them are small destinations that you can see fully in a day. Also, as relatively small or new tourist destinations, they may not be particularly well suited to the needs of tourists. That’s why it’s a good idea to find one or two places to base yourself, then visit the smaller places on day trips. 

Staying in a city like Brașov or Sibiu, you could probably cover several surrounding destinations in one day. For example, it’s quite easy to visit Râșnov Fortress and Bran Castle together from Brașov, with neither requiring an overnight stay.

Remember You’re Not in Germany

While sightseeing in Transylvania, you may get a strange feeling that you’re actually somewhere else. Don’t worry, you’re not going crazy. What you’re picking up on is the heavy influence that German settlers had on this region for centuries.

From the 12th century onward, people from the areas that are now western Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands traveled to Transylvania to help defend against various foreign invaders and work the land. Known as Transylvanian Saxons, these settlers founded the Siebenbürgen, seven fortified towns (including Brașov and Sibiu) throughout the region.

While most Saxons have left the region, all the cities still have German names, such as “Hermannstadt” for Sibiu and “Kronstadt” for Brașov. Sibiu even has a German-language school. You might also notice the Germanic influence in the burgher houses of Sibiu or the fortified churches of Biertan and Prejmer.

Spread the Word

Both Transylvania and Romania overall are gaining popularity with tourists, but they still receive far fewer visitors than many other destinations in Europe. It’s not because there’s nothing to see and do there, but because not many people know how fantastic this area is. If you do get the chance to travel to Transylvania, be sure to tell people what it’s really like!



  • AK Dutta

    Thanks! Quite informative. I might just consider adding it to my Eastern European itinerary.

  • I see you mentioned the possibility of encountering brown bears in Romania. As a local, I have to admit I was a bit scared when I was a kid. But after starting to take tourists to bear watching activities in the wild, I learnt their behavior and now realize how wrong I was about them. They are very cautious wild animals and will try to avoid people if they can hear them before. So one important advice when you are hiking in Romania is to make noise. I don’t know, talk to each other or simply attach a small bell to your backpack.

    • Katrina

      HI Robert,

      I am planning to bring my family over to Romania for the summer holidays, for about 2 weeks. WIll you still be taking tourists to bear watching activities then?
      If you do, i’d like to get in touch to ask for advice and make bookings.

      could you please email me at: [email protected]

      Thank you!

  • Alin Todea

    One of the best times to visit Transylvania is on Halloween. There is a very funny party in Sighisoara citadel with magician’s shows, Vampire Killing show and a Ritual Killing of a Living Dead. Nothing scary just people enjoying a well-organized masquerade party with contests. Another one is Bran Castle Halloween Party, which is a club like atmosphere and the biggest in Romania

  • Claudiu B

    Awesome tips! Take it from someone who lived there for half his life! And by all means, #10 is something the locals need. Help them share the amazing Transylvania with the foreigners!

Leave your comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.