A former bastion of Soviet communism lying deep behind the Iron Curtain, Romania is now an affluent, free and open society quickly becoming one of Eastern Europe’s premier destinations. Occupying the lands of the old Roman province of Dacia, Romania is nearly carved in two by the broad sweep of the Carpathian Mountains. This is a dramatic landscape, heavy with the sounds of wolves and folkloric tales of vampiric beings stalking the old dukedoms of Transylvania. Elsewhere, charming medieval villages and grand Orthodox churches denote a land steeped in history, while brash and modern cities showcase a country shedding off the yoke of the past and embracing a future of European nationhood brimming with unforgettable encounters.
Flights to Romania from London take you into Henri Coandă International Airport, which is only a short distance from the capital city, Bucharest. A heady mix of communist uniformity and unbridled capitalism, Bucharest’s tumultuous history is built into the contrasting cityscape. In Bucharest’s central hub, glitzy shopping malls and shiny new high-rises display Romania’s new-found confidence. Meanwhile, amid the thriving café scene and fresh young faces, the vast bulk of communist architecture still looms large. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the truly gigantic Palace of Parliament. Built on the orders of Romania’s last dictator, the palace is the second-largest building in the world and a crass monument to totalitarian egotism. Inside you will find the Museum of Contemporary Art.
History and architecture
Deep within the majestic Carpathian Mountains, the province of Transylvania immediately evokes images of rural superstition, dark shadows, and fantastical castles perched high atop menacing cliffs. Indeed, sites like Bran Castle – legendary stronghold of Count Dracula – still exude an air of dark Gothic power. It’s not all medieval terror, however, as the mountainous landscape is ideal for hiking, cave exploring and even skiing on the Bucegi slopes. The vast plains of Moldavia provide the backdrop to some of Romania’s most beautiful religious sites. Little visited but well worth exploring, Moldavia’s monastic complexes are lavishly decorated in brightly coloured frescoes. Built in 1488, the Voroneţ is the most celebrated of the monasteries and boasts dramatic murals depicting the zodiac, heaven and a startling vision of hell.
Food and drink
Bucharest features an exciting culinary tradition, showcasing an array of both rural and urban Romanian cuisine. Romania’s oldest beer house is a lively venue within which to enjoy richly flavoured brews. There’s also a menu stacked with hearty Romanian dishes. La Mama is another popular eatery serving lovingly prepared local meals including roasted pork neck and, of course, lots of potatoes.
As evening descends, Romania’s boisterous urban energy comes into its own, with many cities boasting world-class nightlife. Due to its raucous student population, Iasi’s night scene is hard to beat. As Romania’s second-largest city, Iasi’s nightclubs such as La Baza and Fratelli will have you dancing into the early hours. In the capital, things are no less energetic with a plethora of quality bars and nightclubs dedicated to giving you a night to remember. After enjoying an evening cocktail at Club A, head down to Mojo for a night of blissful hedonism.