From the busy capital of Bucharest to the towering mountains of Transylvania, Romania is an Eastern European nation with plenty of adventure, culture, and history just waiting to be uncovered.
One of the best ways to do this is by taking a road trip around the whole country. There are so many epic viewpoints and tiny villages to stop off in Romania that having your own set of wheels gives you the option to have a completely bespoke trip, exactly how you like it.
The roads are generally in good condition, and the traffic (outside of Bucharest) is manageable – so what are you waiting for? Whether you have a week, let’s delve into this Romania road trip itinerary and show you the places you can discover with your own wheels whether you have a week, 10 days, or 2 weeks!
Tips for driving in Romania
Exploring Romania by car is a great idea! The country is connected by rail and bus networks, but they can be a little unreliable, so many locals opt to fly instead.
However, if you do that you’ll miss out on lots of gorgeous little towns and epic viewpoints on your journey! So, we think that road tripping is the answer.
To help with your planning, here are some tips for driving in Romania:
- Romania drives on the right-hand side of the road, like most of Europe, the USA, and Canada.
- Speed limits are in kilometers per hour, with highways having a limit of a rather speedy 130 kilometers per hour (remember, you don’t have to go that fast!)
- If you’re traveling with a child under 12, they aren’t allowed to go in the passenger seat at the front of the car.
- There is a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to drink driving, so don’t drive even if you’ve just had a small drink.
Car rental in Romania
Lots of car rental companies, like Hertz and Europcar, operate in Romania. You can rent a car straight from Bucharest airport, or there are rental offices in the city. If you’re spending some time exploring Bucharest initially, you probably won’t need a car, so it’s a good idea to hire the car on the day that you leave the city!
Romania Road Trip Itinerary
Ready to uncover all the stops you cannot miss on a proper Romanian road trip? Here’s an itinerary map of what this post will cover:
Bucharest: 1-3 Days
The capital city of Romania, Bucharest is where most road trips around the nation begin and end. This is for various reasons; it’s where you’ll likely fly into, you’ll have the best selection of car rental companies, and most of the main roads of Romania end up in Bucharest!
You may in fact end up crossing through Bucharest a couple of times on your trip, but it’s a great idea to spend a couple of days seeing all that the city has to offer before renting a car and heading out on your trip.
Here are the main attractions of Bucharest:
- The Palace of the Parliament: This is the heaviest administrative building in the world and the second largest after the Pentagon. Built by Communist dictator Ceaușescu but never actually used by him, you can take a tour here to learn about the oppressive Communist regime in Romania.
- The “new” old city: Only built in the early 2000s, this “old town” was established to encourage more tourists to post-Communist Bucharest. Nowadays, it’s the heart of the city, with lots of cafes, bars, and restaurants.
- Ceaușescu’s mansion: This is another important attraction to visit to understand Communist Bucharest. Ceaușescu’s mansion is opulent and glamorous, and it stands as contrast to how the average Romanian lived during the era.
- Romanian village museum: This is a great way to learn about rural Romania, which you’ll be visiting soon on your road trip! There are exhibits about different regions in Romania through the ages.
- The churches: Romania is a deeply religious country, and the churches are wonderful places to learn about their spirituality. Particularly, visit the Antim Monastery, which was one of the churches that was moved on railings during Ceaușescu’s rule.
- Cărturești Carusel: Weather not so kind when you’re in Bucharest? This bookshop is among the most Instagrammable places in the city!
Do you only have 2 days in Bucharest? Then check our 48h in Bucharest guide.
Where to stay in Bucharest
Capitol Hotel is a four-star property that’s located in the heart of Bucharest, in one of its historic buildings. You’ll find well-furnished rooms with plenty of deluxe offerings, holding onto some of the property’s original features as well as having all the mod-cons you’ll need!
Constanta: 1-2 Days
Constanta is around a two-hour drive from Bucharest and is one of the country’s favorite beachside locations, as it’s on the Black Sea.
In the summertime, it’s among the most popular tourist destinations in the country, with three beaches that are perfect for sunbathing and relaxing. You could also visit Mamaia, a lively resort town that’s close by!
Alternatively, Constanta has lots of urban attractions, including an Art Deco casino, various museums, and a fascinating planetarium.
Where to stay in Constanta
Hotel Megalos is a mere 500 meters from the Black Sea, so it’s ideal for a beach break in Constanta! Enjoy traditional rooms with luxury bedlinen and comfortable mattresses here.
Iași: 1-2 Days
Not many tourists visit Iasi. Sitting on the border of Romania and Moldova, it’s most famous for being a university destination. However, it’s a culturally rich city – the second largest in Romania and it has been both the capital of Moldova (before it became a separate country) and the capital of Romania. This fascinating history makes it well worth a stopover on your Romania itinerary!
First, visit the Palace of Culture, which is a magnificent building constructed in the early 20th century and is home to a few museums, including the Moldovian History Museum – a must-visit to get to grips with this area.
There are plenty of monasteries to visit within the city and Europe’s second oldest synagogue. Plus, botanical gardens and lots of lush parks and green spaces make the city a wonderful place to amble around.
From Iasi, you can either drive back through Bucharest or take some mountainous roads to get to Brasov. The route that you take depends on what time of year it is. If you’re visiting Romania in winter, I’d recommend avoiding mountain roads and taking the highway (some roads may even be closed in the snow).
However, if it’s the summertime, driving around the mountainous roads is an experience in itself!
Where to stay in Iasi
The Hotel Moldova is in a prime position right in the center of the city, with views over the Palace of Culture. The rooms are quite historic but have a certain charm to them, and there is a gym and indoor swimming pool on site.
Brașov: 1-3 Days
A charming town sitting in the heart of Transylvania, Brasov is a must-visit in Romania. The cobblestone streets are lined by historic buildings, and the entire city basks in a mountainous valley. Don’t miss hiking up to the Brasov sign and taking in the gorgeous views over the whole town!
It’s a wonderful town to walk around in and admire, but it’s also in a prime location to see some of Romania’s best castles. These include:
Bran Castle: This is well-known as Dracula’s castle, although it doesn’t actually have a connection to the book or Vlad the Impaler, who the character Dracula is based on (apart from he may have been imprisoned there at some point!). However, it’s a medieval castle steeped in history, and it certainly looks as if Dracula could be hanging out here…
Peles Castle: A real fairytale castle, this building used to be home to the Romanian royal family. They ended up fleeing after World War Two due to the rise of Communism and anti-royal movement, and never returned. You can enjoy the exterior of the castle and pay an extra fee to see the opulent inside.
Poenari Castle: This is the actual Dracula’s castle! Dating back to the 13th century, it was where Vlad the Impaler lived and it sits at 800m height, looming over the surroundings – you can only reach it by climbing 1480 stone steps!
You could also visit neighboring Rasnov. This is a smaller town with a glorious citadel, which is a fortress dating back to the 13th century, from which you can take in incredible views of the town and surrounding area.
If you have time, make sure to stop in Sighisoara and Târgu Mureș before reaching the next stop, Cluj-Napoca.
Where to stay in Brasov
Hotel Bella Muzica is located right in the heart of town, in a 16th-century building that’s been renovated perfectly to showcase traditional features yet still provide ultimate luxury. Reception is open 24 hours and there is a bar and restaurant on-site.
Cluj-Napoca: 1-2 Days
Known as the capital of Transylvania, Cluj-Napoca is a lively city where there’s always something to do.
It centers on Unirii Square, which is part of the old town (in this case, it’s an actual old town, not like the one in Bucharest!).
St Michael’s Church imposes on the square with its Gothic architecture, and you can also explore the National Art Museum here.
As it’s a student city, there are tonnes of exciting bars and a great cafe scene.
It’s also worth getting out the city to see the Salina Turda (Turda salt mine) which has been a mine, a bomb shelter and more recenly, a funfair. It’s a surreal attraction that’s definitely worth visiting when you’re in the area!
If you want to enjoy some of Transylvania’s best nature, you can also visit Cheile Turzii nature reserve, which is perfect for hiking, or see the stunning Lake Tarnița.
Where to stay in Cluj-Napoca
Hotel Belvedere is close to the centre of Cluj-Napoca, and boasts well kitted out rooms with comfortable beds, traditional features and an indoor swimming pool and spa. There’s also a restaurant on-site!
Sibiu: 1-2 Days
The adorable town of Sibiu is Romania’s best-kept secret. A Transylvanian gem, this town looks straight out of a fairy tale, and it’s a wonderful place to pause, enjoy some authentic Romanian food and drink and reflect on your road trip so far!
Sibiu is the kind of city that you could spend hours walking around in, taking in the beautiful colored houses on either side of the street and ambling around winding streets. However, attractions include the 15th-century Piata Mare, which is home to the gorgeous Catholic Basilica. There’s also an Orthodox Cathedral which has incredible murals on the walls!
The Bridge of Lies is another popular tourist spot; it’s a tiny multi-level bridge that spans between two buildings.
When driving south from Sibiu, you might want to take the Transfagaran Highway route.
This is the windy highway that makes it onto lots of people’s Romanian bucket lists! It looks intimidating, but it is kept in good condition; just be careful when driving around the bends.
Where to stay in Sibiu
MyContinental Sibiu is a modern hotel with great views from the upper floors. Located on the town’s main boulevard, it’s easy to access all of the city’s best attractions from here. In the rooms, enjoy deluxe bedlinen and gorgeous en-suite bathrooms.
Craiova: 1 Day
Romania’s seventh-largest city is somewhere that doesn’t make it onto everyone’s Romania road trip itinerary. The city center boasts gorgeous Belle Epoque architecture, and it’s regarded amongst locals to be one of the prettiest cities in Romania. It also has a few attractions to offer travelers, including a natural history museum and a few pretty Cathedrals.
But the main reason to visit Craiova is for its impressive festive market, which runs from late November through December every year.
While Romania is a very Christmassy country, and there are tonnes of festive markets throughout the nation, Craiova’s is arguably the best. They use over a million LED light bulbs to illuminate the market, which sells souvenirs made by local artists and delicious festive food. There’s an ice rink here too!
Where to stay in Craiova
Hotel Europeca is a comfortable hotel with a few different room types, including an apartment and standard rooms. Rooms have features like soft grey carpet and comfortable sofas, and breakfasts are included in your room rate.
As you can see, there’s so much to enjoy in beautiful Romania. Driving is the ideal way to explore this country, as having your own vehicle will allow you to go by your own schedule and make as many stops as you like along the way! So grab your ticket to Bucharest, hire a car and start exploring this wonderful nation!
Claire is a world traveler who blogs about Europe in winter. She aims to help other travelers explore the continent in the cooler months through her informative blog posts and travel journalism.