One of the world’s spookiest destinations, Transylvania, has of course made a name for itself because of Dracula’s castle. It’s actually called Bran Castle, rather than Dracula’s castle, but is known as being the fictional Count’s home. (And while it may seem trite to point out that Count Dracula is fictional, it is a surprisingly common misconception.) The castle is in Brasov, which is just one town in the region of Transylvania. For those looking to get the highlights of the region in just one day, it’s best to pick a couple of areas to focus your energy. That being said, our guide focuses on splitting your time between Sibiu and Brasov, both of which are fascinating areas sure to give you the flavor of Transylvania, and perfect places to spend a hauntingly beautiful 24 hours.
9 a.m.: Wander Old Town Sibiu
Start your tour of Transylvania in Sibiu, which is a charming village in the Romanian countryside. A couple of hours north of Bucharest, Sibiu is the triumph of gothic architecture and much of its Germanic history comes from the Saxons who settled here in the 12th century.
10:30 a.m.: Coffee at Enzo Ristorante e Caffe
Stop in for a quick cappuccino at Enzo Ristorante e Caffe. Enzo has the authentic Italian, sip-an-espresso-at-the-counter feel that is all too welcome when traveling in Europe. Between the coffee and the beautifully preserved historic town, there’s certainly an Italian feel to the Sibiu experience. And if you’re hungry, pop into a bakery to grab a covrigi, a Romanian baked good that rather looks like a cross between a soft pretzel and a bagel.
11:00 a.m.: Visit the Brukenthal National Museum
Sibiu is divided into Upper Town and Lower Town, separated by old stone steps. You’ll walk the sprawling town square, Piate Mare, which quite literally translates to Big Square. Off Piate Mare is the Brukenthal Museum, which celebrates classic Romanian artwork. Even if you’re not keen on browsing the European artistry, the architecture of the museum alone makes it well worth visiting.
1 p.m.: Lunch at La Taifas
Dine al fresco in Piate Mare at La Taifas. They have a beautiful outdoor patio and are known for their traditional Romanian fare and great prices. For lunch, try their bean soup or the mushrooms and polenta.
2:00 p.m.: Find magic at Castelul de Lut Valea Zanelor
Just outside Sibiu, along the perimeter of the Carpathian Mountains, is the most picturesque little clay village you have to see to believe. Built of clay, sand, straw, and wood, the castles sit against the towering mountain range, further amplifying their likeness to a hobbit village. Be warned: the road to the so-called Valley of Fairies is challenging to say the least. But it’s worth the trek to catch even a glimpse of Castelul de Lut Valera Zanelor while in Transylvania.
5:00 p.m.: Tour Bran Castle
Wind your way to Brasov—you can hop in the car or even take the train from Sibiu—arriving in time to catch the last tour of the day at Bran Castle. The castle is open until 6 p.m. during the high season, and Brasov is about two hours from Sibiu. The architectural intricacies of Bran Castle is as bewitching as the castle’s history. Since the castle’s completion in 1388, it has seen the reign of Vlad the Impaler, housed Queen Marie’s heart after her death, and of course, fictionally played host to Count Dracula, among other macabre encounters.
7:00 p.m.: Wander Brasov in the evening
Brasov after dark feels romantic and inviting, between the illuminated street lanterns and narrow, cobblestone streets. The center square of Brasov is Piata Sfatului, and directly off the piata you’ll find the Black Church, whose interior walls were burned in a 17th century fire, earning the name Biserica Neagra. The surrounding streets are just for pedestrians, and you can expect to see the streets in the town center bustling until well after dark.
8:00 p.m.: Dinner at La Ceaun
La Ceaun is one of the most coveted traditional Romanian restaurants in Brasov, with scenic outdoor seating and a healthy, super-fresh take on classic dishes. All of their soups and stews are made fresh daily and incorporate local ingredients whenever possible.
Where to Stay in Transylvania
Hotel Aro Palace is a luxury stay right in the center of Brasov. From the art deco influence on the interiors to the views of the old town and the city’s main park, the scenery is classically European. Budget time for post-dinner drinks at their Night Bar or at the Belvedere Club, on the top-floor terrace. And before starting your day in the morning, head to the Aro Palace Spa & Wellness Center to take advantage of their luxe pool, sauna, and gym.