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Built by industrious Saxons, who were invited from Western Europe to develop Transylvania’s towns and mines, Brasov is a handsome medieval city and one of the most visited destinations in Romania. Throughout history, it enjoyed an advantageous position at the intersection of trade routes between the Ottoman heartland and the West, drawing scores of wealthy merchants. It still boasts a large population of Hungarians, along with small groups of ethnic Germans and Roma.
Today, Brasov is an urbane place filled with youthful energy and bohemian airs. It is celebrated for its raucous feast days and music festivals, its historic architecture, lively cafés and bars. Located in the centre of Romania and surrounded by the Southern Carpathian Mountains, it also makes a convenient base for exploring the rest of the country.
Piata Sfatului – also known as Council Square – is the geographic and spiritual heart of the city: an expansive civic plaza flanked by terraced cafés and restaurants. Nearly all of Brasov’s historic sites lay within striking distance, including the Black Church, one of the largest gothic structures in south-eastern Europe. Built in 1477, it acquired its name after smoke from the great fire of 1689 blackened its exterior. Today, it boasts a 4000 pipe organ and a six ton bell (the largest in Romania) as well as a fine collection of Anatolian carpets, donated by Saxon merchants in the middle ages.Read more
Nearby, you’ll find the pedestrian-only Republicii Street that is home to a concentration of historic buildings and Rope Street, the narrowest street in Romania at just 1.3 metres wide. The ruined walls of Brasov fortress overlook the town from a hill, more interesting for its commanding views than its crumbling architecture.
Beyond the city, there are plenty of other Saxon towns and castles within reach, including Rasnov, with its superb citadel, stone houses and traditional taverns. Bran Castle is notable for its sumptuous interior and stunning position on a hillside. It is marketed by the tourist board as Dracula’s castle and whilst it had little real or historic connection with Vlad the Impaler, it certainly looks the part.
Filled with brooding forests and rare orchids, Brasov’s rural surroundings are fine hiking country where you might spot a bear or two, if you’re lucky. Tampa Mountain provides stunning views over the city’s Old Town, backed by the rugged slopes of surrounding hills. At 900 metres high, it’s a moderately strenuous climb to the top (or a relaxed cable car ride).