Romania in the winter: is it worth it?
Romania is an enormous country, and much of its landscape is made up of mountains, hills, and valleys. Situated yourself in the centre of Transylvania and you’ll find yourself on a perfectly flat valley plain that spreads out for miles, but on every side of you on the horizon is a jagged and harsh mountain range.
Romania is like a fantasy world of dramatic and sublime rocky terrain, dense forests, and rolling green hills. All of this changes dramatically in the winter months. It gets freezing cold, snow falls heavy, and all the green hills are coated with a white blanket of snow. The fir trees turn white and the mountains grow even fiercer.
Is it worth seeing Romania like this? Is it worth exploring Romania in winter? The short answer is: yes. Thanks to how they celebrate Christmas in Romania, as well as the wealth of winter sports in Romania. And that’s even before we get to how exploring Romania’s landscape in the winter is a wholly different experience to seeing the country in the summer. So, let’s explore what to do in Romania in the winter, and how to celebrate Christmas in Romania.
Christmas in Romania
Romania today is a very traditional Christian nation, with a population of 80% orthodox Christians. This means that Romania really goes all out in its celebration of Christmas, and experiencing Christmas in Romania is very much worth doing.
In the capital city of Bucharest, there is a huge Christmas market that can be found in the square in front of the Palace of Parliament in the city centre. The Palace of Parliament is still a place of contention for most Romanians, since it was built by the former Communist government and is still occupied by the current government, even though more than a third of its rooms are unused. All of that aside, its enormous stature does make for an incredible and impressive backdrop to the Bucharest Christmas market.
At the market itself, you’ll find mostly food stalls and mulled wine vendors. Mulled wine is delightfully cheap in Romania compared to Germany or the UK, so make the most of it. At the food vendors you’ll find a lot of Hungarian, Greek, and, of course, local Romanian foods with a real emphasis on meat and bread. Hungarian, Greek, and Turkish cuisines have had an enormous impact on the culinary landscape of Romania and during Christmas in Romania you can really explore these cuisines to your heart’s content.
The only negative to spending Christmas in Bucharest is that the city is already the most congested capital in Europe and, during the winter months, that congestion does lead to some days of heavy pollution. That, mixed with the permanently dark days and overcast skies means the weather is not on your side. However, the best way to tackle this is to head out of Bucharest and spend the majority of your Christmas in Transylvania once you’ve visited the Bucharest Christmas market.
Transylvania is the best place to spend Christmas in Romania. The seemingly endless landscape of snow-capped mountains is majestic, and the towns of Romania celebrate Christmas perfectly. The best place to stay in Romania over the Christmas period is Brasov in central Transylvania. There, you’ll find a small Christmas market in the town’s Council Square. The square is famous for its beautiful Council House, which now serves as a museum and has a tall clock tower. At Christmas, the Council Square boasts an enormous Christmas tree that almost matches the height of the clock tower. Surrounding the Christmas tree are miniature wooden cabins that make up the Christmas market, each one selling traditional Romanian food and mulled wine.
While it’s worth visiting a lot of the nearby landmarks of Romania, like the world famous Bran Castle and Rasnov Fortress, in the summer when the hills are green and the sky is blue, there is also a wholly unique experience in seeing these gothic and medieval structures coated in snow. Bran Castle dusted with fresh snow is one of the most beautiful and calming sights, and a great reason to spend Christmas and New Years in Romania.
New Years in Romania is a relatively typical affair, with parties and an awful lot of restaurants being booked out for families. This is especially true in Bucharest, where you can find some great pubs and clubs to reign in the New Year. If you’re looking for a more quiet and simple New Years in Romania, with a good meal and a quiet night, spending New Years in Brasov is a great option. The restaurants don’t get booked out in the same way as in Bucharest. In both cities, there are fireworks displays and because Brasov is smaller, you get a much better view of the fireworks.
Winter Sports in Romania
Ice skating is very popular in Bucharest, and you’ll find an outdoor ice skating rink in almost every single park in Bucharest. If you’re looking for something more extreme, however, like skiing or snowboarding, you’ll need to head to Sibiu. Close to this Romanian city is the country’s oldest ski resort: Paltinis. The slopes here are perfect for every kind of skier, from beginner to pro, and it is a treasured place to enjoy winter sports in Romania. Gentle slopes dotted with trees make for some incredible skiing experiences, and even though the resort is old, it has been completely modernised with snow canons and all the amenities you’d expect, including a complete range of rental options.
Paltinis is found in the Cindrel Mountains (sometimes referred to as the Szeben Alps). This is a dizzyingly long and varied mountain range that reaches heights of 400 metres, and is the perfect place for a ski resort, given its range of slopes and how welcoming they are to both beginners and more experienced skiers. If you’re looking to enjoy some winter sports in Romania, Paltinis is the ideal resort for you to spend a few days at.
Other articles you will love:
- A Handy Guide to Rasnov Fortress, Romania
- What to Do in Bucharest, Romania
- 15 Remarkable Things to do in Transylvania, Romania
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