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Bucharest may be on the verge of a cosmopolitan rebirth, but the rest of Romania owes much of its appeal to the past, which is ironic given the number of years that Ceausescu spent trying to eliminate all traces of the country’s history. Fortunately, many of Romania’s most impressive buildings and artistic masterpieces were spared the dictator's wrath. Art and architecture buffs will find satisfaction in the country’s museums, churches, monasteries, and castles. With its old world way of life, rural Romania has a charm all its own – go now, before the 21st century catches up with the villages.

Things to do in Romania

Black Church

Romania's most famous Gothic church is located in Brasov, in southeast Transylvania. The building, which dates back to the 14th century, derives its name from a huge fire in the 17th century that blackened the walls of the interior. In addition to its structural beauty, the building is worth visiting for its collection of Anatolian carpets from the 16th to the 18th century and its 15th-century murals. If you have the opportunity to attend a concert here – do it – the 3,993-pipe Buchholz organ turns any score into a religious experience.

, 011-40-268-511-824
Tags: historic | art | things to do | culture | architecture

Castle Bran

Located 16 miles from Brasov, the sleepy village of Bran might be overlooked were it not for one of Romania’s most popular attractions—the Castle Bran (aka Dracula’s Castle). The fact that the fortress was built in 1377 as protection against the Turks is often eclipsed by the notoriety of its most famous resident, Vlad the Impaler, who was rocketed to international fame when Bram Stoker fictionalized him as Dracula.

Village of Bran (16 miles from Brasov),
Tags: historic | things to do | culture | architecture

Ceramica Palosi

Pick up souvenirs at Ceramica Palosi, one of the oldest family-run shops Horezu, a village known around the world for its painted plates.

St. Tudor Vladimirescu 15, 011-40-25-086-1634
Tags: things to do | souvenirs

Horezu Monastery

Built by Prince Constantin Brâncoveanu in 1690, this UNESCO-protected monastery is known for its priceless and sacred 17th-century Eastern Orthodox paintings (the well-preserved murals of Heaven and Hell are the crowning glory here). During the summer you can sleep at the modest inn here too, for a huge bargain (double rooms run around $36). A word to the wise: married couples receive a far warmer welcome here than unwed travelers.

Romanii de Jos, 011-40-25-086-0071,
Tags: budget | historic | things to do | culture

National Art Museum

This underrated art museum, a two-floor building composed of two main galleries and a temporary gallery, is home to an impressive collection of Monets, El Grecos, and other old masters and impressionist painters, as well as a collection of Romanian art.

Calea Victoriei 49-53, 011-40-21-314-8119, (Romanian only)
Tags: international | art | things to do | traditional | museum

Palace of Parliament

This sprawling estate (formerly called the Palace of the People) is the world’s second-largest office building after the Pentagon. The 45-minute public tour offers a look at the country’s previous Communist-style dictatorship. While the rest of the country starved, Mr. Ceausescu built a lavish, 1,100-room, 125-acre, crystal- and marble-bedecked temple for himself.

Calea 13 Septembrie 1, 011-40-21-316-0300,
Tags: things to do | architecture | history | tour

Patriarchal Church

Romanian Orthodox worshippers flock to this 17th-century cathedral. . None of the original icons remain, save for one of the cathedral’s patron saints, Helen, and her son, Roman Emperor Constantine, but the church itself is a breathtaking Byzantine monument.

Biserica Patriarhiei Nr. 21, Aleea Dealul Mitropoliei,
Tags: family | historic | things to do | culture | architecture | religious

Peles Castle

Make time for a trip to this 160-room, 19th-century fortress commissioned by King Carol I. The building itself is designed in the neo-Renaissance style and boasts 800+ stained glass windows and a collection of over 4,000 European paintings from the 15th through the 19th centuries, including works by Gustav and Klimt.

Str. Pelesului 2, 011-40-244-31-0918, (Romanian only)
Tags: art | things to do | culture | castle

Princess Balasa Church

Have a look at this orthodox, neo-Gothic, candy-striped church, located in historic Bucharest. The current building dates back to 1881, after a series of unlucky natural disasters destroyed the first three incarnations of the church. Don’t miss the surrounding garden and the statue that pays tribute to its namesake, the sixth daughter of the Brancoveanu, former ruler of Wallachia.

Sf. Apostoli, Nr. 60, (Romanian only)
Tags: historic | things to do | culture | architecture | religious

The Architecture of Soseaua Kiseleff Street

Head north to leafy Soseaua Kiseleff Street for a peek at the area’s Sessionist- and Art Nouveau-era mansions. For the best views of these grand buildings, take a staircase to the top of the 75-foot Arcul de Triumf, a 1935 model of Paris’ famous arch.

Soseaua Kiseleff St.,
Tags: views | things to do | architecture | history

The Museum of the Romanian Peasant (Muzeul Taranului Roman)

Four hundred years of Romanian rural life, from the 17th century to the present, are on display here. See everything from painted eggs, pottery, and woven crafts, to two rebuilt churches from the countryside.

Sos. Kiseleff 3, 011-40-21-317-96-60,
Tags: things to do | culture | history | museum

The Painted Monasteries

Southern Bucovina is dotted with gorgeous 450-year-old monasteries, all of them exquisite examples of Orthodox painting and architecture. If you only have time to visit one, make it the Voronet Monastery, which owes its fame to the attached St. George Church, built by Stephen the Great in 1488. Visitors to this church are awed by the bright exterior frescoes, which stand out all the more against the blue background of the monastery.

Voronet Monastery,
Tags: art | things to do | culture | history

Village Museum

This charming, open-air reconstruction of a rustic Romanian village covers 30 acres comprising 50 cottages, churches, and shops that represent Romania’s rural architectural heritage from the 16th and 17th centuries. The steep-roofed peasant homes, thatched barns, log cabins, churches, and watermills were taken from all over the country and then reassembled to form one of Bucharest’s biggest attractions.

Sos. Kiseleff 28-30, 011-40-21-317-91-03, (Romanian only)
Tags: family | historic | smart splurge | things to do | culture

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