TRAVEL: Your Travel Guide to Braşov, Romania

Note: This article was first featured first in the DestinationsMagazine – Transylvania: A Guide to Braşov, Romania. (Link no longer available). You can see all my published works on my portfolio page.

Also, make sure you catch the Travel Guide to Romania to see our 4 day travel guides.

As you arrive in Braşov, you’ll see the town’s name boldly announced in white letters, perched high on the hilltop. Brașov lies in the center of Romania’s Transylvania region in the renowned Carpathian Mountains of Vampire Count Dracula fame. Later, during medieval times, Braşov was occupied by the Saxons, who turned the city into a walled citadel for protection against invaders. Today the city is still surrounded by those same medieval stone walls.

For centuries, the city’s central Romanian location has given it a strong political influence in the region, especially during the Ottoman Empire, while also providing a trading doorway into western Europe. Braşov’s name means “Crown City” in both German and Latin.  Its coat of arms bears a crown with oak roots, and can be seen on walls and buildings throughout the city.

Romania Travel Guide

Here is your ultimate guide for visiting Brasov, Romania:

History, Architecture, and Culture

Braşov offers a diverse number of gothic, baroque, and renaissance architectural styles. Architecture, crepe stands, and cafes line Braşov’s wide pedestrian-only boulevard. Visitors will find themselves looking up, entranced by the artistic architecture all around them. 

The city center is lined with romantic cobblestone roads. The inelegant looking, yet harmonious, Gothic-style Black Church peeks out from behind colorful baroque houses that shield the beautiful Council Square of Piata Sfatului and the former town hall, Casa Sfatului.  Here, you can relax at an outdoor cafe while you soak up the ambiance that reflects Braşov’s heart and soul.

Built from 1383 to 1480, the Black Church earned its name after the smoke from a 1689 fire darkened its walls. Although the largest Gothic church in Eastern Europe may not be as striking as some Western European cathedrals, its gothic architecture and the Anatolian Carpets that adorn the walls reflect the crossing point of the cultures and influences from the Ottoman Empire, the Kingdom of Hungary, and the Saxons. 

Built in 1559, Ecaterina’s (Catherine’s) Gate, is one of the oldest portals in town. Complete with a drawbridge, and four corner towers, Catherine’s Gate was once the only entrance into the northern part of the fortress.

Catherine’s Gate survived fires in 1689 and 1759 , but an earthquake in 1738 damaged its walls. Closed up and used for storage, the gate was finally restored to its original state between 1971-1973, and is undeniably the city’s most beautiful gate.

Due to repeated raids by the Turks, Braşov’s residents fortified their city in the late 1400s, building thick stone walls with strong bastions, two outer watch towers, and a Citadel. On the opposite side to Braşov’s mountaintop sign, you can visit the striking white tower and newly renovated black tower which is, ironically, also constructed of white stone.  In 1599 the Black tower was destroyed by fire from a lightning strike, which blackened its walls, hence its name. Today, this pyramid-shaped glass roof tower is no longer black and houses a museum. Both towers can be toured and provide magical panoramic views over the city. 

The free Braşov walking tour is ideal for history lovers. This interesting two-hour tour covers 800 years of the city’s history including Romania under the “Golden Era” of communism. You’ll hear stories about the citadel and Dracula while walking through one of the narrowest streets in Eastern Europe.  The tour covers the history of the Black Church, the Council Square, Rope Street, St. Nicholas Church, the Citadel’s Walls, the Schei Quarter, and Ecaterina’s (Catherine’s) Gate. 

Offered daily at 18:00, the tour is held in all weather. The guides are personable and used stories and humor to captivate us as she explained the history of Braşov. It meets at the Piata Sfatului, the Town Hall Square, next to the fountains. While the tour is ‘free’, the guides work from tips. We suggest tipping at least €5 per person, which we felt was well worth it.

Extra Fun

Strada Sforii, also known as “Rope” and “Skinny” Street, is claimed to be Eastern Europe’s narrowest street. It’s one of Braşov’s most interesting tourist attractions and was originally used as an access route by firefighters. Found between Cerbului Street and Poarta Schei Street, this 13th-century alleyway is 53 inches at its widest point and just 44 inches at its most narrow point. Most visitors miss Strada Sforii, and never get to explore its narrow, winding path. Look for the tiny sign marking the entrance to the street.

Nature

Just outside Braşov, towering mountains clad with thick forest cover the countryside. One of our favorite tourist activities in Braşov was riding the gondola to the top of Mount Tampa. For 17 lei/ person (€3.7) you can purchase a round trip ticket, that offers marvelous views of the city. If you like hiking, 10 lei (€2) will get you a one-way ticket in either direction. Make sure you stop to admire the view of downtown Braşov. The Black Church and square can easily be spotted from above. 

Castle Lovers

Braşov is a unique location. Even with its small-town, quiet feel in the middle of the mountains, restaurants and activities are plentiful. Braşov offers much to explore within, and around, the city. The nearby city of Bran is home to Bran Castle, a.k.a. the famous Dracula’s Castle! A quick 30-minute drive from Braşov, the castle is easy to find.  

While Bran Castle is best known as Count Dracula’s castle, this wood and stone fortress had an essential role in protecting the Hungarian king from Ottoman and Tartar invasions. Built in 1378, the castle served both protective and commercial purposes. In 1836, Bran became the official border and in 1920, the Braşov Town council donated Bran Castle to Queen Maria of Great Romania, who lived there with the royal family until 1947. Since then, the Castle has been converted into a museum.

Romania Travel Guide Dracula's Castle Bran Castle

Castle tickets are 30 lei (€8) per adult. The uphill walk to the castle takes 10 minutes. While the attraction is kid-friendly, the castle itself with its many stairs and turns is not stroller friendly.  Lined with local shopping goods and souvenirs, and plenty of places to eat along the way, the village of Bran also offers tempting strolls along the street. 

The 14th-century Rasnov Fortress, on a rocky hilltop in the Carpathian Mountains, 650 ft above the town of Rasnov, was recently restored. It’s a quick day trip from Braşov’s historic center. For decades, this perfectly positioned citadel provided refuge for inhabitants of the area.

For 12 lei adult admission fee (€2.5), you get access to the maze-like inner rooms of the fortifications, a museum, a school, hundred-year-old stone houses, a skeleton buried beneath a glass floor,  a few so-called secret passages, and sweeping views of the countryside. 

For Festival Goers

Braşov offers many festivals throughout the year. The Beer Festival, Etnovember, and the Junii Feast, are a few that are well worth scheduling your travels to Romania around. 

The Beer Festival in Braşov is a smaller version of Oktoberfest, held in the fall. You can enjoy the beers and ales from several local beer companies in the dozens of tents. Taste Romanian grilled sausages (called mici) and other traditional foods, while enjoying local and national bands and artists. 

A cross between the words ‘ethnic’ and ‘November’, the intercultural festival ‘Etnovember’ reflects both the cultural traditions of the communities present. Since 1998, all ethnic groups from Braşov, Romanian, Hungarian, Jewish, Gypsy, German and Greek communities gather to celebrate their diversity and support friendship, tolerance, respect, and understanding. The three-day festival offers a wide range of art forms including dance, music, painting, photography, and design. If you want to see the heart of the Romanian people, visit Braşov during this time. 

The Junii Braşovului festival (‘The Feast of the Youth’) is an ancient tradition dating back to 1728, celebrating the start of spring, the renewing of nature, and the beginning of new life.  On the first Sunday after Easter, or the new year of the ancestors of the Romanians, the seven “Junii” (young men) groups from the Schei, the old district of Braşov, ride on horses from the mountains and ride around Braşov. Dressed in unique costumes, they carry mace batons, scepters, and flags, parading in front of the St. Nicholas church. In true Romanian spirit, where traditions live on, with dancing, games, and barbecuing, the festival has multiplied and an occasion to be marked on all Braşovians’ calendars. 

Eating Out

From Bucharest to Braşov, stop about 1 hour outside of Braşov in a little railroad town of Posada for supper and take a break from the car. Enjoy a traditional Romanian dish such as cabbage rolls or smoked sausages with a side of cornmeal with salty cheese and sour cream at the restaurant called Cernica.

In Braşov, grab a pastry from one of the many window stalls and find a table in the middle of the boulevard on the main street of Strada Republicii. For a wonderful brunch experience, choose from sweet or savory crepes at the laid-back La Republique. Lunch or dinner at the stylish but still kid-friendly pizzeria, Trattoria Pocol. For an afternoon snack, the adorable bakery near the Black Church, La Vatra Ardealului, will wake you up with their strong cappuccinos and delightful tiramisu, cakes, or chocolate truffles. 

Who Visits Braşov?

Often overlooked on the regular European tourist trail, Romania remains an eminently worthy travel destination in its own right. Romania is a country for those who’ve seen all the major European cities and want to get away from the overcrowded tourist hot spots. It offers plenty of tourist attractions without the craziness of tourist groups, lines, and prices.

The rich history and sights in Romania’s soon-to-be major tourist destination of Braşov in the Transylvania region make a perfect week-long getaway. Three days are sufficient to explore all that Braşov has to offer, but if you want to see more of Transylvania, you can easily add a few more nights.

How to Get There

With Romania’s 20 million people nicely spread over 240,000 square kilometers, the country is perfect for a road trip meets city type of adventure. Serviced by most major airlines, Bucharest airport makes an easy starting point. Sibiu International Airport or Aeroportul Braşov-Ghimbav airports near Braşov are closer options to consider. 

After landing, rent a car, purchase a sim card with data, and head north for your 2.5-hour drive to Braşov. Romanian roads are easy to navigate and sim cards help with GPS directions, and finding restaurants. 

During the return from Braşov to Bucharest, explore the well-maintained Peles Castle, and eat lunch in the nearby city of Sinaia which provided a cozy half-way stop. 

Getting Around

Because flexibility is important for travel, rent a car via your favorite car rental website. Most car rental companies provide a free shuttle from the airport to their company only 5 minutes away from the airport.  If driving in another country is not your cup of tea, taxis, buses, and even trains between cities are easy to use and inexpensive as well.

Where to Stay

Hotels are easy and plentiful to find. Below are a couple of hotels to consider for your time in Romania:

  • Kronhaus Bed and Breakfast in Braşov
  • Conacul Ambient in Cristian
  • Rem’s Pension in Rasnov
  • Conacul Bratescu in Bran

If your group is large or you are traveling with children consider opting for a more family style lodging through private apartment rental. 

When to Go

For sunshine and warmer weather, the summer months are generally drier and good for walks, but don’t be surprised if you are caught in a rainstorm or two in June. Fall time creates an autumn color tour for travelers as the trees and ground are splashed with orange, yellow, and red leaves. While winter weather can be inclement, holiday time in Romania invites guests to celebrate with locals still wearing traditional clothes while caroling, admire traditionally decorated wooden houses, and enjoy homemade sausages. 

ESSENTIAL INFO

  • Most shops and hotels will take credit cards but many restaurants, bars and smaller shops and outlets will only accept cash.
  • Most people speak English, but a translation app is handy for rural areas that don’t have English menus.
  • Purchase sim cards with 3G data for 40 lei (€8.5).
  • Download a maps app to help you navigate the city.
  • Take comfortable shoes. The best way to see all the cozy nooks in Braşov is by walking or cycling.
  • Pack for all weathers as even the summer weather can be unpredictable.
  • Currency: Leu ( plural Lei — pronunciation “lay” — abbreviations: Lei or RON )

USEFUL LINKS

Now to you! 

  • Have you been to Romania???
  • Have you been specifically to Brasov?
  • What did you love about it?
  • What else should we see next time we go?

TRAVEL: Your 4 Day Travel Guide to Romania

Quick Note: This article was first featured first in the Lale Magazine – Reminiscing Romantic Romania (pg.46-49) – Direct Link You can see all my published works on my portfolio page.

Bucharest, once known as the little Paris of Romania, set an example for its outlying villages, like Braşov. Following suit, they look like small Parisian villages with their crepe stands and cafes making a boulevard down main street. Often overlooked on the regular European tourist trail, Romania remains an eminently worthy travel destination in its own right. Romania is a great country for those who’ve seen all the major European cities and want to get away from the overcrowded tourists hot spots. I found that Romania offers plenty of tourist attractions without the craziness of tourist groups, lines, and prices.

My husband and I met up with some of our expat friends in Romania for a 5-day reunion. Our traveling group consisted of 4 adults and 2 babies. Our friends, coming from Dubai, wanted to escape the boiling, brown desert for cooler green, lush forests. We just wanted to enjoy some European foods not readily available in Izmir and more reasonably priced than Paris or London, for example. And we both hoped to escape our towering apartments for a few hours via a road trip through the mountainous central area of Romania.

Romania’s 20 million people are spread over 240,000 square kilometers, perfect for a road trip meets city type adventure. After meeting our friends at Bucharest international airport, we picked up our rental car, purchased sim cards with 3G data for 40 lei (€8.5), and headed north on the 2.5-hour drive to Braşov.  The Romanian roads are easy to navigate and having a sim card helped with GPS directions and finding restaurants.

Lying in the center of the renowned Carpathian Mountains of Dracula fame, Brașov is a city in Romania’s Transylvania region. Established by the Teutonic Knights in 1211, and later occupied by the Saxons, Brasov was a walled citadel during the medieval times, for protection against invaders. Today the city is still surrounded by those medieval Saxon stone walls.

For centuries, the city’s central location has given it a strong political influence in the region, especially during the Ottoman Empire dynasty, while also providing a trading doorway into western Europe. Brasov’s German and Latin names mean “Crown City”. Its coat of arms bears a crown with oak roots, and can be seen on walls and buildings throughout the city.

Romania Travel Guide

The city center is lined with romantic cobblestone roads. The inelegant looking, yet stunning, Gothic-style Black Church (named for the fire that turned its walls black) peeks from behind colorful baroque houses that shield the Council Square of Piaţa Sfatului, and the former town hall, Casa Sfatului. 

Just beyond the city, towering mountains clad with thick forests cover the countryside. One of our favorite tourist activities in Brasov was riding the gondola to the top of Mount Tampa. For 17 lei a person (€3.7), you can purchase a roundtrip ticket, and it’s a great way to see panoramic views of the city. Or if you like hiking, and the weather permits, 10 lei (€2) will get you a one way ticket either direction.

For the history lovers, the free Braşov walking tour is ideal. This interesting two-hour tour covers 800 years of the city’s history. You’ll hear stories about the citadel and Dracula while walking through one of the narrowest streets in Eastern Europe. The tours covers the history of the Black Church, the Council Square, Rope Street, St. Nicholas Church, the Citadel’s Walls, the Schei Quarter and Ecaterina’s (Catherine’s) Gate. The tour runs daily at 18:00 in all weather (sun, rain or snow!). It meets at the Piata Sfatului (the Town Hall Square next to the fountains). While the tour is ‘free’, the guides work from tips. We suggest tipping at least €5 per person, and we felt it was well worth it.

Braşov is a unique location. Even with its small-town, quiet feel in the middle of the mountains, restaurants and activities remains plentiful. Braşov offers much to explore within, and around, the city. The nearby city of Bran is home to Bran Castle, a.k.a. the famous Dracula’s Castle! A quick 30-minute drive from Braşov, the castle is easy enough to find.  

Romania Travel Guide Dracula's Castle Bran Castle

Castle tickets are 30 lei (€8) per adult. The uphill walk to the castle takes 10 minutes. While the attraction is kid-friendly, the castle itself with its many stairs and turns is not stroller friendly. The village of Bran offers tempting strolls along the streets, lined with local shopping goods and souvenirs, and plenty of places to eat along the way.  Other surrounding villages offer the same atmosphere usually with fortified churches or castles. 

Three days are sufficient to explore all that Braşov has to offer, but if you want to see more of Transylvania, you can easily add a few more nights! On our return from Braşov to Bucharest, we found the well-maintained Peles Castle, and the nearby city Sinaia, provided a cozy half-way stop. 

Bucharest

Bucharest started from a humble beginning; founded by a shepherd in the Transylvania area named Bucur, or joy. The area was name after the shepherd and the river named after his wife, Dambovita. 

From these humble beginnings grew a thriving city. Ironically enough, the Ottomans officially wrote about Bucharest when their dynasty was under occupation by Vlad the Impaler, a.k.a. Dracula, of Bram Stoker’s iconic vampire novel. Bucharest, by now the nation’s capital city, was an important stop along the Silk Road. Living in Turkey gives me an instant connection to Romania’s long forgotten history.

In the 1900s, Bucharest earned the name of “Little Paris” for its European architecture and tree-lined boulevards. But since then, World War II, earthquakes, and 45 years of communist rule, have taken their toll on the city’s former majestic beauty. 

However, today you can still find plenty of these majestic buildings and architecture like major boulevards, the Palace of the Parliament, and the Transfagarasan, considered by many to be the most beautiful road in Europe.

Nowadays, 25 years after the Romanian revolution against the Communism, Bucharest is once again starting to resemble its former title of “Little Paris” as an urban location, full of culture and life.

A visit to Bucharest will never leave you bored. It offers more than 50 museums, 12 theaters, 29 sites, and one Arc de Triumph. While I can’t vouch for any of the museums, I can tell you that the walking only area around Old Town provides plenty of walking-only historical sites, lined with international food options. 

The same company, Bucharest Walkabout Tours, offers free Bucharest walking tour of the Old Town. The two-hour tour covers a 500-year span of history, with stories about the life and times of Vlad the Impaler through to the 1989 Revolution, and how that has affected modern-day Romania. 

You’ll also hear about Romania under the “Golden Era” of communism. This tour runs daily at 10:30 am and 18:00 pm, in all weather (sun, rain or snow!). It meets at the Unirii Square Park in front of the Clock (next to the fountains). While the tour is ‘free’, these guides also work from tips. 

Since 1692, Calea Victoriei has been one of Bucharest’s most famous streets. Lined with fine houses, palaces, churches, and hotels, you’ll also find upmarket shops and museums along its length. 

From the Brancovenesque houses at the northern end to the art-deco, 1920s apartment blocks further south, the vast number of architectural styles is an impressive sight. Several major attractions are found on Calea Victoriei including the monument to the revolution called Piata Revolutiei, the eloquent French architecture of the Atheneum and Athenee Palace Hilton hotel, and the National Museum of Art (once the Former Royal Palace). The Former Central Committee Building and the Revolution Memorial—which locals call ‘an olive on a stick’—are also found along the Calea Victoriei. If you start your walking tour at the northern end, and explore the full length of the street, you can then end up relaxing in one of the cafes of Old Town. 

Our days were filled with strolling past buildings of Belarus architecture, and resting on benches along shaded tree-lined boulevards lined with fountains. Bucharest’s mammoth Palace of Parliament is the second largest building in the world. Once a symbol of Ceauceșcu’s utilitarian rule, the building is today a testament to Romanian history, and the country’s recovery from his iron rule.

Romania Travel Guide Bucharest

The Palace of the Parliament, known by the locals as ‘Ceauceșcu’s Palace’, with 1,100 rooms and 12 stories, can be seen from space. Its  construction took 13 years to finish! Depending on what you want to see, tickets can be purchased to see a certain number of chambers, the basement, and the main balcony. Ticket prices range between 25-45 lei (€5-10). For children and students (with student ID card) entrance is free.

If you want to see more than the Old Town and the Palace of Parliament, the popular Hop-On-Hop-Off  bus tour sells 24-hour tickets and covers a 10-mile route. This bus also takes you past the 27meter high Arc de Triumph and the 462-acre Herăstrău Park, built around a natural lake.  

Be sure to visit the Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum, Bucharest’s largest, open-air museum which showcases the diversity and charm of Romanian traditional village architecture. It boasts 300 houses, farms, windmills, and churches imported from all regions of Romania. Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus tickets for adults are 25 lei (€5), children (age 7-14) are 10 lei (€2) and children under 7 travel free.

My favorite part about Romania is that neither Bucharest nor Braşov made us feel rushed. Instead, our first visit to Romania made us feel like we lived there like the locals, and not like tourists. Travel should always feel like that.

The rich history and sights in Romania’s capital city of Bucharest and the soon-to-be major tourist destination of Braşov in the Transylvania region made for a perfect week-long getaway.

Romania Travel Guide Peles Castle

SIDE BAR: 

From Bucharest to Brasov, we stopped about 1 hour outside of Brasov in a little railroad town of Posada for supper and let the children take a break from the car seats. Enjoy a traditional Romanian dish such as cabbage rolls or smoked sausages with a side of corn meal with salty cheese and sour cream at the restaurant called Cernica.

HOW TO GET THERE:

From Istanbul, Pegasus Airlines has direct flights to Bucharest via the Sabiha Gokcen Airport at around $150 roundtrip. As we live in Izmir, we has a short 1.5 hour layover between our Izmir to Istanbul then Istanbul to Bucharest airports. Turkish Airlines has a few more locations available besides Bucharest in Romania via Cluj-Napoca and Constanta.

IN COUNTRY TRANSPORTATION:

Because we wanted flexibility in our travels, our group decided to rent a car via the Pegasus’s car rental section of their website. The free shuttle provided by the car rental company took us from the airport to their company only 5 minutes away.  If driving in another country is not your cup of tea, taxis, buses, and even trains between cities are easy to use and inexpensive as well.

WHERE TO STAY:

Because our group was 6 people (4 adults and 2 kids) we opted for a more family-style lodging and stayed in Airbnb apartment-style housing. Before deciding to go the Airbnb route, below are a couple of hotels we had looked at booking:

  • Hotel Coroana  in Braşov
  • Chic Apartments  in nearby Sibiu
  • Sarah & David Studios  in Bucharest

WHERE TO EAT:

Braşov

  • La Republique – Laidback breakfast crepes in the town center
  • Trattoria Pocol – Stylish pizzeria but still kid-friendly
  • La Vatra Ardealului – Bakery near the Black Church

Posada

  • Cernica – Dinner stop on our way up to Braşov

Bucharest

  • Caru’ Cu Bere – Romanian food for lunch in Old Town
  • Emilia Cremeria – Personal favorite ice cream shop in Old Town
  • Chinese Garden – Chinese Food
  • El Toritos -Mexican food  we ordered online and they delivered!

WHAT TO DO:

Now to you!

  • Have you been to Romania???
  • What did you love about it?
  • What else should we see next time we go?

Baristas Best Travel Guides

Why Baristas Make the Best Travel Guides

NOTE FROM CATIE: Michael is a long time friend! It is crazy to think we met one another over 10 years ago now! He is also the one who encouraged me to give up my heavily flavored cream (with a bit of coffee) and to ‘just drink it black.’ It took me a few years longer than he probably would have liked, but now I am a very proud black coffee drinker! Now on to the article

The best-informed travel guide just might be the person making your coffee. The role of barista has long gone beyond the role of “bartender” like the original Italian might suggest. Baristas are cultural critics, political wonks, and amateur music historians. They know where the best Banh Mi is (which by the way, Catie cutting in here, is a Vietnamese sandwich). They’re probably eating it on their lunch break. 

Your barista very likely has a liberal arts degree if not an MFA. Their band has appeared on public radio and opened for some nationally known acts.  But more importantly for you, they’ve learned how to craft a perfect cappuccino, and that attention to detail has attracted the city’s top chefs, museum curators, and journalists to their café.

In short, they know people. 

Baristas Best Travel Guides

(Of course, this is contingent on being in a good, independent coffee shop. I cofounded thecoffeecompass.com to help people find the best cafés around the world.) 

Barista knows where the hidden gems are.

They know which sights are overrated, which restaurants are past their prime, and where the queue is too long to make it worthwhile. They’ve already been to the up-and-coming place no one has written about yet. 

Lucky for you, your barista will more than likely share a few tips with you— provided you’re a friendly customer and they’re not slammed making drinks.* (Do not— I  repeat—  do not ask for a travel recommendation in the middle of the morning rush!)

Baristas Best Travel Guides

The technique here is very simple. 

1. Order a coffee. If appropriate in local culture, leave a tip.

2. Drink said coffee. 

3. After you finish your coffee, thank the barista. 

4. Mention you are visiting from out of town, and ask if there are any restaurants/bars/museums/ etc you should see while you’re in town. 

Mosts of baristas love their cities, and can’t resist showing it off to out-of-towners. More than once, a barista recommendation has had a waiter or bartended asking me, “How did you find us? We don’t get many tourists here.” 

In short, your barista can curate an unforgettable travel experience

Just make sure you leave a tip.  

*Do not try this in Manhattan. Those baristas are battle-weary and interact with far too many tourists to care whether you find the best natural wine bar (it’s the Ten Bells, btw). 

Baristas Best Travel Guides

Michael Butterworth is the cofounder of thecoffeecompass.com. (Instagram)

He lives in Istanbul with his family. 

Trabzon Turkey

TURKEY: Your Travel Guide to Trabzon, Turkey

NOTE from Catie: I am so happy to have Kelsey guest post about Trabzon, Turkey! I met Kelsey when she was living in Izmir and immediately loved her! She has so much good information about Turkey since she lived here for 5 years! And Trabzon… it’s one of my favorite places! It’s perfect that this lovely gal is writing about a favorite place!

The Black Sea region in Turkey is home to some of the most beautiful coastline and mountains in the country. The Black Sea region of Turkey is home to the Turkish dish pide and Turkish dessert sütlaç. Along this coastline is the city of Trabzon, which both borders the coast and spans deep into the mountains. This article will serve as your ultimate travel guide to Trabzon, Turkey, covering topics such as:

  • Culture & Geography
  • Transportation
  • Seasons/Weather (i.e. Best time to visit)
  • Things to Do in Trabzon
  • Brief Review of our Hotel
  • Specialty Foods & Desserts 

Trabzon Culture and Geography

Trabzon is located in northeastern Turkey along the Black Sea. Black Sea in Turkish means Karadeniz, and Trabzon really has its own cultureThe Turks from this region have their own accent, dress and lifestyle. Across the sea from Trabzon are the countries Georgia and Russia. 

The culture in the Black Sea region is a conservative one. Turkey is over 99% Muslim and most of the women are covered. Trabzon has seen a rise in Arab tourists lately, so it is common to see women wearing a black burqa with only their eyes or face exposed. However, I did see one lady at the airport wearing flip-flop shoes with her burqa! The Turkish women in Trabzon are covered with a hijab, or a head scarf, but still dress with a variety of color and style. I find the varying degrees of Islamic fashion pretty intriguing.

Trabzon Turkey Location Map

Transportation in Trabzon

Transportation in Trabzon is relatively easy, as long as you have access to your own vehicle. Flying into Trabzon’s airport, known in Turkish as the Trabzon Havalimanı, is a sight to behold. The runway is parallel to the Black Sea, so you get an amazing view of the city and the sea as you arrive. If you are already in Turkey, you could consider driving but if you are coming from abroad, flying in is the way to go. You will get to road-trip plenty once you arrive, since most of the activities are very spread out from each other!

The airport is located right next to the sea, but most of the things to do in Trabzon are located about 30 kilometers inland. The best option for transportation in Trabzon is to rent a car from the airport. As a foreigner, you can utilize websites like economycarrentals.com or rentalcars.com to book in advance.

Seasons/Weather in Trabzon

The weather in Trabzon varies as the seasons change. The best time to visit is during the spring and fall to avoid the summertime humidity and wintertime cold. Realistically, to be able to see and do everything fully, any season other than winter is a good option. It just depends on your preference for temperature and weather conditions.

  • Summer (June-August) is humid and warm with temperatures around 26° C. You can definitely explore outdoors during this season.
  • Fall (September-November) sees a lot more rain and the temperature ranges from 10-20° C. Depending on rainfall, some activities might be less accessible, but it is still a beautiful time of year to go. We went in early October for our anniversary and were very happy with our trip.
  • Winter (December-February) are cold and wet with a good amount of snowfall. The snow may make some of the roads more difficult to drive on, but it will look like a winter wonderland. Temperatures can drop below 0° C, but average around 5° C during the day.
  • Spring (March-May) This season fluctuates a bit as winter transitions to summer but you can expect temperatures of 14-19° C and the highest number of clear days. 

So, When is the Best Time to Go to Trabzon?

Verdict: For good weather conditions and freedom to explore all that Trabzon has to offer, May is the best month to visit Trabzon. 

Things to do in Trabzon

Hagia Sophia Mosque

Visiting the Hagia Sophia Mosque is one of the quickest and best things you can do in Trabzon, because it is an amazing piece of history and has an incredible view. It is easy to get to and doesn’t take more than thirty minutes to explore. The Hagia Sophia Mosque (Camii) is west from the airport and located next to the Black Sea. It was initially built as a church in the 13th century but once the Ottoman Empire was established in the region, this structure was converted into a mosque. It is still open as a mosque today. 

Trabzon Turkey Hagia Sophia Mosque
Hagia Sophia Mosque in Trabzon

Like many Byzantine structures, it has a high dome in the center and is shaped like a cross if you looked at it aerially. There are many frescoes still visible on the ceiling of the Hagia Sophia Mosque depicting stories from the bible. In order to enter the mosque, out of respect, women should cover their hair using one of the complimentary scarves found for guests at the entrance.

There is a small garden behind the mosque which has an incredible panoramic view of the Black Sea. It is a peaceful place to sit and walk around, with a café located nearby to enjoy a glass of Turkish tea. 

Sumela Monastery

You cannot have a list of things to do in Trabzon without including Sumela Monastery. Sumela Monastery is a Greek Orthodox Monastery dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is one of the most iconic tourist attractions of the region. Sumela Monastery is located in the Macka district of Trabzon and is about an hour drive from the airport. The drive is lovely as you watch lush green mountain after mountain, eventually seeing rivers and streams as you get closer to Macka. 

The day we went to see the monastery was a very misty and cloudy one. We got to the entrance of the national park, which has an 11 TL entrance fee, and made it up the mountain to the entrance of the monastery. There was so much mist that it was not visible! We were a bit bummed, as this was our only opportunity on our trip to see the monastery, but we still enjoyed the national park and thought the mist was cool to see as it sat on top of the mountains.

There is a rest facility and bungalows within the national park at the foot of the mountain where the monastery is located, so there is the option to stay overnight. There is a photo studio that will take your picture in traditional Ottoman garments. We decided to take advantage of the opportunity and for 20 Turkish Liras purchased this photograph.

If you come anytime between May-September, it is likely the monastery will be visible. Since we came in October, there was a good amount of rainfall already and the precipitation was very high. We are excited to return again one day to see Sumela Monastery on a clearer, sunnier day!

Ataturk Köşkü (Ataturk’s Pavilion)

The Ataturk Köşkü, also known as the Ataturk Pavilion, is probably one of the most beautiful museums in Trabzon. We did not have enough time to visit this location, but if we had more time this was next on our list. I want to add it to the list of things to do in Trabzon, because it is a beautiful structure and for a time belonged to the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. 

This mansion was gifted to Ataturk from the Trabzon Municipality in 1930, but then he donated it back to the Trabzon municipality seven years later, stating no man needed to have so many houses. After his death, it was opened as a museum and is still open to the public today. There are many pictures and belongings of Ataturk still there for tourists to observe. The building is reminiscent of French chateaus and has a beautiful garden around the premises.

Hamsiköy

Hamsiköy is a small village located in the Maçka district. It has beautiful scenery and is home to the traditional Turkish dessert sütlaç. You will really experience what life in a Turkish village looks like when you visit. Sütlaç is like a rice pudding that is often served with cinnamon or crushed hazelnuts on top. Do you know the Mexican dessert arroz con leche? It is essentially the same thing, so delicious. 

Where can you eat this delicious sütlaç in Hamsiköy? At Osman Usta’nın Yeri, who has been in business since 1972. The secret to this delicious sütlaç is that it is cooked for a long time and made from organic, fatty cow milk. Sadly, we did not make it to Hamsikoy, either, but we read such great things about it that we wanted to include it in our list.

Uzungöl

Uzungöl

Uzungöl rivals Sumela Monastery, as far as best things to do in Trabzon goes. Uzungöl means “long lake” in Turkish and it truly is a long beautiful lake wedged between tall mountains. It is about 1 kilometer long, with a circumference of about 7 kilometers. 

This is not located near the other places on the list of things to do in Trabzon. It is about an hour and a half drive, or 100 kilometers, from Trabzon’s city center. It is located in the Çaykara district.

We arrived at night, so we couldn’t see much of the lake, but it was an incredible view to wake up to in the morning. Uzungol has many Arab tourists, which is good to be aware of before arriving. A majority of the women will be modestly dressed. Their cultural norms are quite different than westerners, so behaving respectfully is important, as well. 

There are many things to do that revolve around the lake. Firstly, you can enjoy a walk around the lake. If you don’t prefer to walk, you can also rent bikes and bike around the lake. There are many shops, cafes and restaurants spread out around the lake which you can sit at to enjoy some coffee or tea. There is also paddle-boarding on the lake which would be a fun activity as a group or couple.

Hotels in Trabzon

Ilhan Kardesler Apart Otel

This small hotel in Trabzon is located just behind the mosque, which you see upon arriving to Uzungöl. It is quaint, the service is excellent, and the view of the lake from our balcony was lovely. We had a small kitchenette in our room, which was nice. The hotel was clean and had a modern interior design. The bed was very comfortable, which is so important! In the morning, we enjoyed the complimentary breakfast. Complimentary meals are always a great way to save on your food budget while travelling. We often try to book places where breakfast is included.

Specialty Foods & Desserts

Sütlaç 

We mentioned this delicious Turkish dessert already, as it popularly originates from Hamsiköy in the Trabzon region. Sütlaç is a baked rice pudding made mostly from cow’s milk, sugar, and cream, with just a few additional ingredients. This is a dessert you must try when you visit. You can find it anywhere in the Black Sea region.

Pide

Pide Turkish Food Trabzon Turkey

Pide is a traditional Turkish food that originates from the black sea region. The pide dough is hand-made, topped with butter, cheese and any variety of ingredients you want. I often just prefer cheese, while my husband enjoys ground beef, cheese, egg and onions on top of his. In the Black Sea region, they really loaded on the butter! 

I hope that this travel guide to Trabzon, Turkey inspires your next adventure! Like this post? Save it for later!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kelsey Cetin from @kelsey.cetin

Hi there! My name is Kelsey Cetin and I am an American girl from California. I live in Sacramento, CA with my husband, Oguzhan and our dog, Bambi. I was an expat in Izmir, Turkey for about 5 years, where I met and married my husband. We had a big Turkish wedding and my life forever changed once I became a gelin. Although we have relocated to California, Turkey still holds a very dear place in my heart. I love to travel to new places, but going to Turkey will always feel like going home to me.

My hobbies include photography, exercising, spending time with family, and of course, traveling! I love visiting new places, trying local cuisine, and making sweet memories. I recently earned my Masters degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology and my “day job” is in Human Resources. I am passionate about creating healthy work environments through organizational development. I am a follower of Jesus Christ and have an intimate relationship with God. This is really the foundation for everything in my life.

I met Jason and Catie in Turkey and absolutely loved Catie’s mission with her blog, YouTube channel and podcast. It inspired me to start, too, and share all the wonder that Turkey has to offer with the world. It is an honor to be featured on her blog now!

TURKEY: Sailing Along Turkey’s Mediterranean Coastline

Quick Note: Being in Kalkan the last couple of weeks has made me reminisce about our FIRST sailing trip we took our FIRST week living in Turkey (September 2016). We actually stayed on the sailboat in this little Kalkan town’s marina! What a fun opportunity to be here again with Sofia and our friends seeing some of some places FOUR years later! I hope you enjoy reminiscing with me!

Also, this article was first featured first in the Lale Magazine May/June 2018 (Pg. 8-11)  – Sailing Along the Mediterranean Coastline

Sailing along the coast of Turkey may have been one of the best vacations my husband, Jason, and I have ever taken. With our ‘want to see every site’ wife married to the ‘one city is enough’ husband, we finally found a travel mode that suited both of our needs.

As we neared the marina, I was excited and had a fear of the unknown simultaneously. Jason summed it up thus, “This could either be a really great idea or a terrible one.” Although I agreed, I leaned more towards the optimistic side, and somehow knew this was a perfect way for us to celebrate his birthday.

Our small flotilla consisted of 3 yachts. Two narrow eight passenger premier yachts, that leaned into the wind when sailing, were equipped with double cabins. The cabins had bunk or double beds and at least two communal bathrooms. 

The larger, spacious catamaran held eight passengers. The private quarters had a double bed and bathroom.  Each yacht had a large kitchen, a communal lounge, and spacious decks for sunbathing.

Our week started with the rules, an overview of sailing protocols, and a review of our itinerary.  Since we were all adults, our skippers sped through the details knowing we were anxious to get on the water and experience what sailing was all about.

Our yacht left the marina and quietly slipped out into the quiet sea leaving the hustle and bustle of city life behind. Soon, after our group soaked in the first sites and experiences of our new adventure in the Mediterranean, we all quickly became like old friends reuniting back together, instead of strangers. There’s truth in the saying that experiences together with others will bring people, known and unknown, closer together. 

Our soft-spoken and likeable skipper proved to be a skilled teacher. With the choppy water, sailing wasn’t always a viable option, so the majority of the time we had to use the engines. 

I quickly abandoned my dream of being silently driven by the wind, and settled for a book and the sun on our first day.

We all rapidly adapted to sea life. Our anchoring and docking skills shined as we assisted the skipper with the more menial sailing tasks. In unison, our group worked to tie the ropes which releases and retrieves the sail to push us one way or the other. We soon realizing how much there is to learn about wind and sailing. But the skipper still made sure we all had a chance to ‘take the helm.’

Our days on the boat were surprisingly serene. With nowhere to go, you’re forced to enjoy the water, sun, and the passing coastline. We noted the change from forest to bush to the rocks that descended straight into the sea. Other boats sailed by further off, respecting the unspoken rules of sailing on the open seas. 

In the mornings we dipped into the chilly water, cooled from the sunless nights. Our breakfast was self-serve and minimal. Halfway through the day our skipper, who also served as our chef, would surprise us with some creative lunch that we would enjoy in between our midday sea explorations. Personal snacks and drinks were welcome on board. We always ended up in a marina in the late afternoon and we ate dinner on dry land. No matter how much we consumed during the day, everyone was starving again by the time we landed at the marina.

Photo Credit: Eric Rowell

Our days went like this. Each day we sailed from one coastal town to the next, the evenings free for exploring the nearest cities by the marinas. The stopovers in the coastal villages allowed us time to browse the many bazaars and markets.

One evening we moored in a secluded cove accessible only by the sailors. Snorkeling in this secluded bay revealed waters packed with sea life and the ever popular sea turtles. This location has gained traction over the years and is now popular enough to boast a large open-air covered restaurant. 

This little oasis along the miles of uninhabited rocky coastline provides solid ground for wobbling first-time sailors to enjoy hearty Turkish casserole dishes, the local ‘catch of the day,’ and even wild hog hunted in the forest. After cruising all say, our dinner followed the Turkish customs, starting after sunset and visiting well into the night, with live music wafting from the background.  

Our group never lacked things to do when we docked at the thriving Turkish fishing villages. Lazier options include strolling on the pristine beaches or partaking of amenities like the hammam—a traditional Turkish bath. Alternatively, we could opt to simply sit at a local bar and enjoy the golden sunset, cocktail in hand.  

More active activities found us sloshing through the river and healing mud of a nearby gorge or hiking through world-famous UNESCO sites. Another day, we explored a ‘ghost town,’ deserted since 1927, where we meandered through thousands of dilapidated stone homes. 

Sailing is like a road trip on the water. Instead of stopping off at a park or a truck stop, you can do activities such as snorkeling and paddle boards, while cooling off from the summer heat, or if we felt energetic, taking a hike.

Patara Beach = Photo Credit: Eric Rowell

Championship yachtsman, K. Adlard Coles once said, “Our voyage had commenced, and at last we were away, gliding through the clean water, past the reeds. Care was lifted from our shoulders, for we were free from advice, pessimism, officialism, heat and hot air.” Sailing on the Turkish Coast lifts the cares and burdens from your life and takes you far away from what worries you.

As Ratty states in the book Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame: There is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. In or out of ’em, it doesn’t matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that’s the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you’re always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you’ve done it there’s always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you’d much better not.

And from our experience at sea, I couldn’t agree more.

Photo Credit: Eric Rowell

Now to you:

  • Have you been sailing before?
  • If so, where did you go?
  • Have you sailed in Turkey?
  • What was your experience like?

I’m so curious to know! Let me know in the comments below!