Romania With Kids: Can’t Miss Things To Do in Transylvania with Kids

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Since moving to London, we’ve been taking advantage of the easier access to European (and other!) countries, including Eastern Europe cities that were harder to get to from the Bay Area. We’ve always enjoyed traveling Europe with kids and have been looking forward to some more unique family vacations to unusual European destinations, including visiting Romania with kids.

We recently did a winter European vacation and spent a week road-tripping through the eastern Balkans. Romania was out first stop, and we weren’t really sure what to expect traveling to Romania with kids. There isn’t much information available online about visiting Transylvania with kids, but we were thrilled with everything we experienced there. (And, if you’ve ever wondered, “Does Transylvania exist?” I can confirm with the utmost confidence that it does!)

Exploring this region of Romania was one of our favorite off the beaten path Europe adventures and a top spot on our East Europe trip itinerary! Here are all the best things to do in Romania with kids that we enjoyed while visiting Transylvania.

Essential Europe Packing List: What to Pack for Transylvania

Whether you’re packing for Transylvania in summer or winter, here are a few essentials I recommend bringing along for any European family vacation. If you’re looking for a complete packing list, check out my Family Vacation Packing List. Below are some travel essentials for families to include on your Europe packing list.

  • Baby Carrier – the Boba Air carrier is less than a pound and is SO convenient for travel.
  • Carry On Luggage – we typically use either this carry-on sized rolling suitcase or this 40L backpacking backpack.
  • Belt Bag – I also really love this little belt bag that works as a minimal diaper bag. Use the code PASSPORTFAM10 for 10% off your order.
  • Carabiners – I always keep a couple on my pack to clip on my coat, baby carrier, water bottle, etc. I like these locking carabiners as well as these S-biners (I like size #5) (also on Amazon).
  • Packing Cubes – These are my favorite expandable packing cubes, and these are also great.
  • Shoes – when traveling, I usually only take one pair of shoes – either my favorite white sneakers or my beloved black Chelsea boots. More about both shoes HERE.
    • For my kids, we really love Keen shoes because they’re durable and waterproof. For summer, we love these sneakers or these close-toed hiking sandals – both are waterproof and hold up really well for a wide variety of activities. For winter, we love these boots – they work great in rain or snow, or just for walking around.
  • Pop Up Tent Baby Bed – this super lightweight baby travel bed (it weighs about a pound!) is one of my most beloved baby travel items for sure.
  • Car Seat Suitcase Strap – this luggage strap is kind of the silliest and simplest of all these travel accessories for kids.
  • Portable Door Lock – we once had a kiddo manage to get out of our hotel room very early one morning. We are SO GRATEFUL he was okay and all was well, but one of these portable locks immediately became a kid travel essential for us.
  • Kid Travel Backpacks – our kids love these amazing travel backpacks that we absolutely adore.
  • Kids’ Kindle for Travel – for my age 5+ kiddos, this is an absolute travel non-negotiable, including for any local car rides.
  • Hanging Toiletry Bag + Toothbrush Covers – if your children, like ours, are…children, then this travel toiletry case will be a lifesaver. It keeps everything organized and in its home. It has room for our medical bag and personal hygiene items and even my makeup. And my toothbrush isn’t at risk of being knocked in the toilet in a tiny European bathroom.
  • Kids travel water bottleThis is my current favorite for toddlers and younger kiddos because the straw stays completely covered when closed so it keeps it clean. The older kids and adults in our family all love this water bottle.
  • Simple Building Toy – we take very little in terms of kids’ entertainment while traveling. Sometimes it’s a ziplock of LEGOs, while other times we take these along. We’ve used this kids travel toy on both airplanes and road trips with great success. We also love these.
  • Kids Travel Headphones – we love these soft headphones – they are by far the best headphones for toddlers and young children.
  • External Charger – I ADORE this tiny one that plugs right into my phone – I love that it’s cordless and so convenient. A true travel essential for families.

European Castle Tours: Corvin Castle

If you’re a fan of beautiful European castles, you’ll find quite the gem in Transylvania. Corvin Castle, as known as Hunyadi Castle, is one of the Seven Wonders of Romania. It’s also one of the largest castles in Europe and is a must-visit when traveling to Romania with kids. (If you’re interested in visiting other castles in Transylvania, check out this day tour.)

Corvin Castle is open to the public and is one of the best things to do in Transylvania with kids. Admission tickets are less than $10 per person nd you’ll be free to explore at your own pace. Here are a few top spots to see when visiting Corvin Castle:

  • Courtyards – although it’s tempting to head straight inside, be sure to make time to explore the gorgeous courtyards!
  • Knight’s Hall – the most popular room in the castle for good reason! This room will transport you to the castle’s historic heyday.
  • Great Tower – talk about a view! See the courtyards from up above, as well as the surrounding landscape.

Enjoy Romanian Foods: Eat a Chimney Cake

One of our favorite Romanian snacks during our visit was definitely the chimney cake, which is a cylindrical cake (in roughly the shape of a paper towel roll) that’s baked on a spit over hot coals. While it’s cooked, sugar is added to create a caramel coating that’s ultimately covered with additional toppings.

This sweet treat’s origins can be traced back over 500 years and were traditionally made by Hungarians in the Transylvania region. They’re are the perfect on-the-go snack while sight-seeing in Romania. It’s traditionally a winter snack, but these days you can find it served year-round at kiosks all over Romania.

Sighisoara Citadel: Things To Do In Sighisoara

Sighisoara is a UNESCO World Heritage site that’s well worth a visit as the only inhabited medieval city in Romania and stands as a reminder of the vibrant history of the Transylvania Saxons. Much of the town lies within the citadel at the heart of Transylvania. The walls of the citadel stretch more than half a mile in length and are punctuated with 14 towers.

Here are some other things to see in Sighisoara while you explore the citadel:

  • Climb the clock tower, the entrance to the citadel – more below about visiting this gem at the center of the citadel.
  • Sighisoara Dracula – See the origins of dracula – legend has it that Vlad the Impaler (aka Dracula) was born in Sighisoara, and you can see his house at Casa Vlad Cracul.
  • Enjoy a meal in Citadel Square – the square is the perfect place to sit back, enjoy a coffee or meal, and take in all the town’s sights and sounds.
  • Visit the Church on the Hill – take in the town views for free! To get here, take the covered stairway described below.

Visit Romania Salt Mines: Turda Salt Mine

Salina Turda is a Romanian salt mine and one of the best things to do in Romania with kids. It’s essentially a huge museum and theme park that 120 meters underground! Because the mine is underground, it can be a bit cooler than surface temperatures in the summer months, but is still fairly temperate. You may want to pack an extra layer if you’re visiting Romania in summer.

At Salina Turda you can learn about the history of Romanian salt mining, as well as the many roles this mine has played in history after mining operations ceased. You can also paddle the underground lake, go bowling or even play a round of mini golf – all hundreds of feet underground!

If you’re staying in Bucharest there are day trip tour options to visit Turda Salt Mine.

Wander Old Town Sibiu

Sibiu is one of the most charming towns in Romania. This absolutely idyllic city is one of the most beautiful places we visited in Transylvania. Much of your time here can be spent simply wandering. There are no main “destinations” but rather lots of opportunities to simply take it all in and enjoy your time exploring.

If you’re wondering what to do in Sibiu Romania, here are a few spots to look for:

  • Large Square: Brukenthal Palace (with the Brukenthal National Museum if you have time), Blue House, Haller House
  • Small Square: Council Clock Tower, Bridge of Lies, Hermes House, Fresco Hall
  • Lutheran Cathedral of St. Mary – we loved climbing the clock tower here – it has one of the best views of Transylvania with tons of beautiful, traditional rooftops

Enjoy Romanian Architecture: Find the Art Nouveau Buildings in Timisoara

The jewel of Europe’s Art Nouveau Route is Transylvania’s Timisoara. This charming city boasts dozens of incredible art nouveau buildings. While many are in varying states of disrepair, there are a number beautifully preserved architectural gems. Timisoara has a long and varied history, including a central role in the Romanian Revolution, which all add to the reasons that make it worth visiting.

Here are some of the best examples of Art Nouveau in Timisoara:

  • Palace of the Serbian Episcopacy
  • Fabric Synogogue
  • Elisabetan Romano Catholic Church
  • Stefania Palace
  • National College Constantin Diaconovici Loga
  • Neptun Public Bath
  • Saint Ecaterina Church
  • Agoston Galgon Palace
  • Lloyd Palace
  • National Bank Palace
  • Banca Svabeasca

Plus, the Orthodox “Three Hierarchs” Metropolitan Cathedral is a stunning stop along your walking route!

Go Biking In An Old Saxon Village: Biking With Kids in Romania

Transylvania lies on a plateau surrounded by picturesque mountains, making it the perfect place for a family cycling holiday! We didn’t get to do this Transylvania activity with kids on this trip but we can’t wait to return for it. The countryside is dotted with charming villages to explore via gentle (and safe) cycling routes. You can take your time biking to various points in the village or mix in cycling and exploration by foot. Stop for snack kiosks or a traditional lunch to refuel.

Something to be cautious of, especially with newer riders, are the the stone streets. Many of the Romanian villages have cobblestone or otherwise uneven roads, which can be tricky to navigate on less steady wheels. Since you’ll likely to be taking your time, it’s not a huge concern, but something that may take a little getting used to for younger navigators.

Explore Cluj-Napoca, the Unofficial Capital of Transylvania

Cluj is the biggest city in Transylvania and the 2nd biggest in Romania (after Bucharest), and is one of the easiest airports through which to enter the region if you’re flying. It’s worth hanging around for a day to explore the city before you escape to the medieval gems and countryside for which Transylvania is most famous.

While in Cluj, take some time to wander amongst the lovely architecture and admire the many pastel colors. Be sure to stop into St. Michael’s Church, likely the most impressive in Transylvania. It’s huge and has a gorgeous stained glass at the front of St. Michael himself. The Ethnographical Museum of Transylvania is a small but worthy stop to see some traditional Transylvanian pottery and clothing, and is only a few minutes’ walk from Zama, the best meal we ate in Transylvania. The Central Park and botanical garden are both lovely for a stroll, and there are plenty of cute cafes and shops if you prefer more urban strolls.

Stay in A Countryside Cabin or Farm

Romanian farm stays are quite common, and there are plenty of countryside villages to experience the mountain charm. You’ll get to experience rural Saxon life while being surrounded by UNESCO Heritage Sites to explore to your heart’s content. Oftentimes, the property comes with stories about its history, as well as furniture and other items that may be nearly as old as the structure itself. It’s a great way to connect with the generations of people that have resided both in the area and the property itself. Many farm stays function as guest houses that also provide traditional Romanian meals, which adds to the authenticity of the experience.

Hike In the Carpathian Mountains: Hiking Transylvania

Transylvania is the perfect place for family hiking in Europe. So much exploring happens on foot here, and there are endless opportunities to simply walk the countryside. For more formal hiking trails in Transylvania, check out the Grove of Ancient Oaks or Turda Gorge (more information below). There’s also the Via Transilvanica, an 870 miles trail that travels from near the Ukrainian border to the Danube. While the complete trail isn’t an option for a family vacation, the trail connects to many other trails and provides the opportunity for inn to inn travel, which would be a memorable experience for 1 or 2 days in Transylvania.

Eat A Traditional Meal: Traditional Food in Romania

Traditional Romanian foods are meat heavy, but also include baked goods, jams, smoked cheeses, and more hearty mountain fare. There is a large concentration of Hungarian families in Romania, so you’ll find many traditional Hungarian foods here, too. If you love trying the local cuisine, check out this traditional Romanian food tour.

Here’s a short list of what to eat in Romania:

  • Mamaliga cu Branza și cu Smântână (polenta with cheese and cream, also very popular with a mushroom stew)
  • Papansi (Romanian donuts)
  • Placinta (Romanian pie)
  • Cozonac (Romanian sweet bread)
  • Bulz (Bread topped with grilled cheese and fried egg)
  • Sarmale (Cabbage stuffed with meat or vegetables)
  • Ciorba de burta (tripe soup) (beans soup and mushrooms soup are also popular)
  • Salata de vinete (Roasted Eggplant Salad)
  • Cheese & meat platter

Climb A Clock Tower

Clock towers served as village strongholds throughout Romania, including as critical components of fortified churches. Sibiu’s Council Tower is lovely, dating back to the early 1400s – and it’s still functioning! We loved climbing the Lutheran Cathedral clock tower there for phenomenal views of the city. There is also a clock tower in Sighișoara that provides beautiful views of the citadel. Don’t miss the history museum at the top. In Medias there is a clock tower in the Evangelic Church Tower, as well as one in Seleus. Each clock tower has unique history, some of which is well documented. Be sure visit at least on Romania clock tower as part of your Romania itinerary with kids.

Walk Up Sighisoara’s Wooden Covered Stairway

This covered walkway is a unique experience in Romania. Take the covered wooden staircase, also called the Scholar’s Stairs, from the town center up the hill to the highest point of the citadel. While it is a climb, this path connecting the lower and upper parts of the Sighisoara Citadel will reward you with beautiful views. Visit the Church on the Hill up top and, if you’re up for it, the graveyard behind the church.

Romania Fortified Churches: Step Inside the Fortified Churches of Transylvania

The Carpathian Mountains have a long history of invasion and the early residents of Romania were often forced to flee or fight… or fortify. One of the primary methods used to protect themselves was to build fortified sanctuaries. Their churches became their strongholds and there were once hundred of fortified churches across Romania. More than a hundred fortified churches still stand and some of the best examples are the fortified churches of Transylvania.

There are currently seven fortified churches of Transylvania listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Biertan, Prejmer, Valea Viilor, Viscri, Darjiu, Saschiz, and Calnic. Some additional fortified churches to look for include Axente Sever, Cincșor, and Seica Mica.

Hiking in Transylvania: Explore Turda Gorge

Turda Gorge is a beautiful natural reserve and wonderful place to go as a family to enjoy hiking in Transylvania. This is one of the most beautiful places in all of Romania, so don’t miss Turda Gorge! There are several route options ranging from shorter, 90 minutes walks to a longer half-day trek. All are relatively easy and family-friendly.

If you’re not interested in hiking Transylvania, Turda Gorge is still a wonderful place to take in the landscape and enjoy other activities. Bring a picnic or enjoy some Romanian snacks from the vendors on sight. There is also rock climbing, mountain biking, and even a zip line! Or, simply relax and watch for wildlife.

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