Southern Romania rarely gets the credit it deserves as a great travel destination. Overshadowed by famous Transylvania, this region of Romania has fewer visitors, with the notable exceptions of Bucharest and Peles Castle. Still, if you’re looking for a less touristic experience, Southern Romania is the right place to start your vacation in Romania.
The region, also known in historical documents as Wallachia, had a vulnerable position that substantially influenced its history. Bordered by the Carpathians in the north and the Danube in the south, Southern Romania was located on the Ottoman border. Constant attacks and sieges took place for centuries and most medieval fortifications were destroyed in the course of time. This is one reason why you’ll see many more old churches than defensive fortifications.
A short history of Southern Romania
Southern Romania became a self-governing province during the 13th century. Similar to medieval Moldavia, Wallachia was often attacked by the Ottoman Empire, gaining its peace only in exchange for an annual tax paid to the Sultan. Overall, the Ottoman influence had disastrous consequences for the politics and economy of this historical province.
In 1859, Wallachia and Moldavia took a bold move and chose the same prince, Alexandru Ioan Cuza. This election set the base for the unification of the two Romanian provinces, and Bucharest became the capital of the new state. After this milestone, the country entered a fast process of modernization by the end of the century, empowered by the enthroning of Carol I of Hohenzollern Sigmaringen, in 1866.
During this process, Bucharest remained the main political center of the country and, in just a few decades, became one of the most beautiful cities in Central-Eastern Europe. Impressive landmarks changed the landscape of the Old Town in the early 20th century, during the city’s Belle Epoque.
Bucharest in the 20th century
The capital and the entire region were occupied shortly after Romania entered WW1, in 1916. Two years of shortages and requisitions followed, some of the most difficult in the history of Bucharest. The Second World War was even more unbearable as the capital was bombed repeatedly in 1944. Still, the Red Army brought the darkest days upon the city. Massive deportations, arrests, and executions traumatized the local population in the first years of the communist regime.
Decades later, Bucharest became the most notable victim of Ceausescu’s desire to build a new city for the ‘new man’ communism created. Around one-third of the central area was demolished to make room for the Civic Center and the Palace of the Parliament. A few years later, in 1989, Bucharest witnessed the bloodiest revolution from the former Eastern block.
With such a rich history, Bucharest is the best place to visit in Southern Romania.
Discover our Communist Bucharest Tour
The most beautiful places to see in Southern Romania
From the snow-capped Carpathian peaks to cosmopolitan Bucharest, castles, and centuries-old churches, this part of Romania is a great destination.
The capital of Romania is a city of contrasts. Its time as ‘Paris of the East’ is long gone, and Bucharest is today an uneven mix of late 19th century French-style monuments, interwar modernist construction, and communist neighborhoods.
There’s a bit of history in every corner even if only the ruins of the Old Court remain from its medieval time. Attacked for centuries, set on fire, destroyed by earthquakes, and irreversibly changed by the communist regime, Bucharest is simply fascinating.
For the best experience, choose one or more thematic tours of the capital.
History & Culture
One of the many extermination prisons from the communist period, this site bears another tragic mark. The communists organized here one of the most dramatic and cruel psychological experiments in the world. The former prison is now a Memorial, a must-visit if you want to know more about communism.
Check the visiting schedule on http://pitestiprison.org
The royal castles from Sinaia
This mountain resort from Prahova Valley was for decades the summer destination of the royal family. It’s here that King Carol the 1st built his favorite residence, Peles Castle, and the smaller Pelisor for the heirs of the throne, Ferdinand and Maria,
Since both castles are among the most visited attractions in Romania, it’s best to avoid the summer weekends.
Check the visiting schedule on http://peles.ro
Don’t miss a visit to nearby Sinaia Monastery, the oldest monument in Sinaia.
Just a short drive from Sinaia, you’ll find another spectacular Carpathian castle. The early 20th-century Neo-Romanian-style castle belonged to the richest man of the time, Gheorghe Cantacuzino. A politician and important landowner, he was famous for his extravagant residences.
Check the visiting schedule on http://cantacuzinocastle.com
Only the church of the medieval monastery exists today, surrounded by the calm waters of Snagov Lake. An important cultural center in the early 18th century, the church is more famous today as the alleged burial place of Vlad the Impaler.
The Palaces of Mogosoaia and Potlogi
Mogosoaia and Potlogi are the only remaining palaces of Prince Constantin Brancoveanu. Built for his sons, both landmarks are great examples of the Brancovenesc style developed during his time. This original and eclectic style is the first Romanian architectural style.
This monastery is the only UNESCO Heritage Site from Southern Romania. A masterpiece of the Brancovenesc style for its architectural balance and richness of stone-carved details, painted decorative works, and religious composition, this is a cultural must-see.
Don’t miss a tour of the ceramic shops in Horezu, world-renowned for its pottery tradition.
The Princely Court of Targoviste
The small town of Targoviste was centuries ago the capital of Southern Romania. The ruins of its Princely Court are among the few medieval fortifications sites you can visit in Southern Romania.
Save some time for the old churches of the city and for the execution place of communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.
Check the visiting schedule on http://muzee-dambovitene.ro
The churches of Curtea de Arges
The capital of Southern Romania centuries ago, this small town is best known for the beautiful Curtea de Arges Monastery. But don’t miss the older 14th-century Saint Nicolae Domnesc Church where you can still observe some of the original medieval frescoes.
The real fortress of Vlad the Impaler, Poenari was the last defensive option the prince used to resist attacks, before escaping to Transylvania.
Constantin Brancusi’s sculptures from Targu Jiu
In Targu Jiu, you can admire three large-scale sculptures done by world-renowned sculptor Constantin Brancusi. Dedicated to the soldiers who lost their lives in WW1, the ensemble inaugurated in 1938 includes the Endless Column, the Gate of the Kiss, and the Table of Silence.
Photo source: https://pixabay.com
The manors from Oltenia
You can only see these original residences, cule in Romanian, in the eastern part of the region, Oltenia. The richest families built these unusual houses, a combination of fortification elements with rural construction features, to be better protected in case of an enemy attack.
Stop in Maldaresti, Valcea County, and visit the manors Greceanu, Maldarescu and the memorial house of the politician I.G. Duca.
Check the visiting schedule on http://www.muzee-valcea.ro
The Caraiman Cross
Dedicated to the memory of WW1 heroes, the Caraiman Cross (39,3 meters) lies at an altitude of 2,291 meters in the Bucegi Mountains. To reach the site, you can either take the cable car from Busteni to Babele and hike on the red cross trail or save one full day for the complete hike.
Photo source: https://commons.wikimedia.org
Vidraru Lake, one of the biggest dams in Romania, is one of the main attractions of the high-altitude Transfagarasan Road. Built between 1961 and 1965, the dam is 166 meters high, has a surface of 870 hectares, 42 km of underground galleries, plus an underground power plant.
The cave churches from Buzau Mountains
The cave churches from the area of Alunis-Nucu- Bozioru are among the most mysterious attractions in Romania. Decorated with Christian and Pre-Christian symbols, this network of cave churches counts 30 sites and covers 80 km. The marked itineraries include Dionisie’s Cave, Iosif’s Church, Agatonu Nou, Agatonul Vechi, Spatarului Cross, and Fundatura Hermitage.
Read more on http://bozioru.ro
Cozia National Park
Cozia National Park offers some of the best panoramas in the entire Carpathian chain. Lower in altitude than the nearby Fagaras Mountains, this national park offers, however, many challenging hikes. Its dense beech forests, the monasteries scattered on its slopes, and the breathtaking views make it a perfect destination for nature lovers.
Buila-Vanturarita National Park
One of the youngest national parks in Romania, Buila-Vanturarita is also the smallest one in the country. The protected area covers Capatanii Mountains and has a maximum altitude of 1,885 meters on Vanturarita Mare Peak. It’s a labyrinth of limestone and karstic landscape, virgin forests, caves, gorges, and cultural attractions if we include the nearby monasteries and churches.
Comana Nature Park
This is the perfect escape from noisy Bucharest. Part of the Ramsar network of wetlands, Comana Nature Park is a small paradise for over 140 species of birds, 31 species of mammals, and over 1,200 species of plants. You can easily spend a full day here, observing wards, kayaking, or simply relaxing.
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