Brașov (pronounced Bra-shov) is a city in Transylvania, Romania. It's set in the Carpathian Mountains in the centre of the country, 180 km from Bucharest. It's mostly a modern industrial city with a population of about 250,000, but the reason to visit is the well-preserved Old Town. It's also an alternative base for skiing at the nearby resort of Poiana Brașov.
In the Middle Ages Transylvania had Hungarian rulers, who brought in Saxon settlers. They developed the walled town known in German as Kronstadt and in Hungarian as Brassó. Later development was further out so this old centre was largely preserved. It has good tourist facilities and is well worth an extended stay: perhaps because it lacks an airport, it's not as well known to westerners as similar old towns such as Sibiu and Cluj Napoca. Shop, restaurant and hotel staff often speak English and German.
For the visitor therefore, the core of Braşov is the old town (largely pedestrianised) and adjoining Șchei district. The modern city is to the east and north, with a "centrul nou" or civic centre, and low-rise blocks sprawling to the bus and railway stations and beyond. To avoid ambiguity, directions here refer to the old town centre.
The Tourist Information Centre is in the Town History Museum on Piaţa Sfatului (Council Square), open daily 09:00-17:00.
Bring warm clothing, the mountain setting means that Braşov is often wet and cold, especially at night.
Bucharest Otopeni Airport (OTP IATA) is about 160 km south, and has good connections across Europe. There are direct buses to Braşov from the airport, and trains from Gara de Nord, every hour or two, taking 3 hours.
Braşov's own airport is a long-running tale of woe. The runway has been completed, but there's no funding to build a passenger terminal, and no flights.
From Bucharest Gara de Nord there are 13 direct trains daily between 06:00 and 21:00, taking about 2 hr 40 min (49 lei, Sep 2018). Travel via Bucharest from Bulgaria, Moldova and Turkey.
From Budapest Keleti there are three direct trains daily (one daytime & two overnight sleepers) via Arad, Deva and Sibiu, taking about 13 hours. One of the sleepers is a direct train from Vienna Hbf. A couple of other connections are possible from Budapest Nyugati via Oradea, taking 16 hours.
The passenger train operator is CFR Călători. The railway station 1 is 3 km north of the old centre, at the foot of Bvd Victoriei. It's a tired communist-era hall, but there are ticket kiosks, ATMs, cafes and (downstairs) a left-luggage store open 24/7 (5 lei per day small bag, 10 lei large). More food kiosks outside, and city bus stops - take #4 or #51 for the old centre. Next door is Autogara 1.
Braşov has good road connections, as it's in a valley where several routes across the hills converge. Main highways are:
- E60 runs south past Ploiesti and Otopeni airport to Bucharest. Towards north, it leads to Sighisoara, Cluj-Napoca, Oradea and Budapest.
- E68 runs west to Sibiu, Deva, Arad and Timişoara into Hungary.
- E574 runs north to Romania's Moldavia region, Iaşi, and into Ukraine and Moldova. It runs south to Pitesti and Craiova.
Ring ahead to your accommodation for advice on parking, which is often difficult in Braşov. In winter you're required to have winter tyres: in this hilly region police often check, with stiff fines for non-compliance.
Buses run every hour or two to Sibiu (2 hr 30 min), Cluj Napoca (4 hr 30 min) and Bucharest Otopeni airport (3 hr) - change there for Bucharest city centre.
For timetables and fares see Autogari. Inter-city buses usually run from Autogara 2, at the foot of Strada Avram Iancu, 4 km north of the old centre. 2 (It's sometimes called Stadion Tineretului for the adjacent sports stadium.)
Buses may however also run from Autogara 1 (also called Codreana), next to the railway station.
The old town, and westward extension of Șchei, are compact and walkable - indeed they're mostly pedestrian precinct. The new town and burbs stretch a long way. Bike rental is available in the central square Piaţa Sfatului, 4 lei per hour.
Buses in Braşov are run by RATBv (Regia Autonomă de Transport Braşov). They mostly run weekdays 05:30 to midnight, weekends 06:30 to 23:00; there's no night service. Most bus stops have real-time digital displays of what's coming.
- For tourists and visitors, a recommended option (least hassle) is to pay using the 24pay smartphone app.
- Alternatively, you can by paper tickets (from the kiosks or ticket machines at the main bus stops - if there aren't any, look for any nearby newsagent kiosk or super/mini market - they'll often display a sign "bilete"). Validate the ticket after boarding the bus.
- A standard ticket is 4 lei, which can be used for 2 x 50 minutes with any number of transfers. Not valid on bus 20.
- A one-way ticket to Poiana Braşov (bus 20) costs 5 lei.
- If you stay long-term, consider buying a one-month pass (70 lei, unlimited travels on all bus lines, including 20).
For visitors, the most relevant bus lines are those looping the old town centre:
- Bus 4 from railway station to Livada Poştei, north edge of the old centre.
- Bus 50 from the valley SW of town through Piaţa Unirii in Șchei, round old centre via Livada Poştei then out again SW.
- Bus 51 from railway station to Piaţa Sfatului in old centre then Șchei and Tocile, then loops back again.
- Bus 52 from SE burbs along Saturn Bvd to old centre, loop and return.
Some other useful lines are:
- Buses 5, 15 & 28 run the length of Strada Lungă to Livada Poştei.
- Bus 23 or 23B from the railway station & Autogara 1 via Stadionul Tineretului (for Autogara 2) and Stadionul Municipal to the western suburb of Bartolomeu.
- Bus 16 from Stadionul Municipal to city centre.
- Bus 12 from Stadionul Tineretului (near Autogara 2) to Livada Poştei.
- Bus 5 from the Primărie bus stop (New City Hall - 4 min walk from the Livada Poştei bus station through the Park) to Stadionul Municipal via Strada Lungă and Bartolomeu.
- Bus 20 from Livada Poştei to Poiana Braşov - at the kiosk, say where you're going for the appropriate ticket.
Taxis make sense if you're struggling with luggage between bus and railway station and old town, reckon 2 lei per km. A trip from the train station to the old town should not cost more than 15 lei. See Taximetre for operators and rates. There are many taxi hyenas at the railway station so be careful (see more at Stay Safe). Uber is available in Braşov.
In the Middle Ages, Transylvania's Hungarian rulers brought in Saxon settlers, to defend and develop the area. They built up the walled city of Kronstadt, which today forms the Old Town of Braşov. Most of the city sights are here, in the pedestrianised zone centred on Council Square (Piaţa Sfatului) and along the spine of Republicii street. Main sights include the Piaţa Sfatului, the Black Church, and the former Council House. Around the walled city, you can see the Șchei and Catherine Gates, Weavers' Bastion, Black Tower, and White Tower. To the south lies Șchei district, described below. Stroll at random, or follow the route suggested in the Brasov cultural itinerary, or join one of the free guided walking tours run by Guided-Brasov.com.
- 1 County History Museum (Muzeul Județean de Istorie), Piața Sfatului. Tu-Su 10:00-18:00. Local exhibits from the stone age to the present day. In 2018 there's an exhibition on "Orașul Stalin", the period when this city was named after Stalin.
- 2 The Black Church (just south of main square). Summer Tu-Sa 10:00-19:00, Su 12:00-19:00; in winter closes 16:00. Built as a Roman Catholic church in the 15th century in late Gothic style with three naves. It became Lutheran under the influence of Johannes Honter, the Luther of Romania. It was scorched by the Great Fire of 1689, hence the name "Black Church", and later restored in Baroque style. Its main features are the six-tonne bell, the 4000-pipe organ built in 1839 by Carl August Buchholz which is still played during weekly concerts, and a rich collection of Anatolian carpets, donated in the Middle Ages by city merchants. 10 lei adult, 3 lei age 7-18.
- 3 Museum of Ethnography (Muzeu Etnografie), Bulevardul Eroilor 21A (next door to Art Museum). Tu-Su 09:00-17:00. Historical crafts and arts of the surrounding region. Now also has a branch "Urban Civilisation Museum of Brașov" in main square, enquire about combi-tickets. 5 lei.
- 4 Art Museum (Muzeul de Artă), Bulevardul Eroilor 21. Tu-Su 09:00-17:00. Houses mostly the work of Romanian painters. 5 lei.
- Mureșenilor House Memorial Museum (Muzeul Memorial Casa Mureșenilor) on main square commemorates the members of the Mureșanu family (including Andrei Mureșanu, the writer of the National Anthem). In Romanian only.
- Poarta Șchei is the street leading down to the gates of the old town. Along it (by No 19) find Rope Street (Strada Sforii), a picturesque alley, and the Beth Israel Synagogue (entrance by No 29, open M-F 09:00-16:00, 5 lei). Old Town ends at the Șchei & St Catherine Gates 5 . The medieval entrance and tollgate was St Catherine's Gate, which you could barely fit a horse and cart through. In 1828 it was replaced by the wider Șchei Gate and blocked off. A well-preserved section of wall runs east then north from here, with three bastions (Weavers', Spinners' opposite the cable-car station, and Drapers' to the east).
- The White Tower 6 and the Black Tower 7 on the northern hillside. The view from the Black Tower balcony is especially nice and usually included in most Braşov guide books.
- Looming over the old town is Braşov Citadel (Cetatea Braşovului). 8 Enjoy the stroll and view from the hill but you can't visit within.
- St Bartholomew Church (Biserica Sf. Bartolomeu) is the oldest gothic church in the city, dating to 1241. It's 1.5 km N of old town at the foot of Strada Lunga, bus 5 and 28 runs this way.
If you're weren't Saxon, then you weren't allowed to live in medieval walled city Kronstadt, so the Romanians mostly lived in Șchei hamlet, south of the gate. Here too lived Bulgarians brought in to solve a labour shortage, who were nicknamed "Șchei" (probably from Latin "sclavis", meaning Slavs). The hamlet grew into the township of Șcheii Brașovului, centred on St Nicholas Church and Piaţa Unirii. It's now a charming area to stroll or stay.
- 9 St. Nicholas Church (Biserica Sf. Nicolae), Piaţa Unirii. The first Orthodox church of Brașov, and an old cultural and spiritual centre for the Romanians. It church dates from 1495-1512, Gothic embellished with Baroque, with fine murals by Mişu Popp. Out in the precinct there's a separate wooden bell tower, the First Romanian Elementary School (Prima Școală Românească, founded in 1583, open daily 09:00-17:00), a cemetery and an old terrace, now church offices.
The district continues southwest into the valley, past Tocile transport interchange, to Holy Trinity Church (Biserica Sf. Treime). Then Șchei peters out as the dead-end lane ascends towards Solomon's cliffs, a popular hiking area.
- 10 Tâmpa. This is the mountain that looms over the city, with the Hollywood-style "B-R-A-S-O-V" letters lit up at night. It's 900 m elevation, accessible by a steep one hour hike, or take the cable-car (Telecabină) which runs every 30 min to 16:00. Stout shoes recommended on the ridge trail, and essential if snow is still lying. There's a restaurant "Teleferic" in the top cable-car station.
The valley south of the peak is Valea Cetăţii, its lower slopes urbanised, but with various bosky hiking trails around and across the mountain. 10 lei up, 8 lei down, 18 lei roundtrip.
- Braşov Zoo (Parcul Zoologic) south edge of the city in Noua district, is open Tu-Su 09:00-20:00. Take bus 17 from the city centre, bus 35 or 21 from the railway station.
- The lane SW from Schei, a dead-end for motor traffic, used to be the cart-track over the hills to Poiana Brașov and beyond. It climbs the valley through limestone karst scenery, the most prominent feature being Solomon's cliffs (Pietrele lui Solomon) 11 . (Not the biblical Solomon, but a Hungarian king who had a lucky escape here.) Bus 50 runs out here from the old centre. This area is good for hiking, biking and climbing.
- Zilele Braşovului (Feast Days of Braşov). Held in the week leading up to Orthodox Easter. It has several fairs with craftsman, wine, food, etc. It ends with the Parades of Juni on Easter Sunday (Duminica Tomii), which in 2019 will be Su 28 April, one week after the western Easter.
- Cerbul de Aur (Golden Stag) music festival, last held in 2009 but expected to return in August–Sept 2018, dates and line-up not yet confirmed. If it goes ahead, it'll bring hundreds of pop artists and musicians, contestants and big-name modern and classic stars. The downside is that the main square will be cluttered with tons of heavy iron scaffolding and stage for much of summer and early autumn.
- Oktoberfest (Beer Festival / Festivalul Berii). Smaller but less industrial version of the Munich event, with beer tents, music and of course sausages. The next event is 6-16 Sept 2018.
- Brașov Philharmony. Classical concerts and recitals. 20 lei.
- Organ concerts at the Black Church. June, September: Tu 18:00-18:30; July, August: Tu Th Sa 18:00-18:30, ticket price 8 lei
- Mureșenilor House. Free classical music recitals
- Brașov Opera. 20 lei.
- [dead link] Brașov Theatre. 10-15 lei.
- Climb around in the climbing park Aventura. Tracks range from very easy to very difficult and the entrance fee is about 30 lei for one person. You can get there with several buses: line 17 (city centre), line 35 (trainstation) and line 21.
- Climb in the biggest Romanian indoor climbing Gym Natural High [dead link]. Tracks range from very easy to very difficult. Location: str. Carpatilor, inside METROM industrial zone.
- Swim in two water parks: Paradisul Acvatic (it's open all the year) and Aqua Park.
- Hiking and trekking - Braşov is surrounded by scenic hills and mountains, ideal for exploring. And the woodlands and limestone slopes support almost 40 species of orchids.
- Skiing - see page for Poiana Braşov ski resort, 10 km away.
- Transfagarașan Highway. This road twists and turns through spectacular mountain passes about 100 km west of Braşov. A private tour from Braşov for two or more people will cost 450 lei per person. Open July 1-October 31.
Stii sa vorbesti romaneste? If your answer's "duh?" then you can learn Romanian at the Language School on Strada Iuliu Maniu 41A, 2nd floor.
The biggest shopping mall is Coresi. Others are Unirea Shopping Center, Eliana Mall, STAR, and the shops near the big Carrefour near Calea Bucuresti. For food and regular shopping the hypermarkets (Carrefour, Metro, Selgros, Kaufland) are better value. They're edge of town on the road to Bucharest, from Livada Poştei take Bus 17 and from the railway station Bus 35. A good market for local produce is Astra (Piaţa Astra), SE off Uranus Bvd, take Bus 6 from Livada Poştei.
Since there are lots of tourists, there's more upmarket choice, but mid-range prices are higher.
- Fornetti is a Hungarian pastry chain with many outlets, eg at the railway station and downtown. They sell small pastry pieces stuffed with cheese or jam. Prices are fair and the quality is very high.
- Ando's, Bvd 15 Noiembrie 6 (On main road 200 m E of old centre), ☎ . Daily, 24 hr. Fast food place with menus and sandwiches (chicken and fish) at low prices.
- Panini - Also on 15 Noiembrie (nr. 40) is a 24/7 fast food restaurant, with great sandwiches for incredibly low prices.
- STAR supermarket, nearby at Strada Nicolae Bălcescu 62, has decent cheap food. Just around the corner is Kebab House, serving doner kebap non-stop.
- La Republique, Strada Republicii 33 (in old centre), ☎ . Su-Th 09:00-23:00; F Sa 09:00-00:00. French-themed pub serving a wide range of sweet and savoury crepes. Part of a chain. Inexpensive.
- Roata Norocului, Strada Crişan 6 (500 m N of old centre at foot of road to ski resort), ☎ . Daily 10:00-23:30. Good quality Romanian fare. Good service.
- Bistro de l'Arte, Piaţa George Enescu 11 (in old centre), ☎ . M-Sa 09:00-01:00; Su 12:00-01:00. French style restaurant but also burgers & breakfasts. Madame is idiosyncratic about who she admits.
- 1 For Sale Pub, Bvd 15 Noiembre 24 (100 m east of old town). Daily 13:00-23:30. Friendly long-established pub.
- Old Firm Pub (formerly Gott Pub), Strada Hirscher 12 (On corner of Poarta Schei). Daily 08:00-01:00. Scottish themed pub. Nice atmosphere, rugs covering everything. It has darts and a big plasma TV screen for football games. Wide selection of beers and they also serve breakfast.
- Deane's Irish Pub & Grill, Strada Republicii 19. Daily 10:00-03:00. You can get Guinness, a host of Irish coffees and an Ulster Fry.
Ignore the touts at the railway & bus stations, who'll offer an overpriced ditch.
- Beke Guesthouse, 32 Str. Cerbului (in old centre, off Porta Schei), ☎ . Very central. Shared toilet but clean. From €10.
- Ioana Guesthouse, 1 Str. Dealu Melcilor (off Str Titulescu, 1 km E of old centre), ☎ . Friendly & spacious.
- Hotel Aro Sport, 3 Str. Sfântul Ioan, ☎ . Just round the corner from Aro Palace Hotel, but an unrelated business, this is a clean modern budget choice. Rooms are small and minimally furnished but include a sink.
- Hotel Postavarul, 2 Politehnicii, ☎ . The Postavarul is a separate wing of the Coroana (see "Mid-range") and bookings are made through that hotel. All of the immaculate rooms have washbasins, but some share a shower and toilet. Good location and service.
- Kismet Dao Hostel, 2B Str Democratii (just off main square of Schei district), ☎ . Complimentary beer or soft drink, cereal breakfast, coffee and tea all day long, unlimited Internet & Wi-Fi access, bed sheets & towels, big lockers and tour information make this a great value. This hostel has a great staff and is blast to stay at. The staff regularly hosts barbeques in their new awesome yard. Dorm €10-12, private room €30.
- La Despani Guesthouse, 128 Mihau Viteazu (2.5 km N of old centre), ☎ . Bright, clean, comfortable guesthouse located between bus station (Autogara 2) and old centre. A family-run hostel with informative, friendly, helpful owners. Free Internet. From €30/room.
- Mara Hostel, 11 Piața Sfatului / 5A Str Johan Got, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Small hostel set in the middle of the old town, 200 m from the central square. Airy dormitories, wifi and friendly, helpful staff. Sheets provided, no lockers but room keys. €10/night.
- Rolling Stone Hostel, 2A Piatra Mare (just off main square of in Schei district), ☎ . Family-run place, offering both dorms and privates. Cheapest bed is €10 with all that you need included (kitchen access, clean sheets, towels, laundry, Internet Wi-Fi). Tours available for all surrounding sights.
- JugendStube Hostel, 13 Michael Weiss (in old centre, 2 blocks S of Bvd Eroilor), ☎ . Breakfast included, clean sheets, Internet Wi-Fi. €12/night.
- Hotel Ambient, 27 Iuliu Maniu (500 m NE of old centre), ☎ . 3-star hotel near the Old Town, offers very friendly service. All rooms have showers, minibar, international telephone, as well as some which have very nice balconies. If you want to splurge, there are some high-range apartments with all the amenities including jacuzzis.
- Hotel Brasov, 38 Strada 13 Decembrie (1 km S of railway station, 2 km NE of old centre), ☎ . 3-star hotel, friendly & spacious. From €40.
- Hotel Capitol, 19 Bvd Eroilor, ☎ . Slabby modern block, 3-star, situated in the old centre overlooking park. Has 184 double rooms that are modern and comfortably furnished (TV, phone, fridge.) Hotel has a restaurant, conference room, reception suite, room service, safe for personal belongings services, currency exchange, and courier service.
- Hotel Coroana, 62 Republicii, ☎ . In the old centre, the oldest hotel in town, built in an impressive baroque style. Facilities: extensive reception area, "Brasserie" restaurant, breakfast lounge, conference hall, currency exchange office. 155 beds in 2 suite, 2 singles and 69 doubles furnished in classical style having telephone, TV - set, fridge, radio.
Beware, there is another "Hotel Coroana-Brasovului" on str. Dr Saftu, 1 km SW of here.
- [dead link] Hotel Helis, 29 Memorandului (1 km north of old centre), ☎ . 3-star. Its immediate neighbourhood is not so enticing, but the Helis is a pleasant place to pitch up with nice wooden furniture, clean while decor and crisp white linen to match. Breakfast is included in the price, and the staff speak a variety of languages. The tasteful, spacious rooms come with TV, and the bathrooms are in good condition.
- Casa Samurai, 12a, str. Petru Maior (1.5 km NE of old centre. Near civic centre but in complicated one-way alley: cars approach via str. Gheorghe Lazar), ☎ , (mobile). Japanese design, quiet and clean, free WiFi. One can have breakfast with ones own food in a big common room or on a terrace. The very friendly landlord is from Japan, speaks Romanian, Japanese and English. The hotel offers free transfer from the railway station and a cheap transfer from the airport. Parking in front of the house. From €25.
- Sylvania, 27 Caprioarei (2 km north of old centre), ☎ . Small b&b. Some of the rooms are ok, but avoid those in the basement. Management may only speak Romanian but seem used to refunding dissatisfied clients.
- Hotel Excelsior, 39 Matei Basarab (On hillside 1 km E of old centre), ☎ . Quiet 2-star place.
- Hotel Trifan, 1A bis Grivitei (3 km N of centre on Hwy 13 towards Sighisoara), ☎ . 3-star Trifan is more of a motel than a hotel, useful to stop over after a long drive. Rooms have shared bathrooms, pay more if you want your own shower.
- Aro Palace, 27 Bvd Eroilor, ☎ . Premier hotel in the centre of the Old Town, with 15 suites, 262 double rooms and 30 singles. Most rooms offer minibar, satellite TV, telephone, radio and room service. Facilities include a Romanian, Italian and international restaurant, nightclub, bar, garden restaurant, breakfast lounge, conference hall, tourist information office, parking area, hairdressing salon and a casino. From 440 lei.
Brașov is very safe for visitors, and the main tourist areas are well-policed. As in most Romanian cities, be on your guard against pickpockets and scams.
- Keep your valuables close, especially in the crowded tourist areas in the city center, on buses, and in restaurants
- If you plan to get a taxi, make sure it belongs to a company, and prices and phone number are written on the door. Especially avoid taxis that stand in the first line (near the sidewalk) on the right as you exit the train station.
- Exchange bureaux have a bad reputation for scams: see Romania article. Shop around for decent rates: the exchanges by the bus & railway stations have poor rates, and for less common currencies such as Canadian or Australian dollars the rate will be poor everywhere.
The forests around Brașov have a large population of bears, and sometimes they approach town to feed from dumpsters. This beast is the Eurasian Brown Bear, Ursus arctos arctos, which will eat any sheep left unguarded but seldom attacks humans unless it feels threatened. Keep your distance, and in the woods make noise so you don't startle them.
Most shops and businesses accept credit and debit cards. For cash, there are many ATMs: it's best to use those next to a bank, and during regular business hours, so you've some recourse if it doesn't pay out. The ATM should also display a support phone number: note this before entering your PIN.
Currency exchange is best done at a major bank, such as the BCR, BNR, BT, or Raiffeisen Bank - they're efficient, honest, and trade all the main currencies. You'll need your passport. BCR headquarters on 15 Noiembrie Street has an exchange ATM that converts EUR, USD, GBP and CHF into lei at the bank's official rates and is available 24/7.
- Easy day trips from Braşov include:
- Râşnov with its great fortress and abundant history is only 16 km southwest. Take train or frequent bus.
- Bran, another 10 km further, has a striking castle, but is tourist-trippy and overplays the Dracula connection.
- Poiana Braşov is a big ski resort 10 km above Braşov. Frequent buses, lots of tourist facilities.
- Prejmer is a village 12 km east with a fortified church.
- Feldioara fortress is 15 km north.
- Further away:
- Făgăraş, to the north, has a fortress, and a little way beyond it is Sâmbăta de Sus fortress and monastery
- Sighișoara is a medieval fortified town teetering on a hilltop, and birthplace of Dracula. It's 120 km north and reached by train or bus. With your own transport, detour along the way to see Hoghiz, Racoş, Rupea and Viscri.
- Sibiu is the star attraction of Transylvania, a splendidly preserved medieval city, about 3 hours away by bus or train.
- Heading south, Pitești (120 km) is the last town that feels "Transylvanian". It's reached via Bran and the Rucar pass across the mountains. On the way, detour to Curtea de Argeș, an old Wallachian fortress.
- Further south, you come down to the flat fields of Wallachia, and the highway races away to Bucharest.