Along the coast of the Black Sea, Romania is a mountainous and forested country in eastern Europe that boasts a long history. Much of Romania’s current culture can be traced back to the Romans and Romania’s place along migrational and trade routes.
Invaded by the Huns in the 5th century, it wasn’t until the emergence of the principalities of Walachia and Moldavia in the 14th century that Romanians regained some dominance over their homeland. Even then, this control would not last long: Romania was soon a battleground between Ottomans, Russians and the Hapsburgs.
Nevertheless, in 1877 Romania emerged from Ottoman rule as an independent nation.
Standing testament to Romania’s history of invasion and resistance are sites such as Peles Castle, Prejmer Fortified Church and Fagaras Fortress. Other popular sites include Hunedoara Castle, Histria and the Endless Column Complex.
To help you get started, here are 10 of the top historic sites to see when you visit Romania.
Commanding a strategic crossroads for hundreds of years, Bran Castle in Romania is an impressive medieval fortification and popular tourist attraction.
Famously known as Dracula’s Castle, Bran in fact has little or no link to any of the legends surrounding the fictional vampire or even the genuine figure of Vlad the Impaler, on who the character is loosely based.
A neo-classical masterpiece, Peles Castle or Castelul Peles in Sinaia, Romania, was the summer home of the Romanian royal family from 1883 until 1947.
Nestled within the Carpathian Mountains, Peles Castle was built along an existing medieval route that linked Transylvania and Wallachia and is today considered one of the most beautiful castles in Europe.
Histra was once a harbour, first occupied by the Ancient Greeks in 675 BC. Under the Greeks, it flourished into a centre of trade, specialising in ceramics, glass and metals. The earliest Romanian currency, the 8g silver Drachma, was first issued in Histria in circa 480 BC.
The city was inhabited uninterruptedly for more than 1,300 years across 5 distinct historical periods: Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, Early Roman, and Late Roman.
Pelisor Castle, also called Pelisor Palace or Little Peles, in Sinaia in Southern Romania was built for the Romanian Royal Family and was an important royal home in the early 20th century.
The so called “Golden room” was designed by the queen herself. Its walls are covered in oak-timber and a Scottish floral emblem – the thistle – in order to remind Queen Marie of her homeland.
Hunedoara Castle, also known as Corvin Castle or ‘Corvinesti’, in Hunedoara in Romania, is one of Europe’s largest castles. Originally a fortress, it was used as a royal stronghold until 1440.
The castle is one of the Seven Wonders of Romania. One of its most impressive internal features is its Knight Hall, which now houses a weaponry exhibit.
Built from 1212, Prejmer Fortified Church was a construction of the Roman Catholic Teutonic knights. With its thick circular walls rising 40 feet, advanced weaponry and underground passageways, the church was heavily defended, demonstrating the turbulent nature of the region at the time.
The fortress was subject to 50 sieges – only one of which resulted in its capture in 1611, when the church was taken over by the Prince of Transylvania, Gabriel Báthori.
Fagaras Fortress (also known as Fagaras Citadel) in Transylvania, Romania, is an impressive stronghold originally built in 1310. It is now a museum which houses various artefacts.
In the 1950’s, during the communist era, Fagaras Fortress became a prison for political dissidents, and it is estimated that around 5,000 people were detained there, of which many died due to torture, starvation, and the cold.
The Bucharest Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a national Romanian monument commemorating the soldiers who died for the country in World War One.
Controversially, one night in December 1958, the Unknown Soldier crypt was very secretly dismantled and moved to the Marasesti Mausoleum by the Communist regime to make room for the Mausoleum of the Communist Heroes, where several leaders of the party were later buried.
One of the biggest fortifications of its kind in Europe, the fortress – sometimes called the Alba Iulia Citadel or the Alba Carolina Fortress – protects the city centre.
Inside the fortress are some of the most important civic buildings of Alba Iulia, including the cathedral, university, and the remains of the Roman legionary camp.
The Endless Column Complex is a set of three sculptures commemorating Romania’s war heroes from World War One. It is comprised of the striking 30 metre-high Endless Column, the Table of Silence and the Gate of the Kiss.
The work of Constantin Brâncuși (1876-1957), the ensemble is considered to be a masterpiece of art and engineering and is hailed as one of the great works of 20th century sculpture.